Stay-at-home Dad

Rachel’s post is fascinating for a number of reasons.  Let me ask you a question.  How many of you know of a dad who has stayed home to raise a child?  I only know of dads who stay at home one day a week.  The system, as it is set up, doesn’t allow for much flexibility.  But Rachel and O have made it work – and yet it hasn’t been easy - there have been judgement and assumptions to tackle.    Over to you, Rachel: 

As background I’m Rachel from mysparethoughts, my husband is referred to as O and we are parents to our daughter 1KB who was born at the beginning of January.

I was raised by a working Mum. It just so happened that her job was to look after me which she did from when I was 6 months to 8 years old. Her children were slightly older and at school while she cared for me to start, when school finished for the day she looked after her own children and my older sister and I.

Mum2, my child minder, is an amazing woman. A woman that flew back to the UK from Australia for our wedding, who phoned days after 1KB was born and who I begged to come and help me look after her – she is now in her seventies and cares for her grandchildren so unfortunately cannot come and help look after another generation of my family. My own parents, who both went out to work, of course also had a substantial part to play in raising me.

I fully expected that I would marry a man in a suit. My Dad wore a suit until he retired and I thought I would marry a business man like him. However I fell in love with a man who has no desire to wear a suit, who would go crazy working in an office, behind a computer or where he has to deal with members of the public. Despite his two degrees my husband is a gardener/handyman. 

O and I discussed early on in our relationship how things might work. Practically, financially, I have to go to work. I earn the most money and we would be unable to pay our bills on a month-to-month basis if I stopped working or we would need to live a substantially different lifestyle.

Emotionally I predicted that I would want to go to work but had no idea how I would feel. I never imagined myself as a stay at home Mum. I don’t have the patience, imagination or creativity for such a job. We knew that with O’s low earning potential that most, if not all, of his wages would simply go out the door for childcare so why not have him stay at home?  It was something he has always looked forward to.

1KB arrived and along with her noise, mess, fun and a lifetime of challenges. Thankfully (although that feels like the wrong word) I haven’t changed my mind and although I miss her like crazy I still think returning to work is the right decision.

O now only works two days a week. After a lot of discussion and some financial debating we have decided that 1KB will go into a nursery a day and a half a week with me picking up the extra half day of care by compressing my hours rather than reducing my pay. From very early on she has been fascinated by watching other children and we hope that nursery will help her socially. At the moment she is still settling in and trying to figure out this strange place she is left in.

There is no denying that O will find it more difficult to attend the groups that I have attended with 1KB. He’d be the only male voice among a crowd of women at the sing a long groups and he’d be inappropriately out of place at the breastfeeding group we attended. The only place there has ever been Dads is at swimming and the Mums are often there too. I think it must take an exceptionally brave Dad to break into these groups. Being at nursery will hopefully give her the other baby watching opportunities she might miss from not going to ALL the groups with me.

O is an amazing father and that he wants to spend his time with 1KB makes me very happy. We’re lucky that his work have been supportive and agreed that he can reduce his work pattern from full time to two days. However the all-male team that he works in cannot understand his decision. Despite the financial arguments against him working they still would not do it themselves. I have also had unusual reactions from the women that I’ve told including ‘REALLY?!’ or ‘He is in for a shock’ – mostly however they have been curious as to how we are going to make it work and what O will do with 1KB all day.

I’ve now been back at work for four weeks and I have to admit to missing her a lot. Missing out on the little developments she makes with her eating, playing or moving. O mentioned a while ago how much better 1KB is getting at drinking from her cup. That she had finally got it. It dawned on me that she’d been drinking really well for days. But I got to see her do that at three meals a day every day whereas O only saw her at one meal a day so it took a few days to realise that it isn’t a fluke and is actually a new skill. O is now teaching her to use the spoon for herself (with messy consequences) but it is his turn to advance her development. I was there when she started crawling backwards, then finally forwards and when she started pulling herself up on the sofa. But I will inevitably miss out on some of the next big milestones in terms of her development.

O is already learning that the days are very long without some sort of planned activity. He worries that he may find being at home without any colleagues three days a week lonely but we’ll need to cross that hurdle when and if we come to it. She still isn’t convinced about nursery but we’re hoping she will warm to it soon.

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Money and Career
12 interesting thoughts on this

12 Comments

  1. Becca
    Posted November 18, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    This is really interesting. I don’t know where you are, but in London, several of my junior colleagues have become stay at home Dads (they call themselves Cappuccino Dads which makes their activities sound quite exotic) whilst their more senior female partners go out to work. Like you, this was purely a financial decision and they LOVE IT. I must admit to being pretty shocked when it started but, as you say, it’s horses for courses and just because I don’t love my job enough to do this (having always assumed we would have a similar arrangement to you that’s recently changed) it doesn’t mean other people would. I don’t really know their wives to comment on how their wives feel but it must be REALLY hard.

    Anyway, my point is our NCT in North London apparently offers groups specifically for Dads, as well as just ‘everyone welcome’ groups. My friend said this was great to get him out the house initially and make him more confident on a group basis. Worth getting back in contact?

    Would be great to get an update on this at some point in the future.

    • mysparethoughts
      Posted November 18, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Becca, we’re in central Scotland and the choice of groups is limited for me let alone Dads but thank you for the suggestion and definitely worth another look.

  2. Posted November 18, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    It’s just really reassuring to hear from sometime who’s made it work. Ultimately everyone has a toughtime making these decisions and I hope you both continue to be happy with yours! A really great read :-)

  3. Posted November 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    This is timely – two of my really good friends are just about to switch over care of their almost-six-month old, with the dad taking on the final six months of maternity leave and potentially carrying on beyond that as a SAHD. I’m not sure how dad will manage with all the groups we go to – he’ll be the only man in all of them at the moment! I’m sure he’ll be welcomed in, but it must be daunting. I think mum is finding the thought of returning to work very hard – but I think that’s the case for most mums going back to work. Although it must be tough to feel envious of your partner getting to see all the little milestones – personally I would find that a challenge if it was my husband and I.

    One of my university friends is a SAHD whose little girl is four now! He does work now G’s in school but before this summer he looked after her pretty much full time. His blog is here http://likefatherlikedaughter.blogspot.co.uk/ it’s a really lovely, interesting read. I think it’s becoming more and more common for dads to take on childcare, and possibly with new rulings over sharing maternity/paternity leave will be even more so?

    I’m quite glad I’m the useless earner in my marriage so the question never came up for us – I think Sam would have literally fought me for it. And he’s much bigger than me.

    Agreed a follow up would be really interesting!

    Px

    • mysparethoughts
      Posted November 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      I took every last day of my maternity leave (that we could afford). I wasn’t prepared to share any as we knew O was going part time but I do think it is a step forward that sharing parental leave is now an option.

  4. Posted November 18, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I am not surprised by the comments of others, but I find it interesting that in a supposedly forward thinking, much-changed society, people still expect the mum to stay at home and the dad to be breadwinner ( though of course this could also be down to the type of profession O is part of).

    I think it’s both smart and encouraging that you have gone ‘against the flow’ and done what makes the most financial and emotional sense as a family. I suspect 1kb will thrive socially and developmentally in nursery, while still having lots of time with both parents. I’d as close to ideal as it gets really.

    You are an ace wee family!

  5. Anon
    Posted November 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I have friends where the Dad does the bulk of the child care and gets asked if he is babysitting thier daughter or if he let her dress herself, basically questions that assume he is not the primary carer. Happens all the time and seems really stupid.

    I always thought I’d be the one to go out and work. Always. But now I have a husband who would genuinely feel he was failing if that happened and I’ve weirdly become more domestically oriented so now my ideas are being turned on thier head. I think it will be a huge step towards equality when people judge this less.

    I am so glad you found a solution that works for you both x

  6. Posted November 18, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Being a stay at home parent is hard no matter who it is doing it, but I think it must be particularly hard for SAHDs. Not because parenting comes any less naturally to them or any of that garbage that other people may believe, but simple because in a lot of areas the support just isn’t there for them. Yes lots of groups may be called ‘parent and baby/toddler’ groups, but in reality the expectation is that they are groups for Mums. Where we live everything involving Dads is at the weekend because that is when they are expected to be there – either because they work all week or for access reasons.

    I’m pretty shocked and frustrated that there are still so many negative responses to your situation – what do people mean what will O do with 1KB all day?! I’m guessing pretty much the same as what you would do… I wonder if the responses would be the same if you had a son rather than daughter?

    Still as I said earlier much respect to you guys for finding the solution that works for you all.

    xxxx

    • mysparethoughts
      Posted November 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Hollie, parenting has actually come much more naturally to O than me (maybe because he is still at heart a big kid himself). Especially now she is robust and up for more rough and tumble. Yes the question of what they will do all day is an odd one.

  7. AJS
    Posted November 18, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting post Rachel – thank you.

    I’m currently half way through my 1st pregnancy but like you, husband and I had a very frank conversation about this once we both knew we were in this relationship for keeps and with me working in the City and my husband being a painter/decorator, there was no way financially it would make sense for me to give up work and him to be the sole earner. So I will be taking a year off on maternity during which time, he will work as much as possible (my maternity package isnt great) then he will give up work to bring up the baby and I will go back to work full time.

    I’m nervous about how it’ll work out, I’m under no illusions about how tough it’ll be at time, I know we will both struggle for different reasons. But you have to do what you think is right for your family in your situation.

    Interestingly though, no one has batted an eyelid when we’ve talked about it – apparently it’s quite common where we live (St Albans) for Dads to be the primary caregiver and no one thinks it’s that big a deal at all (which in this day and age it isn’t) so hopefully that will continue to be the case when the time comes!

    As others have said, an update would be great x

  8. Katie
    Posted November 18, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    I go to a playgroup, which has two stay at home dads, and we live out in the sticks in North Wales. Also there is an occasional stay at home dad at the rhyme time at library (its free, and most libraries have them). Being at home all day, three days a week, is too long.

    I’ve recently started back at work part-time, we’re using a lovely childminder. I couldn’t get my head around working till I got childcare in in place. Initially I’d planned to work around sleeps and in evenings, but this turned out to be much harder than I’d imagined. Paid childcare proved to be a must. My sister in law works and relies on grandparents, her husband and nursery one day a week. It took months for my nephew to settle into nursery, but he now loves it. At 17 months old, it is his favourite day of the week. I think it was easier for him once he was walking around, and could keep up with the other kids.

  9. Posted November 18, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating read. If it were financially possible I know my boyfriend would love to stay at home with our toddler. I hope by the time our children are having children this will be just as common as women staying home. Aside from the issue of breastfeeding I don’t see why a father can’t be a stay at home parent just as effectively as a mother. Hope it all works out well for you. :)

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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