“Stay at home dad” used to be an embarrassing phrase. But, as more and more families cope with the rising cost of daycare and the high unemployment rate, more families are opting to leave egos aside and let the higher earner of the home stay at work while the other spouse brings in the money to support the family. These days the high earner could just as easily be the mom, leaving the dad to take care of the kids, ad often there is no choice with the limited job market.
10 years ago how many dads were in the playground after school pick-up? In my school playground, it is 25% stay at home dads vs. moms. But, I have to subtract he nannies, they are the majority!
That is how it is in our house. I lost my job several years ago. Soon after our son entered Kindergarten, it was clear an after school program would not have worked for us so I stopped job hunting and officially became a stay at home dad.
I consider myself lucky, I get to spend more time with my son. As I observe other parents in the playground, most dads, albeit not all, seem to enjoy their new status, because they enjoy their time with their kids. That is a great by-product of this new era..
For our son, he has the security of knowing his dad is taking care of him. Now that 2 years have passed, the homework load has increased, and the stay at home parent is best equipped to start that process before dinner while the child can still focus. That process will only become more important as the child gets older.
But here is the other issue, the household. Who cooks and who cleans? I get to go to the gym after school drop off, I get some time to myself during the day, but who does the cooking and cleaning? My spouse gets home at 7:30 pm, so I do feel responsible to take care of the food in our house. I include the food shopping in that chore as well. Am I demeaned by this? I think this is the heart of the stay at home dads dilemma.
Then there is the cleaning. Do the husbands want to vacuum? Clean the bathroom? I know I do not like that part of the job, but it has to be done. I was in charge of that all summer long, I don’t feel demeaned, I just feel disgusted! Luckily I found a cleaning lady to come once every 2 weeks, this is a luxury for our family, but I just don’t have the gene for cleaning, sorry ladies! I do fill in the week in between the cleaning lady’s visits.
I do want to do my fair share, my spouse works a 10 hour day, it is my job to do whatever needs to be done, just like the olden days when the wife did all these jobs while the husband worked. And I do get a couple of hours to myself, but I don’t watch soap operas!
Are we appreciated? Sometimes I get the feeling that my work is less important. But this is the wife complaint! I am not the wife! The roles have changed and everybody has to be appreciated. I pick up the kid at 2:40 p.m. and my work day then ends at 10 p.m. That is not meant as a complaint, it is just to illustrate that everyone’s jobs are important in the house.
So how’s your ego? Do not act like your full time job that brings in an income is all that we need to run a family. It is not. I do everything else and get no credit based on the $0 income. That is where the message needs to change. Yes, I get a break for lunch, 1-2 hours a day, sometimes. But I work all night and WEEKENDS! Who feeds the family on Saturday and Sunday, who does that clean up? Me. I am not looking for extra credit; I am just looking for minimal recognition. And I am not looking to be judged by anyone, friends or family, who think now that I do not have an income, I am a bum. Our family made a choice to not put the child in an after school program, so I do not work, I take care of the family in what is a role reversal from the old days.
This is how it works for our family, what about yours?