Home Front Dads

"I wasn't sure I wanted kids, then I wasn't sure I could live without them..."

Home Front Dads

"I wasn't sure I wanted kids, then I wasn't sure I could live without them..."

 Are You Man Enough?

If fatherhood was an extreme sport, Home Front Dads (aka Stay-at-Home Dads) would be the 50’ wave riders. The mystical nature of surfing pales in comparison to what you can experience as a HFD.

Instead of riding waves in the ocean, you'll be riding waves of emotion. The highs and lows experienced in fatherhood will be turned up to 11! 

Changing Demographics

This Pew Research article shows two interesting pictures. The first is the increasing numbers of stay-at-home dads, and the second is the public impression of stay-at-home dads vs stay-at-home moms. Despite the increasing numbers of stay-at-home dads. and the increasing time that all dads are spending with their children, society still sees moms as much better caregivers than dads. 

Don't let these perceptions get you too discouraged. Looking through human history and across various societies, this perception is a recent phenomenon. As discussed elsewhere, dads have been very involved in child rearing from the dawn of time. We now live in a world where both men and women provide for the family outside of the home. Women are gaining equality in the workplace, so it is only a matter of time before men gain equality in the home.

Be prepared for the role reversal

Even as demographics change, most of us still hold a hidden bias for the traditional family roles. Both mom and dad have to learn how to adjust to the new roles. 

A lot about how you cope with your new role comes down to how you view the situation. It is important to see yourself as 1/2 of an amazing team, working toward common goals. If you are self-conscious about not contributing financially, make sure you are doing other things every day to contribute to the team. 

Some ways to contribute to the team as a "Home Front Dad":

Handle the finances

You may not be making the money, but you can certainly manage the money to make sure you and your wife are being smart with your money. 

Handle the cooking

One of the first things other women will ask your wife when she says you are a stay-at-home dad is, "Does he cook?" Becoming a master chef will not only contribute to your household but also allow you to show off when friends come over.

Clean the House

For many dads, this is even more difficult to learn than cooking. If your wife comes home to a disaster zone after working all day, it will only add to the tension. This also comes with a side benefit. When you leave her with the kids she will see just how difficult it is to manage the kids while also keeping the house clean and orderly.

Actively engage with your children

It can be easy to become distracted by your phone or other outside sources, especially if your child is capable of entertaining himself. Being at home gives you the unique opportunity to actively shape your child's future from the very beginning. 

pew-resesearch-at-home-dads
pew-research-what-guys-are-doing

What Will Be Gained

Dads give kids a different perspective. Yes, moms are wonderful in a lot of ways, but moms and dads are meant to balance each other out. 

In fact, studies have shown that having a stay-at-home dad allows both parents to form strong bonds with their children. This is in contrast with families where the mother stays at home. 

Read More

 

The study found that mothers who work 40 hours per week were much more likely to engage with their children after work than fathers who work 40 hours per week. In addition, both labor and child care were more evenly distributed in situations where the at-home parent was a male.

You Won't Be Paying Someone Else To Raise Your Child

Living off one income may seem intimidating at first. However, when looking at how much childcare actually costs, this decision may become easier. Below are the national average weekly costs of childcare as of 2015:

After-School Sitter

$214.05

Au Pair

$360

Child Care Center (one child)

$196

Family Child Care Center (one child)

$181

Nanny

$556.80

Your Child Will Experience A Unique Perspective

While moms are still praised as the best caretakers for their children, dads are gaining respect by bringing a unique perspective to child rearing. 

Dr. Kyle D. Pruett, a Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, has done a number of studies on the effect a father has on his children. Some of the results of active involvement by the father showed greater emotional balance, stronger curiosity and a stronger sense of self-assurance in the child. 

In addition, further studies have shown that, in the first five years of a child's life, the father is more influential than the mother when it comes to the child learning how to manage his or her body, navigate social circumstances, and play. 

A final interesting point mentioned in this article, "a 1996 study by McGill University found that the 'single most important childhood factor in developing empathy is paternal involvement in childcare'."

Staying At Home Is More Fulfilling Than Most Jobs

Nothing is worse than working at a soul-sucking job just for the paycheck. Worst of all, our society often places work at the center of self-worth. 

It is no wonder that, as recently as 2015, 70% of U.S. employees reported feeling "not engaged" with their work. Engagement is described as "being able to use your talents and strengths at work". 

On the other hand, being at home with your child will put all of your strengths and weaknesses to the test. Every day is a new challenge. Just when you think you've got things figured out, your child will hit a new milestone and throw you for a loop. 

ABC News: Stay-at-Home Dads Reflect on Criticism (6:55)

If you ever face doubts about staying at home just remember: kids can't tell the difference. They only have their own reference point. They will see dad being at home as normal. Some working moms even relay experiences of their kids saying things like "But who will feed us?" when dad is not around.

Risks Involved For Single Income Families 

Having one parent stay at home will always come with risks, and our society seems to feel there are additional risks when that parent is the dad. While concerns mentioned in that article are real, the conclusion that dads should not stay at home is unrealistic. These decisions are individual for each family, so blanket statements like, "Don't let your husband be a stay-at-home dad" should be seen for what they are, ridiculous. Still, it is important to note the concerns pointed out so you can best avoid the potential pitfalls. 

Money is a factor

Not only will you lose out on potential income, you will begin to fall behind in the job market. 

One Income Means Less Job Security

With only one income supporting the family, it would be wise to consider having higher savings in the bank to guard against potential layoffs. Most financial advisors suggest having enough saved to be able to live for 3-6 months without any income. With only one income, savings for 6-12 months of living expenses is a safer bet. 

Dads struggle with similar issues as moms who stay at home

There is a loss of the sense of community you get through work. It can often feel like you are actually a stuck-at-home dad. This is why it's so important to get out with your little one. Get to the park, join a group, even if everyone else in the group is a mom. As stay-at-home dads, we cannot be taken seriously by moms until we show them we are just as capable, and at times, even more capable!

More Marriages Fail On Average

Breadwinner Wives and Nervous Husbands - The New York Times

"But what if the woman stays in the labor force and does earn more than her spouse? How does this affect the marriage? The findings here are striking. In such couples, surveys show, both wife and husband generally report being less happy about the marriage."

A study highlighted in the article points out that marriages where the wife earns more than the husband results in 50% more divorces than more traditional marriages where the man makes more. 

What Home Front Moms Can Learn From Home Front Dads

When it comes to raising children, it's no secret that our society places the mother ahead of fathers. Not only does this put a lot of pressure on moms, but it can create a mentality that moms always know better than dads.  

As some moms find, dads can actually do a better job in many instances. This isn't to say dads are better. Both moms and dads work together with the same goal, each bringing a unique perspective to things. 

For this reason, it is essential for both to take notes from the other. Since dads are always taking notes from mom (many times unwillingly) we've provided some notes for moms: 

Let Kids Take Risks

We live in a very risk-averse society. The pressure moms feel to keep kids safe is a lot stronger than the pressure dads feel. In fact, dads are often encouraged to play rough with their kids and let them get into risky situations. 

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

As this article points out, it's easy to get caught up in all the things going wrong at any given moment. It's helpful to take a big-picture approach when deciding whether to sweat.

Ask yourself questions like, "will I even remember this a week from now?" or "how long will this upset me?" If you find that you're having anxiety over things that will only upset you in the very short term (i.e. that day) then you may be over analyzing the situation. 

Another important factor is how our anxiety affects our children. Studies have found that children who grow up with anxious parents take on their anxiety. We all want happy well-adjusted children, and anxiety is counterproductive for that goal. 

If you're looking for a little extra help, check out the book Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and It's All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. 

Pick Your Battles

This is especially important when children are toddlers and teenagers. These two ages are when children most struggle for their independence from mom and dad. Think long term. It's okay to lose a battle, as long as you win the war!

We've included some helpful resources below. If you don't find everything you need here, remember, other parents are always a great source of ideas. 

Pick Your Battles When Disciplining Toddlers

How To Choose Your Battles

Discussion - How To Pick Your Battles (Advice from my mom)

Don't Be Afraid To Get Silly

Kids can be so weird and silly at times. It's so easy to try to shape them into little adults, but it's important to remember to let kids be who they are. 

Many times, dads are all too eager to get silly with kids, often beating them at their own game. As this discussion points out, there are even ways to make chores fun!

Relax!

Such a simple idea, yet often hard to do. There are never-ending tasks that seem to pile up faster than they can be accomplished. Everyone needs a mental recharge, so sometimes just sitting back and forgetting about the dishes piling up can be a good thing. 

This also goes back to helping our children deal with anxiety. If they never see us relaxed, they will have a hard time relaxing as they grow up. 

Does It Make Sense For Your Family?

Some moms really do prefer to work. There's a stereotype that moms will prefer to be at home, but this is not always the case. 

Whether mom or dad stays home (or neither) the decision needs to make sense for your family. There are a lot of outside sources that will try to tell you the "right" answer. Take in their points, but do not let them make the decision on your behalf. 

Resources for Deciding Whether to Stay Home

Use Humor To Cope

"Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you." These words are spoken by the character Tyrion Lannister from the HBO series Game of Thrones. The character and the actor portraying him is a dwarf and has developed this mentality to cope with the realities of his world. 

A similar mentality is necessary as a Home Front Dad. Despite the growing demographics, it's still a new concept to many. This may lead to many awkward exchanges when talking about your role. 

An easy way to move past this is with humor. 

Don't Make Me Hold Your Baby (2:42)

Working from Home sketch comedy clip (1:51)