What is it Really Like to Be a Stay-at-Home Dad?

Although often considered rare, the number of stay-at-home dads is rising.Although often considered rare, the number of stay-at-home dads is rising. It is estimated that 1.4 million men are choosing to be the primary caregivers for their children. One of these men is my husband.

If I am being completely honest, one of the reasons I was totally on board with my husband becoming a stay-at-home father was that I believed… well… that I would come home daily to a blissful toddler, a home-cooked dinner, and a sparkling clean house. As all of you reading (and probably rolling your eyes) know, this image is not reality, even on the good days.

After all, my husband is working too. I now embracethe messier the house the better,” because I know that my boys are living each day to the fullest. Muddy footprints in the hallway and leftover flour on the counter tops actually bring a smile to my face!

Related: What your Messy House REALLY Says About You

A few weeks ago I realized that I had not truly checked in with my husband about this incredible lifestyle change. Most evenings we chat about the highlights of their day — and part of my heart aches because I was missing — but an even bigger part of my heart swells with gratitude. So how does my husband really feel about his new day job?

After a casual interview with him I learned a few things about what it is really like to be a stay-at-home dad. I imagine his feelings are not so different from any parent who is home with their children on a full-time basis and perhaps many mothers can relate.

Here’s the scoop:

1. It’s a Constant Challenge.

It is a challenge taking on the responsibility of raising our son and exposing him to different things. He is growing right before my eyes, and I have to be present to these changes and meet him as he rises. The challenges are small (teaching him how to dress himself) to significant (navigating him out of a potential melt-down moment). I often feel that I could be doing so much more for him.

2. It’s Awesome!

It’s pretty awesome. He is the best sidekick ever and it feels amazing to be able to teach him what I believe really, truly matters in this life every day. I wish I could “bottle up” all of the surprises, the innocence, and the wonderful moments that bring me pure happiness. I wish I could open up the bottle with these moments to share with you [my wife] now and years from now.

3. There are No Typical Days.

Upon asking my husband to outline a typical day with our son, he quickly stated “there aren’t any!” He also believes, even if his day seems typical, it never is. There are no ordinary moments with your child. Each moment is beautiful and unique.

To add my opinion on the matter of a “typical day,” I have been in absolute awe of just how much my husband has been able to take on with a three-year old daily. They work on farms, attend meetings together, help friends out with yard work, hike for miles, bake cookies, pick fruit at local orchards… to name just a few!

4. I am Fulfilled.

I have not used staying at home with my son as an excuse to stop working towards my dreams. In fact, staying at home with him has allowed me to pursue many of my interests, and include him.

5. I’m the Odd Man out.

I’m usually the only dad at play groups and story time. It’s not good or bad. It’s just how it is.

In a quest to find other stay-at-home dad’s for my husband to bond with, I inquired in a local natural parenting forum. If the forum were a quiet room, I would have heard a pin drop. No responses!

We have since learned about the National at-Home Dad Network*, a support network for stay-at-home dad’s with, if I might add, a pretty sweet t-shirt: Dads Don’t Babysit (It’s Called Parenting). Read more below!

Let’s just say my husband is my new role model.

I am glad our interview did not reveal he feels like the father in the picture opening this article (scroll back to the father, on his phone, amidst chaos). To my husband, being a stay-at-home dad is more like this:

Collecting Bits of Nature on a Hike (Disclaimer: No wild mushrooms were eaten!).
Collecting Bits of Nature on a Hike (Disclaimer: No wild mushrooms were eaten!).

*The National at-Home Dad Network connects other at-home dads with newsletters, blog posts, “dad group” resources, and advocacy. They host an annual HomeDadCon Conference with a variety of classes and workshops. A few workshops from last year include homebrew making, first aid skills, and community involvement. Links to registration for this year’s conference, including information about their Brian Dickson scholarship fund, can be found here.

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