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Important Things First-time Stay-at-Home Dads Need to Know

August 16, 2022

Important Things First-time Stay-at-Home Dads Need to Know

Parents share an equal responsibility of raising children, whether one or both of you work from home or clock in at an office. A certain dynamic is usually built around your daily schedules and movements—but what happens when it’s disrupted by something unforeseen like a pandemic or losing a job, or by something  planned but still has an unexpected impact such as resigning or retiring?

For first-time stay at home dads, it can be a difficult transition. If you’re a dad with grown-up kids and you’ve just retired from your job, you may be less anxious about it, but if you’re a younger dad who’s used to a mixed schedule of having a job and helping out at home, you may find it jarring to be manning the fort, especially if circumstances call for you to do it alone.

In this article, we will talk about: 


The stigma of being a stay-at-home parent

When talking about being a stay-at-home parent, it’s important to put to the table the stigma surrounding it. This is more prevalent for stay-at-home moms—some people think they’re not doing much when in fact, they do a great deal of unpaid labor. That includes childcare, home management, budgeting, and so much more. Unpaid labor, when not shared with a partner, often trickles into a mom’s career, causing her to shorten her working hours and sometimes even quit her job altogether, hurting the family’s finances overtime. 

Stay-at-home dads also have their share of misconceptions to face, including those about not being able to provide enough for their family or those about women being better at childcare than men. The latter was seen in the results of a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, where 51% of respondents believed that children were better off with their mothers at home, while only 8% believed that children were better off with their fathers. 

The reality is that managing your children’s upbringing while running a household is difficult no matter who stays at home. As people begin to shed the unhealthy stereotype of the mom staying at home and the dad going to work, the number of stay-at-home dads have slowly started to increase. This has been happening even before the pandemic hit, according to a CNBC report.

A father patiently helping his son do his elementary school homework.

Staying home with your kids is the perfect opportunity for you to truly get to know your children's strengths and weaknesses, how to encourage them, and how to make them happy.


The benefits of being a stay-at-home dad

What most people aren’t telling you is that being a stay-at-home dad is actually very fulfilling and it comes with great perks. A few of these are that: 

     1. You learn to appreciate your partner more 

     If there has been a shift of dynamic that resulted in you manning the base and your once stay-at-home partner going off to work, then you’ll have a greater understanding of the time and effort it takes to efficiently run your household. If you’re used to sharing the load but you now need to carry most of it alone, this time you get to become even more intimate with your partner’s experiences. 

     More than being a stay-at-home dad, you are also a stay-at-home husband. Your spouse will no doubt appreciate your support for their choices, whether it’s to pursue a career or to stay home with you. 

     2. You bond more with your children

     “Dads babysitting” is often coined by people when they see fathers taking care of their children, when it’s really not babysitting at all—they are simply taking on their natural role as caregivers to their little ones.

     Being a stay-at-home dad affords you the time to get to know your children and watch them grow. It gives you the chance to create valuable core memories that will stay with them for a lifetime. Most importantly, you get to be the living and breathing example of what a father should be. Your sons will uphold the standards you set  once they become fathers themselves, and your daughters will not settle for anything less than a responsible and reliable partner in the future.


Transitioning into the life of a stay-at-home dad

The first few weeks of being a stay-at-home dad can be an anxiety-riddled experience, especially if you’re used to leaving the house daily for work. Begin by creating a new daily routine that works for you, so you’ve got a good structure for yourself.  You can start with the most basic thing: waking up in the morning. Choose  an hour that gives you time to warm up for the day, whether it’s with a quick work-out routine or a nice, hot cup of coffee.

Sometimes, your responsibilities might make it impossible for you to have a moment to yourself. Make sure to sneak in at least a few minutes to just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Centering yourself in this way is a habit that you can practice throughout the day whenever things might get overwhelming.

Have  you already discussed your schedules and tasks with your partner?  Clear communication is key in running an efficient household, something commonly known but easily forgotten in the heat of the moment. Misunderstandings can occur so easily—buying the wrong kind of milk or putting the wrong kind of bleach in the laundry machine can shoot stress levels through the roof in a snap—so keep the lines open and be transparent with your partner , rather than nodding to get things over and done with. Keep in mind that you’re on the same team, and being on the same page is vital for this to work.

If stay-at-home roles have recently been switched, try to remember what you’ve observed from how your partner used to move around the house daily. Making an effort to be involved in the nitty-gritty of your relationship will take you miles, and being attentive to how things work now will help you more smoothly integrate your own working system.  The little things you knew by heart will also help you man the fort, such as where the dishwashing liquid is placed, when the garbage truck arrives, and what time your kids start school, among others. Knowing the basics can make your transition to being a stay-at-home dad so much easier.

All this, however, is mostly just about home management. Parenting, especially when you’re doing it alone for most of the day, is a different story. 

A dad gently tucking his child into bed with his teddy bear and a comfy blanket.

Being there for your child always wins out, and your little one makes everything worth it.


Balanced parenting/gentle parenting and uninvolved parenting

Different parents have different parenting styles and, as a dad, it’s important to  be self-aware about whether yours is instilling positive behaviors or needs a bit of tweaking. If you have young kids, you’ll be spending time with them more than ever so expect that you may need to go back to the drawing board more than a few times. You’ve probably heard the terms “balanced parenting” or “gentle parenting” and “uninvolved parenting.” Here’s a quick rundown of each:

Balanced parenting or gentle parenting – Simply put, balanced or gentle parenting is finding a happy medium between promoting fun and supporting your child while showing firm but gentle discipline when needed. (Tip: Active Parentingvideo-based courses can help you go deeper into this kind of parenting method.) 

This is the total opposite of “authoritarian parenting” (not to be mistaken for “authoritative parenting”, which is also another name for balanced parenting) where parents expect their children to follow their rules “because they said so”. 

Uninvolved parenting – According to VeryWellMind.com, uninvolved parenting is synonymous to neglectful parenting, where parents are dismissive of their children in such a way that they fail to address their need for support and discipline. Uninvolved parents may be physically present in their children’s lives, but are actually emotionally and mentally absent.

If you want to raise your children in a loving manner, definitely aim for gentle parenting. As a stay-at-home dad, you now have the opportunity and the privilege to be a positive influence to them. Gentle parenting starts with respecting the uniqueness of your little ones, leading by example, and creating teachable moments out of mistakes without fear of exploring negative feelings. You are their safety net and their rock. 


Practical tips to help make your life easier as a stay-at-home dad

We’re not joking when we say that there will be times when things may become a bit too much to bear, but remember that you’re not alone in this. Aside from our earlier tip of finding time to center yourself, here are a few more that can help you make sense of the daily chaos:

     1. Create routines and stick to them. This applies both to you and to your kids. Honor your daily habits as much as possible, but in case you need to deviate from the usual, make sure that you’re flexible enough to adapt. Always have a Plan B. 

     2. Have extras of basic necessities on hand. It’s fine when you’re just at home and you have everything you need at arm’s length, but what if you’re headed out and one of your kids has an accident? Make sure to have a bag of basic necessities in your car, at your in-laws’ place, at your parents’, and in your children’s school lockers. 
Always have a pack of wet tissue with you, especially when you head out. If you need to clean accidental spills or dirty little hands, this is definitely a life saver.

     3. Learn to plan meals. Meal planning can reduce so much of the anxiety that comes with thinking of what or where to eat. If you’re unsure how to start, there are a lot of quick and easy YouTube tutorials that can help you formulate a nutritious, delicious menu. 

     4. Merge activities. Hit two birds with one stone. For example, you’re looking for the right time to work out but your kids just woke up from a nap. Invest in fitness games on gaming consoles and exercise with your children. Since it’s a gamified activity, they’re sure to have fun and you get to bond with them while you break out a sweat!
Outsource certain tasks. If you have the budget, there are laundry and home cleaning services that can take a huge load off your shoulders and you give extra time to be with your kids.

     5. Accept that your children will be involved in your work-from-home life at some point. If you’re working from home, there will be times when your kid’s head will pop up from behind you during a Zoom call, or you’ll be called to help with potty time while you’re in the middle of a presentation. These instances can be frustrating, but when you slowly accept them as a new part of your life, you’ll effectively and automatically find solutions to make things easier for you and your work crew. You can add a bit of parenting humor during a boring call, have someone cover for you, or simply just excuse yourself for a bit. There’s no shame in doing so and everyone’s gone or going through it.

     6. Ask for help. When all else fails, call in the cavalry. It could be your partner, your parents, your neighbors, or even your online dad group. Asking for help does not make you less of a dad. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.

A dad flossing in the bathroom with his son who is learning by copying him.

Don't know how to begin? Start in the bathroom! Brushing and flossing together is an instant bonding activity.

Being a stay-at-home dad is a privilege you shouldn’t miss out on because you’ll truly get to know your kids on a heart-to-heart level. It will be hard and at times quite frustrating, but there’s nothing like knowing that you have managed to nurture children who will grow up into people with a positive outlook in life. When things get overwhelming, remember to be kind to yourself, and know that the time you spend at home may be far from perfect, but it will be the best. 

Keeping routines is important for you as a stay-at-home dad and your kids. Start by teaching them about dental habits, such as flossing with Piico.