I have now been a stay at home father for 3 months and it has been the most enjoyable and rewarding thing that I have done.
My son recently turned 2 and I feel that this is the most incredible time to be looking after him. He is now able to communicate verbally and we are able to have conversations and play together. Just yesterday we had a 5 minute ‘chat’ about the fact that he is not a rhino.
We build train tracks, bake, do housework, even watch the odd film (I get the impression this isn’t something you admit to,) and we do it all together.
I have built an extremely strong bond with him, something that I didn’t think was possible a year ago, when every problem had to be solved by mummy. I’ve found skills I didn’t even know I had. I was convinced I had absolutely no creativity, but now I enjoy baking and painting and building, and am actually not awful at it. (I still can’t colour within the lines though.) I create new games to play every day, which is always met with joy.
Overall I feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity that so many dads don’t get. To be such a major part of his life.
That said it comes with its frustrations.
I am now part of a female dominated way of life. And it shows.
Nothing prepares you for the first time you go to a playgroup, playing with your child, and another kid nearby runs away scared. Then followed by a mother that tells you ‘he’s just scared of other men’ in a way that seems to make it acceptable and reasonable. Like the parent is fine with that. I understand there are reasons behind it, but my son has just been run away from because I am male.
The second big issue with being a stay at home dad is the isolation.
I remember speaking to my wife and others about their time on maternity leave and the only negative (apart from lack of sleep, but I don’t feel like that will ever end) is the isolation. And until you actually do the stay at home parent thing, I don’t think it’s possible to understand just how isolating it can be.
Some days I’m sat there like a dog wagging my tail as my wife comes home, just because I want to have a conversation about something other than rhinos and Thomas the Tank Engine. As I understand it, this is where baby and toddler groups are supposed to be great, they give both parent and child a chance to socialise with others their own age. I’ve been told by others that these groups were a crucial part of maternity leave sanity.
I unfortunately have a very, very different experience of this, the people running the session are always very welcoming and friendly, but that’s about it. As a man I am left feeling very left out. Any attempt to have a conversation with other mothers normally results in very short responses and an abrupt end to the conversation. I am almost always left feeling deliberately avoided, like a scary alien who shouldn’t be there. I am almost always the only dad, and it feels like there’s such a stigma around it.
I think, the biggest thing I want to get across here, is that just because I’m a stay at home dad, does not mean I am really much different to a stay at home mum. I don’t think it’s amazing that I’m so involved, I think all dads should be.
I care for my son just as much.
I love what I’m doing just as much.
I am just as competent.
I am just as isolated.
I am doing the exact same as a mother and don’t want to be treated differently.
Despite all of this, I really wouldn’t want to change what I am doing. It’s hard but also feels like a privilege.
Now I’m going to go and try to convince my son, that if he wants to be a rhino he needs to eat fruit and veg. Instead of his suggested diet of chicken and sausages…