What It’s Like to be a Stay-At-Home Dad

I recently shared what it’s like for me as a working mom with a stay-at-home husband. Today my husband shares a glimpse into his daily life, as well as the pros and cons of being a stay-at-home parent.

Welcome another guest host by my husband and the father of my three children.

I have been a “stay-at-home-Dad” (I prefer the term “full time caregiver”) for the past 9 years. I had always joked that I could do the job because ESPN is on 24 hours a day! Ha! Did have it all wrong. If I get to watch anything, its kids’ shows as I frantically pick up around the house. I also had no idea once they start moving they never stop. At the end of each day I feel like I have just finished running a marathon. And I haven’t even begun to talk about the upkeep of the house.

The Early Years

The Debt Shrink and I met when she was in college. We moved around every few years as she pursued her PhD. As we had just moved out of state and away from all of our family, we were expecting our first child. After six months of looking for employment, I finally got a job working nights. I was able to watch our son during the day until she came home. We were two ships passing in the night. We continued this schedule until she graduated and we moved back to our hometown.

We had decided that I was going to stay with our son as she would be earning a lot more than I would be able to. Any work I would get would barely cover child care. I felt that it would be best to have a parent be able to watch our son than paying somebody else to. I also knew that it would involve a major lifestyle change to make it work.

When I was working I would eat take-out food almost every day. This was the first change that had to be made. I started making all of our meals at home. I have always loved to cook and did most of the cooking in our family anyway.

When we were young and foolish The Debt Shrink and I would indulge ourselves with any and every thing we wanted at the grocery store. That lifestyle led to a lot of food waste and was VERY expensive. We started to meal plan and write a shopping list that we stuck too. No more impulse buys or getting anything I saw that looked good. This cut down our grocery bill significantly.

OMG He is Walking

My first few months staying at home weren’t that bad. Then he started walking. And hasn’t stopped moving in the last 9 years! I now had to get everything done that I needed while chasing around a toddling wobbling human all around our house. When he was just crawling it was much easier to keep tabs on where he was and what he was doing.

We quickly settled into a routine and the years flew by. The Debt Shrink finished her training and started her career. We were able to pay off her student loans and purchased our first house. Our son was entering kindergarten and I was thinking about going back to work. Then our second child came along. Well I am glad I enjoyed staying with the kids because things just got a whole lot more complicated.

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Kid #2

I already had several years of being a stay-at-home-dad so another child is easier right? Boy was I wrong! Life became a constant juggling act between the children and housework. Somebody was always hungry or needing something. I would go to the grocery store with the baby strapped to my chest and my son in the cart. I was lucky enough that their nap times synced up and I was able to get some laundry and cleaning done.

Once our oldest was in school I was back to only having one little person to chase around most of the time. About the time I settled into a regular routine along came child number three! Our first two children are six years apart, but our youngest two are only two years apart. This presented a new challenge as a SAHD. Having children so close in age, but in totally different stages in life, was exhausting. Then they teamed up on me. Once they outnumber you they learn the power of working together. One is into the markers while the other is pulling all of the diapers out of the bin. It never stops! But I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Day-in-the-Life of a SAHD

Here is where I was going to put what a typical day is like for me… Ha ha! Just kidding, there isn’t a typical day running a household with three kids. Every day is different and exciting. I do stick to a schedule for a lot of the housework.

  • Laundry is two days a week (down from three)
  • Dishes are everyday
  • Clean the floors twice a week
  • Clean the bathrooms once a week
  • Outside work (yard, pool, pressure washing) once a week
  • Grocery store once a week

I was amazed when I started staying at home full time that there is always something to be done. I was expecting to have some down time where I could catch up on TV or read a book. At first I was able to do these things but once they all got a little older that stopped. As I am picking up toys from the floor so I won’t step on them I notice everything that still needs to get done. It is a constant battle to balance housework and keep the children fed (they literally don’t stop eating) and happy.

Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • I get to be with my children everyday
    • I am able to experience them grow and learn
  • We don’t have to pay for childcare
    • I do understand how lucky we are that we are able to allow me to stay home as not everyone is able to
  • I am able to attend school functions for our oldest child
    • I have attended every concert, ceremony, and a few field trips
  • I get to walk our children to and from school each day
    • We purchased our house a 1/4 mile from school for this exact purpose
  • I am able to provide healthy home cooked meals every day
    • We do enjoy the occasional meal out or pizza, but most days I cook three meals

Cons

  • Missing out on work sponsored retirement contributions and Social Security
  • Always being “on the job”
    • There are no sick days when you are watching your kids
  • Being a social recluse
    • Most days the only adult interaction I have is with my wife
  • Never having any alone time
    • I can’t remember the last time I used the bathroom without being interrupted
  • Dealing with the misconception that Dads can’t provide the same level of care as Mom
    • At gymnastics with my daughter this week I overheard the other Moms saying “Did you see the video I sent you of a Dad doing hair? It was so cute — and he did such a great job.”

Final Thoughts

Being a full-time caregiver is very challenging but very rewarding. I do get frustrated sometimes being pulled a hundred different directions constantly but I realize that this time is so fleeting and can never be relived. Being a stay at home parent is never easy, never dull, and not for everyone.

We made drastic changes to our spending habits to be able to afford for one parent to stay at home. I am very happy that my wife and I are in agreement with these changes, which allow me to have this amazing adventure.

8 thoughts on “What It’s Like to be a Stay-At-Home Dad”

  1. Thank you for writing this. My father was the stay-at-home parent when my youngest sister was born until he retired. I just unearthed a few home videos of my dad helping my sister with her school projects, setting up for her birthday party, being there for her school events, entertaining her and doing everything and anything in the house. It was nice to see this. I was away in college for most of my younger sister’s early years so didn’t really get a chance to see her formative years and the way my dad and her interacted. Knowing my dad was home also made it easier for me in case I needed anything. At this time, my mom was a full time nurse, working some 12 hour shifts and it was hard to get in touch with her.

    1. Hi Cat! How beautiful to hear the good memories of your father and what it meant to have him stay-at-home while your mom worked long hours. Hearing stories like yours reminds me that we made a good choice for our kids. Thanks so much for sharing your family’s experience!

      1. As a stay at home parent, I LOVED this article. The thing that struck me (which shouldn’t have) is that your husband’s experience as a full-time caregiver is exactly the same as mine as a stay-at-home mom.

        It appears that gender doesn’t matter as far as the struggles and joys of stay-at-home parenting go! They’re universal.

        I don’t actually know a 100% full-time stay-at-home dad (but I know of a few who work-at-home and do most of the childcare). This article was both heart-warming and enlightening.

        Like your husband, we feel so fortunate that one of us has been able to be at home full-time with our kids. Whether it’s the mom or the dad, the entire family benefits when there’s a stay-at-home parent. It just makes life easier and slower. And we all could use more ease and slowness!

        Kudos to you for being supportive of the role reversal with your husband. I read your other article about being the full-time breadwinner, and your struggles are real and not easy.

        But I think both of you are setting a wonderful example for your kids. As a family, you’re working towards the greater good, and you’re all happier and healthier for it!

        1. Hi Chrissy. Yes, I agree that the entire family benefits from stay-at-home parents (whether they are the moms or dads). Thank you for your kind words!

  2. Hi. I’m a stay at home Dad from England and I can’t tell you how comforting it is to hear someone going through the same experiences! On a rough day it helps see the joy among the turmoil. Take care.

    1. Hi Paul! Yes, there are some days when it’s easy to lose sight of why I decided to take on this adventure as a stay-at-home dad. Thanks for taking the time to comment! It’s always appreciated to hear from another SAHD.

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