What's it like being a stay at home dad? This is a question I regularly face and one I've attempted to answer in my new book; A modern father (...and dad blogger).
Being a stay at home dad is a number of things. The following spring to mind immediately;
If you think of all the social networks that exist for parents, they almost exclusively exist for the benefit of mums. Whether formal or informal, mums, especially if they have young children, have much greater opportunities to meet, mix and make friends.
In addition to this, I often meet healthcare and childcare professionals who have no idea how to deal with me. As soon as I meet any kind of professional, I must introduce myself and explain that I am my kids' main carer. When I do, I am generally treated with parity and respect. When I don't, I'm often patronised and treated like a second class citizen.
Following on from the above, it can be lonely. I'm not talking about my own position here. I'm quite thick skinned and a sociable guy (so I'm told), but I sometimes hear from other stay at home dads who struggle with the amount of time they spend on their own or solely in the company of young children.
Needless to say, this is an issue mums also face. Even so, I refer you back to the point above and the lack of support or social networks for men to turn to.
If I'm not preparing the children for the day ahead or the next day, I am entertaining them, feeding them, doing housework or helping with homework. While doing media interviews to promote A modern father, I've been asked when I find the time to blog. The answer; I'm up at 5am most mornings to fit in some "me time" so I can write.
A couple of years ago I was looking after one child who was at nursery part time. Today I am looking after two children; one at school and the other at nursery a few mornings a week.
I've had to get used to dealing with the education system while also dealing with the needs of a toddler who gets more and more advanced every day. The needs of my children do not stand still and I have to adapt to them.
It's an honour
I mean that, it really is an honour. While men are increasingly working from home or working compressed hours and spending one day a week at home with the kids, very, very few dads fulfil the main childcare and homemaking role that I do. I get to see my children develop and I have a massive part to play in this.
Of course my wife has an equally important role, but as the person who spends the most time around the kids, it inevitably means I do more to nurture them and help them grow. This also comes with a huge sense of responsibility that I feel every day.
In essence, us stay at home dads face all the issues a stay at home mum does, but it's lonelier, less supported and people don't always know what to make of you. Even so, I love it and wouldn't want it any other way.
Small in number, but the trend is going one way
I hope I've given you a taste of what it's like to be a stay at home dad. Although we're small in number, the trend is only going one way. Our numbers are growing, albeit slowly.
There are many more examples and thoughts in my book, which is available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions. It covers issues I've faced such as spending time on the maternity ward, the school run and the sacrifices my wife has made to fulfil the traditionally male role of breadwinner. It's only 60 pages long and written it in a way that you can dip in and dip out of.