If you told me 10 years ago that I would be a stay at home dad, I’d say NO WAY! I was making good money at a challenging job, so why would I quit and become the primary car taker? Mrs. RB40 felt the same way and we were chugging along quite well as a DINK couple for many years. I like kids and always wanted to have a child or two, but we put it off while we were busy with our careers. My whole perspective changed when Baby RB40 was born. He became the center of my world while my job continued to lose its luster. My intention was always to get a different job, but at some point that morphed into being a stay at home dad. We have been preparing for an income reduction and luckily it turned out that we could function with just one stable job (Mrs. RB40’s.)
Being a stay at home dad to a rambunctious little guy is a lot of fun, but it is challenging especially in the winter. It was much easier in the summer because we did a lot of fun outdoor activities to work off some of his boundless energy. We played in the parks, went to see free concerts, splashed at fountains all over town, and had a blast. In the winter, our options narrowed down to the library, the mall, and just a few other indoor spaces. We still go out to the park, but it’s just not as fun when it’s cold and rainy. Anyway, it’s been over 6 months since I left my dysfunctional job and became a stay at home dad/blogger and I’d like to write about the transition and the many challenges SAHDs (stay at home dads) face.
Learning to be the caretaker
Learning to take care of a kid can be a steep curve, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The first challenge for a SAHD is to learn how to do all the things that your mom used to do.
Taking care of a child
Let’s face it. Taking care of a child doesn’t come naturally to most guys. I had to learn quite a few things quickly, but I’m sure all parents go through this. Here is just a small list of things that I had to learn how to do.
- Change diapers
- Prepare food and feed the baby
- Calm the baby when he’s crying
- Put a baby to bed/nap
- Bathe the baby
Basically, it’s just learning how to be a parent. I assume most moms are more naturally suited to do these things than dads. I learned the basic caring and feeding of a baby pretty quickly and developed a rapport with Baby RB40. Some dads are not comfortable with these “mom” tasks and if you’re one of them, being a SAHD might be a difficult proposition.
Next of the list is the household chores. Like most guys, I am terrible at housekeeping. When I was single, I probably vacuumed twice a year… However, if you want to be a stay at home dad, you should do as much household chores as you can. The missus works all day and she doesn’t want to come home to a pig sty, right? The house doesn’t have to be spotless, but the SAHD should be able to do the bulk of these tasks. I cook, vacuum, clean the bathrooms, take care of the car, dosome laundry, and a number of other household chores. Of course, I’m not perfect and Mrs. RB40 takes up a lot of the slack on the weekends. As long as you show some effort, your sugar mama would understand and keep bringing home the bacon.
Baby needs constant attention
One of the moms in our building has a daughter about the same age as Baby RB40. When she does the laundry, the girl would sit in an armchair and wait quietly until she’s done. What? Baby RB40 has never sat still for 30 seconds in his whole life! OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much. When we go do laundry, he’ll be running around slamming the washer doors and other such things. He needs constant attention when he’s awake and if you’re not paying attention to him, he’ll throw a fit.
I set up a monitor for him when I work so he can watch his songs on YouTube*, but we only do that for about an hour a day because that’s plenty of YouTube time. I can check emails, answer comments, catch up on other blogs, and a few other minor tasks in that hour. I have to wait until he’s asleep to do any serious writing. Anyway, the point is don’t count on getting much done when your kid is awake. I’m sure this will get better as he gets older, but he still needs a lot of attention right now. Your mileage may vary here. I guess some kids are calmer than others.
*Baby RB40 isn’t interested in watching TV or movies. He likes to pick which songs to play on Youtube and changes his selections constantly. I think a movie has too much dialog for him.
My mom is here to help out for a while and it’s such a huge relief for me. I can get away for a couple of hours to blog or do other errands as needed. If you can get some help from family or hire a baby sitter for a couple of hours per day, that will make a big difference.
After a SAHD learns how to be a mom, he’ll have to deal with other mental challenges. I think the mental aspect of it is much more difficult that learning the caretaker skill set.
Do you like spending time with adults?
Being a stay at home parent can be isolating. I was used to being in an office and interacting with colleagues throughout the day. When I transitioned to being a stay at home dad, all interactions with an adult came to an abrupt halt. This can be a jarring transition for many people. However, I don’t really mind it much. I’m an introvert at heart and it’s not a big deal for me.
Do you need mental stimulation?
My old job was technically challenging and I had to put on my thinking cap every day. Staying at home on the other hand is at the other end of the spectrum. I’m busy with Baby RB40 all day, but there are very few challenging mental stimulants. This is fine for me actually because I was completely burned out at my old job. I needed some serious time out from the constant mental challenges. Writing a blog also helps in this department. I have to think up new and useful articles for readers. That’s enough for now, but if you like to be mentally stimulated every day, then it will be difficult for you to spend all your time with your kids.
Baby will make you mad
Do you get angry easily? No matter how much you love your kid, they will push boundaries constantly. If you get mad easily, it’s not a good idea to spend 12 hours a day with your kid. I’m a pretty calm guy and I got quite mad at Baby RB40 a few times. Mrs. RB40 also gets infuriated with him sometimes and she rarely gets angry. Anyway, the point is a stay at home parent should have a calm personality. Kids will get into trouble, but it’s best to deal with it calmly.
Does your family support the move?
Your spouse has to support this transition for it to work out. If your spouse is better suited to be a stay at home parent, then you might need to continue working. Hopefully, your extended family also supports the move, but it’s less necessary. Mrs. RB40 likes working and she doesn’t want to be a stay at home mom. She is really supportive and I’m thankful for that.
Stay at home dads are still a minority
The number of stay at home dads increased quite a bit over the last decades. Some of this is due to the economy and the advancement of women in the workplace, but we’re still a huge minority. I haven’t heard any negative comments personally, but I’m sure some people don’t like this arrangement. Usually, I’m the only dad around when we go to story time or the playground. It feels a bit weird to be such a minority, but it’s not a big deal. It’s hard to make friends with the moms too, but I guess that’s because I’m not very good at making new friends in general.
Lastly, let’s look at if you can be a SAHD for the long haul (or at least until the kid goes off to school.) Some dads lost their jobs and moved into a SAHD role by default. Even if you’re happy at being a SAHD, can your family handle the financial pressure? On the other hand, if your family has plenty of money, you can get some hired help to deal with the chores.
A family has to be able to function financially with just mom’s regular income. If you need to draw on your savings or borrow to pay bills, then it won’t work out in the long run. We have reduced our monthly expenses since 2007 in the anticipation of a loss of my income (job change) and kept it moderate. We also built our passive income streams and I’m able to make a little side income online. All these factors combined enable us to maintain a monthly positive cash flow most of the time. If you want to be a stay at home parent and the cash flow doesn’t work out, then you need to cut expenses and/or increase the household income.
We saved up 18 months worth of expenses before I quit my job. If Mrs. RB40 loses her job too, then we’ll have a year to figure something out. I think a year of expenses is a good insurance to have before you transition into a SAHD role. If things work out well for 2 years, then we’ll reduce the cash saving to around 6 months or so and invest the rest.
Retirement and Education Saving
Can you continue to save for retirement after becoming a SAHD? How about your kid’s education? I think this one is more optional. If being a stay at home parent is that important to you, you can put off retirement/college saving for a few years. Once the kid goes off to school, you can rejoin the workforce and start saving again. For us, Mrs. RB40 will continue to max out her 401(k) plan. Currently, we have a positive monthly cash flow so those extra money go to Baby RB40’s 529 account as well.
Being a stay at home dad is rewarding, but the transition isn’t easy
I love being a stay at home dad. It’s very gratifying to see Baby RB40 as he develops and grows. Being a SAHD came naturally to me for the most part, but I know the transition can be challenging to many guys. Luckily, Mrs. RB40 is supportive and likes her job. After six months of being a SAHD, I’m quite happy to report that it’s working out well. I’m hopeful that we can keep this up for 4 more years until our kid starts kindergarten. Once he starts school, then I’ll evaluate our plan and see where to go from there. If I have my way, I’d stay self employed and start another small business or two. I would even consider working for a small company if I can find a dream job in the right environment. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading this stay at home dad update. Let me know if I missed any challenges or if you have any questions.