A while back, I got an email asking – Do you feel bad being a stay-at-home-dad while your wife works? That’s a good question because there is still a lot of social stigma attached to being a stay-at-home-dad. SAHDs are pressured to feel bad because that’s how we were raised. Dads are supposed to work to support the family while moms have the option to work or be a stay-at-home mom. The image of SAHD has changed a lot over the past 10 years. Back then, the image of Michael Keaton’s Mr. Mom popped up into our heads when we thought about a SAHD. Mr. Mom is in over his head at home, out of his element, and he wants to get back to work. Modern family life is changing, though. Now, we are seeing a more balanced view. SAHDs can be a good primary caretaker too.
Stay-at-home-dads are becoming more common now because women are making great progress into higher paying jobs. In many families, it’s more economical for dad to become the primary care provider while mom continues to develop her career. The number of stay-at-home-dads has grown steadily over the last 20 years and now there are around 2 million of us. Wow, that’s a huge number!
With the increasing commonality of stay at home dads, there are many families sharing their stories on the internet. Some dads are happy being home. Some dads can’t deal with the adjustment and have to go back to work. Some marriages work out and some are struggling. Every family is unique and I don’t have the answer for your family. I can only focus on my family and my answer is I do not feel bad about being a stay-at-home-dad. Our family is better off with me being a SAHD.
It has been an interesting journey to be a part of this growing trend. It’s a good thing that I blogged about my SAHD experience because the last 5 years was a blur. Here are some of my old posts about being a SAHD.
- My 3 Months as a Stay-At-Home-Dad Blogger: I took 3 months off when RB40Jr was born. I loved the experience and I think everyone should take extended time off when they have a baby. This period was all about learning how to take care of a baby.
- Why I Want to Be a Stay-At-Home-Dad: This was right before I retired from my engineering career. RB40Jr was 18 months old and I was looking forward to becoming a SAHD. We didn’t like having him in daycare all day long.
- Being a Happy Stay-At-Home-Dad Isn’t Easy: After 6 months of being a SAHD, I was starting to feel the pressure. It was very difficult for me to socialize with the moms. RB40Jr was starting to develop a personality and we butted heads all day long. It was a tough time for me, but still a lot better than working at my old job.
- Stay-At-Home-Parents Need a Little Break Too: RB40Jr was about 2 and a half at this time. We decided to send him to preschool 2 days per week. This was a long struggle and it showed us that he has a tough time adjusting to new environments. The first preschool didn’t work out because he cried all day whenever he was there. We took him out and let him mature a few more months and then we found another preschool that suited him better. I was very happy to have 2 half days per week to work on my blog.
- Stay-At-Home-Dad Update Fall 2015: The next 2 years were mostly uneventful. RB40Jr went to preschool more often as he got older and I settled into my role as a SAHD. It was still tough to talk to other moms, but I was able to arrange a play date once in a while.
- Stay-At-Home-Dad Update Spring 2016: This was earlier this year. Junior was wrapping up his preschool days and we were mentally preparing for kindergarten. He matured a lot in just 6 months. We still butted heads a lot earlier this year, but now we rarely get mad at each other.
Looking back, my biggest problem was staying patient with our son. He was (still is) a very energetic boy and almost every idea he had meant trouble. Something seemed to have changed over the last 6 months, though. He is causing a lot less problems and I haven’t been mad at him much. I guess he is learning how to stay out of trouble.
Now that RB40Jr is going to kindergarten; life is much easier for me. The regular schedule means I can go to the gym every morning. I need to exercise regularly to improve my triglyceride level. After that, I work on the blog and run various errands. This is a lot different than being a SAHD to a little kid. Life as a SAHD is awesome when your kid is in school from 8 am to 2 pm. Kids need a lot of attention and they want to interact with you 24/7. You don’t have any time for yourself when they are at home.
Anyway, I’m really glad I blogged about my SAHD experience. I have a terrible memory and I forget everything. Sharing my experience on Retire by 40 is a great way to share it with Junior when he’s older. If you don’t have a blog yet, you should consider starting one. Sign up at Siteground and they’ll help you get going for $3.95/month. That’s cheap.
Why don’t I feel bad?
Shouldn’t I feel bad about having a fantastic time at home while Mrs. RB40 toils away at the office? Am I a sociopath for not empathizing more? Well, I empathize with her, but I don’t feel bad. Here are the reasons why.
- I don’t overthink things. Our family is working very well and I take it at face value. Why complicate things by overthinking and feeling guilty? I’m just as busy as she is and I don’t have time to dwell on this. If Mrs. RB40 is unhappy, she can retire too. This is her choice to make, not mine.
- I don’t pay attention to social norms. I’m an introvert and I don’t really care what other people think. Also, I haven’t been criticized in real life so it’s not a big deal. My friends and family support my decision and that’s all I care about. I have received some negative responses on the internet, but it’s easy for me to ignore those. I’ve got thick internet skin now, another side benefit of blogging.
- I choose to be a SAHD. This is a big one. People need to feel in control of their life. Many SAHDs were pushed into the role and it is a lot harder for them. I choose to be a SAHD and it was a good decision for our family. Our family life is a lot better off with me as a SAHD than when both of us were working full-time.
- We are comfortable financially. Money is a huge factor. We live a comfortable lifestyle, pay the bills on time, go on annual international vacations, and still save over $50,000 per year. If we couldn’t afford our lifestyle, then I would feel a lot more pressure to get a traditional job.
- I’m contributing financially. I’m contributing financially by earning a little online income and taking care of our investments. I’d feel more guilty if I wasn’t earning any money at all.
- Financial Independence. Our net worth is 40x our annual expense. That’s financial independence by most measures. If we can keep our lifestyle inflation under control, we will have a comfortable retirement. Financial independence means we don’t have to work if we don’t want to.
- RB40’s career is taking off. Mrs. RB40 is a fantastic employee. She is really good at her job and her employer is lucky to have her. She just got a promotion earlier this year and now she is being encouraged to stretch herself further if she chooses. I don’t think it’s a good time to retire if your career is going so well. Why not see how far you can rise first?
- RB40 has a good work/life balance. Mrs. RB40 works about 40 hours per week and rarely has to take her work home. I would encourage her to retire earlier if she has to work 60 hours per week and we never see her. She has a good work/life balance, so why mess with it?
- RB40 plans to retire in a few years. She likes her job, but she wants more freedom to pursue her interests. There is no time time to do anything extra with a full-time job. She plans to retire before 2020, but she could retire earlier if things change at work.
Things are going very well for our family so I don’t feel bad about my decision to become a stay-at-home-dad. It’s the right decision for our family and our lives are better than if we both work full time. Yes, I empathize with Mrs. RB40 for having to get up and go to work every day, but her life is pretty good too. She has a great family and she loves coming home at the end of the day.
She has to make her own decision about retirement. We’re at a point where she could retire if she wants to. A few more years of work would really solidify our finances, though. It would be awesome to reach 50x our annual expense. We may not be able to get there if Mrs. RB40 retires now. She would feel more financially secure with 50x. I’m perfectly fine with 40x.
Stay-at-home-parents, how do you feel about your role?