Top 5 Essential Skills for SAHD Success

Top 5 Essential Skills for SAHD SuccessBeing a stay-at-home dad (or mom) isn’t easy, but it improves every year. Our son was only a year old when I retired from my engineering career to become a SAHD/blogger. In reflection, it wasn’t exactly retirement. Taking care of a toddler was a lot of work! However, it got easier over the years. Now, our son is almost 9 years old. This is a lot closer to retirement than when I started the SAHD journey. Today, I want to talk a bit about the skills I mastered to become a successful SAHD. These skills helped my family survive and thrive through those early years. If you’re thinking about becoming a stay-at-home parent, you should cultivate these skills. Check them out and let me know what you think in the comments.


The first skill is cooking. Mrs. RB40 is one lucky lady. Every day, she comes home from work to a delicious dinner. Well, it’s not always great every time, but she always has something to eat when she arrives. This is huge. Everybody loves delicious food and a healthy meal always makes you feel better afterward.

I got lucky with this one. My parents had a small Thai restaurant when I was in high school. I worked there and learned how to cook. Over the years, I improved and expanded my cooking skills. Now, I can cook Thai, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and various other cuisines. It’s a great way to eat well and save money.

In my opinion, a stay-at-home parent really needs to be able to cook or at least gather ingredients together for a simple meal. Your partner is tired and a good meal will cheer her up. It’s demoralizing to work all day and come home to a frozen dinner that needs to be microwaved. If you can’t cook, you can learn. There are so many resources on the internet these days. Here are a few of my favorites.

Cooking was way tougher when our son was small. He wanted attention and he didn’t understand I need a little time to cook. I just tried to prep as much as I could when he napped and then cook when Mrs. RB40 got home. Now that our son is older, it’s much easier. I cook on the weekdays and Mrs. RB40 cooks on the weekend.

Basic competency at taking care of baby/toddler/kid

This one is necessary before you even consider becoming a stay-at-home dad. I took 8 weeks off when my son was born to help out. I learned how to change his diapers, feed him, wrap him up like a burrito (swaddle), how to comfort him, play with him at the park, and more. Nobody knows how to do these things before having a kid. You have to learn and become competent as you go. By the time I quit my engineering career, I was pretty good at taking care of our son. You have to demonstrate basic competency if you want to be a successful SAHD. My wife trusted me with our son. She knew I’d take good care of him.

Mrs. RB40’s input – You have to want to take care of the kid, too. That’s a prerequisite. If you don’t really want to be the caretaker, it’ll be better for everyone if you get a job.

SAHD success


Kids will drive you insane if you can’t calm down and be patient. You need to learn to be patient to be a SAHD. This was really tough for me because I’m not very patient by nature. The toughest time was when RB40Jr was 2-4 years old. We spent all day together and he threw a lot of tantrums. A few times, I had to escape to my room and hide under a blanket because I couldn’t take it. I set him up with a kid DVD and told him to let me nap for a while (unless there is an emergency). Now, I don’t even remember what he did to make me so mad.

This got a bit easier as he grew. He still does things that make me mad sometimes, but now he knows there are consequences. He’ll listen if I take away his tablet privilege. A stay-at-home dad has to be patient and never hit the kids.

Money management

Another important skill for a SAHD is money management. I pay the bills, manage our investments, watch our net worth, and keep Mrs. RB40 in the loop. She doesn’t have to worry about our household finance. This takes a load off. I think it’s important for the stay-at-home spouse to understand the household finance just as well as the working spouse. Unfortunately, the divorce rate is still very high in the United States. About 50% of marriages end in divorce. The working spouse already has a lot of power because they bring home the bacon. The stay-at-home person needs to understand the household finance as well. This helps balance the power dynamic in the relationship.

Also, one of the biggest reasons for a divorce is money. Both partners should have a complete picture of the household finance so there are no surprises later on. Luckily, I blog about our cash flow every month. Mrs. RB40 is our editor so she has to read these cash flow posts. This keeps her up to date on our household finance.

Side hustle

I’m not sure if this one is essential for every SAHD, but making some money on the side has been very helpful for me. Over the last few years, I’ve been a blogger, landlord, market research participant, scooter charger, and more. I’m contributing to our household financially and I feel good about it. I love my wife dearly, but I don’t want to be 100% dependent on her income.

This one was difficult when our son was very young. I was tired from taking care of him and I didn’t have much time or energy to side hustle. Once he started school, I was able to do a lot more.

If you don’t side hustle, you probably should find some activities to get yourself out of the house. This year, I’m coaching our son’s soccer team. It’s a lot of fun. Every SAHD should be involved in the community somehow.

More helpful skills/abilities

Readers think I should add these skills.

  • Think skin – You need to have thick skin to be a SAHD. People will say stuff to your face and behind your back. Some say I’m taking advantage of my wife, but it’s mostly online. In real life, I haven’t had any negative experience.
  • Confidence – Some people may feel emasculated to be a SAHD. I’m very confident that I made the right choice for my family so I never felt that way. Side hustle probably helped here. We will survive if anything ever happens to Mrs. RB40.
  • Self-care – You have to take care of yourself so you can take better care of your family. Go to the gym and use their childcare for a short break.
  • Partner – Make sure your spouse feels like she is part of the family. My son was very attached to me when he was a baby. Sometimes, Mrs. RB40 felt a bit left out. I sent Junior her way when she got home. I need the time to make dinner anyway. 🙂

SAHD Success

Okay, that’s all I got today. These 5 skills helped me become a successful SAHD. My wife is happy and she continues to work. My son got the rare privilege of having a stay-at-home dad. I don’t have to work for a corporation anymore and I love my life. Our family is way better off than when I was working full-time.

Did I miss anything? What do you think are some useful skills/abilities for a stay-at-home parent?

Starting a blog is a great way to build your brand and generate some extra income. You can see my tutorial – How to Start A Blog and Why You Should. Check it out if you’re thinking about blogging.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.
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30 thoughts on “Top 5 Essential Skills for SAHD Success”

  1. I may be following in your footsteps, Joe. Mrs. Done by Forty really likes her new job and while we’re going to hit FI soon, it’s quite possible that only one of us wants to embrace the early retirement part. I guess we’ll see how we feel after the second kid comes along and after the new job is not so new any more.

    This is all fantastic advice. I also do all the cooking in our house and most of the house cleaning/maintenance, too. It’s certainly easier since I’m working from home: I can sometimes sneak in a chore when I’m on a conference call that I don’t have to present on, and I get to avoid commuting each way so that gives me some extra time, too.

    I definitely need to practice more patience with Baby AF — he’s getting to the point where he’s trying to test our boundaries a lot and it can get frustrating sometimes. Got to keep cool.

    • That’s a good idea. If your wife wants to work, there is no reason for her to retire. It makes life a lot smoother to have one partner working. Good luck with patience. It’s tough when they’re pushing you all the time.

  2. I absolutely love the picture of you with tiny RB40Jr! So precious! I also am enjoying the food pics on your instagram! Maybe you could side hustle your side hustle and start an adjacent food/recipe blog?

    Lastly, I just want to thank you for putting this content out into the world. Being a SAHD can be a challenge, but you have embraced it and your son has thrived! Your family is better off from the decisions you have made together and I commend you and Mrs RB40!

  3. I think being a SAHD is a little harder than SAHM because of society’s judgement and lack of community. I became a SAHM when my baby was born. The first year was very tough but now that she’s 18 months it’s getting easier and more fun.
    Maybe I could get a side hustle once she’s in preschool but I’m not going to stress over it.
    Do you have a blog for your recipes? I’d love to learn some easy Asian recipes I can make fast!

  4. We have one child, and I can agree on everything you write, heck the things you write I can totally relate to, aspecially the patience part. Both me and my wife are useless when it comes to patience, it is usually an argument, someone cries and then everyone hugs and say sorry afterwords. Most of the time we are a happy family, but there are times when our kidreally get on our nerves with her experiments and just making a total mess everywhere and refuses to clean up. We never ever hit her though, that is a total no-no.

    We still have a few years of saving money before we can become stay at home parents, this post really help us understand what it is all about,a dn it is great to read something honest, and not just the picture-perfect version that a lot of bloggers and influencers tend to write about.

  5. Some of the things you talk about can be useful for anyone starting early retirement, not only as a SAHD. I can cook and quite enjoy it, so maybe it’s something that I can expand on a bit in my early retirement. Thanks for the idea.

  6. I agree SAHD get a bad rap! Sometimes though I see they don’t seem as engaged. One guy was on his cell phone the whole time at this children’s play class I went to.

    Great list, I need to get better at patience. I don’t think I can do this full time… the cooking part is easy but the reasoning (or lack of?) with toddlers is so exhausting.

  7. I am *the worst* at cooking. I want to learn with the kids. I do okay with a slow cooker and chicken. Batch cooking for the win!

    I’m not sure I have competency to take care of a kid. I want to wrap them up in a burrito at age 7. I think I could sell toddler swaddles ;-). LOL, I guess I have no patience.

  8. RB40 –

    Definitely one of the coolest posts you’ve written. Really great perspective and for a hope-to-be-someday dad – provides a TON of insight and wisdom in case I go the SAHD route. So in two words – THANK YOU.

    I’ll be resorting back to this often!


  9. Wanting to stay at home is the biggest one IMO. Having to when you don’t want to, or when you don’t have a choice makes an already hard job much much harder. Equality of household chores is another one. Neither of us a SAHP but we definitely had a harder time figuring out an even split during maternity leave because we were both so tired. When we’re both working, it seems much easier to split evenly.

  10. If you ask me, for what it is worth I think that the stay at home dad role is probably one of the more challenging roles that one can perform. Not so much because of the nature of the work (domestic duties and child care) but more so due to the emotional side of raising children as well as the social expectations that come with the stay at home role… just 5 cents 🙂

  11. It always impressed me that you were able to stay at home with RB40Jr and still find the time for blogging. He’s probably at the age now where even during the summer he’s going to start wanting to do his own thing which would obviously give you more time.

    And the cooking’s another cool one. I don’t know how to cook very well – I can do pasta or sautee pierogis (frozen, of course!) – but that’s about my limit. I see the dishes you make on Instagram and think, “wow, that’s really cool!” Then I realize that it’s just something that doesn’t interest me enough to start doing it more here (Lisa’s a good cook anyway!).

    I envy anyone who stays home with the kids – it’s a tough job. Yes, now that we’re FIRE, we stay home with Faith every day, but it’s much easier when there are two parents there doing the job! 🙂

  12. Oh boy, this is a good one! A few tips from our household where we’ve taken turns as the stay-at-home parent:

    -Self care. Taking care of young children all day is exhausting, and you can’t give from an empty cup. Put the gym childcare to use and get yourself some exercise. It will relieve stress and anxiety, keep you in good shape to chase/carry kids around, and will help you make social connections with other adults.

    -Date nights. Get to know a good babysitter that you can trust, and set up date nights to break up the routine of work – bath – bedtime. It’s also good for your kids to get comfortable in someone else’s care once in a while since eventually they go to school.

    -Cleaning. Nobody wants to come home from work to a dirty house. We had many talks about housekeeping standards and agreed on three priorities: clean dishes, clean laundry, and garbage taken out regularly. As long as these three things are done, there’s no resentment over dividing up the rest of the housework (especially since it’s easy to outsource bathrooms & floors to a service).

  13. I would add making the other parent feel loved and part of the family even though they are not there. Maybe this would fall under a skill of good communication with your partner. While this is always important to a marriage, I feel it is even more so when one spouse is a stay at home.

    • You’re right! Mrs. RB40 frequently felt left out because our son was so attached to me. I had to give them some time together. It worked out pretty well. Now that he’s older, he likes his more a lot more than his dad. I’m more strict.

  14. Oh man is patience one. I’m not rocking the SAHD life any more and it wasn’t that difficult when I was since our daughter was only 2-6 months. But now that she’s a big 3 year old that’s come with some big tantrums usually about absolutely nothing. The latest was because my wife asked her to get some socks. I know how dare my wife ask her to do that.

  15. Patience? What’s that? I do the other things well.

    I don’t know if I would be considered a SAHD 100% of the time, but my wife works in the morning, and I have our 2 year old with me at home during that time. The rest of the day we split our time with the kids.

    I think managing a side hustle can be a tricky one since the kids need attention and so does the hustle. When my daughter comes and sits beside me as close as she can, I stop typing and play with her for a bit. Then I remember why I put myself into this position.

    • It’s hard to be patient with a kid. They never listen.
      You’re right about side hustle when kids are small. I used to blog on one screen while RB40Jr watched cartoon on the other screen. It worked okay. It’s a lot easier now that he’s older.

  16. It is important that the person not working pulls their weight in the relationship and this list is critical to do so.

    There were so many reasons my particular marriage failed and my ex wife absolutely not contributing to the family household was a huge thing. She spent her whole time trying to get back into a medical residency after getting kicked out of the one I got her in (coveted radiology spot where I trained) and didn’t want to take care of our daughter (so our parents had to live with us and take 3 month turns between them so that someone could look after my daughter while I was at work.

  17. I can totally related to these 5 skills Joe! Although I can’t claim to be an expert SAHD, I try to do my best. I cook, I clean, I fix things, I run errands, I take care of sick kids, and play chauffeur… Patience can be a tough one some days though!

    I think one skill you should have added to this list is a thick skin. Stay at home dad’s don’t get a lot of respect. Oh the things I have heard people say! You can tell that a man being a stay-at-home parent makes them uncomfortable. You’d think it would be more accepted in this modern day, but it really isn’t. I get it from other parents, teachers, and it’s both men and women.

    Actually it’s other Mom’s who most often ask me, “When are you going back to work?” I guess I don’t belong in their club.

    Like I said, a thick skin helps. 😉

  18. Ah yes, good ole patience! 😉

    As a SAHD all of these resonate with me, Joe. Now that my son is in kindergarten, I’ve gotten back a chunk of time to myself. It’s been great, but I do miss when the kids were super little.

    We don’t cook as often as you do Joe (very admirable), but I do love to find kids eat free deals (

    When I do cook, I try to keep things simple and healthy. The whole family loves fish, so salmon is always a pleaser.

    I agree with the money management. I still take care of this even though my wife is the primary earner now. Like you, I help out via side hustles, but it makes for a unique dynamic within societal norms.

    Anyhow, some other skills I’ve picked up over the years are tying my daughter’s hair into a tight bun for ballet. I took me 30 minutes the first time, but I can do this in 2 mins flat now… hehe.

    • It’s great when kids are in school. Life as a SAHD is so much easier now.
      I need to cook more fish. I’m not very good with them so I only cook them once every few weeks or so.
      Ahh hair. I can buzz my son’s hair. 🙂


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