Sunday, March 9, 2014

Challenges and Benefits of Being a Stay at Home Dad

Raising kids is no easy task, especially during the very early years. As the cliche goes, it is the "most difficult job that you will ever love." Constant attention and care is required from young kids including feeding, dressing, changing diapers, running errands, going to kid classes, trying to get them to nap and the constant discipline.
Nugget, Ryan and Caden

Although many people misunderstand what it takes to be a stay at home parent, people make this tough decision every day. There is no pay. No lunch breaks. No sitting down and having chats over coffee. Not very much alone time. Lots of crying and diaper changes. You will likely be either peed on or spit up on during the day. You will have to deal with crying and meltdowns.

Even though the task seems daunting, The number of Stay at Home Dads (SAHDs) is recently on the rise while the Moms become the primary breadwinner. For many of us, this is uncharted territory: the father staying at home while the mother is at work. So what are the challenges and benefits of being a Stay at Home Dad?

Challenges and Benefits for SAHDs

Challenges
Lack of other SAHDs.  There are not a lot of SAHDs out there, but there seem to be SAHMs everywhere you look during the day.  Plus, there are plenty of "Mommy and Me" classes and activities where you can meet other Moms.  I am still looking for the first "Daddy and Me" class during a weekday. 

Figuring out Your New Role. Only around 3% of families have a father who is the stay at home parent. Trying to figure out your role as a SAHD can be difficult to navigate. One Dad recently wrote why his wife is embarassed that he is a SAHD, because others assume that she is a bad mother. For men, believing that you are providing for your family without earning a paycheck is sometimes difficult to comprehend.

Fighting stereotypes. SAHDs will often face questions like "Where's Mom today?" and "Oh, it must be a Daddy Day".  Even though it is 2014, some people are not used to seeing Dads taking care of their kids during the day

Feeling out of Place. Often a SAHD can be the only male in the room at story time, swim class or play groups. This is a little unsettling at first, but if you are going to be a SAHD, you soon get over it.

Lack of Feedback. At the office, you often heard from your supervisors, colleagues, customers or others how great of job you are doing. The recent presentation that went well, the big sale you made or the huge event you coordinated makes you feel great. Stay at home parents receive very little feedback or confirmation on the job they are doing.

Career Risk. Since being a SAHD is a recent trend, it is not clear if employers will be accepting of men who want to re-enter the workforce after "taking time off" to raise their kids.

Benefits
Lower expectations. Men are not expected to take care of children all day, keep the fridge stocked. fold laundry, make dinner and go to doctor appointments. Doing all these things make you a Super Dad. Of course, this could also be viewed as a Disadvantage, as SAHDs believe they can do just as good or better job as a Stay at Home Mom.

Role Modeling. We have both a son and a daughter. Our son Caden can grow up seeing that men can raise children just as well as women and our daughter Eloise can observe Mom going to work everyday. These are positive role models for our children.

Being Outside. Many people like me did not like being cooped up all day in the office. I would often use my lunch break to go running outside. Luckily, being a SAHD in LA is all about being outside: parks, beaches, hiking, biking and jogging with your kids is a great way to spend a day.

Making Your Own Schedule. You will soon find that you don't have to be the perfect parent or try to be just like Stay at Home Moms (or other SAHDs). SAHDs can figure out their style of parenting, based on their own personality and their children's needs.

Time. Because of work, commutes and bedtimes, most Dads do barely get to see or do not see their young children during the work week. SAHDs get to experience their children growing up every day.

Focus. With a SAHD, the Mom can focus on her career without worrying about how their kids are doing at day care or with the nanny. My philosophy as a SAHD, is to work hard during the day so my wife can come home and focus on spending time with the kids, working and relaxing at home.

Do the Benefits Outweigh the Costs?
While obtaining my graduate degree in Public Affairs, we had to take a class in "Cost-Benefit Analysis". This is for government geeks who want to see if a certain program or policy has great benefits than the costs. For me, the benefits of being a SAHD far outweigh some of the challenges and finacial risks. I have not regretted a single day of being a Stay at Home Dad.



Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

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