For the past year, I have been a stay at home dad. My wife and I decided that this arrangement made the most sense given our present life and work situation. And we are not alone, as statistics reveal. More than 1.4 million dads stay at home, according to a 2009 study.
Being a stay at home dad has taught me valuable lessons — mostly via the school of hard knocks. So if you find yourself in the same situation, here are five tips for surviving and thriving as a stay at home dad:
- Help out around the house.
If you’re a stay at home dad and your wife is the primary source of income, you can’t rely on her to do everything. Pick up some tasks around the house to help keep the ship afloat.
You could cook the meals, wash clothes, clean the house, or whatever you and your wife decide would be most helpful. And you don’t have to be Emeril, Martha Stewart, and June Cleaver rolled into one. I mean, you should ask my wife about that “cucumber chicken” recipe I invented. Not a personal success story, but she appreciated the effort!
- Pursue a hobby.
Being a stay at home dad doesn’t mean that your life and aspirations are over. You do not, in fact, have to spend every waking hour reading parenting blogs, researching the pros and cons of cloth diapering, or making homemade organic baby food pouches. Instead, you can actually use your time at home to pursue lifelong interests.
So listen to academic lectures while you play with your child. Practice a foreign language as you push the stroller. And work out, read enriching books, hone your work skills, do some carpentry, or work as a freelance during nap times. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn and do with a child at home. (On some days, at least!)
- Seek friendships with other guys.
I don’t know about you, but that classic “no-you- cannot-in-fact-have-a-cookie-nor-go-outside-in-the-rain” speech gets old after a couple of hours. It helps to have true conversation with a real-life adult every now and then.
So invite your neighbors over to watch the game, have friends from church over for lunch, or join that fantasy football league with the guys from your old work. No matter how you do it, be intentional about pursuing and investing in relationships with other guys. It’s a proven method of staying sane.
- Use frustrations to become a better man.
Spending forty hours per week alone with a kid will wear on you. After all, the human psyche can only endure so many snot stains, temper tantrums, and blowouts without cracking!
The question is not will you face these frustrations — but how. Will you grow frustrated or develop patience? Grumble about your situation or learn contentment? Treat your time selfishly or serve wholeheartedly? Make the decision to use these opportunities to become a better man.
- Treasure these moments with your child.
Being a stay at home dad can be frustrating, tiring, and emotionally draining. And, yes, many days you would prefer to work a nine-to-five — and earn a paycheck.
But consider this: You have the privilege of investing in your child’s life during his or her most formative years. You are making memories that neither you nor your kids will forget. You can’t put a price tag on that.
(Plus, think of all the embarrassing stories you can tell when your kids bring their boyfriend or girlfriend home for the first time!)
These are my top five survival tips for being a stay at home dad. What tips would you add?
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