For all intents and purposes, I can be socially classified as a ‘stay at home parent’. Here’s how I started out.
I came into this position by way of getting fired from my job. At the time, this stung a little bit since I had three children and a wife to support. Ultimately, my dismissal wasn’t that much of an issue because:
- I knew I was going to get fired. Management was completely turning over the store. Anyone who had a negative thing to say about how things were going got the axe. If things weren’t that simple, the people who spoke up the loudest were set up to fail. I was one of those people.
- The plan that the wife and I had from the beginning was for me to be a Stay-at-home parent as soon as she finished school and got a job. As you can see, this as merely an acceleration of our plan.
She was so great about me getting fired. She had already known about everything that was going on. I think that some part of her thought that it was just a matter of time as well.
As a Stay-at-Home Dad, I had it relatively easy at first. My wife was completing her last semester of nursing school which necessitated her being home full time as well. The “hardest” part of my day was keeping the younger two kids occupied long enough while Mommy found a quiet part of the apartment to hole up and study in.
Keeping the house from looking like a bomb just went off? Piece of cake. Our apartment was a bit on the small side plus there were two adults there for most of the day. Keeping the kids occupied and happy? No problem! I completely loved being there for them. The title “Daddy” became synonymous with playtime and all around merriment. [I think that this was in large part a reaction to the type of father that I grew up with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not “dad bashing”. My father was a good man and I know he tried but for myself (being the youngest of four by nine years) it was too little too late. As a result, when I became a parent myself, I came to the conclusion that the only thing that I really needed to do in order to be a successful parent was the opposite of everything that my parents did.]
Two months into my new job, the wife and I eventually made the decision that we needed to move in with someone until we got “back on our feet”.
As a man, this was a tough thing for me to do. I don’t care if it sounds cliché. Men are conditioned to provide for their family. It wasn’t until the move that the feeling of being a failure began to sink in. On some levels, I still have this feeling. Being the breadwinner and getting fired from your job is a rough thing to go through. It may seem impossible but “even if it is forced on you by a layoff or any other external circumstance it (being a Stay-at-Home Dad) can only work as long as you stay in touch with the feeling that you are doing something important” (Gill, p.50, 2001).
By July, we’ve completely moved into my sister’s house and my job gets even easier. Now, there’s even less ground to cover and there’s a third adult! I hit the jackpot.
Within weeks of moving in, the wife found a job and things were pretty good. The hardest part of my life at that time was trying to figure out what got capitalized in “stay at home dad”.
We stayed at my sister’s through the middle of November. After Thanksgiving break, we moved into our first house.
Then the honeymoon came to an abrupt and hellish halt. After the last few boxes were unpacked, the wife and I constantly butted heads on every little thing. There was no middle ground.
If you are a Stay-at-Home Dad, don’t get scared: this is perfectly natural. “Expect dads to do things differently from moms… Men and Women are different… Their differences should be recognized and embraced” (Gill, p. 50, 2001). Personally, I would take a fight about the type of soap in the bathroom any day than complete indifference. If you’re fighting at least you know that the other person cares enough to put in that kind of effort.
Don’t like fighting? Then communicate. Communicate like you have never communicated before. Don’t confuse this with giving in on every little thing. If your wife has some sort of hair-brained scheme about anything or something is not getting done to her liking at all do her the courtesy of hearing her out.
Seriously, stop what you are doing and give her your undivided attention. It might not be that wacky of a plan after all. She may be right about your ability to clean something properly. Or she may have gone completely around the bend, regardless, hear her out. If she’s wrong, then logically and politely shoot her down. If things give the appearance of going nuclear, COMPROMISE.
Find that middle ground.
That way everybody wins.
** Since we’ve been ‘on our own’, I have been practicing what I have been preaching and things have been great. Things may not get done on a regular basis or they may not get done to someone else’s liking but everyone is getting the respect that they need.
Gill, Libby. (2001). Stay-at-Home Dads: The Essential Guide to Creating the New Family. New York: Penguin Group.