Are you male and thinking of becoming the main carer for your children or giving up work completely to become a stay at home dad? If so, there are a variety of issues you might want to consider.
It’s a big enough decision for a woman to give up work to look after the kids. By rights, it shouldn’t be any different for a man. In reality it’s a bigger leap because it’s such a rare thing for a guy to do and the world is set up for women to fulfill this role.
Having just celebrated my third anniversary as my kids’ main carer, I’ve put together a few thoughts about issues you might want to think about. I hope you find them useful!
Loss of prestige
I thought that by saying goodbye to a career and well paid job I’d lose some prestige and standing in the world. You might be surprised to hear it, but I can genuinely say I haven’t found this to be the case at all.
I was also expecting to be the butt of jokes, particularly from male friends. Sure, it occasionally happens but most people meet my circumstances with indifference while others are genuinely interested and curious as to how my wife and I make our topsy-turvy family work.
Positive sentiments also come from unexpected sources. I recall a builder doing some work on our house shortly after I left full-time employment. After a few days of being in the house together, I thought I’d better explain why my daughter and I were always there and not my wife.
This guy was in his sixties and I expected to be ridiculed. Far from it; he told me he’d barely seen his kids as they were growing up and wished he could have done exactly what I was doing.
Be prepared to make an extra special effort
I occasionally hear from stay at home dads that have retreated into their shells because they don’t feel like they fit in among the mums. I understand exactly why this happens, but I think there is an obligation on us men to make a greater effort and prove we can do the things that mums have been doing for decades, if not centuries. Luckily, this doesn’t have to involve walking in four inch heels or giving birth.
Can you get involved with the Parent Teachers’ Association (or the equivalent if your children are at nursery)? At many schools there is a severe lack of men on the PTA. Most PTA’s are desperate for the support and anyone that can volunteer is welcomed.
Maybe you can go into the school and volunteer? At most primary schools there are opportunities to help children with their reading. The presence of positive, male role models in the overwhelmingly female environment of a school is also greatly appreciated.
Consider your finances
There’s no escaping this one; even if your family’s finances are rock solid, your personal finances will suffer. This was a big issue for me as I went from being a higher rate tax payer to earning a pittance working part time.
Everyone’s circumstances are different but you should give consideration to pension contributions, investing for your children’s future and how you’ll pay bills, especially those irritating ones that creep up annually such as home and car insurance. I worry much more about money now than I ever used to, although I think that’s quite common in the present financial climate!
Remember; your partner is making a sacrifice too
Your partner is making a sacrifice by going to work and providing for the family. She won’t see as much of the kids as other mothers. Unlike most women, she won’t get to be a part of a tight-knit network of mums. It will attract comment so go out of your way to tell her how much you appreciate what she’s doing for the family.
Looking after children is hard work, especially when you have more than one. Don’t go into this thinking that it’s all about baking cakes and coffee mornings.
I personally find being the main carer for my kids very rewarding. I’m privileged to spend so much time with them, nurture them and and watch them growing up. It’s a sacrifice, but one that I have found to be well worth making.
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