What’s it like, being a stay at home dad?

stay at home dad, Times magazine.

Some of the dads and kids to features in today’s Times magazine article “Rise of the Alpha Dad” That’s me and Elizabeth, third from left. Pic credit: The marvellous Jude Edgington

Read all about it! Read all about it! Yes, along with five other stay at home dads, I have today appeared in the Times magazine in a feature headlined Rise of the Alpha Dad. The feature is all about men who gave up careers to look after their children.

I thought this presented me with a great opportunity to write something a bit more detailed about what it’s like being a man who has taken on the main childcare role. As some readers are no doubt first time visitors to Dadbloguk, I’ll start with a little background and then outline what it’s like (if you enjoy what you’ve read, please do take a moment afterwards to vote for me in the “family” category of the Brilliance in Blogging Awards).

How did I end up here?
My name is John Adams. I am married with two young daughters; one at primary school and one a toddler. In 2011 I gave up a well-paid, secure job to become the main carer for Helen, my eldest daughter. Up until that point I was part of the communications team for a Government regulator and Helen had been in paid-for childcare on a full-time basis for about 18 months.

I was uncomfortable with this and employed in a role I no longer enjoyed. Having worked out my wife and I could take the financial hit (see below), I proposed I leave my job so that I could spend more time with Helen and run the household. Although not in love with the idea at first, my wife agreed and we haven’t looked back as a family.

In 2012, just before the birth of my second daughter, I started this blog to chart my experiences. I now write for a number of online and print publications and have even written a book. Essentially I do what many mum bloggers do; I have a cottage industry making a little money as a writer and fit this around my children.


What’s it actually like?

It’s a privilege. Very few men get to spend as much time with their kids as I do. I know I have a direct and massive impact on the skills they learn and how they see the world. There are two things I am very big on; nurturing a love of learning and playing outside. My girls consider a trip to the local library a huge treat and now the weather is getting warmer they want to go out into the garden after school. It’s my influence that has made them like this and it’s great to see my efforts paying off.

It is daunting

I touch on this in the final chapter of the book I recently published, A modern father (…and dad blogger). There are mornings when I have to bundle the kids into the car so I can drop my eldest off to school. If the traffic is bad, it can get a bit depressing because I know school runs will dictate my life for many years to come. When this happens, I have to remind myself that I chose this life and I simply have to get on with it.

It can be lonely

I think this is one of the biggest challenges of being a stay at home dad and one mentioned repeatedly by the other fathers in the Times article. Parent support networks almost always serve an exclusively female audience. Sometimes they’re actually set up to exclude men (If you were male, would you feel happy attending a “mother and toddler group”?).

Mums can feel awkward approaching a dad and striking up a conversation with him. Likewise, it can be daunting for a dad to strike up a conversation with a woman he has never met before.

While it’s easy to over-state the amount of socialising that goes on between parents, the invites to coffee mornings etc. are fewer and further between. As a result, building up your own informal network of supportive friends is more difficult. I do have supportive friends I can call on in an emergency, but my network is smaller than the majority of mums. I have also often wondered if my kids have missed out on play dates because some mums aren’t 100% comfortable with approaching a stay at home father.

The impact on the relationship with my wife
I am asked about this from time to time. There seems to be an expectation that I will respond by saying that I have somehow been sissified by taking on the main childcare and household management role. Every relationship is different, but this is not the case in ours.

If, for some reason, I had to hand the reins over to my wife the results would be, well, interesting. Of course she would cope, but it would be chaos. This is simply because she is out of the family home for 12-13 hours a day during the working week and I am much more experienced at it and know what I am doing.

When I first became a stay at home dad, we had the one daughter and we both knew the routine at nursery. That daughter has grown up and is at school and I’m the one that’s had to get to grips with the school system. Our family has also expanded and I have been the main carer for our second child practically from day one. In other words, our responsibilities have diverged. I feel uncomfortable admiting it, but I am reponsible for the majority of the parenting and have a better idea what is going on in the kids’ lives.

I am going to expand on this point in a moment…


It’s not easy financially

At the beginning of this blog post I said I’d made calculations showing we could survive on the one full-time salary. My calculations were wrong and it is very tough financially. This is the one area of our relationship where there can be the occasional bit of friction. Even so, my wife has been able to concentrate on her career because I stay at home. I accept I am not always the best with money, but she wishes to concentrate on her career and I’m afraid that means she has to support me and the kids. That may sound tough but that’s simply the way it is.

I am less judgemental and more tolerant
Have you ever seen a dad struggling with his kids? Maybe he can’t quite sooth a crying toddler. Maybe he’s having trouble putting down a pushchair in the pouring rain while temperamental kids in wet clothing look on? Suddenly there will be a gasp of exasperation as mum swoops in and takes over the task because she knows how to do it properly. Be honest, we’ve all seen this happen, right? I certainly have.

It may just be me, but I would never react like that. As a stay at home dad, I am only too aware that I’m in a minority. As a full time working mum with young children, my wife is also in a minority and I respect this. She doesn’t spend as much time with the kids and so I accept that she sometimes needs things explaining to her or has a different approach to dealing with the kids. In fact my wife often remarks that, because of our situation, there is more equity in our relationship than many of our friends.

In summary
Being a stay at home dad has its challenges. If I meet with healthcare, education or some other professional, I have to explain in the first few seconds that I am my children’s main carer. If I fail to do so, I usually get treated like a second class citizen. In fact I have had some horrifying experiences with various professionals in the past (though not at my daughter’s school, the staff there are superb).

As I have alluded to above, establishing and engaging with formal and informal support networks is more difficult. In addition to this I know the needs of my children will dictate my life for many years to come and this is daunting.

Even so, being a stay at home dad is fun. I love spending time with the kids. I also derive a bizarre sense of achievement knowing the entire family has clean and ironed clothes prepared for the week ahead.

Being a stay at home dad has its unique challenges. That said, it is a sacrifice. In that sense, it’s not that different to being a stay at home mum.

At risk of repeating myself, I would love it if you would consider voting for me in the family category of the Brilliance in Blogging Awards. It’s very simple; just follow this link, give your name and email address and select Dadbloguk in category 13. Thanks in advance.

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57 Comments

  1. May 2, 2015 / 6:20 am

    I just read the article in The Times. It’s really refreshing to hear the stay at home Dads interviewd have many of the same anxieties, highs and lows as female ‘at home parents’. Particularly the dread of telling a new acquaintance ‘oh I’m just a stay at home Parent’. Pretty much all the Dads interviewed mention that Women at baby groups etc were not initially very welcoming to them because they are male and they feel the children may miss out on play dates for the same reason. I hope I have never made a fellow Dad ‘at homer’ feel unwelcome but it has certainly made me think about
    the other Dads at school pick up. I do talk to many of the Dads but are there times I could make more effort? Well done for a great article.

  2. May 2, 2015 / 7:09 am

    Great post! Coming from the other side (the working mummy supporting a stay at home partner and kids) it’s absolutely spot on about tou starting to lose your touch a bit with the kids. I mean I am pretty rusty in the kitchen now too 🙂 funny thing now is also that our daughter is much more likely to listen to me, so we have this thing going on about ‘when mummy comes home she’ll tell you off’… When I was little I remember my mum saying the exact opposite to me. And me thinking oh no, my dad will tell me off 😀

    Very true about the support networks being directed towards mums and being quite exclusive. My hubby complains about that too often and I can see how it would be grating.

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:56 am

      Lovely to get a comment from a full time working mum. I think it’s equally important for the world to recognise that women such as you are equally trailblazing and swimming against the tide.

  3. May 2, 2015 / 8:02 am

    Really interesting post. I might try and sneak a read of The Times in a shop! It’s a shame that professionals treat you as a second class citizen and kind of understandable that women are wary. As someone who has always worked, I never had the mum network thing going on anyway – I have never once been to a toddler group, coffee morning or music class in the library. I didn’t fit in either, but I don’t think either my kids or I have suffered as a result.
    I know that I worry if I leave the kids with my husband as he just doesn’t know how things run in our house – I’m the main carer and always was, even when I worked. Usually he will forget to give them drinks and they won’t ask and won’t help themselves! They also won’t tell him if they feel ill or have hurt themselves!

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:55 am

      I hope you had a chance to read the Times’ article Sarah. Alas us guys are swimming against the tide. I simply hope it gets easier for us over time.

  4. May 2, 2015 / 8:20 am

    A lot of your observations are true for us SAH mom’s too. It can definitely be a lonely job and school runs are a leading cause of depression. It was very interesting to read a SAH dad’s point of view. #BigFatLinky

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:52 am

      Thanks for commenting Becky. I don’t doubt that women find this stuff tough too. ALas us guys are pushing against a society that expects women to look after the kids.

  5. May 2, 2015 / 9:03 am

    My husbands uncle became a stay at home dad in the late 90s when it wasn’t so common and said it was the best thing he has ever done. He and his daughter have a really strong bond. #BigFatLinky

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:50 am

      Great story. Glad to hear it works out for his family. Thaks for commenting.

  6. May 2, 2015 / 9:47 am

    Really interesting post. It is a shame those situations mean you have to explain yourself but I guess people will always make assumptions. I need to find the article now! #bigfatlinky

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:49 am

      Yeah, I’m kinda used to explaining myself. I was a stay at home dad for two years befoer I learned that trick. Thankfully it works very well and having met me once, I hope education / health etc professionals will think before making assumptions the next time they meet a man who is (shock horror) accompanying his children.

  7. May 2, 2015 / 9:49 am

    Great post as always. I love being a sahd it’s great and the best decision I’ve made. The bigger thing that I have is what you’ve touched on about being lonely and isolated. It’s probably the biggest reason I blog tbh. I find social interaction hard on the best of days. But it can be harder being at home by yourself with the kids when all that’s needed is adult company. Thanks for linking up with us on the #bigfatlinky hope to see you there next week

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:48 am

      I think the isoplation issue is an interesting one. There’s no doubt in my mind that many mums experience this, but there are formal social networks to help them. For us guys there is virtually nothing.

  8. Nicholas Huddart
    May 2, 2015 / 12:21 pm

    Great article and good to know I’m now an alpha dad!! I look after our three (all under 6) children as a Stay at home dad / Househusband. The main downside is living off one salary, meaning that financially things can be tight. I’ve never really noticed too much isolation but maybe the local mums are used to seeing me with the kids after 2 years on the job! I’m glad to be there for my children and also at home be able to sort out the ‘life admin’ tasks that would otherwise have to be done in evenings and weekends.

    Sometimes you think your brain is wasting away and you’ll screen if there’s another CBeebies programs but my children seem happy, well rounded. I’m arrogant enough to think that I bring my children up better than any nursery, nanny or childminder. I also see a few child minders at playgroups and they often seen to spend more time looking at their phone than being with their charges.

    What does annoy me however, if even this enlightened age men looking after kids often get regarded as bizarre creatures. Friends and relatives scoff and ask when are you returning to work, as if you’re bored yet and don’t grasp that looking after three kids for 18 hours on your own is very much a full time job! My wife is a doctor, undoubtedly she works hard but often she gets a lunch or tea break that I struggle to find time for.

    Thanks for the article, thanks for reminding me I’m not the only man hidden away behind closed doors trying to juggle the kids, the washing and cook dinner!!

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:43 am

      It’s impossible – just keep writing with typos!

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:45 am

      We may be small in number, but you are not the only man hidden away juggling kids, washing and dinner! As for isolation, I find that those mums that accept me accept me 100% and the remainder just don’t talk to me. There’s very little inbetween! Thanks for commenting and please do visit the blog again.

  9. May 2, 2015 / 5:50 pm

    Great post! As a stay at home dad of 4 for 3 years I can relate to everything you’ve said. I really enjoy being a dad and getting to spend all this time with my kids, even if it is exhausting at times.

    For me my biggest struggle is being the “house husband” My wife and I just can’t get on the same page about how the house should be run. I’m very laid back and she is hyper-scheduled.

    Keep up the good job! #BigFatLinky

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:42 am

      Delighted to hear from another stay at home dad. You have four? No wonder you and your wife can’t agree! If I were looking after that many children I’d also be a bit more relaxd about homework.

  10. May 2, 2015 / 6:55 pm

    Really liked this piece – nice to read about SAHDs and your view point. I know this is silly but I never really thought how hard it must be to partake in certain activities because they really are so focused on moms! Hopefully this will start to change and play groups/activities will become more inclusive. #TheList

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:41 am

      I’m glad I’ve bought this to your attention. I don’t think mums necessarily want to ignore men in my position, it’s simply that they’re so used ot dealing with other women us guys get forgotten! Things have already changed n the workplace, now it’s time things changed on the domestic front.

  11. May 2, 2015 / 8:29 pm

    A fab post, and one that I’m sure many will enjoy reading. I wonder though, since the roles are (stereotypically speaking) reversed, if you get asked if your wife is babysitting when you get time to go out, because I hate that! I hate that I get asked “oh, is Jamie babysitting tonight?’. No, no he isn’t because how can you babysit your own child?
    Lovely to see more dads becoming SAHDs x

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:40 am

      Very good question. I have just asked my wife and she confirms she has never been asked that question. That said, she does tell me she comes up against the occasional comment from people who think she should be at home with the children. One of the things I like to shout about is that my wife is bucking social stereotypes as much as I am. This should be recognised.

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:35 am

      Ha ha, yes, I often forget the hash tag too!

  12. May 3, 2015 / 12:09 am

    I’ve now managed to get hold of said edition of The Times. It’s a really interesting article and so great to see the roles and experiences of SAHDs highlighted like this. The two-shot of you and Elizabeth is lovely too.

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 3, 2015 / 8:35 am

      Thaks Tim, very kind of you to say so. There’s already been some discussion on Mumsnet about the piece so I’m glad it’s created some debate.

  13. John Adams
    Author
    May 3, 2015 / 8:47 am

    Thanks Ashley, you are correct. It can be very, very demanding but it is incredibly fulfilling. As you’ve previoously said, you work shifts so you do get to spend more time than most with your kids. In that respect I think you are fortunate.

  14. May 4, 2015 / 9:35 am

    This is really interesting, and it might be an area thing but we don’t have mother and toddler groups but more like ‘happy feet’ and ‘bounce and rhyme’ and not sure if it is a result of the names or just the area but we have a fair number of dads at these groups most week. I think it’s great to see a mix of parents and for children to see other dad’s with their own children.
    I think that loneliness and a lack of social outings can be an issue for both dad and mums who stay at home, it is probably more difficult for dad as a base line, because I think you are right when you say that some mums may be uncomfortable with approaching dads, but I think a lot of mums struggle too, due to circumstance or shyness etc.
    I think it is fantastic that stay at home dads are ‘moving in to the mainstream’. It’s it great that we all have so many choices and options to find what works best for us and our families!

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 5, 2015 / 4:27 am

      In fairness Jenni. I do only ocassionally come across “mother and toddler” groups but they do still exist unfortunately (Music with Mummy anyone???). The isolation point is an interesting one. I know of mums that struggle with this and have had a worse time than me. I totally get this is an issue affecting both genders but as you say, as a base line dads do have a tougher time of it.

      ANyway, hopefully the Times piece will change a few attitudes.

  15. May 4, 2015 / 12:46 pm

    Great article and post! I’m responding to the comment made by you and a couple of others in the Times article about your concerns about rejoining the workforce in the future. As with so much of the Times article, you are echoing the experiences of people who’ve chosen to take a career break and feel uncertain about their career prospects once they stop working. Women Returners was set up to address this issue, to work with individuals and organisations to support professionals who’ve taken extended career breaks to return to work. We’ve been successfully pioneering the concept of ‘returnships’ in the UK. These schemes, as with all our resources, are open to men as well as women. Do look us up and join our free Network when you are ready. In the meantime, keep breaking the social stereotypes!

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 5, 2015 / 4:17 am

      This is fascinating Katerina. Off the top of my head I can name two organisations fulfilling a similar role to yoursthat deny men access to their services. What’s more staggering is that they use the Equalities Act to justify their stance. I may well be in touch….

  16. May 6, 2015 / 8:23 am

    Congrats on The Times piece – will check it out. Hopefully it will help to change people’s attitudes. I hope us parent bloggers have helped you feel more included and part of a bigger family. It must be tougher on guys because some women are less likely to strike up conversations at children/toddler groups. But full credit to you for getting out of your comfort zone and taking on this really important role. Next time I see a dad at a group I’ll make an effort to say hi. #bigfatlinky

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 6, 2015 / 12:40 pm

      Glad you liked the piece. ALso delighted to hear you’ll engage with a dad next time you see one at a parenting group. I suspect it’ll be appreciated.

  17. May 7, 2015 / 6:17 pm

    Congrats on the article John! Nice to see bloggers getting out there so to speak. It was great finding out a bit more about you too. Sounds like you truly relish your job as a SAHD, which is just lovely 🙂

  18. May 8, 2015 / 4:40 am

    Oooh that is awesome – congratulations on your feature! I love the photo of you all. I think this is a great insight into what it’s like to be a stay at home dad…and it had never occurred to be about the mum and toddler group thing. I’d probably prefer to go to a dad and toddler one to be honest! Thanks for linking up to #TheList

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 13, 2015 / 4:23 am

      Thanks for commenting. If I ever get a dad and toddler group started I’ll let you know…although geographically it may be a bit of a stretch for you!

  19. May 9, 2015 / 9:07 pm

    Congratulations on your feature…loved this post and totally agree with what you said. I think dad’s don’t get enough credit in many cases and being a SAHD shows you’re as capable as a mom, given half the chance. #brilliantblogposts

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 13, 2015 / 4:13 am

      Indeed Natasha, I think we are juts as capable. Glad you liked the post and thanks for your kind words. DO visit again!

  20. May 11, 2015 / 9:38 pm

    Well done again John, so proud of you, I hope becoming a SAHD is naturalised as you guys are all utterly inspiring, like many of us women, myself included you’ve found ways to work around your kids with your blog and your love for your wife and family speaks volumes here. There were Dads at Baby Sensory and they were pretty popular here although I must note it was the seemingly very confident louder dads, the quieter ones wouldn’t mix a lot but you know me, I would always go and chat and try and make them feel welcome and at home. Granted there were only really ever 2-3 at these types of social groups but I really hope that will change in the near future. Keep shining John, it’s a pleasure to call you a friend. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 13, 2015 / 4:02 am

      Thanks for all your kind words Vicki. It’s an interesting observation you make about the confident dads. I think there can be a bit of a split between us guys who are happy to make introductions etc and those that aren’t. Then again, I’m sure the same applies to mums. Great linky you have there btw.

  21. John Adams
    Author
    May 13, 2015 / 4:27 am

    Being a stay at home parent be you a mum or a dad is indeed tough. Glad you liked the dad’s perspective.

  22. John Adams
    Author
    January 21, 2016 / 10:33 am

    Oh wow, very personal question there. Every relationship is different, but if you’re bringing in a fraction of the salary I don’t really see how you can contribute to 50% of the costs. I have no real advice, mereley that I do see you maybe need to consider this.

  23. Edyta Bowles
    February 29, 2016 / 11:05 pm

    Hi,
    I’m a single mum that works part-time Mon-Thursday with hours suited to school run. It works very well, I have a very balanced life, getting the work-time and mummy-time helps me feel like I am there for my son but also have my own, grown up life & adult interaction at work. The evenings seem to be lonely as I am on my own& can’t go anywhere but that’s a small price for having my son. It was tough when he was a baby, but school years are so much easier and 6.5 school hours allow me to work 5-hour days and be there at drop off’s and pick-up’s. Happy days!

    • John Adams
      Author
      March 1, 2016 / 5:40 am

      It’s good to read you have some balance and single parents face some very specific issues. I think for us dads it’s a bit more tricky as mums build up tight networks of friends during those maternity months / years when they’re breast feeling and taking maternity / shared parental leave. Once those relationships are in place, it’s very difficult for a dad to crack into them.

      • Edyta Bowles
        March 1, 2016 / 10:31 pm

        Not in my case. My son became very ill when he was a baby&needed stem cells transplant. Long recovery (still continuing). His dad had an affair& left when we came back from transplant, then many years of no social contact due to recovery/ low immunity. Life restarted when he was 4, now just turned 7, so had to start ‘normal’ life without any contacts. It was tough, but it is doable.

  24. Edyta Bowles
    February 29, 2016 / 11:18 pm

    In regards to baby-groups, I always found those challenging to say the least. Same at school, there are all kinds of parents and we get judged by the ‘stereotypes’, unfortunately. However, it seemed to help to chat to same people, get to know, and finally start meeting up. It seems to be a process where the ‘reserve’ in people needs time to come down. I now have 2 mums we meet up after school or half-term with the children (both from my son’s class), he has mates to play with&i have like-minded parents to chat with. It does take time to build relationships with people, and I found this the best way to keep chatting to same people and build some rapor first before they want to meet up socially. Hope it helps Dad’s too. It works for me.

    • John Adams
      Author
      March 1, 2016 / 5:42 am

      Dads can crack into these circles. I think, however, that it takes much, much longer because dads have to be accepted before mums will talk to him. That has been my experience anyway.

      • Edyta Bowles
        March 1, 2016 / 10:43 pm

        Wow, you do get up early! I see some dads at school gate, been speaking to one who is a stay at home Dad to 3 boys, but when I met his wife, she took over. Most dads stand there avoiding other people. All it takes is a look&a smile sometimes. Also, and it is a reality that people are afraid of beeing misconstrued. It is easier to chat to same-sex person (mums or dads) as the intentions are clear with no misunderstanding.

  25. Edyta Bowles
    March 1, 2016 / 11:04 pm

    Craig, I think if you swapped places, would you be expecting to contribute more financially because your partner contributes more in other ways? (Domestic, childcare). If the answer is yes, then you should reconsider what ‘contribution’ is. It isn’t only money. In the eyes of the law, having gone through court divorce, the judge considered my contribution as full time carer on same par as ex’s working full time. All goes into the same pot. The judge wisely said he had to contribute more financially as I am contributing in other ways. All equal by putting in different things/functions for same purpose, bringing up our children.

  26. Emma
    September 16, 2016 / 9:00 pm

    Hi,

    First time Mam (Wales, UK) with only one week left on my maternity leave before I return to full-time work. My husband will then assume the position of becoming a stay-at-home daddy.

    I’m so proud of him to do this, as I know parenting is one of the hardest jobs you can do. I only wish we could do it together, but financially it’s just the way things have worked out. I am not career driven, but happen to be fortunate to have a really well paid job and my husband is no longer employed.

    My heart immediately sank when I read that your wife knows less about parenting than you do. It immediately struck fear into me that somehow I’ll going to lose that precious bond and connection with my daughter – I wonder how many working Dads have felt the same? I always dreamt of one day being that stay-at-home Mam, and although I will completely support my husband in whatever way I possibly can, I do harbour a slight jealousy of ‘I wish it could be me instead, or please could we switch places’. However, unfortunately this is not possible for us.

    I will make sure we take time together to read your blog as I’m sure it will become an insightful resource to us. By doing so I’m sure we can avoid any potential pitfalls and challenges along the way and learn from a more experienced couple who have already been there and bought the ‘nappies’ – so to speak.

    Kind regards,
    Emma

  27. Jamie Rand
    October 1, 2016 / 3:20 pm

    I’m a stay at home dad of five from 18 months to 9 years old. Only for 6 months but wow, it’s the most amazing experiance ever. I used to work 7am to 7pm and only saw the kids at weekends, now i see them all the time and wished we done it sooner.

    • John Adams
      Author
      June 26, 2017 / 4:56 am

      Wouldn’t have been on my list 10 years ago either, but that’s the way the dice landed! Thanks for commenting.