I have to admit that before becoming a parenting blogger, I honestly hadn’t given much thought to stay at home dads..this rare breed of parent folk who change things up and hold the fort as the “primary” parent in their family unit. However, those in the know may already be aware that being a stay at home dad is these days….not as rare one might think, with the number of stay at home fathers and househusbands having more than doubled from 111,000 in 1993 to 235,000 this year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
I have to say, I am brimming with parenthood curiosity about what it is really like being a stay at home dad. And so with that sentiment in mind I’m delighted to be in conversation with John from Dad Blog UK on precisely that subject…
Can you tell us a little about how you arrived at the decision to be a stay at home dad? Was it an easy/hard one?
Answering this question always fills me full of guilt. Our eldest daughter went into childcare full time at about eight months. Financially, my wife and I thought we had no choice but for us both to work full time. After a while, this began to play on my mind. We discovered Helen was the only child at nursery of her age five days a week and we missed a couple of significant milestones such as first steps.
I was having a bad time in my job so I proposed that I stay at home, run the household and look after Helen. As my wife had been promoted we were in a different place financially and so that’s what we did.
It wasn’t a hard decision. My wife does not have the mentality to look after the kids as much as I do. It’s also enabled her to concentrate on her career.
By blogging about my experiences I unwittingly launched a new career as a writer and blogger! This is something I fit around my family commitments (with extreme difficulty!)
What is the hardest thing about being a stay at home dad?
The hardest thing about being a stay at home dad would be isolation. This is, of course, a massive issue for mums. Imagine, however, that you’re a guy and have to fit into a world that expects women to raise children. Those mummy cliques, the coffee mornings, the “mother and toddler” groups etc.
I’m a confident, outgoing guy and I still sometimes struggle. How guys who are suddenly widowed or abandoned by a partner cope I do not know (fact for you; in the UK, almost 10% of single parent households are headed by men).
What is the best thing about being a stay at home dad?
Watching my children grew and nurturing them. Seeing them develop talents and learn about the world through play. Very few men have this luxury so I am blessed to be in this position. I do, however, worry about my wife missing out on this.
Is there anything you miss about “going out to work”?
I was, many years ago, a journalist and then went on to work in PR and communications. What do I miss about going to work? Absolutely nothing whatsoever. I’m not entirely economically inactive because I make some money from blogging and writing, but going to the office…I suspect those days are through for me. Next question!
Have you ever regretted the decision? And do you think you could ever go back to work having made it?
I’ve never regretted the decision. It is tough being a stay at home parent, be you a mum or dad. You’re constantly in demand, constantly tidying up, dealing with illness, bodily fluids etc. There’s no point sugar coating it, but being a parent means responsibility. It just has to be done and it’s my job to do it.
Do you think people’s perceptions of stay at home dads have changed over time?
I think being a stay at home parent is becoming more acceptable. My eldest is now at school and I have never, ever had an issue with any of the school staff. Some women are very accepting of me, others won’t talk to me. The one thing I would like to change is the UK’s healthcare system in the UK, however which is biased against all fathers, not just us stay at home dads.
What do you think stay at home dads do differently to stay at home mums, and do you think that has a knock on effect on the kids?
Speaking for myself, I’m very much about building confidence and getting my kids to explore the world. I give them managed access to experiences to see how they get on.
“Think you can climb that climbing frame? I’ll do it with you.”
I’ve noticed mums are much more reticent and cautious. I’m not saying their wrong, it is merely a difference between the genders I think and a different approach to parenting.
What has been your biggest WTF moment during your time as a stay at home dad?
Probably the time I was in a café, feeding my youngest daughter. She’d have been weeks old and a woman took her out of my arms and proclaimed to everyone who’d listen that I was “babysitting.”
Her adult daughter was with her. She looked incredibly uncomfortable and told her mother off saying “No, he’s just being a dad.” I’ll be charitable and say it was a generational thing.
What has been your biggest face palm parent fail moment?
Oh gosh, where to start? It was probably taking my daughter on the Pirate Ship ride at the LEGOLand theme park when she three years old. She just met the minimum height criteria and I went on with her thinking it was gentle ride. I think it will be a long time until that child visits a theme park again.
What is your biggest beef about being a stay at home dad?
Men and women who think that childcare and looking after children is women’s work. I would point anyone of that mindset in the direction of the ‘State of the World’s Fathers’ report. This was a study carried out by MenCare of academic research conducted in 30 nations across the world. It concluded that men and women are as “genetically hardwired” as each other to care for their children, but that men simply don’t get the same opportunities to do so.
Read it and have your perceptions changed…
In fact, this is why I started blogging. I wanted to challenge people’s perceptions about fathers and highlight the sexism I come across as a stay at home father.
What sort of impact has the decision to become a stay at home dad had on your relationship with your partner?
Well, I know that Gill tells me she feels under pressure to bring in enough money, which I totally understand. I am reliant on her financially but this doesn’t bother me. I have made a huge sacrifice to run the family home and look after the children. It’s the price she has to pay to concentrate on her career. Gill will also have to accept that in later life I will be reliant on her pension.
It’s not just financial. I have had to accept that a greater array of responsibilities falls on my shoulders in terms of housework, more than I ever realised.
There’s also one other aspect of the stay at home dad relationship that goes under the radar. I am responsible for the house and take most of the responsibility for the children. I still, however, retain responsibility for all the stereotypical “man jobs”. Home maintenance, gardening, the car, all the jobs most guys do at the weekend, well I have to do them too on top of all the other tasks I carry out.
Do you think a man needs to be made of a certain cloth to be a stay at home dad? Can anyone be a stay at home dad?
Anyone can be a stay at home dad and I wish more guys would consider it. It is becoming more acceptable but men in my position are still rare. If you’re going to do it, having a thick skin will be of huge benefit.
John Adams is a UK-based stay at home dad. He is married to Gill and has two daughters, Helen, six and Elizabeth, three. In 2012 he started blogging about his experiences as a man that holds the babies and runs the household at http://dadbloguk.com. To his surprise, people started reading his blog. He has subsequently written and published a book A modern father (…and dad blogger) and regularly appears in the media commenting on parenting issues. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram and You Tube.
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