I am often asked what it’s like to be a stay at home dad. Sometimes it’s by the curious who want to know what a man and a couple of minions do all day. Sometimes its by the shocked who think that there is no such thing as a stay at home dad, only an unemployed lazy bastard who refuses to look for work. Sometimes it’s by the guy who never knew that there is such a thing as a stay at home dad and has just discovered Shangri la. And sometimes it’s by the salavating female that can’t believe that such a handsome man also takes care of the kids. Turns out the stay at home dad is chick gold, who knew.
So I write this post in an effort to inform all. Afterall, aren’t we supposed to be experts on the subject. Shouldn’t there be a post like this to introduce the larger world to the stay at home dad awesomeness? If a father is looking into becoming a stay at home dad, shouldn’t he have somewhere to go that will answer the question “What is it like?”. If a narrow minded jacka** (I was told not to cuss on my posts, but you get the idea) decides to get up and spout some utter crapola on camera, shouldn’t we at least offer him some real world, first hand knowledge before we tell him to suck it? And shouldn’t the hot mom groupie at least know where to find my phone number? Those are all important areas, so I present to you What It’s Like To Be Awesome (a stay at home dad).
1. First off, get all those ideas of how many projects you can do now that you have all that free time. Forget it. Ain’t gonna happen. Because you don’t have free time. In fact, you have less time than you did before. You know why? Because kids love projects. And they love power saws. And they love using the power saws to cut your projects in half. And they love power drills. They love power drills that have the amazing ability to drill right through the screen of your cell phone. Don’t get me wrong, you can still do projects, just count on it taking 10 times longer than it normally would. Take this advice from a guy who’s seen it: A 4 year old will only think that mixing concrete is cool for about 2 minutes until she discovers that it’s way cooler to use that concrete to paint pretty picures on your windows. Now all your free time is spent cleaning concrete from the new window you just installed. It took you 4 days.
2. Because you stay home with the kids, don’t feel obligated to automatically start watching Oprah and going to Pottery Barn. That’s not us. We’re dads and just because we stay home with the kids does not mean we got a huge shot of sissy at our last checkup. No! Do dad things. Do those things that you always thought would be cool and fun to do but didn’t do them because it would be wierd climbing on a jungle gym as a 30 year old man. Guess what, you can do that now. Hell yeah! And you can go to civil war battlefields and pick up old bullets. You can go see where the first Fire Pole was invented and put on cool fireman costumes. Do you like tanks? I bet your kids like tanks to. Go find a tank. There are usually enough museums around that one has got at least one tank somewhere, right? And if not, roadtrip! Three hours rocking out to Metalica while going to see a tank. Remember, you are raising tomorrow’s leaders today and a good working knowledge of a tank is a great place to start. My point is, you’re dad, act like it.
3. The most often asked question I get is “What do you guys talk about.” in reference to me and my stay at home dad friends. Some people think that because we take care of the kids that we forget what it’s like to be men. In reality, we never forget what it’s like to be men. I don’t think that is even possible because breasts are cool and always will be. For example: before I was a stay at home dad I liked football. As a stay at home dad, I still like football. Nothing has changed. The only thing now is that I have taught my 4 year old daughter to say “gotta make those plays.” The downside of course is occasionally she’ll throw her hands in the air and yell “Dammit.” We are working on that one. And when guys get together, that’s what we talk about. The same things we have always talked about: sports, the missed play, fantasy teams, draft positions, Danika Patrick in a bikini, construction, videogames, etc etc etc. It’s the same stuff we talked about when we were working. Only now we do add a few topics to the conversation: diapers, potty training, nutrition, behavior issues, school. We just mix it up with sports metaphors. Such as “My son did a A-gap blitz on that diaper and then wouldn’t get the extra point in the potty, any advice?” And yes, we talk about breast feeding because that affects us to. Face it, boobs are in our minds in whatever stage of life we are at.
4. Being a stay at home dad is all about adaptability. If you haven’t used your son’s highchair as a makeshift workbench, give yourself time. It’s going to happen. And that’s ok because again, we are dads and that means that you have to fix that busted window screen and it would be so much easier if you just had someplace to lay down your drill. Bingo, a highchair with a nice stable work space does the trick every time. It means finding a solution to the question: How do I mow the lawn on Tuesday morning AND watch the kids. What, you want to leave them inside for 35 minutes unsupervised? That’s how you get CD’s in the toaster my friend. And if they are just outside watching you, pretty soon they want to help and toddlers are not good around spinning blades. My solution? Popscilcles on the front porch while dad does the sprint mow. Gets done in under 15 minutes and I get one hell of a workout. Adaptablity, a solution is there is you just think about it.
5. Household duties. Yup, we do them. You do them because they have to get done and just because they have been traditionally assigned the the female of the relationship does not mean that a man can’t do the job just as well. We do the cooking because dinner needs to be ready when the wife gets home so that everyone can sit at the table together and throw food at eachother. We do the laundry because the police told me that a child cannot go running down the street in only a diaper. We do the cleaning becuase if we don’t we won’t be able to find the remote and sportscenter only comes on 5 times a day, we might miss it. We even dress our own children in the morning. Well, I don’t because I make the kids look like hobos but I know plenty of dads that do! So I use a shopvac instead of a wimpier vacum cleaner, the job still gets done.
6. One of the biggest advantages to being a stay at home dad is being able to teach your children everything. From the moment they get up to the moment they go to bed, they are in the church of Dad, all praise his name. Sure, itsy bitsy spider is cool and all but it sounds a lot better with a guitar solo in the middle. And who is going to teach them to play that air guitar solo? Mom? No way man, she can barely handle the drums. As dad, you are with them everyday and they will learn so much from you. They will soak up everything you do and everything you say. For example, my daughter was sliding down the back of a big plastic cow at the library on Friday. I asked her what she was doing. She said “Watch and learn pal.” So it’s not all good but brings up the point to watch what you do and say because they are going to repeat it sooner or later. It’s better if they repeat good things like “Mommy is so nice and I love her” and not bad things like “Watch how far I can spit out of the second floor window.”
7. You will not watch daytime TV. This happens for a couple of reasons. First, there are only so many reruns of the A-Team that you can stand to watch. There isn’t anything on during the day man, nothing. Sure, go the soap opera route if you want to but I’m guessing that you can only take so much Marlana before you want to cut off your own arm. The alternative of course then is children’s TV, which can be ok the first 100 or so times. But pretty soon you will be hoping that Dora saves no one and Diego takes one in the face. So after a while you realize that daytime TV is nothing to get hyped up about. Besides, Cinimax doesn’t start showing the good stuff until 1 in the morning.
8. Someone, somewhere, is going to call you Mr. Mom. Hey, that’s ok, let is slide. The movie was very popular and even I thought it was funny. It doesn’t matter so don’t get bent out of shape about it. My daughters preschool teacher, when asked why my child’s daddy picked her up instead of her mommy, explained that my daughter had a “Daddy Mommy.” Hey man, that’s ok. I get that it’s tough to explain sometimes and it doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me because the next morning I’m going to feed the toddler chili and send her to school. (That’s a movie reference, so please don’t write me hate mail. I only feed the baby chili, not the toddler.)
9 The biggest part of the stay at home dad life? Honestly, you will learn to appreciate life even more than you thought you could. You are there for all thier milestones. From the first word that they say to the first cuss word that they say. The first time they give you a high five, the first time that they share a toy without being threatened. The first time they get a strike in Wii bowling, the first time they do a one handed pushup while drinking a glass of milk. You get to experience it all. Being a stay at home dad takes patience and sacrifice but what you get back is worth more than what you gave up.
Except for the morning commute. An hour of silence every morning is pretty rocking.