I’ve been in the Stay at Home Dad business for a couple of years now and I’ve had a few friends ask me how I knew that it was going to be the right thing for our family, how I knew we could afford it, etc. This got me thinking, maybe there are other dudes, soon to be dads, that are asking some of the same questions. Here’s all the information I gave to them. Feel free to use it, or pass along to someone you know that may benefit from it.
First, I should point out that the LEAP I took from working to being a SAHD was more like a tiny hop. I left my job taking a paternity leave. I sort of looked at it as my trial period. I knew if things were too hard, or just not what I thought they would be by staying at home, then I could always go back to work. So, if you have the chance to hop instead of LEAP into the world of being a SAHD, that’s what I would recommend.
One topic that usually plays a huge role in the decision to stay home is money. It’s the question I’m usually asked about first. How did you know you would be able to afford to stay home with your kids? First let me say, it was definitely a shock to no longer receive the king’s ransom I was getting as a public school teacher, but we made it work. First we subtracted out two full-time daycare bills from our weekly budget, since no longer needed to pay those. It was a good feeling to have those eliminated from our lives, it felt like I was writing an extra mortgage check every other week! Then we took out the amount we were spending on gas for my car. By the time I dropped my kids off at daycare then to work, it was an hour in the car, each way, twice a day. It all adds up pretty quickly. After daycare and gas were taken out of my paycheck there wasn’t a whole lot left, so the lifestyle changes we had to make to transition to one income were pretty minimal.
This next topic is one people don’t immediately think of because it’s not something that quantifiable but I think it’s really important, your identity. Is a big part of your identity tied to your work? Is your career what you think of when you describe yourself. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I was working I just thought of myself as a teacher, and that was about it. In fact, for the first year or so when I would meet someone and they would ask me what I did for a living, I would tell them I’m a SAHD, but usually qualify that statement by saying, but I used to be a teacher. Why would I do that? Not sure. But when you quit your job, you lose part of that identity. Something to keep in mind.
Next, you have to think about the pace of your life. Can you handle moving at a snail’s pace? If you want to go anywhere, and you are taking your child or children, you need to waaaaaay over estimate the time it will take to get out the door and get wherever you are going. A trip to the store for that one item you forgot yesterday could take an hour. And if it’s winter tack on even more time for putting on gloves, hats and boots. I’m not saying everything taking a long time is a bad thing, that’s part of the balance of being a stay at home parent. Filling up the time gaps by doing stuff, so you don’t spend all day staring at each other is part of the job. My point is, some people must move through their day at the speed of light, if you are one of those people it may be a tougher transition for you.
Also, think about adult conversations. I didn’t realize how much I appreciated the interactions with co-workers until those interactions were gone. I’m not talking about the stuff that had to do with work, but everything else, that tv show last night, what’s going on in town, the football game from over the weekend. As a SAHD adult interactions are still possible, you just have to seek them out, they will not naturally come to you, the way they did when you WENT to a job.
Staying focused. Remembering why you are staying home in the first place. I’m home during the days to spend time with my kids, that’s the whole point right? While home I also see laundry piling up, groceries that need purchased, and so on. I have a hard time finding the balance of when I’m doing too much around the house and not enough just hanging out with my kids and vice versa.
That’s pretty much the advice I’ve given a few of my friends.
So, if it feels right, and you think it’s something you may regret later if you don’t do it now, then I say go for it. Kids are only young once.