An increasing number of men are taking on the role of main carer for their children and becoming stay-at-home dads. Paul Smith is one of them. He looks at why the number of home-dads is growing and offers his advice.
There are lots of reasons why more men are becoming stay-at-home dads. One obvious one is financial – as more women are becoming career minded and see their salaries rising, they often earn more than their partner. Another common reason is that more men are becoming stressed with their jobs and finding their work unfulfilling.
Most dads these days say they want to spend more time with their children and are now finding ways to achieve this. It is becoming increasingly important for them to maintain a good balance between work and family life. So what advice would I offer fathers who are thinking about taking on this less traditional role?
Don’t worry too much about what other people think
Although attitudes are changing, there will still be some people who think that children are best raised by their mother, while the dad goes out to work. You may well get some funny stares and unnecessary comments once you take on the main caring role.
When I started taking my children out and about on my own, it was funny how people looked at me as though I was some kind of alien. Wherever I went, I would always get asked the same questions: “Are you looking after the children today then?” or “Where’s mummy today?” It was as though it was obvious that a man could only be capable of looking after his children on his own for one day.
However, once people get used to seeing you with your kids, they generally accept that you are able to look after them and can actually do a decent job of it too.
Keep your sense of identity
As with stay-at-home mothers, it’s important that you keep up some of the interests or hobbies you had before you became a full-time dad. When looking after children all the time, it’s easy to devote yourself to their lives and to lose your own identity in the process. By continuing with your own interests you can keep your sense of self and not just be ‘dad’ all the time but also a person in your own right. This will keep your mind active and help you relax; meaning that when you are with the children you will be calmer and have much more patience.
Set a good routine
Having a regular routine is vital for you and your children. Children need routine, but having a workable schedule is also good for you as it means that you won’t feel quite so lost and unsure of what to do with your day. Obviously your schedule should be flexible and adaptable, but you should at least have set times for main meals, naps, bath and bed. These general rules will make up the framework of day-to-day life and will let everyone know what is happening, and when.
Go out and meet new people
It isn’t much fun being stuck indoors all of the time so try to take your children out as much as you can. There are loads of places that you can take kids, from parks and shops to libraries, museums, swimming pools, children’s gyms and toddler groups. Parents and tots groups are a great place to go and although it can be daunting going to a predominantly female environment, you will normally find most mums very welcoming and accepting of dads.
I was nervous about taking my daughter to a tots’ group for the first time, but when we got there I was welcomed and introduced to others just the same as everyone else. My daughter loved it and was really happy playing there and I got a cup of tea and a biscuit so I thought that it was okay too!
It’s good for your children to mix with other kids, and it’s good for you to have some adult company and conversation, as well as to be able to talk about your experiences with other parents.
One of the great things about having children is that you get to play with toys, act silly and have fun together. Children grow up really fast so it’s important to make the most of your time together and to enjoy being with them. Having fun and playing together will also help to create a strong bond between you and your children, as well as making your children happier and more content.
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