Friday, October 16, 2009

Musings of a Happy SAHD


This guest post is written by Robb Peck, an avid letterboxer in Vancouver, Washington, and a stay-at-home dad. Read more about his family at Out & About w/ Happy SAHD

Musings of a Happy SAHD
(as in Stay At Home Dad)

I started being home not long after our second child turned a year old and I lost my job, catapulting our family into a new place. Like millions of other Americans who have had this happen, I felt a bit betrayed and more than a little dismayed. I had spent better than half of my life training and practicing my profession, and suddenly I was no longer in charge. It was hard to shake that off and get going on looking for a new job while helping out around the house.

At first, I resisted the whole “Mr. Mom” thing. Sure, I would get the kids up and fed, do some cooking (more chances to use the grill!), and tidy up the house, but I was still in charge of the 'big' things – the cars, the yard, maintenance & repairs, etc. After all, I was still looking for a job, and my focus had to be on that. But, as life would have it, my wife and I ended up in a complete role reversal when she rather quickly found a great full-time job that paid better than mine.

We had a hard choice to make: If she kept her job and I eventually found one, we would have no one at home, and our kids raised in daycare – a choice we had long ago decided not to make. And it kind-of made sense: I had spent the better part of my life training to become a teacher, with 13 years of experience in the classroom – why not stay home and raise our kids?
So I've been a SAHD through the "terrible twos," potty training and preschool to now kindergarten and the wonders of the 5-yr-old "why" with our son, and from kindergarten and favorite 'dollies' through scouts and sleepovers with our 8-yr-old (going on 18-yr-old) daughter.

I've been the kids' social director for play-dates, birthday parties, summer camps, and sports.

I've gotten to do things many fathers miss: celebrate the first time my boy used the 'big potty'; spend an afternoon playing pirates on the playground, build massive 'forts' out of all the chairs and every blanket in the house (and then have it all put away before mommy comes home!); see my children grasp the concept of phonics and read something brand new; or hold my daughter after school the first time another girl made fun of her clothes and crushed her ego. I also get to do amazing things like chaperone field trips to the pumpkin patch, help out in my kids' classrooms, and take my kids after school to volunteer down at the homeless shelter.It's different, however, being a SAHD.

Most moms wear it as a badge of honor if they are a SAHM: they are sacrificing their 'working life' to spend the quality time it takes to raise kids right, and be there for them.

But many of these same SAHMs treat a SAHD as if there must be something wrong with you, as if it’s not okay for a man to stay at home and let his wife go earn the paycheck. I've experienced the strange, guarded looks from the mommies at the park and the children's museum. I've actually seen mommies guide their little ones to the other side of the playground when I was playing with my son on the slide or swing. And I've had play-dates turned down because only I—not my wife—would be home to supervise.

Oddly enough, even though I'm there with my kids – just like them – it takes a bit for some to realize that I'm not out 'cruising' to pick up moms, or stalking their kids. Once I got past the stares and snubs, several of the SAHMs have become good friends, with us trading off watching each other's kids now & then.

Some working fathers aren't exactly sure how to treat a SAHD either, especially when I might spend an afternoon at their house – or their wife might spend an afternoon at our house – while our kids are playing. One thing that seems to help a lot is to invite the whole family over for dinner one evening so everyone gets to know each other a bit better first. (And yes, I do the cooking. If you're passing through town some time, we'll have you over. I make a mean stir-fry and pot roast, and have become a bit of an expert with homemade breads - especially pizza crust. I even cook once a month at our church for about 100 people or so...) Then there are the friends who can't imagine that you actually like being a SAHD. Again, there's the perception that there must be something wrong with me since I've stopped looking for a job. I've had the ex-coworkers ask about when I was going back to the classroom. And I've fielded calls on my cell phone from my old buddies 'ribbing' me about being "Mr. Mom." Of course, I was playing with my kids at the zoo when they called!

Though a lot of my new ‘job’ is fantastic, it's not all fun and games. When a kid is burning up with a fever, or puking their guts out, my wife heads off to work and I get the 'pleasure' of dealing with it. I've picked up a lot more of the housework, of course, but I still take care of the cars, yard, maintenance, repairs, etc. I also do the bulk of the laundry (kids' clothes, sheets, towels, etc. - my wife prefers to wash her work clothes herself), the shopping (which is really fun with a 3-yr-old), and most of the errands.

All-in-all, it's wonderful being a SAHD - with an incredible, intense time to really bond and get to know and help shape your kids - and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

A lot of our society looks at mommies who stay home as almost 2nd-class citizens. Yet, I've learned the real secret – they have the best job in the world!

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

"A lot of our society looks at mommies who stay home as almost 2nd-class citizens. Yet, I've learned the real secret – they have the best job in the world!"

So true and thank you for saying so!

Danny said...

I do envy you. As a military dad, I miss so much more than most fathers do, but that is the nature of the job, and I knew it when I joined. In just a few years, I might be in the position that you are in as my retirement looms. But by then, my kids will be ready to leave home or getting close to it. You are a lucky lucky man.

T Murray said...

Excellent article giving us a window on your world. As a happy SAHM I admit to not understanding how your role reversal family works. You answered a lot of my questions. It does work and everyone is flourishing. Thanks for sharing.

marthaandme said...

There was a time when we contemplated a SAHD situation at our house, but other opportunities came along. I'm surprised you're meeting resistance from SAHMs. There was one SADH when my daughter was in elementary school and the mothers competed to be his buddy.

ReadyMom said...

Interesting post. I don't know of any SAHDs in our neighborhood, but I do notice more flextimers--moms and dads trading off so that both get to spend time with the kids.

Thanks for sharing your perspective--sounds like your kids are lucky to have such a great dad.

Frugal Kiwi said...

It is great to see dads, SAH or not, who embrace parenting. Good on you.

Sheryl said...

I think your children are so lucky - as you are, too. What a wonderful perspective you both gain. I was a SAHM, but have often thought that my husband would have been much better in a lot of areas than I was! But I have absolutely no regrets -although he might...)

Alisa Bowman said...

I really liked reading about your experiences and insights. It is a shame, isn't it, that we all project so much of ourselves onto others? I am a working mom (I work at home) and people all the time can't understand why I have a kid in daycare (because I can just work around her, right?). Then others ask you (and I would assume some SAHMs, too) about when you are going back to work. Or if you go back to work too soon, why you did that. It seems no matter what choices we make, there is always someone there to point out that it was the wrong one, isn't there?

Thankfully, where I live, we are a diverse group. The stay at home dad is nearly as common as the stay at home mom--and both of those are almost as common as the dual working parents (not to mention many other family combinations).It will be good when, one day, we're all seen as normal and good.

Alexandra Grabbe said...

Great article! Thanks for sharing your viewpoint. I hope lots of future dads are listening. I was a SAHM for my kids and feel fortunate to have been able to give them this gift. My second husband, a teacher from Sweden, wasn't a SAHD, but almost. He divorced and raised his kids from age 9. It created an incredible bond between them. By the way, Sweden has an amazing policy for new dads. They are obligated to take six months off from work to be with newborns during their first year of life. The mothers take the other six months. Wish the USA was as progressive!

Claudine M. Jalajas said...

My son's "super duper best friend's" dad is a SAHD. We met when they were both in preschool and it was strange in some ways for me. I was so worried his wife would think I was zeroing in on her husband, or that my husband would get annoyed that I was hanging out with "some other guy" during the day. Well, 2 years later, we've become good friends and have gotten together as families too. When I saw how my husband was comfortable with him, it made it easier for me. I am blown away with how amazing he is with his kids. I do feel that it's harder to be a SAHD than SAHM. I would say though, that staying home, whether Dad or Mom, gets snubbed by anyone that works. It's a shame really.

Anonymous said...

Having grown up without a dad. I say bravo.

debbie koenig said...

I'm a WAHM, and I know my husband wishes he could be a SAHD. We both freelance, and when he's between gigs he gets to do just that. Going back to work always makes him so sad. Good for you, for doing this for your family--and enjoying it!

Ruth said...

I second Alisa's remarks about all of us being so defensive about our own choices. Neither my husband nor I would have been good SAHers -- but that's just us. It's wonderful to read a post from someone who feels he's made the best choice for himself and his family. Lovely post -- and good for him.

Meredith Resnick - The Writer's [Inner] Journey said...

A fresh take - one we don't hear enough about with sincerity as we do here.

jenhaupt said...

I love this and applaud you. Bravo for being a real man and an awesome dad!

Happy SAHD said...

Thank you so much everyone for the generous comments. I had a lot of fun writing this "guest blog", and am amazed at the amount of responces.

Happy SAHD said...

Danny - I totally agree with you that I am about as fortunate as one can get!

Happy SAHD said...

Frugal Kiwi - I so agree! If more dads (and any "absentee parents", for that matter) would actually engage in parenting, this world would be a far better place.

Happy SAHD said...

Alisa - I see a lot more of this too, unfortunately not always by choice. But, with more people spending some time at home, maybe more parenting will get done...

Happy SAHD said...

Alexandra - Thank you for the information of Sweden's system. Thank would indeed by awesome if we had it.

kris bordessa said...

Good for you! I think SAHDs are becoming more common and cause less of a stir at park days. It was not ever anything we contemplated, mostly for financial reasons, but had the opportunity come up, I do wonder if my husband would have been willing to do that (hard) duty.