1. Why did you become a stay-at-home dad? Is it something you have always wanted, or did it come about after having children?
It was the path of least resistance; never thought about staying home and taking care of children. I assume, like us, most parents make it up as they go along. I viewed it as a temporary part-time job; in the beginning, I still worked part-time early mornings and weekends. As you get more involved with childcare you realize the job/challenges don’t get easier or fewer, just different. To this day I don’t see how two working parents manage it all and still have time to enjoy life. My wife also travels a lot for her job so it was extremely difficult to manage an inflexible job and unpredictable childcare. It was just the best solution to our problem.
2. What was your job/career before becoming a stay-at-home dad?
I have a BS in biomedical engineering but in my mid-twenties I switched gears and went into cooking. I wanted to be a good cook, maybe own a restaurant with my wife (this was before kids). It was hard and stressful work but creative, satisfying and social. You meet a lot of fun characters in the food business.
3. What qualities and skills do you think are helpful for stay-at-home dads?
You need to know how to cook! In my mind, if you’re an at-home-parent, male or female, and don’t cook, you are slacking on 50% of your responsibility. It’s really unfair to expect the working spouse to come home from work and cook. That being said, it is a daily grind. It’s a never-ending chore, seven days a week, three times a day. And unlike adults, kids have trouble skipping meals. Other than that you are a housekeeper, yard boy, chauffeur, mentor, tutor, therapist, events manager, handyman, financial adviser, bookkeeper, house project manager, nurse… You get the idea. Learn to be good at playing defense. Your wife is on offense making money, learn how to defend, save and grow that money. People don’t realize how much money you can save by staying at home and keeping on top of things.
4. What does a day in the life of a SAHD look like? What kind of routines do you have?
Routines are a fleeting luxury for at-home-parents. Don’t get too attached to them, you’re expected to flex and bend to the ever-changing situation on the ground. Keeping that in mind, on a typical Monday school day, for example, I get up a couple hours before my daughters to exercise and have my first peaceful cup of coffee. I catch up on the news and check the family calendar to know who needs what, who’s going where for the day and week. Once they get up I make them breakfast, although lately, I’ve been shifting that responsibility to them. I proceed to make them lunch, make sure they have everything for school (so I don’t have to bring it to them later), go over their schedules, then drop them off at school. My wife has left the house many hours prior, she leaves at 5:30am to beat traffic and take an early morning yoga class. We won’t see her again until 6:30/7:00pm. After drop off, I come home and have a peaceful breakfast, write down all the chores I hope to accomplish for the day and week. Next, I set a menu for the week, plotting out every dinner while taking into consideration who has sports, music lessons, after work meeting, travel, etc. I make a grocery list to restock the house but go shopping on Tuesday. Stores are notoriously bare on Mondays due to the weekend rush (which, thankfully, you get to avoid. A bonus, no doubt). Then I go into chore mode, clean all the morning dishes, make phone calls, schedule appointments, reply to emails, pay bills, yard work, housework, make and eat lunch (almost always alone). Around 3:00pm I go pick up the girls, make sure they are doing their homework, clean all the dishes from my and their lunch, help with homework, get dinner going. Usually on nights when they have after school activities I make something that can easily be reheated. As, I’m sure with most families, children seem to have nearly simultaneous activities at opposite ends of town. So I drop my eldest off at exercise class, 5:45pm, drive directly to the soccer fields on the opposite side of town, 6:15pm, turn around and go directly back to get my eldest, 7:00pm. If I’m lucky and get there early I take a ten-minute nap in the car. We come home, by then my wife has arrived, 7:10pm, sit down with the two of them and eat dinner or cook it in a rush (my youngest I try to feed before practice). Then it’s back in the car to get my youngest, 7:45pm, socialize for ten minutes with other soccer moms and dads, come home, 8:45/9:00pm. I catch up with my wife before she falls asleep from her hectic and stressful day at work, go to bed around ten, waste an hour on social media, email, etc., lights out by 11:00pm. Start over on Tuesday.
5. How do other people react when you tell them that you're a SAHD?
Have you had negative reactions from other parents? With women, it’s usually “Good for you”. With men it’s either “Oh man, I wish I could do that, you’re so lucky” or, mostly in meet and greets, “What do you do for a living”. When I tell them I’m a SAHD the conversation usually stops. In their defense, I think they are looking for some common ground to start a conversation and they just closed the door on themselves. If you are in the upper middle class or higher, most of the dads are power players in the working world, be prepared for that. I’ve only had one negative reaction, oddly from a male pediatrician, who stated that “a man should be working”. Odd that he couldn’t see the health benefits of a strong family structure. Other than that I’ve experienced some laughing and disbelief from predominantly Latino men that I worked with in the food world. It’s so foreign to them.
6. What’s the biggest misconception people have about being a stay-at-home dad?
That it’s a vacation, not a job. Remember, we all think the grass is greener. The biggest misconception I’ve had is that gender role reversal doesn’t change the traditional power dynamics and pitfalls between the breadwinner and the stay-at-home-parent. All the things that mothers have complained about regarding their working husbands show up with working wives. Also, you are now low man on the totem pole. Money and a paying job, not gender, are king. Understand and accept that and you’ll be good. If you can’t, then you better go back to work.
7. Lastly, can you share a favorite family-friendly recipe that is good for a busy weeknight?
Even though I was a cook, I still use a lot of other's recipes. I just know how to pick ones that are easy, use available ingredients and are quick. My current family cooking friend is the InstantPot. I like it because it cooks fast, with no real loss of flavor, unlike a slow cooker. NomNom Paleo is a favorite "go to" site and this chicken recipe Nom Nom Paleo Pressure Cooker Summer Italian Chicken is something I cook often. Sometimes I replace the fresh cremini mushrooms with a bag of frozen porcini mushrooms from Trader Joe's. I also will substitute canned chopped tomato for fresh, which I always keep on hand.