I hear from parents asking me for advice about being a stay at home dad. But since I have a full time job (and a lot of side jobs, too!), I'm not the one to go to on this, even as SAHDs are a growing demographic. I've got huge respects for guys who are the primary caretaker. One of those guys is Ryan Darcy of Home-Field Dad. I met Ryan at Dad 2.0 and am super pumped to have his perspective offered here. It's very candid (it would be a disservice to sugarcoat things ... but then again, when on this site do I sugarcoat things?) and full of good advice.
I'm an at-home dad to two (sometimes three) boys. I'm no expert, but I have been keeping my boys alive for almost six years, so I've got that going for me.
If you're reading this, you might be a new or soon-to-be parent. And honestly, you're not as ready or prepared as you've convinced yourself you are. Once you buckle the newbie into their car seat as you prepare to be discharged from the hospital, the "holy shit, he/she is really ours!?" mentality becomes a thing.
And as an at-home dad, once your wife has gone back to work, the "Holy shit" thing comes back - tenfold. Depending if it's your first experience or third (as was the case with me when our third son was born almost a year ago), there's always nerves. It's normal, but take some solace in knowing that despite literally being alone with your newborn, you're not alone. That leads me to number one on the list.
Nine Things SAHDs Should Know
- You're alone, but you're not alone. Being home alone all day with your little one can sometimes seem like solitary confinement. Parenthood is awesome, don't get it twisted, but relying on conversations with an infant who doesn't speak is tough. (see: Chuck Noland speaking to Wilson in Cast Away). You've got to be mentally tough for the job. Scour Facebook or/and Meetup for dad groups in your area (Ed. note: Try the National At-Home Dad Network!). These groups are a great resource and in my experience are a great group of guys who are facing or have faced everything you are or will and always willing to assist. It's a grind but is there really a better job than raising your children full-time?
- Nap time is important - for YOU! I'm speaking of your child's nap time, not yours, but if you need to recharge your batteri...HAHAHAHAHAHA, that'll never happen. (you'll get to #6) Implementing and sticking to a nap schedule is as important as any other schedule you'll establish, comparable only to bedtime routine. In other words, train your kid(s) to nap at the same time every day. And if you've got two that nap, get those naps going on simultaneously. Not only will it allow you some "me time," it'll allow you the chance to fix yourself some lunch, prep for dinner, or clean up the mess of a living room.
- Messy house = you're doing it right. Every book removed from the bookshelf? Matchbox cars and Lego blocks scattered about like tiny-but-visible landmines? Toys lining every wall in the house? Tiny kid's undies and random socks strewn across the floors of different rooms? It's all good. You know the line from Chuck Palahniuk and Fight Club, "the things you own end up owning you?" It's true. But having kids means toys. Very few toys/things have any real staying power, so use this inequality: experiences > things. That's also true. Promote creativity with books and art and crayons and paint and exploring the outdoors. That said, you're still going to accumulate toys/things and the house will be a mess. And that's totally cool.
- Appearance is optional. I'm not saying wear your pajamas outside, that's just a bad look. Chances are high that every time you emerge from your house, you'll have at least one of the following on you: puke, a wet spot (drool or pee?), food, and/or stains. Little kids are a mess and make a mess. No one is judging what you look like and the kid usually attracts 98% of the attention...unless you're wearing those stupid pajama pants I told you not to wear.
- Carpets or area rugs. When the time comes for the littlest to crawl/walk, wood floors provide zero assistance. Besides, when they fall (and they will fall), carpets and area rugs are way more forgiving than hardwood.
- Sleep deprivation. You'll never be well-rested again. You'll ask your wife how she's doing after work and the answer will be, "tired." You can be empathetic, happy, sad, and emote like normal people without kids, but the one major difference is you have kids, and you'll be perpetually tired
- It's OK to wear your carrier indoors. Young children like the proximity and bonding experience carriers provide. Besides, it really makes unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming, prepping dinner, or making yourself a coffee a hell of a lot easier.
- Coffee. I'm an iced coffee year-round guy, but whatever way you take it is up to you. Even after nearly 15 years drinking coffee, I'm still not particularly fond of the taste, but now that I've got kids, there's way more to it than taste. The experience of slowly sipping your fresh brewed coffee from a large mason jar is a cathartic experience. Don't get me wrong, I get a coffee from Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or Cumberland Farms (any size for only a buck!), but the straw only speeds up the imbibement, ruining the experience. And maybe I'm weird (OK, I am), but the caffeine doesn't really do anything for me.
- Find a hobby. You might have a hobby or hobbies, and that's awesome. Woodworking. Drawing. Blogging. Photography. You need something for yourself when you need to be by yourself. You're wife/husband/SO should understand that despite you not earning, you're working every day as well.
There's different tips and tricks for parenting and everyone has different expectations. As long as you're not losing your Goddamn mind home alone all day and your kid is happy (most of the time) and healthy, you're doing a great job.
Also, keep communication open with your wife/husband/SO and children. So put your phone away.
Time to go brew a jar of coffee before nap time comes to an end.
Thanks Ryan! Leave a comment below or connect with Ryan on social media to ask him questions!
More about Ryan Darcy/Stay At Home Field Advantage: I'm a soon-to-be 36-year-old at-home dad from Long Island who now lives in rural Connecticut. I love Lindsay, my wife of seven years, my three young boys (who'll be 6, 3, and 1 in a month or two), and hyphens. I've been blogging for around eight years and do it mostly as a hobby, a way to unwind. I try to keep my content light and inject some humor into whatever it is I'm writing about. I'm not a storyteller, at least I don't think so and I tend to write like I speak, without the analogies and metaphors. My site, stayathomefielddadvantage.wordpress.com, is a free site. I've thought about shortening it to Home-Field Dad (thus the Twitter and Facebook page) but I'm an at-home dad who works at a bakery part-time a few nights a week, so my money goes to car/oil/electric bills/$1 Cumberland Farms coffees, not web-hosting fees. (Ed. note: Fair enough!)