Being a stay at home mom, I know that there are many other moms in the same place with whom I can find camaraderie. That wouldn’t necessarily be the case for a stay at home dad. It is becoming more common for dads to stay home, but it is still counter cultural and with that I suspect come unique challenges. I reached out to one of the stay at home dads I know and asked If he could write about his experience. Here are his thoughts:
What It’s Like to be a Stay at Home Dad
By Kyle Krober
I remember the night I broached the topic with my wife. Well, not THE night per-say. But I remember the time I introduced the idea of me stepping away from the teaching and coaching worlds in order to stay home with our son. I vaguely recall us discussing this option during our engagement but it seemed so far down the road at the time that I didn’t cling too tightly to the thought. But back then with a 9 month old in the house and another on the way it was definitely time to figure out how we were going to raise our kids.
My wife was all for it, aside from the mutual concern of losing a salary that was helping us chip away at student loans. We eventually came to a conclusion that seems to be trending among families in recent years that the cost for two in child care would likely negate my monthly salary. So why not just be home and raise the kids myself? Simple math, really (thanks, Saxon 65, 87, Algebra 1/2, and whatever other editions). And of course there’s also the added bonus of parental influence to be thrown in there over daycare. Done. Our fork-in-the-road conversation didn’t last all but about 10-15 minutes but the journey that little chat sent me down would make all the difference.
I feel like nearly all my life has been lived in the lane of the majority. Nothing about my life said, “This guy’s different” or cause words like “Where are his parents?” to be heard around town. I grew up as a white kid in a mostly white community. Was a Cardinal baseball fan in the heart of Redbird nation. Tight-rolled my jeans like many middle schoolers of my time. And along with countless other kids I thought the annual County Fair was practically Disney. Then I went to Disney.
Point being, not until the day I became a stay-at-home-dad did I feel I was no longer swimming in a pond with similar fish. I was Nemo suddenly plucked from the familiar reef and plopped into the office aquarium. Subsequently attached at the hip with the doomsday prepping, cheerleading-is-a-sport believing, Taco Bell hating minority. To state it plainly, I was a man living in a woman’s world. All around me were reminders of this fact. You’ve got MOPS, baby and cleaning commercials depicting moms at home, YMCA exercise classes for SAHM’s, and restaurants with baby-changing-stations only in women’s restrooms! Talk about frustrating. I want to work out too!
Just today I took the kids to an indoor play area to beat the chill of winter and burn off some energy. Somewhat startled by my surroundings, I began counting the number of moms scattered throughout the gym. I came up with 31. The number of men? 4. FOUR! Two of which were myself and another SAHD I invited. And the other 2 guys I’m pretty sure were there with their wife and kids. That, or they were being suspiciously friendly with a couple of women. Anyway, I thought those were some pretty telling numbers as to the ratio of SAHM’s to SAHD’s. I realize 100% of the women there were not likely SAHM’s but you get the point.
Outdoor parks are no different. Should another dad arrive to let his kids play I swear if I had a puppy tail it would start wagging with excitement. And if sniffing tail is akin to shaking hands and engaging in some small talk, I’ve done my fair share of sniffing. I don’t think SAHD’s can help it. We gravitate to each other like hippies to tie-dye. I believe there’s a prescribed reason for that.
Men and women are created different. I know, controversial statement right? Along with the obvious physical differences there are also intrinsic characteristics placed there by God that generally define our genders. Throughout the Bible, the role of the husband starts with leadership. It also encompasses being the provider and protector of our families. As men, we can’t deny that. We all feel a deep down, gut-level desire to provide and protect. A big part of that provision, culturally driven, is working. Men feel the need to work in order to provide financial support for things our families need. As stay-home-dads, we’re are well aware of how counter cultural it is to be doing what we’re doing. Internally, we battle against the reality of not fulfilling our deep desire to provide. An overstatement for sure but it’s somewhat emasculating…as if neutered by Bob Barker himself. We’ve turned in our “man-cards” for burp clothes.
As SAHD’s, we also fight the stereotype of being completely clueless and inept at handling babies and toddlers. Hollywood has done well to drive this home. Movies like “Three Men and A Baby”, “Mr. Mom”, and “Big Daddy” depict just how awful men are with kids. It usually plays out like this: Mom walks in the front door from work. She stops immediately and her jaw drops. She begins a visual scan. There’s spaghetti all over the floor. Walls are covered in crayon and paint. Muddy shoe tracks are everywhere. The 3 and 5 yr old kids are running around yelling. The baby’s crying on the floor next to a knocked over fish bowl. And dad’s standing in the middle of it all while the kitchen is on fire in the background. “Oh, hi hun” he’ll say. “You’re home early!”
As a result of this stereotype, I find myself making an extra effort to prove to everyone around (the general public I guess) that I can do this job well. I’m not about to give credence to such a portrayal.
Not to be left out, my wife relates well to my experience as a SAHD because she feels the opposite way as a working mom. The fact that men staying home is counter cultural means, by default, it’s just as much so for moms to be out working. Each family situation is unique. As long as the kids are provided for, the marriage is good, and the family is functioning well I don’t believe it matters who works or who stays home. And if both parents need or choose to work for various reasons then that’s fine too.
My wife and I have 3 good-sized glass jars sitting on a piece of furniture in our kitchen. One for each of our kids. They’re filled with rocks of different shapes and sizes. And each jar is different in the number of rocks it has inside. There’s one rock for each month we have with the kids until they turn 18 years old. At the end of every month we take a rock out of each jar. We heard of this somewhat morbid visual tool to reinforce the idea that we only have a limited amount of days to spend raising our kids. Seeing those jars every day is a great reminder of how we need to remain intentional in what we do with them. Each day is too precious to let it just drift by without purpose. For my wife and I that means talking with them about Jesus. Telling them how much He loves them and why they desperately need Him. Helping them learn to obey parents and teachers, etc… Passing on the faith, values, and character traits you hold dear doesn’t just happen. It happens with intention.
Like any job, being a SAHD (and SAHM) has its high’s and low’s with a lot happening somewhere in-between. I feel extremely blessed to be placed in the position to hang with my kids every day. It’s the best job I’ll ever have. And I know 10 years from now I’m going to long for these days. Gotta go. My daughter wants me to chase her.