2years_sahd

As the new school year gets underway I look back at two years as a Stay at Home Dad; the highs, lows, tears and laughter.

At this time in 2014 I was bidding my wife farewell as she returned to work full time in a new, more senior role, leaving me to look after then 18 month old Tilly. This was it: I was in sole charge of our daughter for 11 hours a day, five days a week. It would throw me into no end of entirely unfamiliar and occasionally uncomfortable situations and I’d often be the sole dad in rooms full of mums. Nevertheless, I had a job to do and a family to manage and this was the path we decided on.

Why did I become a stay-at-home dad?

ShireDad and Tilly. At the start of my stay-at-home dad adventure

ShireDad and Tilly. At the start of my stay-at-home dad adventure

We had originally planned for a fairly standard child care arrangement. I worked full time while my wife mixed work and child care with Tilly in nursery a few days a week. It didn’t take long for us to realise that this arrangement wasn’t working. Tilly was constantly ill at nursery, pulling ShireMum out of work, adding pressure to an already difficult routine of drop offs and collections. At the same time ShireMum was finding days with a small child incredibly tough going. In contrast I was yearning for more time with our daughter but with a 90 minute commute each way following a job and house change, this was also proving challenging.

Our family unit was under strain and we needed to fix it. We assumed that we’d find some part-time working compromise but when an unexpected promotion was offered to my wife it opened up a new option. At first I wasn’t even sure whether to suggest it but it seemed like the natural solution to our problems. I’d look after Tilly, ShireMum could focus on her promising career and Tilly would be with family and entirely out of nursery. It would seem we’d all get what we wanted.

But would it be too good to be true?

A minority pursuit

Being a stay-at-home dad and carer-in-chief to your child puts you immediately into a minority. Although the numbers of stay-at-home dads is growing nationally and there are a good number of doing childcare for some days of the week, it’s still not uncommon to encounter individuals for whom the concept is entirely unknown and rather odd. I’ve had jibes about being a ‘kept man’, been asked if it was my day off or if I was a single parent, as I was the one taking my child for a haircut. It may not be automatically accepted as a profession for a man but it’s still a role where you’re on call 24/7. My hours are 6am – 8pm without a break and a night shift is not uncommon. The corporate world would likely pay good coin for such working life. I’m paid only in love and I have to cast aside the many tantrums. Still, it is worth it.

There does seem to be more recognition of dads taking on this formerly unusual role. The media seem to be talking about it regularly. I was featured in the Times taking about my experience last year and regular requests for interviews seem to indicate this is remains a current topic. It’s certainly not for every dad, but then full-time childcare isn’t for every mum either, which is one reason we made the arrangement we did.

Two years of highs and lows

We’ve recently realised that Tilly is a highly sensitive child, which combined with a feisty, head-strong personality along with terrible twos and rebellious threenager phases have not made for an easy time. Nevertheless, I’ve had countless adventures with her and been there to witness some brilliant firsts.

Hard times

We have been sleep deprived for most of the past two years with broken nights and waking at 4 or 5am not unknown. Fortunately this does seem to be getting a little better with rewards keeping the morning call until after 6am.

When I first started looking after Tilly I didn’t have a car during the week. This meant finding all our activities within walking distance of our house in a modest market town or on a bus ride to the next, slightly larger town. There was normally something to go to but there wasn’t much choice.

The twos and threes are difficult times and last December was the worst month we’ve had to date with Tilly grumpy throughout and Christmas was far from the magical time we’d hoped for.

Good times

There have however been many good points and happy memories we would likely have otherwise missed if Tilly had remained at nursery. She walked then ran and now seems like a gymnastics hopeful. As for talking; she started and has never stopped, achieving a level of fluency that continues to amaze for her young age.

I’ve also been there to guide her in writing her name for the first time and drawing her first pictures of herself and us.

For Tilly she’s transformed into a confident little girl who leaps into having adventures and has no problem conversing with adults and befriending older children.

In it together

We’ve been through some rough times together such as the death of grandad where Tilly has been both a source of strength for us as well as a source for emotion as he’ll not see her grow up. Yet the loss of a close family member makes you realise their qualities, which we seek to pass on to our children.

Preschool

The arrival of preschool at the start of this year gave me much needed free time during the week. Suddenly there was a regular slot in which to get some of the ever accumulating housework in order and a chance to start thinking about personal projects and future work.

Being a dad, playgroups didn’t see the flurry of social invitations that mums seem to enjoy so knowing that Tilly was getting daily social interaction at preschool was one fewer concern. Preschool is also great for providing some brilliant activities and play space, meaning we can spend our afternoons together indulging in whatever play Thalia would like, although often as not we’re swimming, trampolining or exploring the outdoors.

The future

We’re now precisely a year away from Tilly starting school, which brings forth a mix of emotions. I realise our time together is coming to an end but it will be a change that I suspect we’ll both for ready for when it arrives. I have no doubt that Tilly will benefit from the stimulation of a school environment, while I’m feeling ready to get stuck in to some new projects. Between now and then I’ve got a year together with Tilly to enjoy but I’m also keenly aware that I need to get her reading, writing and other skills up to speed for the start of school.

I don’t doubt there’ll be more highs and lows over the coming twelve months but it has the prospect of being our best year yet.

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24 thoughts on “My family’s two years of role reversal

  • 2 September 2016 at 8:00 am
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    Really interesting post and I have to agree that a twoligan (as I call them) with a sprinkling of the threenager stage is the hardest. My son turns 3 in a couple of months and without a shadow of a doubt this year has been the hardest so far in terms of parenting, it’s certainly been a challenge. I enjoy reading about other people’s families and their set ups etc and this post was no exception! #binkylinky

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    • 3 September 2016 at 10:14 pm
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      I completely agree. Although younger toddlers have their own challenges, they’re somehow easier to manage, but from 2 onwards they become demanding in a whole set of ways you never expected. I’ve found every day is very involved, which is tough when it would be nice to do blogging and other projects too but with only a year left before school I’m going to make the most of it. Thanks for dropping by.

      Reply
  • 2 September 2016 at 11:43 am
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    Interesting read for me – I started when my daughter was 6 months old, and now 4 years later she is about to start school – we have just one full day alone together before the beginning of her staggered start. While I know this gentle easing into school life is for her benefit, the fact is she can’t wait to go and I’m the one with bittersweet emotions about it all! Have a great final year. #weekendblogshare

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    • 4 September 2016 at 1:21 pm
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      4 years is quite a stint, good work. It’s great when you know that they’re ready for that next step so I hope tomorrow goes smoothly. Have you any plans for yourself during schooldays now?

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  • 2 September 2016 at 11:49 am
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    Oh wow you had such an amazing time. You are entering a new phase don’t be sad new chapter and new memories to be made #weekendblogshare

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    • 4 September 2016 at 1:23 pm
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      It’s definitely a case of making the most of each phase. I’m sure this next year before school will have many challenges but I’m keen to make the most of it.

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  • 2 September 2016 at 3:23 pm
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    I think it’s really tough to resist the typical roles that parents get given. To stand up and say “no, this other way of doing it works better for our family” is really great, and will hopefully add to others being able to make the change and have more freedom to chose how they want to arrange their family’s childcare. You’re also clearly enjoying it which is great, but also tough! Thanks for the post
    #binkylinky

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    • 4 September 2016 at 1:25 pm
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      It helped that family and friends were largely supportive of our choice but at the end of the day it seemed to be the necessary choice to work for our family unit. It is certainly tough but it has some great moments too.

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  • 3 September 2016 at 1:57 am
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    It sounds like a great arrangement! We used to barely see my dad due to commuting and work and when we would want to stay up later to spend time with him my mom used to balk but I clearly remember my dad saying, “But I haven’t seen them all day.”

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    • 4 September 2016 at 1:27 pm
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      It’s a tricky thing for most families to manage nowadays and compromise is always needed somewhere along the line. We’ve found a solution for us that’s good for our family, even if it is tough on the bank balance! Thanks for visiting.

      Reply
  • 3 September 2016 at 7:42 am
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    Interesting conclusion. My youngest starts school next year. While I thoroughly enjoy all the time we spend together, I think the timing will be right. I want to make the most of the next 12 months. It will be odd not having Izzy around so much when she starts school, but we’ll both be ready for it. #BinkyLinky

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    • 4 September 2016 at 1:29 pm
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      It’s a good feeling when you know that the next big phase in their development is one they’re ready for. We’re still a year off school, like yourselves, so it’ll be interesting to compare notes as the year passes.

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  • 3 September 2016 at 8:32 pm
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    An interesting read. It sounds like you’ve had an amazing time together. It’s tough when they start school. Our girls start next week and I’m super sad about, but trying to be positive! Thanks for linking up to the #BinkyLinky

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    • 4 September 2016 at 1:35 pm
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      School seems like such a big step but I’m sure they’ll be ready for it. It’ll probably take much of the next year for me to get my head around the idea!

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  • 4 September 2016 at 8:34 am
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    A fascinating read the twins start school next week so on a mon/tues it’s going to be strange Thanks for linking to the #binkylinky come back next week please

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  • 7 September 2016 at 1:55 pm
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    I love this. I bet more fathers feel like you but don’t have the self confidence to admit that they’d like to spend more time with their children and cope with their partners going back to work. You sound as though you feel about the next year, as I felt about the last year- it was my last year with my son as he’s started primary school today and I tried to make the most of it in every way. He’s so ready for school but I will really miss him!
    Thanks for joining the #weekendblogshare

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  • 8 September 2016 at 10:01 pm
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    For the first 4 years of being a stay at home mummy, I didn’t have a car. It certainly means you have to be imaginative with what to keep everyone entertained. But for the last year, hubby has been cycling to work so I can have the car (yipee – freedom!).

    It must be extra tough being a stay at home daddy because, as you say, it’s not the expected thing. I think it’s lonely enough being a mummy at home, but it must be even harder to find fellow dads to compare notes with! #BrillBlogPosts

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  • 8 September 2016 at 11:43 pm
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    Due to an autism diagnosis for one of my stepsons and Mrs OMGs epilepsy I’ve been a SAHD for a while now.

    As you say its great being there for every first.

    Tilly sounds just like Little Miss OMG headstrong and sensitive. At just 18 months I can see this Christmas being less than magical lol

    Enjoy the free time when Tilly starts school. I can’t wait, just so I can pee on my own again!

    #binkylinky

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  • 9 September 2016 at 9:38 pm
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    What a lovely post. It sounds like you’ve had a wonderful fime bringing your daughter up. I’m with you on the spending the next year getting Zach ready for school with reading and writing! I’ve just started my maternity leave and he starts school next year. Good luck with it all 🙂 Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

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  • 9 September 2016 at 11:42 pm
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    Christ alive, has it really been two years? Enjoy your last pre-school year with Tilly. It’s always interesting to see the experiences of you and other SAHDs – it’s not the sort of thing I’ve ever felt cut out for so I take my hat off to you all! #twinklytuesday

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  • 11 September 2016 at 3:35 pm
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    I have been a stay at home mom for almost 2 years now and I really enjoyed reading about your experience as a stay at home dad. I love that you made the best choice for your family and it seems like it turned out really well! What lovely memories both you and Tilly will have! 🙂 <3 -Erin at stayathomeyogi.com

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  • 12 September 2016 at 9:47 am
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    Really interesting to have some insight from a dad’s point of view! Sounds like it’s been an enriching experience! #twinklytuesday

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    • 17 September 2016 at 12:42 pm
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      Thanks, I don’t regret doing it

      Reply

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