It’s now two months since I hung up my office suits and gave up my London commutes for a new life as a stay-at-home dad in the countryside. Month two has seen the end of the school holidays, my wife return to work and me picking up the reins proper as full-time primary carer to our toddler. It’s been very much a period of finding my feet and working out how Tilly’s days are going to be filled. There’s a lot to think about – activities, meal planning, supporting her development and finally getting things done around the house. The new routine marks a really substantial change for all of us. Dropping an income is a major decision and one that we’re counting on improving the family’s quality of life. Here’s how month two has been going:
I’ve thrown myself into the local toddler group scene to provide a focus to structure each day around. Although initially uncertain about this new world I’d ventured into, I’ve quickly started to get a feel for the different types of group out there. Fortunately there are plenty of groups in our area to try out. There are free council funded activities, parent-led groups, music groups normally at a fiver a pop, specific sport or activity-based groups and church-based groups.
I’m pleased to say that I’m not the only dad in the playgroup. At certain groups I am, but I’ve now encountered several other dads at a number of the groups, which is hopefully a reflection of the growing trend of dads as carers. I know one is a full-time SAHD like me, another part-time, and hopefully there’ll be yet more to get to know in due course. However there have been several mums who have been welcoming at the groups and as I do the rounds of the toddler groups I get to know their faces and they mine. In due course I’d like to have Tilly get to know other friends who will be in her year at pre-school and school.
One of the big reasons for becoming a stay-at-home dad was to cut the stress in all our days. Cutting down a good portion of the family travel time and trying to fit full-time working around childcare are our hoped for pay-offs in return for less income. Happily, things are panning out fairly well. I’m enjoying my new role, Tilly is no longer overtired every evening and my wife is able to focus on the job she loves. Doing things you enjoy is a pretty good remedy to stress and while there are still challenging times, we’re all feeling more control than our madcap routine of old.
Being around to see Tilly’s firsts is a big thing. In the past few weeks we’ve had finally first steps, something we were fortunately both able to share. There are also plenty of opportunities to witness and nurture those more incremental developments.
Meal planning is quite a new concept, especially two meals every day. Finding meals that Tilly will hopefully eat and can be made quickly is a challenge. As her taste becomes more adventurous – she’s now accepting some mixed ingredients – I’m having to pick up more of the cooking, which my wife has preferred doing over the past few years.
Time for everything else
I’ve one day a week for getting everything done within Tilly under my feet. While I have a number of ideas about what I’d like to get done, in practice getting the house ship-shape after a week of toddler activity, catching up with bills and DIY and trying to shoehorn in a walk in the countryside seems to more than fill the time available.
All-in-all after month two the feeling is pretty positive and a lot more in control of what we’re doing. There’s still plenty to work out and routines to be bedded in but we feel to be heading in the right direction. Over time I’d like to find Tilly some friends to play with on a regular basis but there’s time yet for that.