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.
Not since Tilly finally got around to walking have I anticipated a stage in her development quite so much as her starting preschool. She’ll be socialising with peers, playing, learning and giving me some much needed time to get on top of everything else. After a tough year, I’m counting on it being the change I need to claw back some control from a toddler-led life.
The school summer holidays are here, which means that I’ve officially survived a whole year of being a stay-at-home dad. An awful lot has changed since last summer when I hung up my office shirts for the last time. There have been high points but there have been struggles too. Time, then, to spend a moment looking back on the past twelve months.
On Saturday I featured along four other stay-at-home dads in the Times article ‘The rise of the alpha dad‘. This charts the increase of stay-at-home dads and in particular those fathers, like me, who actively decided to put their career to one side to look after their children full-time. You may be visiting this blog for the first time having read the Times article or may have heard about the article but not have a subscription to read it. A timely opportunity then to revisit the decisions that led me to become a stay-at-home dad last year.
This time last year I had days filled with meetings, managing stakeholders, delivering strategies and managing projects. Then, one Friday in July it came to an end. I took a 100 per cent pay cut and moved to looking after just one stakeholder, a then 18 month old toddler. Six months on and the routine of a stay-at-home dad has well and truly bedded in, although it’s not been without its challenges…
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 was expecting belt-tightening when we gave up an income but not the one around my waist. Nevertheless since I’ve finished work my trouser belt has had to be tightened an extra notch to the extent that I may soon be looking to return to the leaner size I outgrew as a sedentary office worker. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a great surprise. My work days were filled with binge eating to get through the day. It would start with a morning pastry on arrival in the office, require some mid-morning snack, often a sizeable lunch and as often as not an afternoon Kitkat, before coming home to a full cooked dinner. Combine this with 30 mins at best to get out of the office for lunch and it’s not too surprising the pounds piled on.
If online forums are anything to go by, many stay-at-home dads (SAHDs) have taken the role as their hand has been forced, commonly either through redundancy or child care fees outweigh lower paid jobs. There is however another group of SAHDs, which by all accounts is growing in popularity and the one in which I can proudly claim membership. We are the voluntary SAHDs, those who have actively chosen to leave, suspend or fundamentally change our working lives in favour becoming the primary carer for our families. Although still something of a curiosity in many people’s eyes, there can be a number of reasons to choose to become a SAHD. Here are my top five:
It’s now been a month since I took my last train home from work and bid the big city goodbye. It’s been a sudden and significant change, ending many years of travelling on busy trains into London and working full-time. It’s been an enjoyable few weeks, spending much more time with toddler Tilly as she makes rapid advances with movement and communication. Yet I know that this just a honeymoon period. The real challenge is yet to come and time is running out to make sure I’m prepared.