'Getting my head around being a stay at home dad.'

Josh Young with his son


If you have traded in your job, recently become unemployed or swapped roles with the wife your new position as stay at home dad can be a daunting proposition. Here in Australia gender roles are pretty clearly defined. You’re a bloke. You work. You drink beer. You watch footy. You hunt wild boar. In our culture the role a dad is to play in our kids life remains unclear. We may see the hulking sportsman taking his kids for a lap around the field after a finals win or  watch the poli’s parade their groomed kids for the media but in terms of what’s expected there is little info out there.

Over generations of breeding the ladies have passed on secrets, created networks and established stereotypes of what it is to be a “good mum”. The new role of stay at home dad is, in a way, uncharted territory. The full time dad role cannot be simply cut and pasted from what women have been doing as you are not a woman. You are a bloke. You still work. You still drink beer. You still watch the footy. You never actually hunted wild boar anyway.

So go forth Pioneer. The path won’t be easy. While you will not get the same satisfaction from landing a new account or wrapping up a lucrative project the rewards are there. You just need to realise they’re different.

1. You’re Still Working

Every dismissed female in history who compared being a mum to working can get some sense of relief knowing that there are a few men now starting to get their point. If you thought you were going to be able to just lounge around and play Xbox all day then sadly you’re mistaken. Along with keeping your livestock clean, fed and away from sharp objects you will, depending on your contract, have to be doing a certain amount of work around the house as well. If you actually tap into the fact that you are at work you can hush the chorus of “I told you so” and tackle housekeeping head on. Transfer your daily work routine across to your new role. Get up, look sharp, have your coffee, list daily objectives and hustle. Spreadsheets, to-do lists and drive will get the house and kids in order quickly and easily which means that you can then lounge around and play Xbox.

2. Forget pats on the back

You want the high fives and the slow mo approving nods from your peers when you put in the hard yards. But the myriad of flattery and respect will sadly not be coming your way anymore. I struggled with this. It should not be underestimated how important the role of success is in a man’s life. As a stay at home dad you’ll need to be awake to spontaneous feedback and successes. When you see your kiddy’s eyes light up as they discover something interesting or learn something new that you have shown them don’t just brush it off. That was your doing mate. Outstanding fucking work!! Take pride in your craft and relish in those inglorious details of the world that are new to those you now manage.


3. Networking

I for one was extremely suspicious when my wife first joined her mother’s group. The last thing I wanted was new benchmarks of what was expected of me because one swimming instructor husband decided to get up for every feed and massage his wife’s feet. However, I soon discovered that it was not actually a terror plot that kept her going to the group but the sharing of advice, tips and stories. There is a massive lack of these networks for dudes. Your mates without kids don’t really understand. Any dad does though and there are plenty around ready to vent. Without being creepy, talk to other blokes at the park or at your kids’ sporting activities. It’s no different to networking in the workplace. Or better yet get the husbands from your wives mother’s group together for a few beers. Just don’t invite the swimming instructor. He sounds like a dick.

4. Activities

If like me you have kids under 3 then getting out the house is a tough ask. From the packing of every element needed in case of nuclear fallout to the exploding crap of your youngest as you head out the door, the challenges are as varied as they are many. The easier option of staying put and throwing cartoons on can be much more desirable. I’m not one to preach as I recently set up a train track to keep my toddler amused so I could level up in Skyrim rather then try to get to the park. This really helps no one though. This is your job remember. Get your ass out the door and go play.  While the weather is good there is no excuse not to get out and kick the footy. You will feel all the better for it and your kid will level up his agility perks. Options start decreasing when the weather is crap so hit the indoor swimming pools, PCYCs or build a cubbyhouse in the dining room.

5. Synergy

Ok, I just wanted to say synergy but what I actually mean is to engage. We have all seen the shit dads. Many of us had one. Despite this I doubt that too many guys will say that the birth of their kid is not one of the most profound moments in their life. What changes? Well we just fall out of sync. Mum takes the reins on the organizing and routine and the dad lends a hand when needed. Now that you are in charge of domestic operations you will find that your kids will start to respond to you more and you will develop your own rhythm. Through this your relationship with your kids will develop into what you had in mind the first time you held them. Better yet is the fact that you will feel that something is working in your new role. You are forging ahead as a bloke and a dad.

Josh is a stay at home dad doing a Bachelor of Social Work at Sydney University. Find him at Dads Downunder on FacebookDads Downunder Blog and tweeting away @DadsDownunder.
Do you know any stay at home dads? Do they enjoy it? Do they resent it?