So after over a year, I've come out, I'm proud and loud, I'm a stay at home Dad. This sentence isn’t something I thought I would write 10 days ago let alone 5 years ago. Oh how times change. I grew up in a super traditional family, both my nans were stay at home mum, all my aunties were stay at home mums and my mum was, well, yep you guessed it, a stay at home mum. I’ve never really known anything else, so when my lovely wife Nikki got pregnant with Max it didn’t even cross my mind that it would be a remote possibility that I would be staying at home looking after the little man.
Society in the UK conditions us to believe in certain things. Although the traditions and stigmas are changing, it is still fairly normal for the man to pay the bill, be the bread winner etc etc. I would be the first to admit my physical uncomfortableness (is that a word?) at the thought of Nikki paying for a meal, a holiday, anything really. It’s getting better, but pay inequality is still rife and society still leans towards this traditional stereotype. Countries like Sweden and Finland are bucking the trend with equal paternity but there is soooo much more that needs to be done.
Nikki was incredible throughout her pregnancy and giving birth. A shout out to all mums here, having witnessed Nikki giving birth I have a totally new perspective on how amazing mums are. She took three months off and then due to our financial circumstances we needed to start looking at our options. This is where my proud masculine nature really started taking a beating as Nikki was offered more money to go back to her job and I was offered nothing to stay in mine. The traditional breadwinner had failed to gather enough bread. It has been a huge sore point for me throughout the last year, and in fairness writing this helps a lot. I’d always loved the idea of spending a lot of time with my children but being a full-time Dad would be a massive step into the unknown. The opportunity was too good to turn down, we could bring Max up in the exact way that we wanted it would just be me doing it. What could possibly go wrong, sitting on my arse all day with a sleeping child is a piece of cake right?
Oh how wrong was I, how very very wrong. When one person in the relationship goes into work and the other stays at home there are some misconceptions that go on. One is that the worker is happy to leave. This is totally wrong, at least in the majority of cases, as no one wants to leave their family to go to work, work generally sucks and is hard especially on limited sleep. The other massive misconception is that staying at home is pretty straightforward and easy. Try doing a day at work tired, well try and do a day at home with a screaming child, tired. Take it from a person who has done both sides of this rocky fence, it is not a breeze and both sides have their unhappy challenges. I am a massive believer, since my experience, in shared parental leave as there is nothing better than being in someone else’s shoes to understand what they have to go through. Why is the house not tidy, or tea made? Well I can tell you, because Max hasn’t stopped crying for most of the day except when I was bopping him up and down in my arms whilst he was watching a ridiculous program on loop, so anything else, including showering, cleaning my teeth and eating breakfast has been off the agenda.
There are ups and there are downs in parenthood and especially when it comes to staying at home as the main caregiver. But my main takeaway from the last year is just do it, take the leap, life is (as the cliche goes) to short. I always find it so sad that often men don’t get to see their child grow up fully and I have to say, nearly a year into this life changing experience, I feel totally blessed. There really isn’t anything like it and I’ve grown so much as a person and a partner because of it. So if you do get a chance to take that leap, grasp the opportunity with both hands and don’t let tradition stand in your way. There are plenty more stay at home dads out there and we are growing, so why not join us?
I’m no expert but please do get in touch if you are a stay at home dad and want a shoulder to lean on or just fancy a chat, it’s tough and I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch via messenger on Instagram, I am usually about.
I think this is the part where I signed off with a catchphrase or something...