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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Staying at Home

No one ever said that being a stay-at-home dad was glamorous. First of all, there is intense social pressure to "provide" for the family. This usually is taken to mean, "make the majority of the money for the family", even though in some situations, "providing" may mean eliminating the cost of a babysitter while providing quality time for and with your child(ren). It was actually surprising to me just how strong this desire is. I still struggle with knowing I may never get this second degree and may never join the "working world" the same as most men. I have a degree, I have a strong work ethic, and I want to earn my way.

Some of the ways in which this simple bias manifests can be surprising. Let's say that in 2 years I am in a position to look for work again. There I am, sitting down at an interview looking confident and sharp, with a great portfolio and great people skills. The first thing the interviewer asks me is what I have been doing for the past 3 years. After I tell them that I have been a stay-at-home dad, they suddenly lose interest in me. It is as if staying at home has not only emasculated me, but also made me forget how to do my job.

The second thing that makes being a stay-at-home dad difficult is support. This is a two-fold problem. The first is that I am literally taking up the role that women have traditionally taken up; thus I am at home doing chores and taking care of the baby while my wife goes to work and class. She comes home tired and hungry, and I want to make certain I have done enough for the day to pull my weight. I usually end up doing more chores and putting the baby to sleep, since my wife has to get up early the next day to go to school/gym. Sometimes this means that I am so tired after the baby goes to bed that I can hardly get any of my own stuff done (or, as is often the case, do the chores that are hard to do while she's awake). I unfairly feel like I am not getting enough time for myself, while Amy feels that she is not getting enough time with the baby.

The flip side to this is other people. There aren't very many stay-at-home dads (SAHDs), at least not in my area. Usually I end up in groups of stay-at-home moms. This makes me feel just a bit nervous, as if I am intruding on a distinctly female thing. I know in my mind that it is alright, but it still feels wrong. It is also hard because there aren't other SAHDs to talk with and share experiences with. Thankfully, I discovered some online communities that I am joining, athomedad.org and dadstayshome.com. We will see how these two resources help.

I am still trying to figure out how to get my baby to take naps in her crib, which will free up a lot of time for me. For the longest time, she would only nap on me (in such a manner that it was difficult or impossible to do anything else, including using the computer), twice a day, for about an hour to an hour and a half per nap. Without these, she would get cranky and cry all the time. With these, however, I am limited to using the Playstation for big portions of the day. If she can get an hour or even half an hour of sleep in her crib, I'll be able to write every day! There are other difficulties, problems, and situations that arise from being a SAHD, but those will have to be for a later post.

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