Monday, August 22, 2011

True Story: I'm a Stay-At-Home Dad

This is one of many True Story interviews, in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things.  This is the story of Kirk and how be became a Stay-At-Home Dad.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am a 28 year old boy. I'm from Nebraska and I've lived here all my life. I've lived in four different towns in this state. I was born in Columbus, picked up my associate degree in Milford, worked in Omaha for a bit, moved back to Columbus, then moved to Lincoln to be with  the woman who would eventually be my wife. I have one wife named Chris, one son named Jupiter, and one unnamed potential child due in October. Things I do for fun include: running, reading, social media, video games, geocaching, and social experimentation.

What lead to your decision to be a Stay-at-home Dad?

The original decision was mostly financial with a side of desire to raise our own children rather than use daycare. The software coding/testing job I had when Chris was pregnant with Jupiter brought in little more than the average cost of daycare in our area, while Chris was the Pharmacy Manager at a large pharmacy chain and made more than three times my salary. I also felt more comfortable raising our own, I think largely because I never went to daycare as a child, and that is just the parenting style I am familiar with. I also looked at it as an opportunity to further my education, so I am working on that as well (during nap time).

How did the people in your life react to your decision?

The closest members of my family have been mostly supportive. At first there were some skeptical looks, however their skepticism has long since been put to rest as far as I can tell. My family also knows me well enough to not be very surprised by any decisions of mine which go against social norms.

Friends have been supportive. My chosen group of friends are mostly  socially liberal, so I expected as much. Most people say things like, "you are lucky to be able to do that." I tend to agree!

Can you tell us about a day in the life of a SAHD?

It is constantly changing, so I will tell you what it is currently like. My son starts knocking on his door at 7:00 or so to let us know that he is awake. Soon after that I go into his room and say good morning.  Then we eat breakfast, bathe, brush, etc. This all takes a one or two hours depending mostly one Jupiter's mood. I am usually doing housework during all of this as well.

After all the morning stuff is done we either stay at home and I do house work while he plays and "helps" me out a bit, or we go out. When we stay home, he loves filling the bird feeders and helping sort the laundry by color. When we go out it is either to find a playgroup or take care of the grocery list. On some Wednesdays we have a playgroup with some other stay-at-home dads in the area. On some Tuesdays we go to the local children's museum for Mom's Club, at which I am usually the only dad.

We have lunch around noon and Jupiter goes down for a nap after that. I use the time to get housework done, study, or (during the right time of year) get yard work done.

When he wakes up from his nap we either have a snack or supper depending on what time it is. Chris is home by that time too, so she is helping out too. Jupiter likes to help make supper too, so anything that he can do to help, we let him.

When bedtime rolls around we help him brush his teeth, change into pajamas, and read a story. Chris and I usually run, watch the tube, or read until we retire for the night.

What surprised you the most about staying home with your son?

One day when Jupiter was about six months old I did a simple google search for SAHDs. What I found was that less than 100 miles from me in less than a month there would be a SAHD convention. I also found a great resource in athomedad.org where I have met a great community of other SAHDs. There is even a non-profit organization, called DaddysHome Inc, which oversees the yearly convention and other resources for SAHDs.

I was surprised by how well organized the SAHD community was. Since we are still relatively uncommon compared to moms who stay home (at least in the Midwest), a lot of us have turned to the Internet to find what our female counterparts find within their own neighborhoods. The result is an excellent database of local dads groups, information for fathers, and a lot of long distance friendships.

Do you ever miss work?  Do you anticipate going back when your son starts school?

I do not miss the 9-to-5 lifestyle at all.

I plan to do some sort of work once Jupiter and potential other child are in school, but I hope to find something that I can telecommute to or, better yet, do independently. My background is in IT, and I am currently studying software development, so it is likely that I will be able to telecommute. I really enjoy being able to work my schedule around what I need to do for my family.

What are the benefits to staying at home?  Drawbacks?
The largest benefit which I can think of is simply getting to watch and assist in my child's development. I have always been interested in the nuances of human behavior and find it very interested to watch those behaviors form.

Another benefit would be the freedom to schedule my needs around his. Maybe this is a drawback for some, but it has pushed me to find the ways to have a flexible schedule. For example, I found the school I did because it gave me this freedom. I do not have to go to class on the schedule of some professor who stands in front of a lecture hall.

The biggest drawback is seclusion. I do not interact with other adults as much I would like. I counter this by going to various playgroups and the occasional "Dads Night Out" with the local Dads group. Social media also counters this quite a bit. I am pretty lively on Twitter and Facebook when I get a chance.

What advice would you give to other guys (or anybody!) who's thinking about staying at home with their kiddos?
The advice I have for other guys looking to stay at home is to reach out to your local dads group or start one if there is not one. Also, realize that there is a social stigma about dads raising their kids. Some people think that women are inherently better at it, but the fact is that every parent learns how to take care of their children. It is something that some new SAHDs have trouble dealing with. I was no exception.

My advice for all parents who want to stay at home is to make sure you and your kids have an opportunity for social interaction with peers.

Do you guys have any questions for Kirk?  Are any of you Stay-at-home Moms?

20 comments

  1. Not a huge fan of the phrasing, "raise our own children instead of using daycare." Working parents raise their children too, thanks.

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  2. This is interesting to me and actually not so much because he's a dad who stays at home but rather 'stay at home' in general. I'm in grad school right now and while kids are WAY off in the future right now, well, they're still in the future. I always figured both my husbands and I would have to work (and still do) but I wonder sometimes if financially it would make more sense for one of us to stay at home. I don't think I'll know until it happens. I'm totally open to my husband (now fiance) staying at home. Whichever of us makes more sense!

    Thanks for sharing Kirk!

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  3. Gotta say, this is one of my favorite interviews yet. Kirk sounds like a nice guy and I think it's great that his family has figured out what works for them!

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  4. Great post, Sarah! So timely.

    I'm on the verge of becoming a stay at home parent. We're waiting to find our travel dates to pick up our baby girl in Taiwan.

    This would be my first week back at school, instead we're readying the house for a baby.

    My question: how long did it take to discover the routine/rhythm of staying home? What books/blogs etc did/does Kirk read?

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  5. Sarah, I've been following Beta Dad, who lives south of me in Cali...
    http://butterbeanandcobra.blogspot.com/2011/08/its-been-really-busy-week-so-thats-why.html
    he's a hoot.. take a look at his page he will have u in stitches... and he's every wife's 'honey, do' man... carpenter- of great ride on toys for his twin girls, as well as great remodeler...+ great sense of humor.

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  6. Love it. I love it when males take non-traditional roles. :) I think he rocks!

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  7. Sorry Brenda, you are absolutely right. I did not mean to dismiss parents who use daycare. I would use different phrasing in the future. I appreciate all of the comments here Thanks!

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  8. I'm a stay at home mom and I have a really hard time deciding how to describe myself. I DO work and I rarely stay at home.

    Our daughter started day care at age 2 three days a week and there is a HUGE difference in the amount of input I get in her brain.

    She never heard the phrase, 'throw like a girl' nor anything about monsters under the bed nor was she told she was too big or too small to do anything.

    So while working parents do raise their children, their kids get a lot more input from non-parent sources a lot earlier.

    And we are lucky lucky lucky to be able to delay the outside influences until our own teachings, ideas and morals can be well established in isolation.

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  9. This is a great article. I am a stay at home Mom and love hearing the perspective of a Dad. Thanks for interviewing Kirk.

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  10. Kirk is a great guy and a loving father. I worked with him, so ive seen his personality in action. As for the phrasing about daycare-if your child is at day care 8-9 hours a day, and you see them for an hour or so in the morning, and a few hours in the evening before bed, who is raising your kids?

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  11. In regards to the "raising phrasing", I think that there are benefits to daycare as well. For example the diverse social experience on a regular basis, exposure to germs (which can aid long term immunity), in some cases a higher income from both parents can be greatly beneficial in our society (which was not the case for us), etc. Of course there are social avenues other than daycare, which I also discussed above, that can counter some of those claims. Of course I am biased overall to side with at-home parenting. I do think that being a direct influence in my child's life is very important. That is part of why I am an at-home parent.

    What I mean by saying that I would have phrased it differently is that instead of saying "raising our own children rather than using daycare", I might have touched on something about delegation and intervention with respect to early childhood influence.

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  12. "As for the phrasing about daycare-if your child is at day care 8-9 hours a day, and you see them for an hour or so in the morning, and a few hours in the evening before bed, who is raising your kids?"

    The parents are.

    And if (older) kids are in school 6 hours a day, is school "raising" them? No.

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  13. brenda: "And if (older) kids are in school 6 hours a day, is school "raising" them?"

    Yes. The school is helping to raise them. That is not to say that the parent is not raising them. The parent is raising them while at home and then delegating the role to a school (or daycare in the case of a younger child) during part of the day.

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  14. Well, on that we agree (about the "helping" part). Which is why it's good to avoid either/or language like "raising our own children RATHER than using daycare" and such. It's a picky point, but words matter.

    I still say most adults, even the ones who had been in daycare as children, would respond to the question, "Who raised you?" with some form of, "My parents."

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  15. You are right, brenda. Words do matter. It is only because you have been picky on this point, that I have given it enough consideration to realize that I was wrong in my apology for the use of phrasing. You emphasized the very word that made me realize that I meant exactly what I said. Nothing less and nothing more. The MORE part is that which you are inferring from. I said "raising our own children rather than using daycare". That statement in no way says that parents who do not use daycare do not are not raising their children. It would imply that if I had simply said "raising our own children", however I added the "rather than use daycare" part to separate the time of the day when either the daycare or the parent is doing the raising from the rest of the day. So thanks for your clarification. I was wrong. Apology rescinded.

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  16. This was really cool. My boyfriend is an awesome parent to his kids, and since being with him I am so conscious of the silly stigma that women are inherently better at raising children. He's the best parent I've ever met.

    You're awesome! Keep it up!

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  17. This is also one of my favorite interviews. Plus an actual discussion in the comments section rather than just compliments :) Wonderful.

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  18. mr huddleston3/25/12, 10:31 AM

    im a stay at home dad to my 1 year old lil girl and have been all the way from birth. my mates and people i know have said well done wish there was more like you. but my partner who went back to work has had all the flack as people say she is meant to be at home and she is a bad mum for it if that is the case all working dads are bad dads no? all i have to say is best year off my life

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  19. Mt google result findings:
    "working fathers are bad fathers" = 0 results
    "working dads are bad dads" = 1 result which brought me here thanks to mr huddleston

    Who said there wasnt a double standard

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