Parenthood and decisions- there’s no escaping it. Once a couple receives the news that they will be parents, the countless decisions begin. One of the most pressing decisions is probably deciding who will watch the child during the day. Did you know that in the past 10 years, the number of stay at home dads has doubled? Today, we are talking to Tom, who graciously shares with us his experience and perspective on parenting as a stay at home dad.
4word: Our society is conflicted over their response to stay at home moms- some hate it and others love it. How has this tension affected you, as a stay at home dad?
Tom: I personally believe that the mother should stay home when possible, that it is truly the best for the child/children. However, when this is not possible, other alternatives need to be found, and much consideration needs to be given as to the best solution to the situation. The needs of the child/children should be the over ruling principle in making that decision. And the parents need to be able to make sacrifices in their lives/careers in order to do what is best for the child/children. Once I made the decision to be a stay at home dad, I was determined to make it work. It was difficult, but you can definitely make it work.
Looking back at it now, the tensions that I felt were of my own making, mostly involving how I felt the other child’s/children’s moms might look at me for being a stay at home dad. But I think that all I ever found was support from them. Even with the tensions I had, I never felt bad about the decision we had made.
4word: What led to the decision for you to stay with your children?
Tom: We were blessed in that my mother-in-law volunteered to be our daycare provider when we began having children. She did a wonderful job and we are both so thankful for her. In 1993, when our 2 children were 5 and 3 years old, she became ill and couldn’t continue taking care of our children.
For one year we decided to put the youngest in a Montessori school (the older one was now in an all day kindergarten) and I worked from 5 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon and then picked them up from their schools. This worked for the school year, but when summer came around we were faced with the problem that the schools were closed. So we decided that my career was something that I could do working from home, and therefore be at home for the children. Since that time, I have worked from home to this day, even though our children are both grown (the youngest graduates from college this May).
4word: What benefits have you seen from staying with your children?
Tom: Our children have grown up to be wonderful and successful young adults. They both did well at school and were involved in many outside activities and sports. Now, I don’t know if this would have happened no matter what their situation growing up was like, but I have to believe that having a parent around all the time did make a big difference. They grew up knowing that they were loved, and that we, both parents, were there for them, all the time. They knew that they were important to us.
I believe that the family is crucial for the development of a healthy society, because that is where we learn how to interact with one another. We as parents are much more interested in our child’s/children’s success than anyone outside our family could possibly be.
The other great benefit is the close relationship that I have with my children. I think that they know that I am there for them no matter what they need.
4word: Do you find the term "Mr. Mom" offensive?
Tom: Yes, I believe that it is somewhat offensive. I have always used the term “stay at home dad.” I never considered myself as trying to replace my children’s mother- she will always be their mother. I am their dad and do with them the things that a dad would normally do.
We had already decided that we would divide the house work even before we had children, since both of us worked. So I was no stranger to taking care of things around the house and was happy to pitch in and do more of the house work. I enjoy cooking, especially on the grill, and therefore made most of our meals before we had children. I still worked, but now I was able to work around my children’s schedule instead of my boss’s. And I have to admit that I did not mind giving up the drive to and from work.
4word: What is one thing that you want women to know about at-home dads? How can we support you?
Tom: I don’t believe that we stay at home dads are any different from other dads. We still like doing the typical things that most men enjoy doing (I still play soccer on an over 40 men’s team). For the most part, we are just doing what we do and sacrificing for the benefit of our children and family. I don’t know of any one thing that women need to know other than we love our child/children and family and are doing the best that we can to raise them.
If women want to support us stay at home dads, just remember that our child/children did not come home from the hospital with owner’s manuals either (not that we men would ever look at one if they did) and we don’t have the network of other moms that most women do. So if you see us making mistakes with our child/children, please feel free to give us advice (because like directions, you know that we would never ask for them).
What are some ways that you can support stay at home parents, especially dads?