Lessons learned by a second generation stay-at-home Dad

December 8 |
Dad and Baby Max
Photo by Andrea Leoncavallo

I recently stumbled upon this piece, Second Generation Stay-At-Home Dad, about a man who is rocking the homestead — after growing up with his dad doing the same:

My dad retired from his career in the Air Force when I was two years old. His final assignment was at the airbase in Albuquerque, NM, a strange high-desert city that was different enough from anyplace he or my mom had ever known that they decided to stay. They were a pair who didn't neatly fit anywhere in 1970s America: a career military guy, fifty years old, out in the civilian world for the first time in nearly three decades, and an itinerant English nurse-midwife fifteen years his junior, happy to leave her homeland for new adventures.

Their arcs were similar even if the specifics were different. Both had managed to get beyond their limited early prospects — his in blue-collar Brooklyn, hers in a stifling middle-class Britain — and see the world. They found vocations that meant removing themselves from their families and building what relationships they could in nomadic lives. They married late, by any generation's measure. And that was all just fine with them. After they met in England and brought me about, deciding to put down roots thousands of miles from where they'd come from was one of the more domesticated moves neither had made for years.

There they were, new parents in a new city, weirdos out of time and place between my mom's foreignness and my dad's age. She went to work as a mental health nurse while he went to college, and they worked out my care however it made sense, making up their child-rearing as they went along. Since my mom was the one working — often overnight shifts that meant she slept during the day — my dad spent as much time with me as she did. My childhood was as likely spent running around behind the scenes at the mental hospital as hanging out with my dad, meeting freaky characters around the university or in the seedy Central Avenue diners that he loved.

Is your husband or partner a stay-at-home Dad? How do you think being a stay-at-home Dad differs from being a stay-at-home Mom — or do you think it does at all?

  1. My dad was a stay at home parent from when I was 4 until I was 11. It was great. I have a much closer relationship with him than most of my friends do with their dads, because we got to spend so many of my formative years together.

    If my partner and I have children, I'd love for us both to spend time as stay at home parents.

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  2. My husband is a stay-at-home dad during the week, and works part time on most weekends. I don't know if that counts because he does work. I assume it is different, than if I was the one staying home for just one reason main reason. Breastfeeding! I am the only one who wakes up in the night to tend to our son becuase I am the one who gives him milk. I know, I know… lots of fathers wake up with their kids, but for various reasons, this has always been how it is.

    Also, because of the interrupted sleep, and not getting to sleep in, or take naps, I think I'm the more tired one.

    Other than that, I don't know if it makes a difference. Our son still seems to prefer me to his dad as a source of comfort. This seems to be true for a lot of moms I know.

    No one really says to us that they think it's unusual, that he is home with him. Most people think it's wonderful that we don't use daycare. So do we!

    • I forgot to mention that our son is only a year old so we haven't been doing this for very long! Maybe I will have more to say in a few years. 😉

  3. My parents were both stay-at-home after retiring from careers in the military — they had already seen the world and accomplished so much at work but decided this family constellation was most important to them. (They were both older when they met and had us; had they been younger or even in this current economy, it probably would not have been possible.) It was wonderful for so many reasons. Granted, the free healthcare made it all possible since living on such a small income is totally do-able but takes some major sacrifices. (Ones I'm not sure if I'd be ready to make myself.)

    Of course, the double-standard remains where stay-at-home dads are generally praised and celebrated by society whereas the stay-at-home mother versus working mother "debate" persists, unfortunately. (As the only father present on school field trips and other such school activities, he was really fawned over. It's too bad women don't get that same recognition!) Growing up it didn't feel so "special" because it was all I knew but I grew to appreciate it even more as an adult. I remember how my dad used to greet me at the bus stop every day after school until middle school when I asked him to please hide so I wouldn't get teased. (Later on one of those boys sadly admitted he was really jealous because he hardly saw his father who worked such long hours.)

    The challenge as an adult is finding a male partner who shares those same values I was raised with– and it's so incredibly hard! I don't mean that he has to volunteer to be the stay-at-home parent (it'd be nice though!) but rather putting family first like I do. (At this rate, I'm most likely looking at becoming a single mother by choice who will be working in a family-friendly career, and I'm OK with that but that's another story.)

    In any case, hooray for stay-at-home dads, and thanks for sharing this article!

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  4. My dad was a stay-at-home-dad when my brother & I were in elementary school. It was awesome! He played guitar for us, took us to the woods on long walks with our dog, fed us ice cream for lunch with pb & j for dessert, and was the only dad for class field trips.

    My husband & I are thinking about brutally saving so we can have a season when we're both at home with our (future) kids. We just found out we're expecting, so this is a timely post, as we're trying to figure this stuff out! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I'm having a baby next month and we're planning for my husband to be the primary caregiver. It's great to hear about other stay at home dads!

  6. My now ex husband was actually a stay at home / work at home dad for a few years. He owned a business and was able to stay home and hire a technician to do the actual legwork of going on calls and doing the work. He still had to deal with customers and book appointments etc. However, he started doing that in 2007 when our older daughter was 3. He started out by just taking care of her and then when our younger daughter was born he took over caring for both of them when the younger one was about 8 months old. I wanted him to do it sooner but he was afraid he couldn't handle a 3 year old, an infant, and take care of work. Thought it would come off as unprofessional to have a crying baby in the background. Be that as it may, once he took care of both of them, it was really nice to see how the girls bonded with him and really got attached to him in a way that not all dads get to have with their kids, especially little girls.

    We are now divorced and he has had to forgo that in order to actually work and bring in money, but the girls do have a lot of time with him nonetheless since he has to be home in time to meet the school bus now, so I know and hope that the girls will remember this and always have a good relationship with him.

  7. It took my parents many years to have me, so they are a good 10-15 years older than most of my peers folks. When I was 11 my dad retired after 35 years as a math teacher.

    Growing up I was always at after school programs because both my parents worked long hours as teachers. Then when my dad retired I could suddenly go right from school home, go on bike rides with my dad, do cool construction projects before dinner. It was great. My mom retired when I was in high school.

    Older stay at home dads are the best.

  8. My parents started to work both part-time when I was eleven. Before that, my mom stayed at home. My fathers had some health problems and they decided that it was best to split responsibilities. So every Tuesday, it was my dad who'd see us off to school, make us tea and biscuits and dinner. He would clean the house (they split that too). My youngest brother was 3 at that point.
    I didn't realize it at the time, but to me, parents splitting work, chores and child raising is normal to me. It took me some time to realize that this is not the norm in every family. I think my parents attitude (equal partners) benefits me a lot. Luckily I found a partner who has the same values.

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  9. My dad was a stay at home dad for a while. He would grab the breakfast cereal, milk and the tuppaware bowls, then load me, my brother and the other neighbourhood kids in the car and take us to the beach for breakfast all the time. It was fantastic.
    My husband stayed home with our eldest daughter for her first year and by all accounts loved it!

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    • Breakfast at the beach sounds wonderful!

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  10. My dad has worked out of an office in my parents' home since I was in 1st grade. For the entirety of my public school experience, he was the one I called if I got sick, or forgot a paper, etc. He was the one who was there when I got home from school. My mom later organized her schedule as a doctor so she had more days off per week (later she'd start working evenings), so during high school, I would often come home to both of them there. It was pretty awesome knowing there was almost always someone there if I needed them. :)

  11. When my sister and I were quite little (early elementary school years) my dad had a job that required him to work on weekends, but he got Mondays and Tuesdays off. It was great for us, especially since we were both in half-day kindergarden– he'd take us on adventures all over town. I'm pretty sure I saw almost all of the museums in Kansas City as a small kid because Dad was there to take us to them.

  12. This might not be the right place for this question, so feel free to delete it…

    To families with a stay at home parent. How do household chores get divided? I really want to ask my husband to take on more household duties, but I know how much work it is to take care of a baby/toddler all day. I know I can't seem to keep up!
    He seems to have extra time for video games and reading, so I feel like it might be ok.

    Once I suggested we do a chore chart and he indicated that he didn't need one because he cleaned up after himself. I tend to disagree with that statement, but that's a different story! ha!

    Is it ok to expect a stay at home parent to do a little extra around the house??

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    • That is an excellent question! It has been a source of tension for us as well, because I tend to be more neat and "clean as you go" then he is.

      I have chosen to see it this way: taking care of our toddler (and soon our toddler and infant) are the only "job" that my husband has. Anything else like doing laundry and cleaning dishes are shared between the two of us. If he chooses to play video games while our toddler naps, that is basically the same level of "slacking" as me reading this blog at work. :)

      • Thanks for the response! I think you are right. I'm at work now reading this. He manages his time really well, so he should be able to take breaks.

        Often times, I come home and have to take over completely because he "had a hard day", and don't even get a chance to unwind and relax, let alone catch up on my household "chores". If he is sick he stays away from us, and gets to relax. If I'm sick, my duties don't change.

        Maybe I'm just jealous that I don't have time to play games, or read comics… or maybe I DO have time, and I just choose to play with our son instead.

        • Well, as someone who firmly believes in equality – what you are describing is not that.

          A girl friend of mine told me a story of her and her husband. They were having a busy time and hardly keeping up with household chores. Her husband did the laundry and expressed how pleased that he was that he had 'helped' her with the laundry. My girl friend was really angry about that. They had an argument and agreed later on that 'helping' is not splitting household chores evenly; it is assuming that it is basically her job.

          So, I think you are by no means out of line to expect household chores from your husband. Especially if you have to take over when you get home from work. You might have had a hard day too! Of course he can have 'relax' time, but so can you! (Equal amounts). In my opinion, if your husband stays at home, he is a home maker. And a very valuable contributor to the household. But is does include more that caring for the little one. Chores will still have to be split/divided in a fair way. (An interesting article on this is: http://down—to—earth.blogspot.com/2011/10/homemaking-power-career.html).

          I hope I don't come off as harsh, I just really felt for you when I read this. It sounded like you have to work twice as hard as he. If roles were reversed (you stay at home mom, he at work), would he do all the housework and take over from you when he got home from work? If no, then something unfair is going.

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          • My husband and I split the housework evenly, but "after hours". That is, he doesn't do housework while I'm at work, we tend to do it together after the toddler is asleep. It is even and fair and equitable, but it doesn't make his days of taking care of the toddler more hectic than they need to be.

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          • We tend to do what Holly does. Most of the stuff gets done after hours. Since my husband is better at time management than I he knows when to say "let's relax tonight." I get home and thing "OMG I have to do everything now, but I CAN'T!" So it's a matter of finding balance and just knowing that the important things are getting done, and everything else will get done eventually.

    • Maybe he will be convinced to do a chore chart with a few different reasons:

      So that the family doesn't end up scrubbing the toilet twice a day for a week but never sweeping.

      So that the kids see what goes on with keeping a house in order, and as they get older you can start assigning things to them.

      So that you can schedule things aside from the daily "tidying up" and not forget to do them.

      And yes, I would include: so that you both can see and appreciate how much the other is contributing to house cleaning when you're not there to see it*.

      * For example: I am much better as tidying up than my partner. He is much better at large, sweeping cleaning that takes more energy that I am often lacking. I am much better at minute detail cleaning. What this means is that I tidy up the living room daily to hang up the coats, put the personal belongings in people's rooms, put the dishes in the kitchen; he vacuums, occasionally thins out the large stack of coats on the coat rack, takes piles of things upstairs to be put away or out to the car if necessary; and then I care care of things like scrubbing the floorboards when they need it, dusting, etc.

      But if he didn't KNOW that I pick up after everyone every day or so, he might not realize that I spent about 5 hours this week doing so. He might just think that everyone picked up after themselves, or that there had not been a mess to begin with. If I weren't neurotic about the cat litter being tracked through the house and not sitting on furry furniture, I might not notice that he vacuums every other day or so when I'm at an appointment or out and about (or napping), without me ever asking. But all those efforts deserved to be noticed and appreciated.

  13. My husband is a stay-at-home dad for our two year old, and will soon be caring for our baby-on-the-way as well. It is a lovely arrangement for us, though breastfeeding did make the first year difficult on me.

    For a while we talked about him going back to work when both kids are in elementary school, but now that I am beginning to grasp how much time and effort can be devoted to being a good parent participant in a school, we'll probably just keep him out of the workforce and devoted to parenting full time for the foreseeable future.

    We are lucky that I am in a highly-paid career and he loves staying home and devoting himself to being a parent.

  14. My dad started a daycare service in our home so that he could stay home with us and be home when we got off the bus when we hit school age. My mom worked full-time at a university (and still does!). This was the arrangement until they divorced a bit later my dad moved, moved back and switched to a new job. Worked for us!

  15. My husband is a PhD student and I work shifts (luckily days) so we chose for him to stay at home before we decided on having children. His advisor agreed to it and it has been working ok so far (our daughter is 3 months, almost 4). I think he likes it a lot but finds it hard to be at home with such a small baby that doesn't do "much". He reads to her and talks to her and goes on walks when he can but I think he misses interacting with adults. There aren't any daddy groups in our area and the mommy groups are pure drama so we don't want to get involved with them. I, too, get annoyed when the other household chores aren't done, especially because I have no time to do anything when I come home since I am away from the home upwards of 17 hours a day for three days in a row. We talked about this and has done an amazing job trying to do what he can and I try not to get upset since I know it is tough to take care of an infant, let alone while pursing a PhD. I still breastfeed and pump like crazy at work (which is a whole 'nother story that is insane). I think he is adjusting well to being at home with her while pursing his degree at a university that is an hour away from our home. I'm jealous I can't be at home with our daughter, but I know that she is being taken care of with love.

  16. I've been a stay-at-home dad for the last four months since our first daughter was born. We have a fairly unconventional set up, where my wife was doing her dissertation research in India, which is where our daughter was born. Following the birth, I stayed at home with our bunny while she finished her research. Now, we're about to move to Brazil where the roles will switch while I do my research. We'll likely continue trading off as time goes on. I personally love it. I hang around the house, play fiddle and banjo for our daughter, who seems to enjoy it, and sew her clothes. Fun times at the homestead.

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  17. My dad was a single dad, so he was everything. He worked, he stayed at home, and did everything he could to support me in the best way he knew how. Most of that involved gigs on weekends, when I was old enough, since he was a drummer and couldn't deny his commitment to the skins. But it also meant taking a job that sucked his creative soul dry, in the early years, so he could be with me during the day when I was little. At the time, it was the most normal thing in the world. I'd wake up and go to sleep with my Dad around, and we'd spend all day together. Now I realise how little sleep the poor guy must've gotten, just to be with me, since in the 8-ish hours I'd be asleep, he'd be at work.

    Luckily, by the time I hit school, his employers had worked out that a guy with an IQ of 165 shouldn't be a Forklift jockey forever, and he got a promotion that meant he could work school hours and then be with me the rest of the time. But even if that didn't happen, he would have figured out a different way.

    It's actually weird for me, knowing I'm going to be raising my daughter with a partner, that we'll be the same sex and when she turns 12, I won't have to consult 7 text books to explain what periods are or talk about sex (yes, this really happened… My dad wrote an essay – WITH REFERENCES – to explain periods to me <3).

    3 agree
  18. I have been a stay at home dad for over 5 years. It has definitely been a challenge and is in no way as easy as some people try to make it!
    I was a police officer for the 13 years prior and that was much easier!
    I never planned to be in this situation but my wife's job was such that there was no way I would be able to find a job that paid as much.
    I have experienced the double standard and criticism that both men and women have dealt out–saying I should make the money, calling me a wimp, etc…..
    I have menu memories with my daughter that I will treasure forever. I do believe that men can be just as good at parenting as women.
    I documented my experiences on my blog at memoirsofastayathomedad.com.

    • I wonder if my husband will hear things like "When are you going back to work?" I hope we don't have to deal with much criticism in the future.

      My husband has a lot of guy freinds who have little kids around the same age as our son, and they often are off during the weekdays. He hasn't really run into any awkward parent group, or play date situations yet. He just hangs out with his buddies. Lucky! We'll see how that goes in the next few years.

      I just want to say 3 more things!
      1)Your daughter is so cute!
      2)Thank you for time as a police officer
      3)Love the name Yoda for a cat, and I'm sorry for your loss. :(

  19. My husband stays at home with our 2-year-old, as he was laid off from his job just before I got pregnant, and if he did get more employment, it would be just to pay for child care. Right now he really struggles with it, mainly because he didn't choose this job. He tries very hard to do home improvement work while my son naps, and always is cooking dinner when I get home. He also tries to do some freelance work when he can, but it's very difficult for him to work when our son is running around. He has also seen his fair amount of stigma, and is rather uncomfortable going to play dates, story time, etc, which are dominated by stay at home mothers. However, my son has a relationship with him that I don't think I ever had with my father, and it's wonderful to see them interact.

  20. My dad was a work at home dad when my sister and I were growing up. He is a minister and we lived in the parsonage.

    I channelled my father when asked if I was going to stay at home with my daughter- I explained my benefits and retirement was much better than my husband's and he was welcome to stay at home.

  21. My dad was a stay-at-home dad when I was a toddler. We had just moved to a new state and my mom found a job right away but it took him a bit longer. I loved having him there – we went on outdoor adventures, watched lots of Star Trek and ate some of the strangest things for lunch (I distinctly remember alot of peanut butter covered bananas.) I really think it helped foster an exceptionally close relationship between the two of us. He died unexpectedly 3 years ago and I'm so thankful for that time.

  22. When I was born my mom quit her job to be a stay at home mom, when money got tight she started her own business. So my mom was always at home and my dad went out and made the mulah. When I was in Jr. High though my dad quit his job and started working for my mom at home. It was awesome to have both of my parents at home. They would travel for weeks at a time, when I would go bond with my grandparents until I got old enough to stay home by myself. But having my dad at home was probably one of the best thing that I could have had. While my mom was working, my dad and I would go outside and he would teach me mechanics, and how to shoot bows and arrows and guns. And things that he would typically do with a son (he had 3 girls), when he worked out of the house though he was usually too tired to do that.

  23. My husband is a stay at home dad. His dad was home with him and his brother for a part of their childhood as well. One thing I wish would change is the need for people to know why. My friend is a stay at home mom and no one asks her why she chose to do that. We wanted a parent to stay home with our daughter, I love my job, so dad stays home, the end. Turns out he's better at it than I would be. :)

  24. We're still trying to get preggo, but I'll be going back to work, and my fiance will be a stay-at-home dad. I have benefits with work, and he's terribly excited to stay home and raise a little one, so it works out beautifully for us. On the plus side, I do have a flexible enough job that if he needs to be gone during the day (he's starting school to be a radiology tech, but most of his classes are either online or outside my work hours), then I can keep the baby at work. Once he's graduated and working, I'll be the one staying home.

  25. My dad was a stay at home dad for me and my 6 foster siblings ranging from 18 months to 10 years old. I still don't know how he did it, but he was amazing. The house was clean, laundry done, and the kids entertained. He even made dinner all the time.
    I've always been super close to my dad, and I hope with our little boy on the way, he'll be as close to my husband. My hubby's a military man, so I get to be a stay at home mom. I hope I'm half as good as my dad hahah

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