Tips for Stay-at-Home Dads
Being a stay-at-home parent - mom or dad - can be a tough job. Tougher than most people give credit for. It's not easy chasing after, entertaining, bathing, feeding, dressing, disciplining and nurturing a child day after day, and dads may face more isolation than their stay-at-home-mom counterparts. Many full-time dads report that they are eyed with suspicion while at the playground or feel ostracized from playgroups. Others say they are reluctant to strike up friendships with other moms for fear their wives won't approve or become suspicious of the new friendship.
But the benefits of staying at home with your kids can be long-lasting and numerous, so here are some tips for making your time spent caring for your child happy and fulfilling:
Keep Your Priorities Straight
You are there to raise and care for your child and he or she is your first priority. It can be tempting to let the TV or video games "babysit" your child while you get things done around the house, work, or surf the 'net, but your child will pay the price and you will lose out on all the memories and bonding you stand to gain by staying at home.
Find Adult Interaction
Isolation and loneliness are two of the most common complaints from stay-at-home dads (and moms). Many miss the intellectual stimulation of the office and the camaraderie of their friends. For your own sanity and happiness, find adult interaction every day. Call up a friend while your child is napping or playing at the playground, set a playdate with a friend and his or her child, or join a local playgroup.
Set Realistic Expectations
Slow down and let the day progress on its natural schedule. Don't set unrealistic goals for yourself, such as getting a bunch of work done or cleaning the entire house, and don't stress out if you don't make the 2 p.m. storytime at the library. Kids can get distracted very easily - given the opportunity, a child can take an hour to walk from the front door to the driveway, stopping to explore every nook, cranny and spider web in between. Learn to appreciate the wonder and amazement of childhood and try to see the bigger picture. You may have planned to run a bunch of errands, but in reality, the errands can probably wait until Mom gets home or until tomorrow. Setting a strict schedule can lead to meltdowns and frustration. There are, of course, times when you need to pull rank, but on a day-to-day basis, keep your expectations low and flexible.
Kids love stimulation and so do dads! Make a point to get out of the house every day if possible. Depending on the age of your child, take a fieldtrip to a kid's museum or activity center, set a playdate, or go to the park or playground. A little fresh air and physical activity will make the day go by more quickly and help break up the routine. In case of bad weather, choose indoor activities, such as a trip to the library for storytime.
Establish a Routine
Kids crave structure and can become overwhelmed when their day is too chaotic and unexpected, especially if they are stressed by other events, such as teething, potty training, starting school or moving to a new house. Creating a pattern of events during the day will help your child anticipate playtime, nap time, meal time, etc. and help them transition from one activity to another.
Staying at home with your children can be both fulfilling and frustrating, gratifying and lonely, so having a game plan for your day-to-day activities and how you're going to work through challenges will keep you and your kids happy.