I must admit our bi-cultural relationship, married life, and now settled family was never a proper Indian fairytale. We broke long-lasting generation to generation arrange marriage tradition in the family, we went through lots of talks behind our backs, “a good piece of advice” from relatives, bad words towards us that this cannot last long and after some time we would walk away in our only known to our directions. I cannot disagree more! We are doing well, and all these made us only stronger and reassured that it was all worth it. Building up everything from scratch, learning how to manage on our own, exploring life along with expat parenthood and actually – how not to be dependent on anyone was a great experience and lesson of modesty what really matters in life. Also during our temporary “traditional” role exchange, the wife being a breadwinner and husband – stay at home dad.
Back to giving a little more dose of shift of paradigm in truly traditional south Indian community, we decided to switch roles in our family, meaning me-wife who is going to pursue professional career path and be the breadwinner in the family and my husband staying at home with kids and meantime pursuing his passion towards farming. Yet we did not have much idea how to announce this to my parents in law so they can digest it in the easiest possible way. So, when this happened, you might only guess their surprised face expressions… not much convinced if they heard us right. Yes, it is something very unusual in Indian culture, in deep-rooted patriarchal tradition to find a stay-at-home-dad and trust me, to care for the kids full-time isn’t a move to be taken lightly and there is lots of preparation to do.
Staying at home isn’t about having freedom throughout the day as many bachelors-or young fathers may imagine. It is a huge physical and emotional commitment. No, you do not wake up when you want or go to sleep when you want. You do not eat at regular times, you may even not have chance to get adult conversation for a long time. Kids dictate the daily routine. IT IS the hardest job one can ever have, any parent – either it is a woman or man – up with kids early in the morning (yes, it can be 5 am, yes, it can be 5.30 am on Sunday as well!), taking care of them, stopping fights, trying to stay happy, fulfilled and sane at the same time. But being a stay-at-home dad has been at the same time the greatest thing you could ever experience. So, brave Dad, are you ready to give a try? Are you ready for a job transition?
BEFORE YOU MAKE THE DECISION – ASK YOURSELF 3 QUESTIONS
DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH SUPPORT FROM YOUR FAMILY?
By default, I assume that the decision of staying-at-home-dad is a mutually agreed one. Ideally, it should be a conscious choice as becoming a stay-at-home-dad is impacting everyone in the family. Is your spouse ready to help process the idea? How do you both feel about your spouse becoming the breadwinner? Are you and your wife okay with this job transition?
If you know the deal would work perfectly in your closest family, go for it. If you see any risk of relatives making you emotionally weak and tired – do not even mention it. A woman getting into the men’s world is nowadays feasible and already accepted by the community, but getting a man into a woman’s world is truly emotionally exhausting.
CAN YOU AFFORD IT?
A few words about cold maths calculation and “grass is greener” mentality. My husband became a SAHD because it was holistically the best option for the family at that given point in time. Including financial aspects. Indeed, there can be many advantages of not working. Having a job costs a lot when you start spending on childcare (meaning spending most of your spouse’s salary to pay others to care for kids), transportation costs, formal dresses or even such simple things as snacks in the office. From now on, the entire time to look after kids at home would be about one income spend reasonably, it will be important to adjust to living on one income. This could be the first time the family has had to deal with that so make sure you have some savings before making a SAHD decision.
Nowadays, women started getting paid more than men, with wider perspectives of professional progress are far from archaic scripts and more men are becoming stressed with their jobs and finding their work unfulfilling. So that happened in our case. From our perspective, we would advise any man considering dropping out of the rat race for a while to care for his child. There is too much emphasis put on money, business designations, promotions, career talks but it’s not worth missing out on the experience.
ARE YOU (YOU AND YOUR PARTNER/SPOUSE) MENTALLY PREPARED?
First and foremost – let’s clarify one thing: staying at home with kids is NOT any babysitting. You never ever babysit your own kids! It’s parenting! Raising your children is the most demanding and valuable experience you may ever have. Hence, these kids will represent you many years later, you will see yourself in them, they will teach you kindest and most sincere feelings on earth and test you in different ways. It is a full time, 24/7 important activity. It is not to be paid, feed, take out and put to sleep ‘babysitting’ job. Parenting requires no bravery.
It is important to have a slight idea and a good mindset on what you are going to meet every day. And even with that let’s say initial preparation, you will still need to adjust to many unexpected situations making a real domestic engineer out of you. A stay-at-home dad will have to deal with stereotypes, many of which are negative as they simply don’t have the respect that mothers do – whether they stay at home or return to work. Having prepared yourself with little knowledge about potential challenges, and being open to deal with them, is key to get smoothly in the role.
Staying strong also covers your spouse as she will be the first to shout at, to pass frustrations, to blame for a bad day. She also needs to slow down and put work stress apart, empathize little more as from one, two, three misunderstandings the relation and communication in marriage would start slowly worsening. That is why it is so important, both a working mom and a stay-at-home-dad should mutually determine if they are up to the challenge, which can be easier said than done.
WHEN IFS ARISE
Staying-at-home-dad is not a fairy-tale. I wish someone told us earlier that the inevitable feeling of burnout and isolation and lack of meaningful work would knock to our doors. If you think you are beyond this… do not count on this. That might be just a matter of time when comments from well-wishers would be thrown to SAHD such as, “Just get a job”, “Are you babysitting today?”, “When are you going to get some real work?”. Society has not yet evolved to grasp the concept and you might get some comments for being lazy by not working. People will see you as a kind of alien.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, you are someone only if you have a career and the self-respect that it brings. And unfortunately, stay-at-home dads do not receive the same treatment as stay-at-home mums. Both men and women view the choice of staying at home with disdain.
ONE SINGLE TIP TO MAKE TRANSITION GO SMOOTH
However, not in every relationship in which a woman stays active professionally and her partner deals with home and children the conflicts would arise. As long as there is communication in the relationship, the couple talk to each other and openly express their needs and expectations, everything is fine. When there is a remoteness and concentration more on household tasks than on each other, problems arise. Their essence is not the fact of changing roles in the family or other things that suddenly begin to interfere in our partner or relationship, but it is the lack of communication, lack of time for family members, not noticing the needs of a partner or partner, pursuit of financial or material dreams. In addition, there is a fear of talking about your problems and feelings. People are afraid that if they open, they will show weakness. So they prefer to say nothing than say something that hurts or worries them. In this way, they build a wall in a relationship that after some time may be impossible to crush.
HOW DID IT GO FOR US?
My husband stayed at home for 2 years. Was it long or short? Was it worth it or a waste of time? Definitely it was demanding but from time perspective I dare say we stood the test of time. I’m completely convinced we both broadened our horizons, I “took rest” from 24/7 staying at home time, I felt refreshed, met new people, gained confidence. For him – I hope so – he understood and noticed sitting at home with kids is pretty exhausting at times but also very rewarding. Those first moments of your kids stay with you forever and that’s the beauty of everyday routine life. Family life. Our life.
Have any more lessons learned? Share them below!
I would love to hear your comments on this! How is your relationship managing traditional (or less traditional) roles division? Do you have any more tips or a question that I haven’t answered? Thank you very much for reading this article. I am curious if you have/had any experience of yours? Any comments? – please share your experience. And if you liked the article – share it, click “Like it” and subscribe to my newsletter.
photos courtesy: picjumbo