I’ve been an off and on stay-at home-dad for 10 years now. My wife owns her own consulting business with much of her work being done online at home and she likes having me around. I only work outside the home when I have to which has been rare these days with the jobs market not looking very rosy even in relatively mild recession-proof Missouri.
According to a report by the Census Bureau in an article in the Washington Post, there are approximately 165,000 stay-at-home dads in the United States as of 2009. I count myself to one of the fortunate few who either work at home or have home as work.
Staying home with the kids while my wife had a career outside the home was an easy decision for everyone. I have been very much involved with my kids from the beginning and I certainly can relate to them on their level. Here are some tips and tricks that I’ve learned in my time at home as Mr. Mom.
When my wife is out on business trips for some of her consulting work it is just me and the kids. We enjoy some of the freedoms that my wife may not otherwise allow such as accumulating some dirty laundry, we eat out a little more, but in general the ground rules are still there for the family and everyone knows them.
Still, my kids know that when Mom’s away the mice will play. I tend to ease the rules just a bit like giving them an extra half hour of down time before bed or let them stay up a little later. My kids are both over the age of ten so they really don’t need as much watching as they used to.
When my kids were younger there was always some negotiating of principles amongst my kids regarding privileges, discipline, activities, and school work. If my kids wanted something extra they knew they had to show us why. The same was true of wanting Dad to stay at home instead of Mom.
My wife calls me “the fun parent” and so my kids, bless their hearts, when they wanted me to stay home would always ramp up the chores and the homework. I would also do extra things around the house such as cook, clean, and laundry when I had time off of work. When my wife was satisfied then she felt confident that our careers could change course.
The key to happy kids is to keep their routines going. If they say “Mommy always brushes my hair” then it’s time to learn how to brush hair (this was back when my daughter was younger). Same thing with telling bedtime stories that mommy tells. I need to say things exactly as she did (again, when my kids were younger).
Now the things that keep my kids happy are video games, hanging with friends, and chatting on the phone. Granting them privileges and relaxing the rules are necessary but not really evil. I know how they feel because I miss my wife too when she goes out of town.