By stay-at-home dads Lance Somerfeld and Matt Schneider
A few years ago, we chose the role of being at-home dads and knew that we were headed into the most amazing and challenging years of our lives. We were amateur dads then, and even as veteran fathers now, we are far from experts. Fortunately, we are surrounded by a large community of at-home dads, working dads and dads of all stripes in our NYC Dads Group so we have a network to draw upon for some tips and best practices. Here are our top 10 tips geared for stay-at-home dads. That said, we sincerely believe these tips to be a valuable asset to any parent choosing to be the primary caregiver to his or her child.
- Clear communication with your wife/partner on responsibilities
It is imperative to discuss expectations and responsibilities early and often regarding all aspects of parenting. Discuss expectations about cooking and home care, contributions to parenting at night and on weekends, managing relatives, etc. Setting clear expectations up front will reduce conflict and resentment.
- Find time for yourself
Now that you are an at-home parent, parenting does not have to consume your entire life. It is extremely important to carve out personal "me" time for yourself to still get together with your friends, hit the gym or pursue a hobby.
- Take your job seriously
As with any other job, you should navigate parenthood with the goal to be the best dad you can be, the same way you strive to succeed at any job.
- Consider the future
Being an at-home dad may not be your job forever so it is important to continue networking within your field or area of expertise, staying sharp and keeping up on current events.
- Connect with other parents
You are not alone in this journey of parenthood although it may feel isolating at times. In fact, isolation is one of the chief complaints of stay-at-home parents. It's so important to socialize, network and share your tips and frustrations with other dads. Join a dads group (there are so many of them now) or a local parenting group.
- Establish a routine
Having your child(ren) on a consistent schedule (eating, napping, bedtime routine) is important for them so they know what to expect every day and for you so you can confidently plan your day.
- Get out of the house
It's easy to feel overwhelmed at home with housework or parenting responsibilities. Getting fresh air is so important for you and your child. Make sure you get out once or twice a day (even during winter) to take a walk with the stroller through a park, run a few errands, enroll in a parent and child class or to hit the local library or bookstore.
- Seek advice or help
Let's face it: dads don't like to ask for directions or read the manual. We recommend approaching parenting a little differently—you can't do it all by yourself. Ask for help when you need it whether it's hiring a cleaning person to help with housework or calling another parent with a challenge regarding child discipline, potty training or sleep wakings.
- Embrace the experience
Sometimes it may be hard to realize, but caring for your child during the first few years of his or her life is a wonderful opportunity. You not only get to observe and witness the major milestones, but, you get to share and enjoy the small wondrous moments that happen every day!
- Shattering stereotypes and informing society
At-home dads oftentimes get a bad rap based on negative perceptions in media and society at large. It's your duty to inform others, as well as demonstrate through parenting, that fathers can be nurturing, competent and caring.
There you have it. It's not groundbreaking, but you could consider these tips as you embark on your role as an at-home dad/parent or if you are considering taking on the role.
Lance Somerfeld and Matt Schneider are at-home dads who live in New York City. They are co-organizers of the NYC Dads Group, a diverse community of fathers who take active role in their children's lives. You can learn more about NYC Dads Group at www.nycdadsgroup.com.