“Stay-at-Home Dad” – Making it work

We have some friends who are contemplating the husband/father quitting work to be a stay-at-home dad and care for the kids.  My husband and I have had this arrangement since 2008 and it has been wonderful for our family.  Our children are happier, our marriage is stronger and we enjoy each other much more than we could when we were a two income family with loads of stress and no free time.

IronmanBut this arrangement isn’t for everyone and if the benefits don’t outweigh the costs (loss of a second income is a big deal!) then it can cause far greater problems.  Why does our situation work so well for us?  We think it boils down to four key points.

1. His job is to support me – those are his words, not mine.  If that means cancelling a poker game because I have to go out of town – no problem.  If I have to miss family dinner because an out of town exec wants an evening meeting – no problem.  If he has two sick, grumpy kids crying for their mom, he handles it.  The complete ownership on his part creates a guilt-free environment for me so I can focus on maximizing my opportunities and, hopefully, our income.

2. I don’t undermine him.  It is common knowledge that I am the more lenient parent.  You want a Dr. Pepper with lunch? Ask me.  You want to wear pajamas to the grocery store?  I’m your girl.  But I try to be very careful to never undermine a Dad Decision.  If he already said no Dr. Pepper with lunch, then I will back him up.  And our girls know that I will check. If they ask for something and I say ‘what did Dad say?’ they will come clean.  Our kids need to see us as a united parental front so they will continue to respect both of us.

3. He is on salary.  We landed on a figure early and I pay him on the first of every month.  At first, the amount we settled on seemed like way too much to me.  After all, how much does a gallon of milk cost?  This is the one topic where many “stay-at-home” arrangements fall apart.  He needs to feel valued and he needs to have the freedom to make day-to-day financial decisions.   I don’t nickel and dime him and he doesn’t have to ask for money on a frequent basis.  It works really well – that is until one of our neighbors asked if he got a ‘cost of living’ increase. Argh!

4. I support him too.  With our girls in school 7 hours a day, my husband needed a productive hobby and he chose triathlons.  Far better than gambling and women, I think! When he decided that he wanted to do an Ironman, our family backed him up 100%.  He had a great experience in his first event, which was the topic of a previous blog, and we were all there to cheer him on.  Now his identity extends beyond being a stay-at-home Dad.  He is an Ironman and we couldn’t be more proud.

If you are a woman hoping to Lean In, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, and you and your husband want to make this arrangement work, I hope our experiences are helpful.  We know that our situation is ideal for our family because, as we often say, we both feel like we won the lottery.

 

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