When mom goes back to work and dad stays home with the baby, pitfalls can arise. Here’s how to surmount them.
“Perhaps the woman can focus on the fact that her career is expanding and she is earning enough to take care of the family,” Smith says. “The man is gaining the opportunity to bond with his child and grow as a person. Especially if he knows he’ll only be staying home temporarily, he should try to enjoy the time he has.”
Expressing gratitude to each other can go a long way, says Smith, who offers good advice for all couples—regardless of who stays home. “Say the following aloud to each other as often as possible: ‘Thank you for working so hard to support this family financially’ and ‘Thank you for taking such good care of the baby.’ ”
Pitfall: different parenting styles
Solution: You both need to communicate and compromise
Many dads do not care if the kids’ clothes match, their hair is combed or they eat organic at every meal. Generally speaking, women and men have different parenting styles, which can lead to conflict. Coleman and Smith say research shows that working mothers usually expect the house to be cleaned before they come home, for instance, but most SAHDs don’t spend their day doing that.
“Many men stay out of the house for the most part, all day if they can,” Smith says. “They strap the kid on and head to the park or into town. Women, on the other hand, typically stay home more with the kids, then go on one outing.” So what can you do about it? Communicate clearly and respectfully what you want and be prepared to compromise. Perhaps it’s not crucial that he get the baby out of her PJs to go to the park, but having dinner ready may be high on the list.
Pitfall: micromanaging the dad
Solution: Mom needs to let go
Yes, you are the biological mother. Do not, however, repeatedly call the house and tell your partner how to do his job. Barbera recalls asking a friend’s wife, “How would you feel if your colleague kept popping his head into your office to say, ‘Don’t forget to put this in your presentation. And don’t forget to call back yesterday’s interviewee.’ ” Barbera added: “She was micro-managing her husband at home and needed to respect the job he was doing and let go.”
Pitfall: clueless comments
Solution: He needs to turn the other cheek
“So is this your day off?” “Babysitting?” “Man, I wish I could stop working and just hang out with the kids.” All stay-at-home dads encounter these kinds of comments by (usually) well-meaning people. He needs to brush them off. The mindset held mainly by an older generation is, thankfully, fading away.
No man is an island
Helpful resources for stay-at-home dads (SAHDs):
The Stay-at-Home Dad Handbook by Peter Baylies and Jessica Toonkel (Chicago Review Press) Offers practical advice by addressing everyday issues, as well as emotional topics, such as the wife’s breadwinner status.
Athomedad.org Articles on a variety of parenting topics, as well as a search engine to help find other SAHD groups near you.
Dadlabs.com SAHD parenting articles and links to message boards, blogs and resources.
Greatdad.com E-mail newsletters offering age-specific advice from a dad’s viewpoint.
Thechestpains.blogspot.com Comic relief for stay-at-home dads.
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