Survival Tips for Stay At Home Dads (SAHDs)
Stay at home dads may notice to their surspise that this new job is really tough - and rewarding. Learn from an experienced SAHD.
Some time ago ago I embarked on one of the most nerve-racking journeys of my life: my first day as a stay-at-home dad (SAHD) for my daughter Tessa.
I wouldn't change any of it, but I wish I had a guidebook to take on the journey when I started. If I knew then what I know now, things honestly probably wouldn't be too much different, except I might not have that deer in the headlights look about me most of the time. Of course, that could be the sleep deprivation, but who's counting hours of sleep.
5 Stay At Home Dads Survival Tips
Remember that your baby is your number one priority
My wife and I knew several months before Tessa's birth that I would be staying-at-home with the baby. But being a SAHD wasn't going to be my only job. I have my own consulting business and worked from home even before Tessa's birth.
But as a stay-at-home dad, I knew my priorities would have to change. I had to learn to ignore the cell phone and the e-mail. I had to switch gears from being only a workingman to being a family man.
Putting Tessa first above everything else made our transition together much smoother. Tessa learned early that when she fussed or cried, I was there for her instead of trying to soothe her while sitting in front of a computer screen. Ultimately, by making Tessa my top priority, our bond has become strong and our time together has been very positive, and that has made me more confident as a father and SAHD.
Find a way for you and the baby to get out of the house
Take it from me, although my time with Tessa has been wonderful, our days together are long and can sometimes get boring. Before Tessa came along, I always thought babies slept about 20 hours a day. I was completely misinformed.
Tessa, who is apparently very similar to how I was as a baby, doesn't really nap. She knows when its nighttime and then she sleeps. When its daytime though, it's her time to explore her new world. On a good day, Tessa might nap one or two hours. An average day though is a 10 minute nap here, maybe 15 minutes there for two or three times at the most. I'm not joking.
This lack of napping makes for a long day. To help break up the day, Tessa and I took lots of little trips out. We went to the coffee shop and would sit and have a bottle. Walks were popular little trips as well. Whatever it is you enjoy doing, just bring along your baby. It gets her out into the world and interacting with people and gives you a break from the monotony of sitting at home.
Find a way to connect and talk with other dads
This one is really important and might not be thought about by many new stay at home dads. Becoming a dad is a huge adjustment, let alone becoming a SAHD. Like I mentioned earlier, in the beginning I was a nervous wreck. I had so many doubts about myself, I felt like I was an awkward teenager all over again.
Fortunately, my best friend was a young dad as well. He also had a daughter. Although I didn't have the time now like I did before to hang out, I made time at least once a week to go visit my friend or go grab a bite to eat or beer with him. We spent many of those outings just talking about what it was like to be a dad. The more I was able to bounce things off my friend, the more confident I felt in myself as a dad. My gaining confidence resulted in helping Tessa and I get into a good routine and things settled down nicely from there.
Make Mommy happy - clean up and pitch in around the house
I'm going to be honest here. This wasn't my strong suit before the baby. I continued that trend even after Tessa's birth. But I started to see my wife acting as if she wasn't too happy with me. I, of course, acted indignant about it but when I finally clued in that I needed to get out of the "I stay home with the baby, so I don't have to do anything else" mindset, I started seeing some of the little fights and arguments my partner and I were having disappear.
The tension in the house went away and we all started to enjoy our time together more. Bottom line: Staying at home with your children doesn't give you a free pass. If you're kids are a little older, get them involved in cleaning up and pitching in around the house.
Treasure this time with your child
Being a stay at home dad is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. At the same time, I love every minute of it. I feel so lucky to be able to spend so much time with Tessa. Sometimes when I'm home with her and I'm watching her smile at me, I can't help but forget about all the difficulties and stresses in life. I forget about those e-mails I have to answer and those projects I have to finish up. Instead, I sit and just enjoy the moment with her. Tessa has one of those smiles that lights up everyone around her and my advice to any SAHD is to enjoy each and every one of those moments while you can.
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