I’ve been pondering this question a lot recently. Partly because I’ve been laid up at home with a crocked Achilles. Partly because I’m a freelance journalist, and the word and day rates for freelance journalists are going down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down (this sentence goes out to fans of Paul Johnson’s seminal 1999 track Get Get Down). And partly because, despite his heinous bowel movements and ridiculously early starts, I like my kid and want to spend as much time as I can hanging out with him.
I want doesn’t always get, however, and when push came to shove your money where your mouth is and hang up your laptop, my wife and I decided that me becoming a stay at home dad (SAHD) is not currently in our family’s best interests. And we decided this because we weren’t able to tick enough of the following boxes.
The ‘Do You Have A Kid?’ Box
An obvious, but kind of crucial place to start. If you can’t tick this box, then I’m not really sure a) how you’ve stumbled across my website, b) why you’ve got this far into an article and c) how you expect to sneak the whole SAHD thing past your partner.
The ‘Does Your Partner Earn Enough To Support The Family And Pay The Mortgage In The Short Term?’ Box
Again, a vital entry. Unless, of course, you think it would be a hoot to test your parenting skills by adding divorce, homelessness and bankruptcy into the child rearing mix. You do? Great, then please send me an email so we can ‘connect’ (read: so I can swiftly shop you to social services).
The ‘Does Quitting Your Job Actually Benefit The Family’s Finances?’ Box
At some point in the first few months of baby’s existence, every not-completely-rolling-in-it couple sits downs and runs the numbers. And by this I mean, works out whether the lower earner’s take home pay covers the quite frankly staggering cost of childcare. If it does, then swapping work for full-time parenting remains a lifestyle choice (note: this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It just means that you can’t sell the idea to your partner on the premise that it’ll “save you money”). If it doesn’t and you’re the lower earner, then putting your career on hold just went from being a luxurious possibility to being financially savvy. Oooh, how exciting.
The ‘Are You Strong Enough To Not Go Stir Crazy?” Box
Newsflash: post-natal depression isn’t just for women. The latest studies show that one in ten dads experience paternal postnatal depression. And while there is no evidence that SAHDs are more likely to live this mental health issue, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that experiencing a reduction in adult interaction, the loss of your independent earnings, an endless stream of drool and perennial tiredness is a tougher mental task than continuing to catch the 8.43 into work. So, so… does this mean you’ll definitely suffer lower moods? Of course it doesn’t. It just means that if you’re the type of person who thrives in a crowd, likes a lunch hour and loves ‘office banter’, then you should probably think twice before telling your boss where to shove his or her job.
The ‘Are You And Your Partner Strong Enough To Cope With People’s Reactions When You Tell Them What You’re Planning To Do?’ Box
And by people, I really mean your dad and the in-laws. In terms of the former, men didn’t do things like this in his day, you know. And in terms of the latter, you’d better a) have really thought this through, b) have some savings and c) not to be taking their child and grandchild for a ride.
The ‘Is Your Career Something You Could Return To In Five To Seven Years?’ Box
Picture the scene. It’s 2024 and, after seven years of SAHD madness and mischief your little ones have reached school age. You get them into their uniforms, race them to the school gates and then… head home for a seven-hour Call of Duty session. Yeah, right. Only if the men inherit the earth, mate. In reality, both you and your partner will be ‘actively looking to get you off the sofa and back into work’. And while some lucky lads will use this as an opportunity to open the restaurant they’ve always dreamed of owning, most of us will stick with what we know and attempt to get back into our former line of work. In some professions, this will be easy enough. In others, it’ll be nigh on impossible. Reckon returning to your former life will be a breeze? Whoop whoop, you’re one tick closer to a life of poop poop. Worried that you’d be back to square one? Waa waa, you’re one cross closer to remaining a working dada.
The ‘Does Your Partner Earn Enough To Support The Family And Pay The Mortgage In The Long Term?’ Box
I appreciate it’s difficult to think past your next rendition of Baa Baa Black Sheep when you’re suffering from the kind of sleep deprivation that makes Navy SEALs ring the bell, but kids aren’t just for Christmas, so when it comes to decisions like this you need to consider life five, 10, 15 and possibly even 20 years down the line. Oh, and just to be crystal clear, I’m not instructing you to engage in, ‘I wonder if there will be flying cars, invisible food and virtual clothes in 2037?’ ponderings. I’m instructing you to participate in ‘are we looking to have more kids, do we want to move house one or possibly two more times and do we want to send our kid or kids to a fee paying school?’ planning. Done this and come up with the amount your partner needs to earn over the next two decades in order to make your full time daddy fantasy a reality? Good stuff. If you’re unfazed, then, congratulations, the SAHD dream is still alive. If you’re having a hot flush, grabbing at your chest and rocking back and forward saying “how much?”, then, commiserations, it probably isn’t.
The ‘Do You Actually Know What You Are Letting Yourself In For?’ Box
You know how Vietnam veterans say, “You won’t understand unless you were there?” The same goes for stay at home parenting. So do yourself a favour. Before handing in your notice, take a week’s holiday and spend it feeding, cleaning and entertaining your child. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Seven days in the eye of the storm is the toughest job interview you’ll ever have, and one that will break at least 75% of applicants. So if you can make it through with a smile on your face, you know you are ready for the world’s most rewarding occupation. And if that’s the case, and you’ve ticked all my other boxes, then all that remains to be said is: welcome to your new life. Welcome to the SAHD club.