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Being a Stay at Home Dad for the Sake of the Family

Updated on August 3, 2018
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I am a marriage and family therapist with a master's degree in marriage and family therapy.

Tradition says.....

Traditionally and historically, the husband has gone to work to provide financially for the family while the wife has stayed home with the children in order to provide a functioning, stable home and raise their children in a healthy environment. In the more recent decades, husbands and wives have worked outside the home and have either put off having children, having other family help with watching children, work out their work schedules so one parent can watch the children, or put the children in daycare. There are still some cases where the mother stays home with the children and/or works from home with the children, and the father still works.

In rare cases does the father stay home with the children and the mother solely works outside the home. There are several reasons for this:

• History and tradition as just discussed
• Mothers are by nature more nurturing than fathers are; this can be thanks to women’s nature and/or nurture growing up.
• Mothers are, on average, more patient with their children than fathers are.
• Hard truth: mothers have more of a connection and bond with their children than fathers. This is due to the Mother typically carrying their child in their bodies for 10 months, giving birth, and breast feeding also increases bond. These babies were part of their Mothers, and therefore have more of a bond with them than their wonderful Fathers.

Part of the reason for this article is because I personally am staying at home with our boys….temporarily! I’ll explain what brought us here:

My Stay at Home Father Story

  • I have worked in the mental health/rehabilitation/marriage and family field since 2010.
  • I graduated with my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. During that time, my wife and I had 2 beautiful boys that we are so very blessed with.
  • My wife is a Registered Nurse and has always dreamed of travel nursing. So, upon my graduation we decided it would be the perfect time to travel nurse, to give myself a mental health break from full time work, full time school, and being a father.
  • Our boys are young and not of school age yet, so it gave us more reason to travel. We put our house up for sale and traveled out to California where we are currently living.
  • I stay home with the boys and my wife works 3 days a week as a RN. On our days off we go see big sites and cities in California, it has been a dream.
  • So, we definitely still parent together, but I am technically a “stay at home Dad”, along with being a writer for Hub Pages, of course.

I have been reflecting during my sabbatical from work and school and thinking about personal goals, dignity, and purpose. In turn I have been thinking about our family goals and purpose. As an educated man, I want to go out and use my skills to help others, to restore relationships, increase quality of life, and help others overcome barriers as I have done in the past. As a husband and father, my roles are different in which I am looking out for the interests of my wife and boys, which are different from my personal goals.

So, becoming “just” a stay at home Dad has reminded me of some major key values in life:

If you are a father, would you be a stay at home dad? (Even temporarily)

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Life is Not About You

You are an individual, you are unique in yourself, thoughts, and feelings. Who you are matters, and what you want to do in your life is important.

With that being said, life is not about you.

Who you are as an individual matters and you are important, and so is everyone else. This truth especially hits when you are in a committed relationship, and even more so when you have a family.

It is important to have personal goals, both short and long term. It is arguably more important to have collective goals as a couple and family. With those goals, you as a father are thinking about the interests of your wife and children and the best part is that you get to be a part of these goals. This type of life does not eliminate your wants or desires, rather it is part of the family or couple goals. Here are some examples of what I mean:

Say you want to travel in your life. You may want to go to Japan but your wife wants to go to Greece. So, you two travel to Greece and maybe someday in the future you will make that trip to Japan. Your desire is met with travel, and so is your wife’s of wanting to go to Greece. There is compromise. Also, you may want to go to the movies. Your family wants to go with you and you end up seeing a more kid friendly movie instead of that action packed movie you wanted to see. You all get to go together and see a movie.

There is give and take, if you are humble as a father and do what others want, the favor can come back full circle and you will get to travel to the country you want, and see the movie you want, too.

When being a stay at home father, you realize life is not about you either. It is almost forced upon you. You find out that when you want to watch the show you want, play the game, read the book, or do whatever you want, they are greatly hindered or interrupted by the children you are home with. Your children bed for your attention with wanting you to play with them, watch what they want to watch and play the games that they want to play. This scenario is under the assumption that your children are home with you and not in daycare or school. The great part to this is that you get to enjoy being with your children in playing silly games, watch funny videos with them, and go to places that they would enjoy which in turn brings you joy as the wonderful father that you are.

Of course you should take time for yourself, have “adult” time and recharge your “mental sanity battery”. That is of the upmost importance. But when you are home with your children, the time is going to be about them. At the end of the day, you get to be a part of that precious time, and that is far more beneficial than anything you wanted to do on your own.

"Every Father Should Remember One Day His Son Will Follow His Example, Not His Advice."

Charles Kettering

Family is A Collective Unit

The family being a collective unit was touched upon in the last section. The family, your family, is one complete unit. The whole of that unit is greater than the sum of all of it’s parts. Meaning, just the individuals in the family are not complete until they are together as a “unit”. The family all together is more meaningful, more complete, and more effective verses when different persons in the family are on their own.

The family influences each other, what they do and say effect one another. These actions are the “unit” at work. This idea is directly correlated with being a father and stay at home parent. When your children don’t sleep, you don’t sleep. You are both awake and then tired the next day. The lack of sleep adds “crankiness” and being grumpy. The moods of the parents and children effect each other and creates the type of environment that is made when people do not have proper sleep. On the flip side of this, when all family members are happy, the happiness generally goes around to each other. When the family is on an outing together, it’s a nice day, you all have a great meal together and are feeling good, the smiles and happy feelings go around to each other to create a pleasant experience.

What the father says to their son or daughter effects them, what is said effects what they think, that thought turns into a feeling, and from that feeling a behavior emerges. The unit machine is working at this point. When a father encourages his son for doing a great job putting his puzzle together, the son thinks that he did a great job because that’s what daddy said, he feels happy and good about himself, and then resumes doing the puzzle again or does another one.

In turn, when the son is in a good mood because of positive reinforcement, listens and is obedient to his father, the father feels good about himself as an effective parent, and feels more connected to his son who is showing him respect by listening to his father.

The influences go around from family member to family member. The point of all this is bond and connection. To have a healthy unit, there needs to be cohesion, a strong healthy connection full of bond and love. This type of unit works stronger together than one that is “loosely knit” without connection or respect. Love and respect is required for a family unit to work strongly together, and relationships edify quality of life and longevity of life.

"My Father Gave Me The Greatest Gift Anyone Could Give Another Person, He Believed In Me."

Jim Valvano

It is Not Emasculating to be a Stay at Home Father

Because of the societal norm of the mother staying at home with the children, the father going out and working to provide financially for the family is an expected role. This role has been conditioned in our society that the father is the “bread winner” in that he needs to provide financially so the family can have a home to live in, food in the house, transportation, fun, etc. Yes, one of your roles has been an employee, but one of your major roles in your life is a father, too. Your kids depend on you, and especially today when more fathers are not present in their children’s lives. Fathers are important, valuable, and needed; and those virtues do not emasculate a father.

Being a stay at home father also means you are not spending “X” amount of dollars per week in child care. You are helping the family in this way economically and saving money; that is something to feel good and proud of. You can also do work from home, work at night or on the weekends if you really feel you need to make money. Just because you are a stay at home dad does not mean you need to feel less than men that do work. You are just as valuable and important as those fathers who do work.

I am not suggesting to be a stay at home father forever, and I am not saying that only being a stay at home father is bad to do. I want to give hope and optimism to fathers who are loving on and helping their children grow into wonderful people. Fathers, teach your sons how to be respectable gentlemen and love on your daughters and show them how a man should treat a woman well. That is surely not emasculating in the slightest.

Being A Father is Important

This point always stands out to me and I need to tell myself this often. Our kids NEED us as fathers. Being a father is important, it is needed. Fathers are just as important as mothers, we are a part of our children. Our DNA is in our children as well as the mother’s. Our children rely on us daily, and there are so many that are without their fathers. When our children have attitudes, temper tantrums, endless demands- they are relying on us to fulfill their needs. When I am carrying a bunch of things to the car and my 3 year old wants to hold my hand to the car, I am reminded how much he needs and wants me. I am reminded often that time goes by fast and “soon they will be teenagers and not want to be around you so much”.

Recently I was holding my son's hand in a mall and a father and his middle school aged son passed by us, the father quickly said: “that’s a great age when they actually want to be around you”. This told me 2 things: “time goes by quickly, cherish it” and “this father is sad that his son does not spend as much time with him as he once did”.

As fathers, we want to feel needed; and raising our children is one significant way in which we can do that. There are so many important lessons and virtues to teach and pass down: surface level lessons like to get dressed, brush your teeth, put your shoes on, potty training, and learning to swim.

There are deep values to teach also: such as being kind to others, learning to listen and understand others intently, sharing with others, and working hard towards what you want in life. Our children need us in their lives to fulfill their needs, and to learn to be a good person “when they grow up”.

Be a good father to your children and break the norm happening in this world. More fathers divorce or break up from the mothers of the children, some abandon their children, some would rather fulfill their own desires and don’t give time to their children. You are a part of your child, your child is a part of you, no matter where you are you are part of each other. Your child needs you, whether you are a working father or you stay home with them. Be in their lives.


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