Home or work?
The ups and downs of being a stay-at-home dad
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
When I first became a single dad of an energetic 2½-year-old boy, I knew it was not going to be a piece of cake. However, I didn’t think I would lose two jobs and get fired from another because of him. But I did.
I never intended to be a stay-at-home dad. However, being at home full time with my son, Denver, was something I soon learned to appreciate.
I’d given up on having a stranger care for my son while I was away at work. When he was with babysitters, it seemed that his behavior, which was already pretty tough, got even worse. I soon learned that just because other people have children of their own, that does not mean that they can take care of someone else’s child.
It’s more than money
I also learned that some of the people who called themselves caregivers actually may not like children. Therefore, in some of my meetings with them, I found some, not all, to be mostly about overcharging parents they thought were in desperate need of their childcare services.
For them, it was an easy job to make a few dollars, and some of those folks seemed to have forgotten that they should have taken a few parenting classes to understand small children and their needs.
I have had many job offers during my stay-at-home ordeal. I reluctantly turned them all down to care for my son. Even when I did work, I found I could not concentrate and focus on what they were paying me to do. My thoughts would always be on my son, his needs and what the caregivers were doing to him, or what they were not doing for him.
But the decision I made impacted my income, my stature in the community and my self-esteem. I would have to put off relocating, buying a house and a better car. I used the savings I had in the bank for our needs, so that I could stay with my son and give him the father he needed.
At first, I wondered what others would think of me, a very healthy, mature man sitting around the house every day. But I wasn’t just sitting around the house—I was cooking dinner, washing dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning house, going to the supermarket, struggling to pay the bills, changing diapers, disciplining and teaching.
It hasn’t always been easy. Denver came to me with some behavior problems, but he is getting better all the time. And I have learned that children need their parents to be full-time fathers and mothers. No one can be a part-time parent.
I know some parents will say that they need to work to pay bills, buy food and clothes. That is true, however, they must find a way to be with the kids or lose out on all the fun of watching their children grow and learn.
Choose to stay home
If parents keep dumping their young children off at daycare and babysitters, they will lose their children in many ways. For example, most of those kids will not act responsively to their parents. They will have no respect for their parents or other adults.
Some children may even grow up to dislike their parents for not being there when they were needed.
Some parents with young children should give up their 9-to-5 jobs, and stay at home with their kids. I know that is easier said than done.
Parents need to give small children the foundation for success. Daycare centers cannot do that. There is a lot more to raising children than just dropping them off and picking them up at the end of a workday. Children need to experience the love that mom and dad should have for them, and being at a babysitter’s house or apartment everyday will not provide that.
In fact, some babysitters and daycare centers, from my experiences, are ill-equipped mentally and physically to deal with five, 10, and maybe more, children’s personalities on a daily basis.
Stay at home with the kids. They will love you for it, and you will find out how much fun it is to be around your young children on a full-time basis.
Sure at times they may drive you crazy. However, they are children and it’s their job to make us a little insane. A good parent would understand that.
Denver is 7 now and I have been a full-time parent for almost four years. I have loved every up-and-down moment of being with my son. Also, I’m learning to stop feeling guilty about being a stay-at-home dad.
I became a stay-at home dad because my son loved being with me and I wanted to be with him. I couldn’t spend all day or night at some job, knowing that my son needed me more.
I would like to say that I’m still a stay-at-home dad, however, there may come a day when I will have to eat my own words. I may have to go out and work for someone else.
However, if I do, I will make sure that my son is old enough, and has been given the foundation, skills, and knowledge to succeed while Daddy is away.
George Wilder Jr. is an author and writer and the stay at home dad of 7-year-old Denver. They live in Chicago.