Anyone who has ever been a stay-at-home parent understands the fallacy of the term. More often than not, you’re cleaning, cooking, running errands, shuttling kids to and from activities; if you’re planning to work from home, you can count on even more frenetic activity as you attempt to do all of that and more.
There are many online forums, communities, and resources for stay-at-home moms. While a few groups have cropped up in major metropolitan areas, stay-at-home dads (SAHDs) have less in the way of a support system, and those who also work from home are still very much in the minority. Yet they’re growing in number.
Some are taking advantage of the opportunities to pursue their passions while raising their children.
Here are a few tips, tricks, and lessons learned from stay-at-home dads whose careers have brought them into the home (and often, into balancing a much larger share of parenting and household responsibilities):
Time to meet the dads: Joe Rawlinson is a father of four and the mastermind behind the popular blog Dad’s Guide to Twins, where he offers up helpful advice to other dads of twins via posts and podcasts. He’s also written two books on the subject.
Serial entrepreneur Matthew Buza is a SAHD of one toddler daughter; the former software product owner-turned-webseries producer and creative writer has found a way to navigate work, maintain physical fitness, and prepare all of his household’s meals.
Let’s kick things off with their initial impressions.
Rawlinson: I thought there would be a clear barrier between work and interactions with my family. While the kids respected my work time in the beginning, now the interruptions are more frequent. I’ve found that I’m most productive when the kids are in school. Working at home during the summer (and when the kids are out of school) has been a huge challenge.
You realize that combining full-time work and full-time parenting requires some help—especially when it comes to having babies and toddlers around.
Buza: When I was working remotely, I had someone in the house helping out with childcare for my daughter. This allowed me to work in peace, run my meetings, interact with customers over the phone, and get work done. When that “on time” was finished, I worked primarily through my phone and iPad to communicate with the office.
So many times I took the kid to the park and participated in meetings and ad hoc meetings while pushing the kiddo on the swing. Additionally, iPhones have a great dictation option when composing texts or emails; I found it easier to dictate emails and texts. It worked great and it allowed me to stay connected with the office. It’s really hard typing on the small screen and trying to watch the kid!
And now, the hacks.
Rawlinson: I use the early mornings and evenings to get the things done that slip through the cracks during the day. I plan each day to try and get the most important tasks done first so if everything goes crazy, I can say I still accomplished something. Since my wife can pick up the kids from school, I’ll actually go to the public library and work for the last few hours of the day if I really need to focus.
Buza: Guard nap time like a fortress. When that kid is down, you move into production mode. For me, it’s writing or marketing. The YMCA, which offers childcare to parents, up to two hours a day. I take advantage of this to keep the weight off (SAHDs will gain the daddy 15 in the first year) by working out for about 45 minutes, and then use the rest of the time to write or work on projects. I use the late evening (10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.) to work, and in the end, have about four to five hours spread across the day.
With respect to household duties, I’m always picking up around the house and trying to keep things clean. We use a house cleaner to formally clean the house. I cook all the meals and focus on making meal components ahead of time to ensure dinner doesn’t take too long; lots of meal planning and lots of meal prep!
Balancing parenting and household responsibilities with a spouse can get tricky–especially when one is working from home while caring for children.
Rawlinson: My wife and I both run our own businesses. As such we have to rely heavily on our shared Google calendar to coordinate schedules. So if I have a call or podcast interview at a certain time, I know she can take care of any family obligations (or vice versa).
Buza: Communication is key. Also, it’s critical that SAHDs can schedule one night away from the house and family. It’s not that the dad doesn’t love his family, but to maintain sanity, couples have to let the dad get out and see the world.
Finding community is critical for remote workers; it can be especially challenging for stay-at-home dads.
Buza: The biggest problem with SAHDs is the isolation. The stay-at-home world is geared for women. All the kids’ groups are run by women. The Facebook groups are dominated by women. When I go to the park I’m treated like a shark swimming in a shallow pool. It’s REALLY hard to find other dads in the area. It’s very isolating…which is the number one complaint SAHDs have.
However, stay-at-home parents have a rare opportunity to embrace creative pursuits.
Rawlinson: When we found out we were having twins, I looked everywhere for a book and information for fathers of twins. Unfortunately, almost everything I found was written by moms and for moms. I realized that if I wanted information about parenting twins from a father’s perspective, surely there were other dads like me, too. After we came out of the sleep-deprived first months with twins, I started to blog at DadsGuideToTwins.com and that eventually turned into my two books.
Buza: We shed a lot of income by me staying at home, and I wanted to bring something in to help offset that loss. I’d been following the growth of the Indie publishing movement and writing turned out to be the best thing I could do with my newfound time. I really think it’s a great side option for stay-at-home parents in general. I’ve got six titles out (working on my seventh) and am finishing up post-production of my television series. I like to stay active, my mind is like a sponge. For example, I subscribe to nearly 85 podcasts! I’m a junkie for knowledge and learning!
The best part of being a SAHD?
Working remotely while raising kids can enable significant personal and professional growth, all while maintaining a focus on what truly matters.
Rawlinson: I love the flexibility of being able to help my family during the day. I can drop off or pick up my kids from school. I can attend their midday assemblies or eat lunch with them at school on their birthdays. I love being able to give them hugs when they leave for school in the morning or when they return home in the afternoon because I’m not stuck in an office building or in rush hour traffic.
Buza: I saw a line the other year that struck at my core and helps to summarize why I’m willing to do this: “When I’m on my death bed and I’m looking at my family, I’m not going to say I wish I had spent more time in my cubicle.”
My wife and I planned for one of us to stay at home, and we worked for over a decade to set ourselves up financially to do this. We waited on starting our family because we wanted one of us to be home full-time. Being there for our kid is the most important thing we could do and I’m proud to take on that role. Every day I get to see my little girl grow up, build her personality, and become a little person who is independent and excited to see the world! I’m jazzed that I’m there to see every minute of it.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com