Becoming a stay-at-home dad isn't exactly what men think about while pinching zits in front of the mirror before their high school graduation, and it sure isn't on our radar after college. But a combo platter of high unemployment rates and the obscene costs of daycare are pushing more men into stay-at-home fatherhood.
The idea still makes some baby boomers queasy, especially here in the Midwest where working hard is akin to breathing, and a man is expected to be the provider for his family. However, a lot of women have higher earning potential than their husbands, and sometimes it's more logical for dads to stay home.
Before diving at the chance to wear sweats for eternity, here are some important initial questions to consider:
1. Can you afford it? Break out that calculator before you start daydreaming about lazy walks in the park with your son on a Wednesday afternoon. You might be shocked by what comes out of it. Sure you'll be saving a lot of money in daycare expenses, gas, work clothes, etc. But it's pretty easy to forget things like a much-needed night out (including a sitter), additional heating and energy costs, and even the added costs of entertaining your kids during the day. Those extra Dairy Queen trips add up.
2. Can you handle the job? Make no mistake, being a stay-at-home dad is nothing like babysitting. If you think you can get away with merely keeping your kids alive during the day until mom gets home ... um, well, keep your day job.
3. Can mom handle it? Three words: jealousy, resentment, stress. None of those words have any place in a healthy marriage, but they can be unfortunate byproducts of a father's stay-at-home status. Being the sole breadwinner for a family is a difficult role, especially when finances are tight. And then when you ramble on about how Little Johnny said his first word during lunchtime, mom's tears might not necessarily be all joyful ones.
Obviously there are more things to consider, and we'll tackle those later. But these three questions are a good start. The point is to take a long look at your bank account, separate fantasy from reality by educating yourself, and then balance yours and mom's expectations.
Just by being aware of all the possible pitfalls of staying home with your kids, you'll be more prepared for a successful transition.