“You didn’t get a college degree to change diapers.”
“Oh, man. That’s the sweetest gig. You’re lucky.”
“Wow. (Long pause) So, what do you do all day?”
Just a few of the responses you can expect to hear when you start telling people you're an at-home dad. Unfortunately, Target doesn’t sell a reply for any of them. Believe me, I checked at www.target.com. Generally, your friends are going to think you’re blessed, your family is going to either going try to commit you or show support, and your neighbors will think you’re weird.
The truth is that they are all correct. Being an at-home dad is awesome, and challenging, and it isn’t what most men would consider a career. There’s no handbook for dealing with the public perceptions you’ll face, but here’s a few pieces of advice:
- Try to stay positive. No matter how you feel inside about taking on at-home fatherhood, tell everybody that you’re going to try to be the best dad you can be. And follow up with those words.
- Bite your tongue. It might be easy to go off on your aunt for thinking you’re a lunatic for giving up your career, but resist the urge to defend yourself. Whatever you say could undermine how you handle the job. Show her with your actions that you’re going to make the most of the opportunity to raise your kids well. You don’t need to defend or apologize for that.
- Avoid elaboration when you’re tipsy. For some reason, your at-home status always seems to come up at weddings or your wife’s work Christmas party. In these situations, it's possible that you’re going to tell everybody you almost punted your 1-year-old off the balcony last week. You should probably keep those thoughts to yourself.
Regardless of how you handle telling people what you do, it helps to know that you'll probably get a few blank stares, especially here in the Midwest where most older adults don't understand your decision. My parents would have rather tied me to the tree in the front yard for the day than consider the possibility of my dad stay home to raise me.
So develop a thick skin and focus mostly on your vision of your role rather than the 11 diapers you changed yesterday. Approaching your new job as a great opportunity is always the best route.