Firstly, let’s take a second to congratulate me on managing to fit five hyphens into the title of this blog post. With just 11 words in the title, that is a pretty incredible ratio of just under one-hyphen-to-every-two-words. Anyway, let’s get back to the topic in mind…
In just six weeks time, everything will change massively in The DADventurer household. You see, the missus’ maternity leave ends at the start of May, meaning she’ll be going back to work full-time as I take over the main parental duties during the day. This is something we’ve had planned for the past year since finding out that Hay was with child, so it’s not like it is unexpected. But, the last few months seem to have flown by and this milestone has sort of creeped up on both of us. This leaves me massively excited for the future, but also pretty apprehensive (aka pant-shittingly scared) about what may happen and whether I’ll cope.
If you’re not aware of our situation, I’ve been with Baby L and the missus basically every day since she was born (Baby L being born, not the missus!). The company I used to work for went bust nearly two years ago, so since then I’ve been doing some freelance work which has given me the chance to work from home and spend it with my growing family. I had the choice of going back to full-time employment about a year ago, but we decided that the best thing for our clan would be for Hay to return to work after maternity leave and for me to be the stay-at-home-parent. With rising childcare costs which my wage would be spent on, the likelihood of me commuting 2.5 hours per day and possibility of being away from home some nights, coupled with the missus’ good wage and fact she works 15 minutes up the road, it made sense to make this decision.
As we approach deadline day, we both still believe it is the right decision for our family, but that doesn’t make it easy, particularly for my departing wife. I don’t want to go over-the-top and call them ‘fears’, but there are a few things on my mind as I prepare to be a stay-at-home-dad which I thought I’d share – part as therapy, part for advice and part to have a whinge. Here goes:
- We’re not doing things the ‘right’ way: My answer to this is usually, ‘I don’t give a shit, we’re doing what is right for our family’, however it doesn’t stop me worrying sometimes about it. Most of society dictates that the mum should be at home whilst the dad is the breadwinner – are we wrong to diverge from that? What if Baby L misses out (mentally, physically, emotionally etc) because she doesn’t have her mum there? Is there something we’ve not considered or overlooked which explains why dads usually go back to work? Who are we to depart from the status quo? I know that these are all stupid questions and that everything will work out great, but society has a way of making you worry if you don’t conform. Stupid society.
- Will we cope financially: Money is always a worry, particularly when you’re living on one wage. When Hay returns to work, we’ll be bringing in about 40% of what we once did – this is pretty scary, but assuming that we’ve done our maths correctly, we should still be able to pay all bills, save a bit and spend a bit. I’ll be doing what I can to bring in a bit of money here and there through my freelance work, but that’s pennies rather than pounds in the grand scheme of things. It’s also scary to see that our savings have depleted, although this was always going to be the case when we’ve lived off savings and basic maternity pay for seven months. I’m 99% sure we’ll be fine financially, but not having the safety net of two wages and savings is a bit worrying if anything unexpected was to happen. Still, I guess we’ve got a cute baby we could always sell.
- Will I be accepted: This is probably one of my biggest ‘fears’ – as a dad in a mum dominated world, will I forever be stuck on the sidelines looking in because I don’t have a vagina? I’ve been to one or two baby classes on my own, but usually I’ve had the missus there to protect me from the gaggle of mums. Obviously though, when the missus goes back to work, it will just be me and Baby L – quite a scary proposition when entering a room with a dozen woman all looking at you. The last thing I want though is to become a recluse as that has no benefit whatsoever for Baby L, so I need to make sure that we go places and socialise for her. No-one has ever said anything negative or snide about me being at a baby class, in fact I’ve been praised for being there, so I guess it is something in my own head. The good thing is that the more I go and face the situation, the more I’ll feel comfortable. Plus, being the only bloke in a room full of yummy mummies could have its advantages!
- Will the missus adjust: I’ve been at home with the sprog for the past seven and a bit months, so the change to stay-at-home-dad isn’t particularly big. By contrast, the missus will be going through a massive change as she goes from seven days at home to five days at work. I’m confident that she’ll be fine, but I’m well aware that it is more our situation that has dictated she goes back to work rather than her wanting to. We need money and she is in the best position to bring it in. It will be very tough for her to leave Baby L each day and I really hope that she doesn’t resent me – only time will tell I guess. It will take a strong mind to get back into work and hit the ground running, plus there is a big pressure on her as the main breadwinner – still, I have complete faith in her and I’m sure she’ll make the adjustment. At least until I can find a way to get loads of money so we can be at home together as a family again. Suggestions welcome.
- Will I find the right balance: The missus has made it perfectly clear that the only expectation on me as a stay-at-home-dad is to look after the little one as best as I can. She is happy for other stuff that needs doing – cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping etc – to be shared as we both have full-time jobs, even if mine isn’t paid. Although this is great in theory, I feel that I should be doing more whilst the missus is at work, so juggling my time will be important. In addition to the general house stuff, I want to continue earning a bit of money through my freelance work to feel like I’m contributing and I want to continue writing regularly for my blog. You’re probably reading this and saying ‘ha, you’re underestimating how much time a kid takes up’, which is probably totally true. However, I at least want to attempt to do everything I’m doing now – if I don’t have time, then something will just have to give – who needs a clean house, ironed clothes or a stained-free toilet anyway!
Despite these fears, I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to be with my daughter each day and I’m massively looking forward to helping her develop and watch her grow. It’s going to be difficult, but I know loads of blokes who’d kill for the chance to be with their kid everyday, so I’m going to do my utmost to get the best out of it for all of us.
Did you have any fears when your partner went back to work? How did you decide who went back to work and who stayed at home with the sprog(s)?