Right now I’m trying to type with a baby on my knee. This is pretty much how I get most of my writing done, which I’ll admit has been greatly diminished since I became a part-time freelancer, full-time stay-at-home dad. So to the title of this first entry: why?
Battling baby wants-to-type is worth it here, I think, because honestly I can’t find many stay-at-home dads writing with my perspective. Most of the literature on the internet that I see has a tinge of the PC liberalism and a “whoa is me because society is regressive” attitude. That, or the blog is just really funny, which I honestly can’t compete with.
Let me make this perfectly clear from the start. Being a stay-at-home dad is often a lonely, difficult, and thankless role. However, I’m not about to blame some vague notion of “society” or lack of government-mandated parental leave for that. I knew that being the primary caregiver while my wife played the primary breadwinner was going to be a tough row to hoe when I signed up for it. So then… why did I sign up for it?
Ironically, I think the real reason I took this path is actually a form of male pride. My wife made more money than me. I believe that a kid needs one of their parents to play permanent caregiver, and I also think it is a healthier dynamic in a relationship to have one agreed upon primary breadwinner. I think the data on fully-equal dual-income households with children backs up this conclusion, but that is going to be the topic of another entry. Also: outsourcing childcare is expensive.
So upon deciding to have a child I was left with three options. I could have picked the common modern dual-earner model and tried to make enough money to cover daycare, but I didn’t like that option for the aforementioned reasons and more. I could have forced my wife to abandon her career in a fit of misogynist madness, but a huge household pay cut coupled with a huge increase in baby-related outlays didn’t seem fiscally responsible. So I, in a foolish burst of male pride, decided to do what I thought was best for my family.
It is important to note that I do not see this road as one for just anyone to take. All things being equal, women really are just biologically better equipped to be primary caregivers than men. First of all, the physical recovery after childbirth is long and hard, whereas my physical challenges were limited to learning how to function on team no-sleep. I also was not endowed with the baby-food appendages which are called into action just about every other hour at the beginning of parenthood. Even where I am now, ten months in, I can’t just whip out those mamas and hit the baby snooze button when the little one gets hungry or wakes up in the middle of the night. So yeah, and I’ll probably write a full post on this in the future, most couples are going to have an easier go with the mom staying at home and the dad going out to make the money.
All things aren’t always equal, though, and yeah, sometimes it just makes more sense for the man to do it. So armed with this belief and a small but reliable source of remotely attainable income to augment my wife’s (I’m a freelance writer, if you recall), I set out to test how equal the sexes really are in our modern, self-indulgent society.
You know what I’ve learned? Well that’s going to be the subject of this blog: the things I’m learning about being a stay-at-home dad and how I see them from my perspective as someone who is philosophically and politically pretty conservative. In full disclosure, my wife does usually vote for Democrats, and the dual party marriage will definitely be a topic here in the future. All of that is what I’m writing about, but it isn’t why I’m writing it.
Really, as to why I’m taking on this project, it is lonely being the parental equivalent of a male dental hygienist. Seriously, I’ve only heard stories of those guys secondhand so I’m not sure they even really exist. For me, though, people of all political and philosophical bents look at me, smile politely, and go about their merry way confused and carrying a vague sense of unease. This is a common problem for stay-at-home dads: the absence of the mom social network full of meetup groups, fun activities, and sisterhood rah-rah support.
The only way to minimize the social awkwardness inherent in being the dad with the baby is by attending group baby activities like story time (still awkward being the only guy there) or to find activities to do just you and the baby (taking a hike in the woods with the baby is one of my personal favorites). Well today we didn’t have any planned activities and it is raining. So without a suitable form of intellectual stimulation beyond watching a baby play with cat toys or a cat play with baby toys, I’m left with these thoughts rattling around my head all day. Which finally brings me to the real reason I’m writing this…
Lily is still too small to figure out video game controls.