“The rise of the stay at home dad” – Liliana Lopes

I was recently interviewed by journalist, Liliana Lopes who was researching “the rise of the stay at home dad”. Technically I’m not but having spent the last 6 months on a medically induced sabbatical she felt I kind of qualified and wanted my take on the subject. Below is the full interview. Or you can read Liliana’s finished article here.

The Interview:

You have a three-year-old and both you and your wife work full-time, however you have managed to come up with a solution to avoid putting your son in childcare.

Could you explain what solution you came up with and how it works for you? Both my wife and I approached our employers to see if we could arrange flexibility in the ways we worked and both came through for us. We know this is rare and we are eternally grateful. My wife was allowed to work from home two days a week. The other three days are standard office hours. She has weekends off so she only has to juggle between Monday and Friday. Occasionally there will be a day where she must be in her office as she is in publishing and the day her magazines go to print she really likes to be on hand to make sure it all runs smoothly. If this happens to fall on a day when I should be on a day shift, I will take it as annual leave of make an arrangement to swap.

My Job involves irregular shifts. I work 6 days on and 4 days off. My 6 days are 2 day shifts (starting 7am) then 2 “afternoon” shifts which is where my flexibility comes into play. Monday to Thursday this would normally mean starting at 3pm. I have adjusted it so I start at 6pm. The three hours then get divided up between extending my day shifts by a couple of hours and adding an hour to the end of my afternoon shift. My final two days are night shifts. Believe me that’s the short version. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that. In a nutshell, My wife is at home when I’m working a day shift or sleeping after a night shift. There is never a clash where she would need to be at home more than two days. This, I know, is a unique set of circumstances that works for us. and we both get plenty of time with the little man and believe it or not, each other. Essentially I am at home during the day 8 days out of 10.

What challenges do you face? Now that our arrangement is set up, and that took quite some working out, There aren’t really many challenges. For me, sleep patterns take a hit. I have to be very careful with when I drink caffeine as I cannot afford to lay awake when I should be sleeping as I very rarely get more than 6 hours sleep but 3 hours is fairly regular. At least once every 10 days.

What benefits do you think there are? I get to spend a lot of time with my little boy and more importantly he gets to spend a lot of time with me. I know that childcare is expensive but this decision was not a financial one at all. I had precious little time with my dad and I ALWAYS wanted to be a dad myself, so when it happened, I made sure I was going to make the most of it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You also mentioned that you are currently a stay-at-home dad, what led you to this decision? Without going into too many details I am currently off work temporarily due to health issues. It was not my decision, but I am enjoying the extra time I get with the little man and his mum. It won’t last forever, I think I’ll be going back in the next couple of months.

How different is it to when you were working full-time? The main advantage is that I am able to regulate my sleep patterns better and I am noticing health benefits of this. Perfect for my recuperation.

Have you faced any challenges being a stay-at-home dad? For me, No, none. However it has impacted on my wife as I’m always home, meaning she has a lot less time when it is just the two of them. I know she misses it and I hadn’t considered it until she mentioned it the other day. We are working towards a solution which is likely to involve me going out on my bike and them having a few Mummy – Son dates. They’d love that.

How does your son feel now that you are at home with him? He loves it but I think we wind each other up a bit if there’s too much of just us time. He needs variety. The Mummy dates should solve this.

Has this brought you even closer? In the best possible way, probably not. We, the three of us, are exceptionally close as a family anyway. It gets noticed by “outsiders” and I really feel I have a family now. When we’re not working or sleeping, we are together. I love it.

Has being a stay-at-home dad changed any perceptions you might have had previously about stay-at-home mums/dads? No. Not at all. It’s not really something I would have thought about. People need to do what they need to do. You have to carefully evaluate your priorities.

Do you feel that the prices of childcare are the main reason for the increase in stay-at-home parents? It probably has something to do with it but I really think that in the current political and financial climate people are reassessing their values and priorities. The over riding thing I take from dads I’ve spoken too that want to spend more time with their kids is that they never had it when they were kids. “I didn’t see much of my dad and don’t want to make the same mistake” It’s a common theme.

When it comes to parenting, people tend to think of mums rather than dads. As a dad, what do you think about this? I guess it’s only natural historically. I can understand it but it IS changing. There’s a long way to go but we are getting there. Support groups like the Dad Network help. I think advertisers and the media could do a lot to help. They are the worst offenders. Many child related products are targeted at Mums as opposed to parents. It does cause some offence and is a constant theme in the threads on the network forums.

For example, have people ever made you feel uncomfortable when you take your son out on your own? Definitely. There have been numerous incidences. I talk about it regularly in my blog. My son has been asked “Where’s Mummy?” on a few occasions when I have been standing right next to him. I suppose I have felt most uncomfortable when it involves other peoples kids. A dad at a soft play center can be something of a novelty to kids, especially as they are usually in the thick of it playing with the kids. There can be an element of the Pied Piper of Hamelin about it. It does draw “looks” from ladies. I’m afraid it is always women. Usually the ones that aren’t playing with their kids. I am not judging them, they also need to grab a breather and sit down. They almost certainly deserve it, But I’m not going to make any apologies. I love a slide or ball pit as much as any 3 year old.

“I love a slide or ball pit as much as any 3 year old.”

Baby brands tend to target mums, (e.g adverts on TV usually have mums and babies) as a dad do you feel left out? Or does this not bother you? I don’t like it but I’m over it. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I think if the shoe was on the other foot it would cause more of an issue. I guess we’re just more easy going. I’d like it to be irrelevant what gender the parent is. I think this will only happen if they stop using the words Mum or Dad in adverts but those words are more emotive than “parent” so it’s unlikely to happen. I still buy wipes.

You also have a popular blog www.daddydaysuk.com where you share your experiences with your son, what led you to start a blog? I noticed that there weren’t many dads in the places I visited. I essentially started the blog to be a guide for dads that wanted to know where to go that would be “dad friendly” or what to do for inexperienced dads. I hoped that I might be able to help someone that maybe didn’t have the same experience that I do but wanted to make an effort. There more I looked into it, the more I realised that there was actually quite a lot of information and support out there already. My blog is mainly read by ladies (70%) and I have received positive feedback. I still hope to evolve it. Particularly with a section on “what to do if your partner is experiencing this or that” Mastitis, breast feeding issues, depression, miscarriage for example. A common feeling for the non child bearing partner (male or female) is a feeling of helplessness when a partner is suffering. If I can offer that snippet of information that helps, then I’d be happy.

Is your blog also a good way to connect with other dads? Not really. It’s an earthy base for my social media platforms, maybe adding a degree of credibility. Facebook and Twitter are MUCH better for this. It’s instant interaction.

How important do you think connecting with other dads is? It’s great for Dad’s to feel a degree of camaraderie, especially as Mum’s can be quite intimidating, But I enjoy connecting with other parents as apposed to dads singularly a I find you get a much more rounded spectrum of opinions. I know some Dad’s in the network really benefit from male support but everyone’s personal circumstances are different. We need to stop tarring everyone with the same brush. I am a man. I’m not “men”.

“I am a man. I’m not men”

Finally, what do you love about being a dad? What are some of your favourite moments? Seeing the little progresses. Noticing that piece of knowledge or personality that wasn’t there the day before. Knowing that I am not missing any key moments. I can hand on heart say I am doing the best I can. Could I earn more money? Yes. Would it buy me more time with my boy? No.

Any advice you would give stay-at-home dads and dads in general?

Spend as much time as possible with your family. Every decision should be made with this in mind. When you are offered overtime at work that would really help paying for certain things, evaluate whether you really need it. Also put a monetary value of family time. When you are at work, how much would you pay to be at home right now? If the rate of overtime is less than that then you’ve answered your own question. Time is worth more than money.

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