When Your Husband Stays Home to Raise the Kids

When either parent chooses to stay home to care for the children, it isn’t easy. Keeping up with your kids’ needs, taking care of household chores, shopping, taxiing, helping with homework, cooking...the list goes on. When your husband chooses to stay home to raise the children, however, social and emotional issues might make it tougher for him.

According to research by psychologist Robert Frank, author of The Involved Father, fathers usually choose to stay home because of one of the following reasons:

  • not wanting to put the children in day care
  • the working parent makes more money

Bear in mind that a father who is at home because of a layoff or disability might also find himself in the SAHD (stay-at-home dad) club. Whether by choice or by force, if your husband is the primary caregiver to your children, you both have to come to terms with his role, one that society still delegates to women. With the right attitude and support, he will do great and society will catch up to the times.

Adjusting

Unless he was raised primarily by his father, your mate doesn’t have experience to draw from as he takes on the roles of nurturer, shopper, cook, cleaner, etc. He might have watched his mother fill these roles while his father provided the major income for the family. Role reversal takes some time to get used to, perhaps for you both. Understand that your husband likely must cope with:

  • guilt over not being the major breadwinner
  • insecurity over the questions of masculinity in his new role
  • feeling isolated and lonely
  • awkward and insulting reactions to his unconventional position
  • the realization that he chose a very demanding job

You can help your husband by sympathizing with the emotions involved with taking on such a nontraditional role. You can also try the following:

  • Share your own feelings, if applicable, of guilt and insecurity in your role.
  • Make special dates for just the twoAS of you to affirm his masculine appeal.
  • Encourage him to research SAHD support sites online and explore forming a play group with other fathers and their children.
  • Help him brainstorm creative answers to “So what do you do?” or gentle rebukes to rude comments. Help him see the humor in whatever gets under his skin.

Working it out

As it dawns on your husband how physically and emotionally taxing child rearing and house tending are, you are learning how stressful it is for you to work full time and come home and pick up where he left off. The 2 of you have to work through the details of parenting, as do all couples, but you might have the added internal pressure to be “super mom.” Let go of what society says moms do and find out what best suits your children and your marriage.

Libby Gill, author of Stay-at-Home Dads, the Essential Guide to Creating the New Family, encourages couples in your situation to keep communicating and to agree on the details of who does what, for example:

  • Will you shop for the children’s clothes or will he?
  • Who will manage the finances?
  • Does he feel the need to take on whatever he considers “masculine” tasks?
  • Do you desire down time with the kids when you get home, or the nurturing tasks such as the bath and bed routines?

Sit down together and sort it all out and check in with each other regularly.

The benefits

Parenting is tough enough, but you and your husband have added that little edge of unconventionality to make it even more adventurous. If you both have doubts about your arrangement, take comfort in research findings by Dr. Ron Klinger, founder of the Center for Successful Fathering. Children whose fathers are active and involved in their upbringing are:

  • more successful in school
  • less susceptible to peer pressure
  • less likely to drop out of school or to get in trouble with the law
  • self-reliant

Robert Frank, who also writes for an online SAHD site called AtHomeDad.com, says research can add to your confidence by pointing out that your children more likely enjoy both a strong mother influence and a strong father influence in contrast to traditional homes where the father's work leaves him little time for the children. Have fun and congratulate yourselves for changing the traditional family as society knows it.

Resources:

The Daddy Shift: How Stay-at-Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms, and Shared Parenting are Transforming the American Family by Jeremy Adam Smith. Beacon, 2010.

There When He Needs You: How to Be an Available, Involved, and Emotionally Connected Father to Your Son by Neil Bernstein and Brooke Lea Foster. Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 2011.

By Laurie M. Stewart

® 2003 Achieve Solutions

Sources: Cincinnati Stay at Home Dads, www.athomedad.org; Fathering Magaizine, www.Fathermag.com; AtHomeDad.com, www.atHomeDad.com