Top 10 Tips: Stay at Home Dad Wisdom
I am getting old. Number 1 is graduating from college next month and then a week later, Number 3 is graduating from high school. That means I have been a stay at home dad for a very long time now! Like 21 years now. I am not the first dad to choose this as his career, and I am friends with a lot of those who paved the way for me. As I reflect on my years, I realize I do have some wisdom to share with dads that have choose the same path to be at-home dads or just very involved fathers.. These are not hard in stone rules, but I will say they have served me well over the years.
Always trust mother’s intuition. This is a hard one to admit, but I can’t deny the facts. Most of the health-related appointments were obviously handled by me over the years as I was the full-time, home parent. My wife was either traveling or busy at work, so I gladly scheduled and attended all appointments. Every once in awhile, a child developed something that for me seemed to be a nonissue, and I would easy blow it off. My wife to picked up on something, and asked me to call and investigate. Her intuition success rate is over 95%.
Be organized. Running a household, and the children in it, is a full-time job so approach it that way. That wasn’t always how I did things but after some coaxing from my wife, I found that staying organized and working off a plan, allowed me to be more productive on a daily basis, and it allowed me to enjoy my time with my kids and my wife.
Date your wife. So I must admit, I am still not great at this but it is super important. The relationship you have with your wife has to be the first and most important relationship in the family. Kids should always come second. Learn from my mistakes. Having a super strong marriage will help make everything else fall into place. Now that our kids are older, we go out every Tuesday night and both of us look forward to it.
Find a hobby that brings you joy. For me it is fantasy sports with my buddies. I have been involved in this hobby for over 20 years. It is something that brings me joy and it is just for me. Make sure that when you are carving out time for yourself, that you are communicating well with your spouse about it so feeling are not hurt and that the time you spend is appropriate.
Be consistent. Well this is another rule I have struggled with and my kids know it about me! They know if I say something that it doesn’t really mean that is the hard and fast rule. It has lead to many discussions over the years with my significant other. I have been known as quite the pushover and forgetful one. Don’t make the same mistakes I made! Follow through on what you say. If you can’t or don’t want to follow through (I have made outlandish demands in the past) make sure you go back to your kids and communicate with them as to why you are changing your mind.
Don’t argue with a child. Oh my gosh! We have all heard this but in the moment we all do it, don’t we? Well break the habit now while you still can. I learned this line when Number 1 was about 5 years old, and it has served me well ever since. Turn to your kids and say, “I love you too much to argue with you!” It takes all the wind out of their sails and keep saying it until they get tired of hearing it.
Find joy in those things your kids love. Early on, I found myself able to steer my kids to do the things that I liked to do as a kid, but quickly realized they had minds of their own and had their own likes. At first, the transition was hard because I wanted that connection with each of them, but I learned to adapt and pivot from my activities for them to their activities for them.
Don’t miss an opportunity to be present in the moment. This was hard for me as I am a check off the list kind of guy, so being in the moment took practice as I was always concerned about what I needed to do next. I always say my kids taught me more than I taught them, and they certainly taught me how to have fun in the moment rather than moving on to the next task. Mind you I didn’t go willingly; it was more like pulling teeth but once I did, I was hooked and realized things could wait but my kids would keep growing.
Don’t take yourself too seriously, and take time to laugh. Maybe this is really close to Number 8 but being able to laugh every day is so important. I know there are lots of studies out there that say how important laughter is to your health and I see the benefits daily of being able to laugh your ass off.
If you take nothing else away from this top ten, please hear this. Not everything needs to be a battle. So what if you daughter’s socks don’t match, or if your son didn’t make his bed one morning. Figure out what your non-negotiables are as a parent and draw your line in the sand on them. For everything else, it’s ok to let them be them and be ok with it.
Well there you have it. My hope is that my wisdom will help you change the present and be the best parent you can be daily chaos as you ZagZig through your day.