Nearly two years into motherhood and my husband and I are still trying to figure out how to balance parenthood. We both have full-time jobs and despite a part-time nanny, and countless family members to help fill in the gaps for childcare, there is still so much to do and much of that responsibility falls on me. It’s a role I’m proud of, like a puzzle that has me stumped every week but when it’s complete, I feel incredibly accomplished. My job as a wardrobe stylist is demanding but it’s flexible so this division of labor works for my family. What does this look like when roles are reversed? It’s something my husband and I have talked about at length when my job gets overwhelmingly busy and we feel pulled from Bowie. Would he stay at home if we could make it work? Would he be fulfilled? It’s a topic we find interesting because it’s not the norm. But why the stigma with stay at home dads? Perhaps it’s because it’s a topic we haven’t really explored. Until now. We interviewed 5 stay at home dads for a glimpse into their daily life. Why did they decide to stay at home, what are the dynamics like with their partner on the weekends,  and have these “social norm” expectations affected their marriage? Featured Image by Leah Muse Photography

Kinnison Family

Tells us a bit about your family

We are a four piece outfit. Mom, Dad, Levi (our baby boy) and Doug (a scrappy Brussels Griffon). My wife and I have been together for five years and we’re married almost 2 years ago. Doug is two years old and our little boy is 9 months. I run a small Sound & Light  Production company supporting small events in the region and my wife works in the corporate world as a writer and internal communications professional.

When did you decide you’d stay home?

I never really decided to stay home. I have always been the “homemaker”, errand runner and run my business from the home office. When we had Levi, our situation didn’t really have to change other then the fact that I now have a bit more on my plate than I did before.

What’s a typical (week)day like?

Typical day for us is this: mom wakes up and gets ready for work before Levi is to wake up. She feeds him before leaving for work and I take over right about then. He is learning to eat people food so I prepare some breakfast. He loves to eat. Most of the time is spent playing with toys, working on a few words and laughing at everything Dad does. We have a midday snack and if the weather is nice we take a walk in the neighborhood with the dog and get some fresh air. I’m definitely the odd man out compared to the average parent in our neighborhood who is out strolling with their baby. They are moms, I’m a dad, yet I feel like they respect me for being the dad at home. Levi gets two 2-hour naps per day and this is when dad gets to manage all of the office work for the production company. These double-hour stretches are just enough so I have no complaints unless I am preparing equipment for a show the next day. That’s when I might need to call in the big guns (grandparents) to babysit. I also freelance for a corporate event production company so when I take on shifts I need to schedule the grandparents to take over my duties for those days too. They are ready and willing so barring a scheduling conflict it has not yet been a problem to get them in the house and enjoying time with Levi.

I’m curious about the dynamics with your partner on the weekends.

On the weekends I definitely am guilty of handing over the child immediately. However my wife is currently working in San Antonio and the long commute means a lack of time with her baby so she is luckily ready and willing to take the lead. As with any baby, caring for them non-stop without help has its challenges and frustrations so it is often requested that I lend a hand throughout the day if I’m not off at work. We try and get out on the weekends and see friends so we feel lucky that Austin has so many kid friendly hangouts where everyone can meet and nobody feels out of place.

What has been your biggest challenge/struggle?

My biggest challenge so far is myself. I like to sleep in and I’m a neat freak. Having a baby means abandoning both of those things. It’s not the end of the world when he throws food on the floor, isn’t interested in taking his bottle or puts up a tireless fight to roll over while I’m trying to change his diaper. It is very frustrating for a control freak and neat freak like myself but at least he is adorable, happy, healthy and is a very well behaved baby overall. All it takes is a giggle or a smile from him and the frustration slips away.

Do you find that there is no real support on social media or resources targeted toward stay at home dads?

Maybe I will be changing my tune in a big way here at some point when he’s older but so far I have not yet felt a need for any social media resources, especially those targeted towards a stay at home dad. I think along time ago the idea of a stay at home dad was terrifying to a man and they probably felt like it was impossible. Today, that’s just not the case. If you put any loving and emotionally stable parent at home with his or her baby for a long enough time as the primary caretaker, they will figure it out, learn all of the tricks and become a real pro at taking care of the baby’s needs as well as their own. It is no doubt a delicate balance and a difficult dance to orchestrate but like with most things, give it some time and a piece of your heart and you’ll make it all happen.

Have any of the “social norm” expectations affected your marriage at all?

In my experience, none of the social norms regarding parenthood have affected our marriage. Maybe it’s because I run a business and freelance within an industry that offers me a great deal of purpose and is work that I am passionate about. But if I didn’t work, and my only role was Dad, I would simply find greater purpose in just being a dad. Probably start a blog or a podcast that helped other dads figure things out. Moms have been doing that for ages. Moms today want a career and a greater purpose than just mom, they want what they are passionate about and dad’s do too. I love it, I think it means that parents today don’t have to identify solely as just a stay at home mom or dad. To be honest that’s kind of lame. Being a parent comes with its unique and perfect set of instincts. It’s not talent -it’s just love. I believe the best thing for any mom or dad whether or not they are stay at home is to find a purpose and passion in their lives. Pursue it while raising your children. Its hard as hell but they effort feels good and the kids will learn that they are not the center of attention and they will learn that it is important to work and explore things you are passionate about. That’s a pretty good example to set for children of the next generation.

Garcia Family

Tell us a bit about your family.

We live on the southwest side of Austin. DW and I met in law school.  DW initially moved to DC, but moved to Austin when I started working here as a lawyer.  DW and I both are lawyers.  Given the rigors of being a lawyer, we decided that one of us would stay home when we had kids.  It took us a long time to have children, but eventually it worked out.  Since I am the more domestic, organized one, we decided that I would be a stay at home father.  Also, DW was a year senior to me and made slightly more money.

Did you work prior to having children?

Yes. I worked as an  attorney for about seven years.

When did you decide you’d stay home?

When we decided to start trying to have kids, we decided that I would stay home. We already didn’t have much time with each other, and we realized that our relationship would suffer if we tried to manage kids and two extremely demanding careers.

What’s a typical (week)day like?

Right now, we still don’t have much of a schedule.  When you have twins and another child under 3, you basically are in survival mode.  Some days, the kids will keep us awake all night.  Most of my time is consumed tending to the needs of the kids.  When the kids are all set, or our nanny is here and DS is at school, I do laundry, clean dishes, and clean and organize the house.  It is extremely glamorous.  Sadly, everyday chores don’t make my “To-Do” list so it hardly changes unless I stay up during the night to try to get other things done.

I’m curious about the dynamics with your partner on the weekends. Do you feel like you hand over your child the moment she walks in the door on the weekend and is off work? Or do you stay on as you would if she was at work and simply divide and conquer?

When there was just DS, DW would handle more of the child care after work and on weekends.  That allowed me to cook and clean and tend to other matters around the house.  With the arrival of the twins, we are both more or less on some degree of child care duty at all times unless a kiddo decides to go to sleep.  To some degree, on weekends, DW spends more time with the twins and I spend more time with DS.  With DW working and me at home the kids often want to be with her when she gets home since they don’t see her as much.  Lately, the twins have taken to staying up at night so they can try to get more time with mom.  This has meant we haven’t been sleeping.

What has been your biggest challenge/struggle?

Lack of sleep and an inability to get really anything done has been rough.  Additionally, we don’t ever really have any time to ourselves which makes life hard.  With twins, again, you are just trying to survive the early years unfortunately.  There are five of us now, but both DW and I sometimes feel alone because we don’t get much time together without the kiddos, and friends and family don’t understand how hard things are with twins, let alone 3 under 3.  Sometimes they even make catty comments and blame us for not being “happier to be so blessed,” which goes over really well.

Do you find that there is no real support on social media or resources targeted toward stay at home dads?

Before the arrival of DS, I experienced all kinds of gender prejudice from family, friends, and strangers.  Many people just don’t get a stay at home male spouse.  It is still somewhat taboo it seems.  Even after the arrival of DS, the prejudice continued.  Most resources seem geared towards women with very little attention paid toward fathers.  It is very unfortunate.

Do you encounter judgment that your wife is at work or the breadwinner?

Despite all that I have accomplished in school, in my family life, and in the work place, my father disapproves of my “lifestyle.”  He actually told me that he thought it was “weird.”  He also actually asked him what he was “supposed to tell his friends.”

Have any of the “social norm” expectations affected your marriage at all?

I don’t think it has affected our marriage but it has affected our relationships with family.  Their lack of understanding and sometimes downright condescension has strained our relationships with them.

Moffatt Family

Tells us a bit about your family.

My wife is Persian from a very supportive and tight nit family. Very grounded and culturally influenced. She has one older sister and a younger brother. Her father is living in Iran and mother in DC. Between aunts and uncles and sisters in-law she has a lot of family in the DC area.   Born in Boston, relocated to D.C. for career and now again to Austin. A hotelier, she is a workaholic and is very successful in her career but works long hours. I was born in England and moved up and down the east coast until settling in DC. One younger sister mother and father whom all live in Maryland. I traveled the world for work and pleasure most of my life.

Did you work prior to having children?

Yes, I have a background in Engineering and R&D. My last work was in hospitality running a restaurant and nightclub in DC. I also built and operated a dog training business in both Northern Virginia and Austin.

When did you decide you’d stay home?

I decided to stay home before M was born, when L was about 9 months pregnant. L was only able to take 6 weeks off from work so I didn’t want M to go to daycare.

I’m curious about the dynamics with your partner on the weekends.

We are a family of routines so normally when L comes in the door dinner is on the table so we eat together and L will read M her story and give her milk. If L isn’t home for dinner, which is more often than not recently, she will arrive around 10 when I am getting ready for bed. I like to give L some time with M so I try to leave them alone when she is reading and going to bed. When L is home I try to give her time to spend with M while I will work on the house or finish projects/work.

What has been your biggest challenge/struggle?

Honestly the hardest part is making sure to support L emotionally about not being home with M. There are a lot of factors that go into this. I have my way of doing things and dealing with challenges so its hard to keep consistent with discipline and routine while trying not to impose on L and her opinions. Balancing emotions and guilt is difficult while running a household

Do you feel awkward or in any way uncomfortable at play dates where it’s all moms and you?

Always. Most women don’t think to invite dads and its even called moms playdates when they send out invites, so when I show up with M it always takes them off guard. Let’s face it, the play date isn’t for the child, its for the parents to have adult interactions. So when a male shows up to an all female group it skews the dynamic and changes the conversation topics. When I first started to go out with M and meet people most women were hesitant to talk with me. We have good friends who I met the wife first and they tell me they were hesitant as they weren’t comfortable spending time with a man alone i.e. home playdates. L worked a lot so they never saw her. I find/found myself talking about my wife a lot to set women at ease.

Do you encounter judgment that your wife is at work or the breadwinner?

I think its always perceived judgment.  Going from traveling and running an engineering firm it was a big adjustment in life. It was the right decision for sure but when talking with other men about work and life they cannot understand why I would ever WANT to do that. Its engrained into men to work and provide so less judgment more confusion as to what would possess a man to stay home and raise a child. Unfortunately, most of the judgment has been on L from other mothers for going back to work.

Have any of the “social norm” expectations affected your marriage at all?

I don’t think so. Its worked well for us and allowed M to have stability in a home that she wouldn’t have had if I was working. It also took away a lot of guilt from L as I was home instead of M being with a nanny all the time or in a daycare.

Does your wife express she feels guilty for working outside of the home?

L has worked so hard, twice as hard as any of her male counterparts, to accomplish ten times as much as any of them ever will. There is no one better at the job than her and she runs a hotel, construction site, and manages the corporate office with ease. She is her own worst enemy when it comes to work/life balance. She’s strives to be the best and feels terrible when it comes to sacrificing time with family. Supporting her career has been my priority and that meant staying home with M. It’s bullshit how women are treated in the workplace while or thinking of having children. 6 weeks really?  Limited PTO and no childcare incentives? How do you expect people to stay dedicated to work when the whole time you are worried about making it home to see your child, squeeze in a doctor’s appointment, meet a nanny or pickup from daycare?  And being forced to take all your sick days, vacation and then go on part time disability is disgraceful. All to KEEP her job. and let’s face it she was working the whole time to keep things structured at work so she didn’t go back to a nightmare when she did go back. If you took women like L out of the workplace it would take two or three men to do what she does and I believe that to be true of most women.

And let’s talk about breastfeeding and pumping. Oh sure you make “accommodations” for pumping but pumping in a bathroom? Could you make women feel any more subjected and dirty for such an important act?  No wonder most women give up and use formula. I guess it being so important to our life it blows my mind that we make it so difficult for women to breastfeed and be there for their child. Me sitting and feeding M a bottle is almost as disturbing to people as L sitting and breastfeeding her under a cover. I think people need to sit back, turn off a phone and tv and truly consider how difficult we make life for raising a child. I couldn’t be more proud of my wife for going through what she went through to HAVE M, give birth, breastfeed her, go back to work, deal with me, have a social life, and stay sane. If we as a society could realize that supporting mothers especially in the first year of having a child is imperative to both a healthy family and work productive work place, we would change the world. Change begins at home.

Adair Family

Tells us a bit about your family.

Tina and I have been together for 9 years and married for 4. All of Tina’s immediate family lives in Austin, as does my twin brother and his family. We are close to and spend lots of time with our families and love that our daughter will grow up around extended family. We have both spent significant time outside the United States and hope to raise our daughter in a tri-lingual environment (English, Portuguese, and Spanish).

Did you work prior to having children?

Yes. Tina and I both worked full time prior to Eliana’s birth in Jan. 2017. After parental leaves, we both went back to work full-time and hired a nanny to care for Eliana. Tina works in advertising, and I work in renewable energy (utility-scale wind and solar project development). I left my company in 2017, and we decided that I would take care of Eliana full-time starting last November rather than look for a new job.

When did you decide you’d stay home?

When Eliana was about 6 months old. We had planned to put Eliana in day care at 12 months. After looking at some of the child development research and thinking more about our goals as a family, we decided to postpone daycare (and my going back to work) until Eliana is at least 18 months old, and possibly longer.

 

What’s a typical (week)day like?

Tina wakes up with Eliana and spends about an hour with her before she leaves for work. I get up between 7:30 and 8, make breakfast for the family, and clean up after Tina leaves. I either play with Eliana at home or take her to one of her morning activities. During her nap I prepare food and do household chores. On days with no afternoon activities, we typically go for a walk to the neighborhood park to play on the playground or to the downtown library. During her afternoon nap I usually start dinner preparations and continue household chores. Tina typically gets home around 6:30pm, and she plays with Eliana while I finish preparing dinner. We try to eat dinner together, and then Tina typically takes over Eliana duties (plays with her, bathes her, reads to her, and puts her to bed between 8 and 8:30pm). Sometimes I participate in parts of the bedtime routine, but I normally take some alone time to read the news, check emails, meet a friend, exercise or other personal to-do’s. Tina does the night duty, which these days is typically one or two sleep interruptions during the night

I’m curious about the dynamics with your partner on the weekends.

We’re still working this out but it’s typically more divide and conquer. Tina prioritizes spending time with Eliana on the weekends, so to date she’s the default primary care-giver on the weekends. These first two months of my being at home also coincided with hunting season, so I was gone for some or all of a number of weekends during the past two months. Going forward I expect weekends will be more even in terms of childcare responsibilities. We usually spend quite a bit of time with one or both of our families on the weekend as well.

What has been your biggest challenge/struggle?

Remaining mentally present when with Eliana. I’m generally a focused person but am realizing how addicted I am to the world through my phone. It’s much harder than I thought to be present with her and not get distracted by text messaging, the news, or my mental to-do list. In this sense, I find caring for a young child to be a kind of meditation. A secondary struggle is enjoying the domestic labor component of my day. I mostly enjoy my time with Eliana (facilitating her exploration, coming up with developmentally appropriate and stimulating activities, communicating with her, etc.), but I’m already very tired of preparing and washing bottles, changing diapers, preparing her away bag, washing clothes, cleaning up after meals, and the other repeated daily chores of child rearing and home maintenance.

Do you encounter judgment that your wife is at work or the breadwinner?

I can only think of one example of this (felt criticism toward us for Tina’s choosing to work). It doesn’t bother me right now since I’m taking care of Eliana. If we decide to both work again, and put Eliana in full-time day are before she starts school, I expect it will bother me at some level because of my own doubts about whether we’re doing what’s best for Eliana. Implicit in my answer here is my view (and experience) that feeling “judged” has as much or more to do with self-perception than someone else’s. If I were not a stay-at- home-dad by choice, e.g. laid off from my job or unable to find work, or because my wife has higher earning potential than I do, I expect this would be a sensitive subject for me and therefore I’d be more affected by others’ perceptions of me (and more likely to feel judged in that way).

Does your wife express she feels guilty for working outside of the home?

Definitely. I think she’d say such guilt is the hardest aspect of parenting for her so far (perhaps second only to sleep deprivation). Feeling guilty about being away from Eliana so much weighs heavily on her and drives many of her daily decisions and emotions. For example, we eventually realized that such guilt was to a large degree responsible for our different approaches to sleep training.

Berry Family

Tell us a bit about your family.

My wife and I met in Austin, TX and relocated to Richmond, Virginia 3 years ago to be closer to her family.  Our life changed drastically (for the better) when little Ollie came along, and it has been such a fun ride with her.  We also have a standard poodle pup who is 2.

Did you work prior to having children?

Yes, I had been working as a project manager for a construction company in Richmond.

When did you decide you’d stay home?

I can’t remember honestly.  I know my wife and I had the conversation a while before she was pregnant and so that was always the plan.

What’s a typical (week)day like?

Usually my wife gets Ollie up in the morning and feeds her and plays with her a little before she leaves for work.  I have worked hard to get Ollie on a eat-play-sleep schedule, and we have a variety of play time activities that we do.  As long as it isn’t really cold out, we go for a walk every day, and sometimes three times a day!  On Mondays I take her to her Music Together class, and on Thursdays we usually go to a baby story time group at our local library.  Sometimes we go visit mom at work during lunch.

I’m curious about the dynamics with your partner on the weekends.

I’d say it’s a mix.  I certainly do not hand the baby over and do my own thing.  We still divide and conquer but my wife wants to play with the baby and tend to her needs when she is home since she doesn’t get to as much as I do, so I would say she is slightly more hands on than I am in the evenings and on the weekends.

Do you find that there is no real support on social media or resources targeted toward stay at home dads?

Absolutely.

Do you feel awkward or in any way uncomfortable at play dates where it’s all moms and you?

Not really.  I am the only dad in both the music class and library group but it doesn’t really bother me.  I have noticed in our library group they do a song that recognizes “mama” and not me but it doesn’t make me uncomfortable.  It’s just interesting.