Posted by: Ticktock | March 1, 2009

Recession Dads Stay Home

As the nation falls further into a recession and unemployment rises, more fathers will begin new careers as full time parents to save money on childcare.  For some, the novelty of staying home will quickly fade into feelings of emasculation and depression, but other fathers will embrace the change and learn to love staying home and raising their children.

Whether recession dads are comfortable with their new roles or not, they owe it to their families to swallow their pride, to accept the responsibilities of being “first dude“, and to be the best at-home parents possible.

It’s easy for fathers to feel like a minority being a Mr. Mom in a world where housewives have always ruled, but new at-home-dads should learn to get over themselves and accept the complexities of the sudden role reversal. There aren’t many folks who will have patience for a man’s newly discovered insecurities. Certainly, working wives will feel more attracted to a husband who takes his new role seriously and steps up domestically rather than wallowing in self pity.

It can be shocking to lose the comfort of the social structures of cubicle life, but staying home doesn’t have to be an isolating experience.  There are plenty of at-home-dads who regularly meet up for weekly playgroups and for monthly pints at the pub.  If you can’t find a regional playgroup at athomedad.org, you can go there to start one yourself.  You might also have luck finding a playgroup at yahoo groups or meetup.com.  It’s nice to just hang out and chat with other dads, and the kids benefit by going to fun places and meeting new friends.

Many fathers have tried and failed at infiltrating the mom dominated playgroups. Moms justify rejecting dads from playgroup for any number of reasons, but the two most common are breastfeeding privacy and jealous husbands.  It doesn’t hurt for Dads to try joining a mom’s group, but they should be aware that there is a possibility of rejection and/or alienation.  It’s not a big deal.

Recession fathers should think twice about giving up a gym membership.  The local YMCA has free child care, which allows home-based parents to recharge with a sprint on the treadmill, a set on the bench press, some laps in the pool, or a game of racquetball.  If money is too tight for a membership, grab a jump rope or a jogging stroller and find a space in your neighborhood to exercise.  Taking care of yourself physically will also restore you mentally, and exercise will force you to get away from the house where you can become lost to the siren call of video games, morning talk shows, and internet discussion forums, not to mention reruns of The Wiggles.

Many alpha moms will have issues of their own during this time of role reversal.  Feelings of envy may creep into their relationships and manifest in unexpected ways, especially when fathers fail in their domestic responsibilities.  Our grandparents had little trouble deciding how to divide the household chores because tradition dictated their roles, but modern families may find that the division of labor can be a marital minefield.  It’s imperative that couples be very clear how the work will be apportioned, and it’s extremely important that the house-husband take the brunt of the daily chores.

This recession may last a while.  It makes no sense for laid-off fathers to stubbornly keep the kids in daycare when the well of potential jobs are almost bone dry.  They should use this time to focus on the family, to watch their kids grow up, and to raise the bar as a husband.  The cubicle will always be there when the jobs come back.  Who knows?  Maybe they’ll decide to never go back.  That’s OK too.

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Responses

  1. Skeptic Dad sets aside his “science-based parenting” theme for a moment to discuss today’s economic reality: With unemployment at its highest in decades, some fathers are finding themselves at home all day, becoming de facto stay-at-home dads.

    One of the more surprising comments, simply because I never saw it brought up before, is why stay-at-home dads shouldn’t give up their gym membership.

  2. I actually found myself in this boat beginning in early December. It was easy to put off any negative feelings for a while because of the distraction of Christmas, but once the holiday season was over and it was back to “normal,” I started sinking into a bit of a funk. I’m happy to say that you can overcome those feelings. I started taking my youngest to the library, out shopping, and I even joined one of the SAHD groups in my area (although I still haven’t found time to meet up with them). Anyway, I’ve discovered that my family needs me more than any employer ever will.

  3. Stay at home dads can also work from home part time to help bring in some income during the recession.
    I have been the mom and dad for years. I would have loved it for my son to have had one parent at home no matter if it is the mother or father it would have been better than all the day care. I was lucky and had found great daycare raising my son, but would have preferred a parent at home. All the income in the world cannot replace that.

  4. Grrrr! Articles like this piss me off. Every other interview request coming through dads’ online groups has the same spin — dads forced to stay home and who would really, REALLY rather be working. Pull your frickin’ head out of the sand and go talk to dads who are home by choice, or better yet, how about a homeschooling dad? There are a few of us, and no, thank you, we’d rather not be busting our humps and burnishing fragile egos as corporate desk jockeys! Sheesh!

    • Chill out, Tom. I’m one of those Dads who stays home by choice. And, if you read the article, you’d have seen that the point is to encourage these recession dads to embrace their position and step up as parents.


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