How to survive and thrive as a stay-at-home Dad
Most parents struggle with the task of keeping up with household chores, especially with children home all day. It’s not just Moms at home with the kids, either. In the US, there are over 2.2 million stay-at-home Dads — and that number is rapidly growing.
Now that you’re part of this exclusive club of being a stay at home father, you might be struggling to find the right balance to stay productive, happy and positive – and that’s part of parenthood. But to help you out, we’ve put together the best tips and tricks to balance fatherhood and housework while still being the hero your little ones deserve.
Tips for Stay at Home Dads
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Emotional Preparation for Stay at Home Dad Status
Dads deserve tons of respect. Dads face the same challenges as moms when it comes to keeping up with cleaning the house while caring for young children. The difference is men are more likely to have grown up in families where the mothers did most of the household chores and did not necessarily pass on those skills to their sons as they did to their daughters.
While times are changing, cleaning the house is still viewed in much of society as “women’s work”. A bit of an unfair stigma hovers around men who are stay-at-home Dads and charged with upkeep around the house along with caring for the children. But as we all know, this is one of the most challenging jobs around!
Give yourself a pat on the back
Being the primary caregiver to your children is nothing to feel embarrassed about. You need not suffer anyone who speaks of it negatively. Whether you are a single Dad or one who stays home when a partner works, give yourself a pat on the back for everything you do.
Being a stay-at-home Dad is an important job, and you are just as capable of doing it as spectacularly as anyone else, regardless of gender. Embrace being a role model for your children. It’s important to find a way to balance taking care of your little ones while also still taking care of yourself.
There is no such thing as perfection, only the pursuit of it. Focus your energies on being the best Dad you can be and not on how spotless the house is. Find a minimum acceptable level of cleanliness and order, and then let it go.
It’s the quality time that matters
When your kids look back on their childhood, they’re not going to remember little details like how clean you kept the kitchen when they were toddlers. They will remember trips to the park, going to or watching sporting events, finger painting at the dining room table, and playing hide-n-seek in the backyard.
Common Stay at Home Dad Problems
The most important thing to keep in mind is that at some point, regardless of your age, gender or virility, even the best fathers will struggle with their role as a stay at home Dad.
Simply put, being a parent is not easy.
Many people have a serious misconception about what stay at home Dads are doing while they’re home with the kids. Outsiders may think you have it easy, watching sports all day and riding on the coattails of your working wife. That’s simply not true, and you can’t let those stigmas and misconceptions get to you, because they will destroy you.
Activities to help deal with burnout and depression
If you’ve ever seen the cover of a Cosmo or Vanity Fair, you’re familiar with society’s push for women to engage in self-care and taking time for themselves. Well, the same goes for you, Dad. Tending to your needs will help you be a better father all-around.
It’s easy to burnout when managing all the household upkeep and the kids at the same time. By neglecting yourself, you’ll eventually end up with a short fuse and a bad temper, as we tend to take things out on those around us when we don’t properly care for ourselves.
To get you started on your self-care journey, here are some ideas to combat burnout and take care of yourself for a change:
- Maximize nap time. Take a nap while they’re down for their nap. This isn’t always possible with infants and toddlers, but your schedule has to be flexible enough to accommodate them when they’re not old enough to take care of themselves. And guess what Pops? There’s nothing wrong with needing a midday nap to recharge. Kids are draining, even for the most active and energized man. No shame there.
- Create age-appropriate chore charts and get the kids engaged. It will lighten your load and teach them responsibility.
- Share your interests with your little ones. They look up to you and want to emulate you. Getting them into sports, outdoor activities or even DIY home improvement activities will keep them off their tablets and phones and allow them to participate in something that you love, too.
- Call the sitter and take your wife out on a date. Spend your time reconnecting. You can also openly discuss any issues you’re having with the kids and figure out how to tackle those issues with a unified front.
- Create a snack and drink space that the kids can access, and make sure the rules on when and how much they are allowed to have is clear from the start. This way you won’t be constantly pulled away from your own chores and work around the house just to get them a juice box and some goldfish crackers.
Habits of Highly-Effective Stay-at-Home Dads
So, what’s a busy stay at home Dad to do about keeping the house clean while taking care of the little ones all day? Here are a few tips to help.
Keep the kids busy while you maximize downtime
Pick up age-appropriate videos at the local library to keep the kids occupied for an hour while you scrub the kitchen. Set up a play area with toys that only come out on “clean the bathroom” day, so that your kids are excited and engaged by something new and special.
You can put the baby in a front carrier or backpack while you sort, wash, and fold laundry. You can task older children with separating out all the socks into one pile, or you can send them to fetch the towels from the bathroom to be washed.
Schedule, don’t scramble
Create a workable schedule of household cleaning chores, spreading them out over the week instead of trying to do it all in one day. It might look like this:
Stay at Home Dad House Cleaning Schedule
- Monday: Clean the kitchen
- Tuesday: Clean the bathrooms
- Wednesday: Laundry, laundry, laundry
- Thursday: Dusting/vacuuming/miscellaneous chores
- Friday: Run errands and catch up on chores
- Saturday: Family time ONLY. No chores!
- Sunday: Special projects like clean out the garage or basement
Is keeping a rigid schedule always going to be possible? No. However, if you have a schedule, you can plan on how to get the cleaning and chores done with the kids at home.
Work as a team
If they are old enough, teach your kiddos how to fold the simpler things like washcloths, match and roll socks together, and hand you their clothes to be placed on hangers. You will be teaching them valuable life skills like how to do their own laundry someday. Kids love learning how they can pitch in and help out around the house.
Remember, it’s about engagement and responsibility, not perfection. So what if they don’t make a perfect square when folding hand towels? Those towels are most likely going to disappear into a closet anyway.
Do you know any other stay-at-home Dads? Or moms, for that matter? Why not propose a day of the week to help each other get the housekeeping done by banding together and scheduling cleaning playdates?
Have a couple of other stay at home parents over so one can watch the kids while the other two knock out a few chores. Then return the favor next time and head to their house to either help with the chores or keep the kids occupied.
This type of setup will mean that you are there to step in with your kids if necessary, but the novelty of playmates will help you and the other parent(s) have time to rake the leaves up in the backyard, clean out the refrigerator, or deal with the burned food mess in the oven.
When in Need, Hire Professional Help
If you can swing it, invest in some cleaning help. It’s not an admission of defeat that you can’t do it all. NO ONE can do it all!
Hiring a cleaning service to come even once a month can be a real lifesaver. You let them in so they can do their thing while you run errands or take the kids to the pool or park. When you come home, your whole house is clean, and you had quality time with your children, making memories that will last.
They won’t notice that the toothpaste smeared all over the counter is gone, but you will.
Me time = free time
You can’t be a good parent if you are stressed out and exhausted all the time. Forget the notion that you don’t need me time. You do!
Work it out with your spouse or partner, friends, or relatives so that you have me time/free time on the schedule every week. Maybe Saturday mornings are your time to sleep in, go for a run, and have coffee with a friend with the agreement that you are back home for family time at a certain hour. When you have a lot going on, it’s helpful to know that while you are busy now, some downtime is coming. Take it.
Leave it to the pros
If you have a room, corner of the yard, or a garage full of junk that needs to be cleaned up, why not seek a professional to take care of it for you? Sometimes it’s simply impossible to bear the burden of all the work.
No need to waste valuable time running around town trying to donate this, recycle that, and possibly encounter unexpected disposal fees when the pros at LoadUp can whisk it away and save your day for more important things…like a water balloon battle in the backyard or a stuffed animal tea party.
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