When my wife and I first discussed that I might become a stay at home dad it felt completely alien to me.
I had no concept of what looking after the family full time would actually entail.
It was really hard work initially with an 18 month old toddler to look after full time.
Nothing could have prepared me for the first few weeks of being at home.
It was a steep learning curve but I got through it and each day got easier.
Here are some of the things I've learnt along the way.
It's All About The Routine
Without order there's chaos.
It's not easy to stick to a routine when you've got a little helper but you have to use your imagination.
I used to make a game out of doing housework and my daughter would usually be happy to join in.
Just a simple thing like helping to put the washing in the washing machine or tidy up the toys can make them feel involved.
It may mean things get done a lot slower but at least they're getting done.
I also tried to plan ahead so I could do as much as possible when she went down for a nap.
As the kids get older it starts to get easier especially when they go to nursery and move onto school.
Now I'm in that position as a stay at home dad, sticking to a routine makes things much simpler.
I plan out the whole week in my head as to what I'm doing and it means I keep on top of things more easily.
If something happens to disrupt that schedule it then means I've made some progress to getting things done.
You Have To Like Your Own Company
As a stay at home dad you tend to spend a lot of time on your own or just with the kids.
It can make you feel quite isolated at times. Almost like there's no once else on the planet!
Personally I like my own company and don't often feel lonely but it's nice to have adult company sometimes.
If you're the type of person who's life and soul of the party and craves lots of social interaction then being a stay at home parent isn't for you!
Even when I'm out and about, I very rarely come across any other stay at home dads.
It's usually mums and they're already in little groups which are almost impenetrable to dads.
Similarly friendships you had before becoming a stay at home parent can dwindle very quickly.
The old proverb out of sight, out of mind rings true. You have to make the effort to keep in touch otherwise friendships dwindle very quickly.
It Can Be Monotonous
Most jobs can be monotonous at times but not quite like I've experienced with being a stay at home dad.
Whilst it's good to have a routine, it never really changes that much.
And you're staring at the same four walls day in and day out.
I look forward to doing the weekly grocery shop because it means I have a reason to get out of the house.
Similarly I don't mind the ironing because I put on a movie on Netflix or Sky Movies and it keeps me entertained.
As much as I'm never spontaneous, sometimes to get out of monotony you just have to take time out and do something else.
I'm lucky in that my wife works just across the road so if I need a change of scenery, I can pop into her office for a while.
You Need To Be Motivated
If you take on the role of stay at home parent you need to stay motivated.
I think of it as my job and whenever I was in paid employment I was as professional as I could be.
That shouldn't change now I'm the one looking after things at home.
If you're someone who gets bored easily then you won't like being a stay at home dad.
It's very easy to get distracted from focusing on the housework but you have to find the motivation from somewhere.
I find that if my enthusiasm starts to wane, I move onto doing a different job and come back later to finish what I was doing.
There's always plenty more things for me to get stuck into and they're never ending!
You Don't Have To Be A Masterchef
I was a terrible cook before I became a stay at home dad and whilst I've gained a lot more experience, I wouldn't say my cooking skills have improved that much.
But then kids don't really want anything too snazzy or over the top and they're pretty forgiving.
I've learnt what they like and what I need to work on trying to get them to like.
Meals like spaghetti bolognese, pizza, macaroni cheese or lasagne are easy enough to produce and are a crowd pleaser.
Where I come a cropper is when I try and do anything fancy. I can follow a recipe but it just doesn't turn out how I want or expect it to.
My kids don't thank me for anything too "out there" either so I say simple works and simple's best!
And there's nothing wrong with fish fingers after all. They can be a life saver.
It's Still About Working As A Team
My wife works six days a week and sometimes seven.
But we still work as a team. I do most of the housework, school runs and grocery shopping and she brings home the money!
It's important to grab time together when you can to talk about things and check in on each other.
I sometimes find myself vocally diminishing the role I play in the family. It's not like I bring in a salary.
My wife berates me for saying that because without me being at home she would find her job almost impossible.
The decision for me to be at home allowed her to move forward with her career knowing I would be around to do most other things.
And I'm totally happy with that. It suits my introverted personality perfectly in fact.
Hobbies Are Good
Even though I'm in charge of looking after things at home, it's still important to get time to do something I want to do.
I've been gradually building up my fitness since I bought a Fitbit back in February 2015.
It wasn't enough for me to just count how many steps I was taking. I decided to go all in with running instead.
I started working towards 5k runs and then 10k and now I regularly run between 5 and 10 miles three times a week.
I'm not actively pursuing any particular races at the moment, although I may do that in time.
As a stay at home dad though, running fits in perfectly with my schedule and gets me out of the house.
I also started, stopped and then restarted this blog as a way to keep my brain ticking over.
It's a good way to have something I can pick up and put down during the day without it taking over.
It's Great To Spend More Time With The Family
When I was still employed the most time off I got off work was 25 days plus bank holidays.
It was always awkward around the Christmas and New Year periods as to whether I would get time off or not.
With my wife being a teacher, she always has a reasonable amount of time off, especially during the summer holidays.
And now I'm am home full time we can all spend that time together as a family.
We used to end up with me missing out on days out or entire trips to see relatives over in Ireland.
I know we've all benefited from making the decision five years ago that I would be the one to stay at home.
The Pros Of Being A Stay At Home Dad Outweigh The Cons
I have no doubt that me being at home has benefited our whole family.
It's not something that everyone can do either financially or otherwise. If you're contemplating it though, I say go for it. Any doubts I had in the early days are long gone.
Whilst there are certain things I sometimes wish were different, I know we made the right decision for our family.
If you're a stay at home dad already, what do you think it's like to be one? If you're thinking about becoming one, how are you feeling about it?
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