Being a stay-at-home dad has become more and more common. A recent cover of the New Yorker really emphasized this new trend. The cartoon showed half a dozen men in a playground caring for their children. One man is sipping coffee with his baby strapped to his chest while another man helps his son in the sandbox. A woman stands at the edge of the park, wondering where all the women have gone. This cover underscores a new zeitgeist in parenting.
This is not just a trend in the U.S.. The stay-at-home dad movement has crossed the Atlantic! My old friend Miki Holt, the founder of Golden Goose PR, a London firm, had her first child nearly two years ago. When it was time for Miki to go back to work, she and her husband Richard were faced with the decision to get a nanny or charter new territory. Richard, a journalist, chose to take a year off from working at the Daily Telegraph to look after his daughter. As a UK trailblazer in the daddy movement, Richard offers us his top ten tips for those thinking of becoming a stay-at-home dad:
1) Don't think staying at home to look after your child is easier than going out to work. Rewarding? Definitely. Easy? Not a chance.
2) Be prepared for certain people -- all of them men -- to make comments about "putting your feet up."
3) Don't spend all day with your feet up -- watching non-stop TV will make you and your child worse, whatever you tell yourself.
4) There is no boss less sympathetic than a toddler -- just try asking for the afternoon off because you are feeling ill.
5) Spend as much time as possible outdoors. If the weather is nice, that is smashing. If it isn't, don't worry, children are waterproof.
6) Remember that kids take ages to do the simplest of things -- it will take you time to adjust, so be patient and enjoy the new rhythm.
7) It is not a target-driven environment, so don't try and achieve too much -- keeping your child safe and happy is the most important thing.
8) Listen to how you talk to your child -- keep the whining tone and the "don't, don't, don't," to a minimum, or you'll soon hear it come right back at you.
9) Sooner or later, no matter how strong you are, your darling child will break you -- the real test is how well you put yourself back together.
10) If you think maybe it is not for you, just think of the hundreds of hours you would not otherwise have spent helping your child grow up.
Richard Holt is a journalist who has taken a year out from working at the Daily Telegraph to look after his 2-year-old daughter. He has written for the Financial Times and the Evening Standard about being a stay-at-home dad.