If you are a stay-at-home parent, you know there are things that you and your working spouse handle differently. What you have in common is that you both work long hours, your day doesn't just come to an end at night, and you have to get up the next day and do it all over again and again, and again.
Stay-at-home dads have issues just like stay-at-home moms, but we sometimes have trouble effectively addressing them. Through observations in a stay-at-home dad group I help run, I have noticed some issues between SAHDs and their spouses. Luckily, my wife and I have learned some tips along the way during these past six years of me being at home. If your husband is staying at home or thinking about it, you may want to keep these suggestions in mind.
1. Let it go.
Sorry if you are now singing that Frozen song. You are going to need to let your at-home dad do things his way. I know it is hard and there are things that are going to bug you, like the fact that he wipes the tables counterclockwise instead of clockwise, but we are hoping you can let that slide.
He is going to have to find out on his own what his schedule should be, on his terms. Suggestions about how to make things more efficient are fine, but in the end, we will want to do things our own way. Imposing your will on us may just shut us down more. Let us figure it out and come up with a schedule that fits with our parenting style.
2. Don't nag.
Nothing is going to get us motivated less than when you are constantly asking us to do something. We are aware of our shortcomings, and in most cases, we are trying to find that balance between caring for the kids and managing the household duties. Give us some time. Sometimes, things go by the wayside because we get overwhelmed.
3. Set clear expectations.
Sit down together and communicate about the things you expect to be accomplished each day. Some couples think that just managing to keep the kids alive and healthy is enough, but others may have further expectations about cleanliness, meal preparation, etc. Make sure, in the end, that you are on the same page. This will help cut down on problems later.
4. Cleaning house.
If we were anal-retentive when you met us with things needing to be clean, this is probably carrying over into our lives with the kids -- maybe even more so. But, if you remember a time when you met us and we maintained our apartment but it didn't meet your standards, this is more than likely what is going to continue in the home, especially when you add the kids into the mix.
Cleaning sucks, and there are lots of things we would rather do than clean that space between the toilet seat and the tank -- like play with the kids. Guys, do a floor check. Get down on the ground and play with the kids. See things from their level. If you are disgusted and would rather put a blanket down before lying in that filth, then it is time to put on your Mr. Clean hat.
5. Help out when you can.
This is a big issue with most SAHDs. We know you have been working all day and you probably have to work into the night as well, but any assistance you give us is going to be much appreciated. Men tend to internalize issues until they build up and are afraid to ask for help because we know you are doing so much already and don't want to start a fight.
This is where clear expectations come into play. (See #3.) Tag team the nighttime routine. Ask your husband how he usually does things so you can stay consistent. That is really going to help us into the next day with the kids. Deviation is going to cause problems with our routine.
6. Communicate effectively.
If there is something that needs to get done and we aren't doing it, tell us in a way that is not attacking. Men tend to get defensive when our shortcomings are pointed out. I often have difficulty with criticism because I respond better to praise. Sandwich the request with some compliments on what we are doing right. That softens the blow and makes us more willing to work on our weaknesses than just pointing out what we aren't doing well.
7. Pencil us in.
We know you are tired and so are we, but please, work us into your schedule, because we want to be in your inbox. Plough through that work together. See what I did there? It relieves stress and helps you reconnect with each other despite all the stuff you have to do; instead, do each other.
8. Give us some space.
We need guy time as much as you need girls' night out. Offer to watch the kids so we can go to that action movie you would never watch with us, or suggest that we get together with the guys at a restaurant or bar to blow off some steam. You know how it is at bedtime and on weekends. Imagine your incompetent co-workers hassling you all day. Same deal. Sometimes we just want to drive to Target to walk around aimlessly without someone asking us for something.
9. Take time for yourself.
We want you to be as rested and sharp as possible, because you are providing for our family and you deserve it. If you need some time alone or away from the kids, just ask. We can plan to have them away for a bit while you nap, catch up on work or head out to the store by yourself. Just know that eventually, we are coming back.