All too often we hear about men who are deadbeat dads, those who only send pittance in child support once the CSA have caught up with them, or those who don’t even recognise the children they have created. If there are positive stories, they usually come in the form of men who are trying to get to know their children, but are being denied access, and a few about rare single fathers. But there is another type of dad we should celebrate as we hear almost nothing about them, and that is the stay-at-home dad.
As reported in The Guardian online in June, Britain has around 600,000 stay-at-home dads, and more who freelance or work part-time to help look after their children. Richard Huie is one such dad, and here he describes a typical day caring for his two-and-a-half year old daughter, in a role that is predominantly seen as a mother’s job.
“Originally I decided that I would quit my full time job and be a stay at home dad. However when I went and gave in my notice, my boss suggested part time work to give me the best balance and to keep my foot in. Financially it was better that I was at home to look after Leo, our daughter, full time. My partner and I both strongly felt that we wanted one of us to be there to bring up Leo, as we wanted to have a child and not just pass her into childcare. After the offer of part time work, we also decided that Leo would benefit from a day and a half at nursery purely for social reasons.
“On a typical day I get up at around 7am, either by myself or woken by Leo. We get washed and dressed and go downstairs for breakfast. Usually breakfast is followed by art activities, gardening or straight out for shopping. We don’t do a “big” shop but shop daily in small batches. We usually have lunch by 11.30/ 12pm, unless we go swimming, which we do on a weekly basis. If there are no plans for meeting friends, Leo will have a nap for 1.5 – 2 hours max. This allows me to do the cleaning, washing, cooking and ironing. Depending on what time Leo gets up, we’ll try and make the 1 o’clock club or the park. We try to meet friends after the park/ 1 o’clock club till late in the afternoon or just on our own. We would have cycled somewhere so would need to cycle back during the late afternoon. This also gives me an opportunity to catch up with shopping.
“If we arrive home in the earlier parts of the afternoon and there isn’t any food cooked, I’ll cook from fresh, otherwise we’ll get back by about 6pm for dinner. I try to ensure that Leo has dinner by 6.30, so that we can have a bath from around 7pm. Leo has a daily bath due to her eczema with a special bath oil. It’s good to allow her to have a soak for a while. Usually Julia, my partner, is home between 7.20pm and 7.40pm, so I’ll aim to keep Leo up so she can give her the bath and get her ready for bed. I like to ensure that Leo is in bed by about 8pm, so that Julia can get some time in the evening with her. Once Leo is asleep I’ll clean the bath, wash up and tidy up. By 9pm I’m knackered and will enjoy wasting away on the couch!
“It’s a pleasure to be able to do what I do. I get to sit and be a central part of her growth. I see her changing and developing daily which is an amazing privilege. I feel it’s important to do stuff. If I didn’t then I’d find it really tough. I try to ensure that we get out each day and do something. There are many things to do from walks in the park, museums, 1 o’clock clubs, cycling places and getting around the shops. I strongly feel that a regular routine helps us both get through the day. Simple activities like painting, coloring, digging, role-play and reading help. Things like this make me feel really pleased that we organized it, so that I can spend so much time with Leo. Time with your kid is priceless!
“I definitely feel that other people look at me and question my role as a ‘man’, but it doesn’t make me feel any less of a man. The doctor recently asked: “Where is the mother? How come you always bring her?” A couple of our local shop keepers have also asked. Some women look at me with concern in their eyes like I’m just about to do something totally wrong. Countless questioning eyes and opinions from health workers delving into a situation wondering how like how I can best assess the health of Leo. I get random women on the street telling me to make sure I do this or that. Most people seem to be jealous and very envious of my time and relationship with Leo. Many don’t realise just how challenging a day is, mainly non-parents, and think that all I do is chill and relax.
“I would 100% recommend other dads to experience being a stay-at-home dad. We have kids to have kids. From my early experiences, children change on a daily basis and so many changes are easily missed. I look ahead and see that in a year’s time, by the time Leo is at full time school, I can get back to working full time. Being part of her early experiences, I feel that I really know my child.”