As I’m now in the final week of working full-time before becoming a stay at home parent, I thought it might be worth putting the thought process for how my wife and I came to the decision we have to a wider audience.
It came down to three categories really: financial, physical and emotional. Financial was the area which took the most analysis and discussion. We looked at the costs of either or both of us working a variation of part-time and full-time, alongside the childcare options that came from that. Our eldest is 3 and is currently in pre-school 5 mornings a week.
The boy is approaching his first birthday. We put our daughter into nursery on her first birthday, so in principle had no objections there. However, when we looked at the differences between working patterns and the relative costs of childcare, essentially we would be paying one salary for someone to look after our kids. In our minds, that alone made no sense!
With careful monthly budgeting, we would be no different in terms of outgoings. Following this, I started to look at my state pension. Having checked the .gov website, I was a little unsure of my calculations, so I phoned up and discussed my options with a nice man. He double checked my status and I was pleased to find out that my state pension was well in place and I could afford to take a number of years out (in theory) without affecting my full pension option.
I am also planning to transfer some of marriage tax allowance to my wife to give us some extra benefit. I can’t apply for this until I am actually out of the working world though.
With my daughter, I was always eager to take extended paternity leave, having opted for 6 weeks at the end of my wife’s maternity leave. There was little doubt in my mind I would be happy to do something similar this time, though we have of course made that open ended now!
The physical thoughts were mostly around the change in daily life. Moving from spending 8 hours a day in an office to looking after 3 children is a big change. I often find myself on a weekend roaming the streets with one child in a buggy and another either in a wrap or on my shoulders. Once or twice a week is probably ok, but I would have to change my approach on a daily basis.
My active : downtime ratio is going to change, but I’m looking forward to it. Though I’m not in the worst of shapes, I could do with more walking, running and lifting to knock me into better shape. I don’t doubt my nighttime schedule will change too as my wife goes back to work full time. I will confess that I had it easy with our daughter as a little nipper, in general she settled well over night, but our son is very different – I’ve spent many of the wee hours in his company in the last year.
It is a big lifestyle change, and my wife and I have been open about changes in responsibilities around the house. I told her to give me the works, write down everything she wants me to know and do, both for the children and around the house. We have a rough weekly schedule for tasks, and it’s something I am keen to throw myself into. I say that without it being a novelty. I’m a little obsessed with an article I read in the news a while ago that really resonated with me. In short, couples living together will have different ideas about what household jobs are important and what should be done. It’s not that the other person isn’t doing work, just they see different jobs to focus on. This really struck a chord with me, maybe in part because we’d already made the decision for me to stay at home. We talked about this and are quite honest about our approaches to running the house. This is why I wanted her to put onto paper her thoughts and ideas, so I can then try to pick up the same processes when I’m at home.
There are going to be days when physically being around 2 small children can become a challenge. My wife would agree that there are times when she has just had too much contact from the kids and wants to be left alone! But, I’m ready for the challenge and am looking forward to lots of hugs and more small person chats.
That links nicely into the emotional and mental aspect. I will be around different groups of people, potentially baby groups where I might be the only dad. There’s no getting away from the fact that I’ll be in the minority. That said, I’m content with this.
We have friendship groups from NCT and local groups already from our daughter, some of whom are in the same situation with two kids and of similar ages, so thankfully I’ll know people at some groups. At some I won’t, but that’s fine. I’m going to be there with one or two of the coolest people I know, my children, and I’m there to spend the time with them and enjoy their company.
It is a big lifestyle change and my wife and I have been open the changes this will bring. I’ve been told by people around my work that I am making a bold decision or that I am strong or brave. I think I’m making a committed decision and I want to spend time with two of the people I want to spend most my time with in this world. They will always be growing up and I will be content knowing I can take them in while they’re the ages they are.
I know being a stay at home dad is a big decision. Ultimately it is personal, but I don’t doubt it’s positive. I know I will be part of a small group, but it’s growing, and sites like The FMLY Man are encouraging a community that may have a great impact.