Husband Handbook: What It's Really Like to be a Stay-at-Home Dad
Being a husband, father, or even a boyfriend is a confusing yet fulfilling role. The Husband Handbook, a collection of stories about the intricacies of relationships, is here to sort things out. This is the manual on how to have a happy life with the wife, the girlfriend, the kids, and the family. This week, we take a look at the rare creature called the house husband.
If you google anything about being a stay-at-home husband, most results are peppered with platitudes on how to be the perfect house husband: Communicate, be loving, be handsome, and do some chores. But here's what they don't tell you about being a stay-at-home dad, according to a stay-at-home dad who wishes his kids would fall asleep right after dinner.
"Modern society was not built around the concept of stay-at-home dads, so imagine my dilemma when people ask my wife what I do for a living. 'Nothing!' she once quipped to a couple of high school friends. My wife thought it was a witty response, but nobody laughed.
"One time, when I mustered enough courage to say I’m a stay-at-home dad, a friend asked this question in her earnest desire to sound concerned: 'Why?' Inside, I’m like, 'Why not? I don’t ask you why you’re in your job!'
"Later on, I would realize that it’s not my friend's fault for reacting like I’m a jobless 34-year-old. Many people just don’t see being a house-husband as a full-time job or an option at all. When I told my mother I was resigning from my regular job to become a full-time dad, her immediate reaction was: 'What would her parents say? How are you going to support your family?' Her primary concern was losing face to my wife’s family and not how I was going to provide for my family.
"Now, whenever people ask, I just say something obscure like 'I work at an online consultation firm for business development.' I really do Facebook marketing and consulting, but this works like mosquito repellent, so..."
"Being a stay-at-home dad can be so exhausting. Handling a one-year-old is a lot of work: He’s up at 5 a.m. and starts making a lot of noise, so I immediately change his dirty diapers (I do this four or more times a day). After washing his bum with copious amounts of Cetaphil (he’s allergic to anything else), I prepare the wife’s breakfast (my hands have been washed), then prepare her lunchbox with another meal, all before she leaves the house at 6:30 a.m.
"The four-year-old wakes up at 8 a.m. I get him to eat breakfast, bathe him, and dress him in his uniform before 9:30 a.m., which is when I drive him to his to school. I take the small one with me and we wait for the four-year-old's classes to end at 12 p.m and then we pick him up.
"After lunch at home, I plan to take a break but my kids have other ideas. They play with toys, argue a lot, and generally make a lot of noise, which is a good thing really. I get worried when they become quiet: One time, the house fell silent after lunch. I walked in on the two brothers in the kitchen spreading mayonnaise on the cat.
"Throughout the day, I also watch and prevent the one-year-old from doing everything a one-year-old is not supposed to do: Pull the oven door while it is being preheated, bite the cat’s tail, get scratched on the face by an angry cat that was bitten on the tail. I do this while preparing food, doing laundry, ironing clothes, and washing his bottles.
"At around 4 p.m. I take the kids to the park where they can exhaust themselves for my sake. If I don’t do this, they will be awake until 10 p.m. and I’ll never be able to watch Netflix with my wife.
"Actually, Netflix is a luxury sometimes. There are times when I just wish the toddlers would fall asleep at 7 p.m. after dinner because I want to sleep and am truly exhausted."
But I enjoy it.
"Don’t get me wrong, I love being tired and exhausted if it means my children are safe, the laundry is done, the kitchen is spotless, and the wife is happy. Additional points for when she compliments my cooking or notices the small improvements I make around the house without telling her.
"On the side, my 'online consultation firm for business development' is doing well. As a house husband, I am able to apply financial management at home, saving us thousands of pesos every month.
"Being a house husband is not for everyone, but it is now a reality. It entails sacrifices, sure, but it also offers possibilities that were alien to me when I still had a regular job. I enjoy that I make my wife excited to come home every day because of the warm dinner I prepared, the clean and comfortable house I maintained, or the sight of our children telling her all our misadventures throughout the day.
"My kids have become my job and I admit I would find it hard to go back to having a regular job, especially after becoming a house husband."
As told to Mario Alvaro Limos