There are a lot of clichés about fathers. Commercials often portray us as the ‘bumbling parent’ who gets lost trying to change a diaper and instantly panics as soon as mom isn’t around. We’re routinely characterized as the rock in the family that never cries, the parent who tells our son to always be tough and never show their emotions, and threatens our daughter’s dates at the front door with a shotgun or pitch fork. We’re supposed to go to work and be the breadwinner, drink beer, and enjoy spending our time on the couch watching sports more than spending time with our kids.
But these clichés have long been just that: clichés. Luckily, as a society, we are becoming more aware of these stereotypes about fatherhood, and I’ve never been prouder to be part of a small but growing segment of the population: stay-at-home dads.
How I became a stay-at-home dad
When my wife and I started our family, it became increasingly clear to me that I wanted someone to be home with our daughter, and it made the most sense financially and practically for me to be that person.
I’m also a stay-at-home dad (SAHD) by choice and I think being a SAHD is the greatest job in the world! I consider myself incredibly lucky, and I try to soak in every precious moment of my daughter growing up as I know that these precious moments are fleeting.
Crunching the numbers
While it may seem like you don’t see a lot of SAHDs, it could be because there are not as many stay-at-home parents nowadays. In Canada, stay-at-home parents dropped from 1,487,000 in 1976 to 493,000 in 2015. While the number of stay-at-home moms has decreased every year, the number of stay-at-home dads has grown every year. According to Stats Canada, since 1976 SAHDs have increased in popularity from 1 in 70 to 1 in 10.
I suspect there are a lot of reasons why the number of SAHDs has increased over the years, but the fact of the matter is more dads want to stay home to look after their kids, and why shouldn’t they?
My job is fun
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of stress looking after a child. I constantly worry about my daughter. But you know what? I also get to play with my daughter for most of my day, and that’s not really hard. In fact, it’s really fun!
As a dad, the greatest gift I’ve been given is the ability to watch my daughter as she learns new things. I’m eternally grateful that my wife works hard to allow me the opportunity to look after our daughter at home - not every family is so lucky. On any given day we’re going to the zoo, swimming, or exploring Fish Creek and that’s my job; how lucky am I?
What I’ve learned being a stay-at-home dad
Throughout my first few months at home with my daughter, I’ve learned some valuable parenting traits: Patience, kindness, curiosity, and enthusiasm. These traits have helped me the most raising my daughter.
I always strive to be patient and kind with my daughter - though I’m sure there are times when my fuse is short. I’m cognizant of the fact that she’s only little and everything is a learning exercise for her. This is where my own curiosity and enthusiasm come into play. Watching her become fascinated with snow, a tree, a puddle can lead us to spending an hour playing and learning all about it.
And that’s the best part of being a SAHD: the smiles, the learning, and the look in my daughter’s eye when she’s amazed by something. I get to watch her as she is molded by the world around her, and I get to actively take part in her growth. Like anything else, there are good days and bad days in parenting, but the good days far outweigh the bad, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world!
How we describe masculinity and fatherhood is changing. I may get the occasional glance while walking through the mall, but I’ve never been made to feel like less of a man because I chose to stay home with my child. At times we may be treated as a novelty, but we have always been welcomed with open arms to parent groups and playdates. Society’s views on men and parenting are growing and changing, and I’m excited to be on the progressive side of it.
Matt is a freelance writer, owner of MRB Ink, and a stay-at-home dad who chronicles his adventures about raising his daughter and how he feels about fatherhood at dashingdad.ca. Find him on Instagram @dashingdad_yyc, Pinterest, as Dashing Dad, and Twitter @DashingDadYYC, where he loves to highlight fun activities great for the whole family around Calgary and area.
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