After over two years of being a stay at home dad, I finally understand how I was able to consistently get up at by 5am and go until 10pm on average for 730+ days in a row: dad-guilt!
Dad-guilt is an incredibly strong feeling where dads do not feel like they are doing enough to care for their child because they are so busy trying to financially provide for their family.
Ever since men were boys, we've been taught that to be an honorable and responsible man, we must be the main financial provider. As a result, we couldn't follow our passions that would likely make us less money like the arts.
The pressure was always on us to make money. Once a little one comes, the pressure to make money increases even further. If we are not rising up in our careers or getting raises, then we feel guilty that we are not doing enough.
The workplace is cutthroat, especially due to globalization. If we are not getting raises and promotions, nor spending enough time taking care of our babies, then we feel dad-guilt to the maximum!
Here are some thoughts I have after being a stay at home dad with dad-guilt for over 24 months. Not only was I a stay at home dad for two years, I also worked from home from two years in order to keep being a provider despite having a livable passive income stream.
Why Men Experience Dad-Guilt
1) Not making the most money is difficult, but losing time is harder. Due to being a stay at home dad for two years, I've lost out on between $500,000 – $1,000,000 in income. With 18-20 years of experience in finance and online media, I can easily get a $250,000 a year job plus bonus in San Francisco.
I feel guilty for not making this money because not only have I lost this income, I also have to pay for additional baby expenses.
Despite the guilt, I wouldn't trade money for time away from my son. These first two years were priceless.
2) Your dad-guilt will make you more money. Although I gave up healthy salary to raise our boy full-time, I found a way to make more money each of the past two years due to dad-guilt.
When you have a child, your mind and body power up to levels you've never experienced before. As a result, you gain even more energy to find ways to financially support your family.
In my case, I started waking up by 5am every morning to grow Financial Samurai, this personal finance site you're reading. I started reaching out to major media publications to promote my work. I also took up consulting jobs where I could work from home.
Due to major guilt of not working a full-time job, I just worked harder than I ever did before and figured out ways to leverage the internet.
To overcome dad guilt, look online at various freelance opportunities on Craigslist and Upwork to make more money for the family. You can even drive for Uber or Lyft during off hours just so that you can feel like you are contributing.
One of the best things every dad should do is start their own website like this one. Here is my step-by-step tutorial on how to start. Once you have a website, you attract like-minded people and plenty of consulting/freelance opportunities.
3) You stop looking your best. Another reason why there's dad-guilt is because like mothers, dads also gain weight. When all you're doing is caring for your baby at home, it's extremely easy to over eat and exercise less. I went from around 168 lbs to 173 lbs.
Combine not looking your best with not having a full-time job to be a financial provider can really make dads feel melancholy. The only way back is to get back in shape and start making at least some extra income to support your wife, if she is the primary breadwinner.
Figure out ways to save money at home and do more DIY projects.
Thankfully, after about the 18th month, I started losing weight and am back down to about 166 – 169 lbs (still 5 – 7 lbs overweight according to chart below). The main reason why is because I've started to take my boy on almost daily walks. I also went back to playing tennis three days a week.
Getting back to pre-baby weight has made me feel better and less guilty. All dads want our wives or partners to look at us like the hunks we used to be.
To overcome dad guilt, focus on healthy eating and more outdoor exercises with your child once he or she comes of age.
4) Other moms sometimes make you feel bad. The moms I interacted with over 150 public settings in two years have generally been very open and welcoming. However, you sometimes notice them talk behind your back, laugh, or question why you're the one in the park and not the mother.
This is probably more of an insecurity we men feel more than anything else. But since still only about 20% of men are stay at home dads, there is sometimes strange attitudes that are hurled our way that make us feel bad.
The acceptance of SAHDs is gradually growing over time.
For all the stay at home dads out there who would rather say you retired early, are a freelancer or entrepreneur, you don't have to be ashamed that your wife or partner is bringing home the bacon.
To overcome dad guilt, embrace your occupation as a stay at home dad. It is the most important job in the world!
5) Being an old dad. Men are a little too relaxed about when to have children because we don't have the same biological deadline as women do. We like to avoid the subject for as long as possible. But this is not fair to women who want to have children. Have a mature discussion early in your relationship.
Given our relaxed attitude, we tend to have children later in life. And being an old dad is definitely not as fun as being a young dad. Bending over is harder on our backs and knees. We also don't have the same amount of energy as younger dads.
Guilt comes in when we think about whether we'll be able to live long enough to watch our sons or daughters grow up to be independent individuals who start their own families.
Guilt also arises when we realize that our kids won't get to know their grandparents for as long as they should. The same guilt comes from not allowing our parents to enjoy their grandkids for longer.
I really wish I had children in my early 30s instead of two months before my 40th birthday! Now if I want to have a second kid, I'll be 43 – 45, and that's really starting to get old.
If you know you want to have children, it's better to have them sooner rather than later.
6) You never feel like you're doing enough. I'm constantly in awe of my wife because of her patience, kindness, and ability to naturally feed our boy when he was a baby.
As a stay at home dad, my son and I have a close connection, but it's not as close as the connection he has with his mom. As a result, I used to feel a little sad when he cried out for mommy while I was right there playing with him.
What am I, chopped liver or something? I'd sometimes think to myself.
Because I'm unable to nurse our boy, I try to make up for my deficiency in other ways: cleaning, driving, grocery shopping, playing, washing dishes, ordering food and so forth. I'd throw myself deep into my work in order to feel the power of being a provider.
Slowly, I'm starting to feel more worthy of being a father. As he gets older I hope all he'll want to do is play with his old man. It's just such a weird feeling to never feel like you're doing enough no matter how hard you try.
To over come dad guilt, know that you are doing the best you can. Only 20% of men are stay at home dads in America, therefore, you are doing more than 80% of the dads out there!
It Is An Honor To Be A Stay At Home Dad
Despite all the dad-guilt of not doing enough to raise your child and not making enough to financially provide the best life possible for your family, being a stay at home dad is still one of the best occupations ever.
We just have to overcome our own insecurities and own our status as stay at home dads. The longer we're at it the more confidence and security we will feel.
Check out this chart that shows all the benefits children receive of having a father in the home.
Whatever financial sacrifices you think you're making to be a stay at home dad, it will be worth it in the end. I've talked to dozens of older stay at home dads who have kids in college or in the work force already.
Nobody regrets spending time with their kids over making more money. Neither will you if you choose to raise your children during their most precious years.
Manage Your Money Wisely
Given money is one of the biggest reasons for dad-guilt, one of the best ways to overcome dad-guilt is by diligently tracking your finances. The more you know how your family's net worth is allocated and where your cash flow is going, the better your finances will be.
Sign up for Personal Capital, the web’s #1 free wealth management tool to get a better handle on your finances. In addition to better money oversight, run your investments through their award-winning Investment Checkup tool to see exactly how much you are paying in fees. I was paying $1,700 a year in fees I had no idea I was paying.
After you link all your accounts, use their Retirement Planning calculator that pulls your real data to give you as pure an estimation of your financial future as possible using Monte Carlo simulation algorithms.
If you can take control of your family's finances, you will feel like more of a man, even if you aren't making most of the money. Financial oversight is huge for a prosperous future. Being the CFO of your household is an incredible responsibility stay at home men can take on and do well.