I still remember the day my son was born like it was yesterday. After only about an hour of labor he joined us in this world at 11:58 pm. It was the greatest moment of both our lives.
From that time forward, we pledged to care for him as best we could. In a big way, all the years of saving and investing and figuring out how to make some income at home were to prepare for this moment that we could both be stay at home parents.
As first-time parents, we didn’t know what to expect. So we figured having both of us care for our boy would be the optimal way to go.
Here’s my personal reflection as a stay at home dad for the past two years I wrote in 2019. I’ve sent this post to his e-mail account for him to read when he’s a little bit older. In 2022, I’ve now been a stay at home dad for five years. But overall, my feelings are quite similar.
Reflecting On Being A Stay At Home Dad For Two Years
1) Losing income is hard, but losing time is harder.
Due to being a stay at home dad for two years, I’ve lost out on between $400,000 – $1,000,000 in income. With 18-20 years of experience in finance and online media, getting a $200,000 – $250,000 a year job + restricted stock units is very possible in the SF Bay Area. If I were to go back to banking, my base salary would be $250,000 a year + bonuses equal to 0% – 200% of base salary.
Although losing out on so much income is hard given we now have more expenses taking care of our son, I wouldn’t miss out on the first two years of my son’s life for any amount of money.
You could give me a billion dollars, and if I had to be away from home for 14 hours a day to make that money, I would decline. I’ve spent time with billionaires before, and they are just like you and me, except they fly private everywhere.
Over the past two years, I have witnessed his every milestone: his first smile, his first rollover, his first crawl, his first steps, his first words, and so many more. Each milestone witnessed felt like a blessing. I hope due to all the time both of us have spent with him, we will have an even stronger bond as he grows up.
I’ve gotten to know a couple of nannies over the two years and they have told me how they won’t tell the parents about new milestones so that the parents can think they are first time witnesses.
I knew I could always make more money but I could never create more time with our son.
2) Being a stay at home dad is the hardest job in the world no doubt.
For all the stay at home parents out there, I salute you! And for all the single parents out there, you have my deepest admiration.
Working 14 hours a day in banking where there’s constant pressure to produce is a walk in the park in comparison to full-time fatherhood.
With full-time fatherhood, you are on 24/7 due to risk of injury or death by the child. The first year of life is the most fragile, which is why you’re always on high alert for choking, suffocation, tumbles, running into a corner, and so forth.
I kept reading stories about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which were all so incredibly heartbreaking. For the first year, this paranoia wouldn’t let me sleep uninterrupted for more than 3-4 hours. Back is best and get rid of all the blankets and pillows in the crib please.
Once your child starts to verbalize his or her desires, it’s all about repetition. My son loves garage doors and will say the words “garage door,” “double-wide garage door,” “quadruple wide brown garage door” etc over and over again. He’ll then open and close garage door toys a hundred times in a row. I’ve got to repeat the words and open and close the doors with him. Otherwise, he knows I’m not paying attention.
A Test Of Endurance And Patience
I’ve also heard whines, screams, and crying 5 – 10X a day for 730+ days in a row (now over 2,000 days in a row because we birthed a daughter in 2019!). In the beginning, this was quite a shock to the system because we never had any of this since my wife and I started shacking up in 2001.
Our boy is a top 1% chatterbox and super determined individual. If he can’t do something or doesn’t get what he wants, he definitely makes himself heard or felt! Nor does he sleep very well. He can go for 14 hours a day non-stop if we don’t try to make him nap.
Over time, things are getting better as he’s able to verbally communicate his needs and desires. He’s no longer as frustrated because he can tell us he’s tired, thirsty, hungry, sad, and so forth.
And here’s the kicker. My wife did around 70% of the care-taking largely due to nursing needs, and I still felt being a stay at home dad was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. One must develop incredible patience and endurance to survive.
3) Have children and the money will come.
Although both my wife and I gave up healthy salaries to raise our boy full-time, we were somehow able to make enough money after he was born to live comfortably.
When you have a child, your mind and body go into overdrive to try and provide as much care and support as possible. As a result, you gain even more energy to find ways to financially support your family.
In my case, instead of waking up between 5:30 am – 6:15 am to start the day and work on Financial Samurai, I began waking between 3:30 am – 4:30 am to try and get more done before our son would wake up between 7 am – 8 am.
I did not quit because I knew I could not. My family depended on me.
If he has had a particularly poor sleeping night, I would try and take over for a couple hours to allow for my wife to sleep in or decompress. I’d also try to nap as many times as possible during his mid-day nap so that I too could recharge for the afternoon and evening sessions.
After our boy went to bed, usually between 7:30pm-9pm, it was often Netflix, catching up on work stuff I’d postponed during the day, and preparing myself for the next day.
Once he turned 24 months old, our son now has the ability to go from 6:30am – 7:30pm non-stop with no naps several days a week.
Just the other day I took him on a 1 hour 20 minute walk in the morning around our hilly neighborhood. I would have bet anything he’d take a two hour nap after lunch. But he just kept right on going until 8pm!
Overall, we are talking about 4:00am – 10pm days on average with a 45 minute nap in the middle of the day.
As the saying goes, “the days are long and the years are short.”
4) Easy to gain weight and get sick as a stay at home dad.
When all you’re doing is caring for your baby at home, it’s extremely easy to gain weight. I went from around 168 lbs to 175 lbs, even though I was consciously trying not to overeat.
But 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.
For men who are looking to have a baby and stay at home, I suggest trying to lose 5 – 10 lbs before your baby is born. That way, you’ll have a 5 – 10 lbs buffer for the inevitability.
Another downer is the increased frequency of getting sick after the first year. Our boy got his first cold at 12 months old. Then he started getting sick about once a quarter as we interacted more with the public.
His sickness spread to us, and we found ourselves frequently battling colds as well. Luckily, neither my wife or have have been sick at the same time.
5) Nannies won’t pay as much attention as you.
I’m really sad to report this but after spending over 150 sessions in a public setting (park, museum, playground, etc), the vast majority of nannies or au pairs (90%+) are on their phones the entire time they are supposed to be watching over your child.
Every time I play chase with my boy, there will inevitably be 2-3 kids who will play along because their nannies are not playing with them. I’ve seen countless falls by 10-18-month-olds just learning to walk because their nannies are not paying attention.
I often wonder whether one of the reasons for slow speech development is because the nanny simple does not spend enough time speaking to their child or describing things to the child as they happen. We parents should be verbally describing everything our children are doing and seeing to help them learn. But with nannies, what I’ve observed is largely silence.
If you are having difficulty deciding whether to return to work or staying home to take care of your child, I recommend you choose to stay home if your can afford to. Nobody will care more about your child than you. It’s not even close.
Many of us are addicted to our mobile phones. The nannies I’ve seen take it to the next level. It’s like they’re getting paid for being on the phone!
If you go the nanny route, I would explicitly tell them to stay off their phones during play time. Whether they do so or not is up to them. But at least you’ve voiced your desires and there’s a greater chance your nanny will follow your instructions.
It is completely sad and a wee bit alarming to have a little one come up to me, a stranger, and ask me to play with them because they are being completely ignored.
6) There was less discrimination against stay at home dads than I thought.
You sometimes hear stories about moms excluding dads from conversations or moms whispering mean words about dads being stay at home parents.
Out of all my outings, I have never once been discriminated against or been made to feel embarrassed or bad for being a stay at home parent. None of my friends have taken jabs at me either.
Maybe it’s because I live in San Francisco, where we’re very accepting of people. Maybe it’s because my wife was also with me during most public settings. Or maybe it’s because I’m a proud dad who is more impervious to the disapproval of others.
Don’t let our insecurities run amuck.
Once I went with a moms group walk around Golden Gate Park and we decided to take a break under a large tree. All the moms started to breastfeed their children, but only one had a shawl. It frankly felt weird to be around the group, so I decided to take a short walk instead.
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.
Embrace your occupation as a stay at home dad. It is the most important job in the world!
7) Wish I had children sooner.
I find that 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.
Physically, I’m still holding up pretty well. But I’m definitely not as limber as I used to be and it takes me longer to recover from a cold or a sports injury. After about age 45, I’m not sure if my body would be able to handle all the necessary bending over and carrying any more.
Having one kid makes me want to have a second. Therefore, it’s good to plan as much as possible. Even if you plan, it might take longer than expected to have a child. I do believe the best age to have a baby is in one’s early 30s.
If you know you want to have children, it’s better to have them sooner rather than later. Not only will your body be able to better handle childcare, but your kids might also be able to spend more time with their aging grandparents.
8) You never feel like you’re doing enough as a stay at home dad.
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.
Proud To Be A Stay At Home Dad (SAHD)
After two years of being a stay at home dad, I’m firmly on the side of the rest of the world that provides 6 – 12 months of parental leave after having a baby.
For a woman to return to work within three months seems cruel, especially if a C-section is involved. All a baby wants to do at that age is be with his or her parents.
One doctor said it best, “Nine months to create, nine months to heal.” If male managers and CEOs were at home every day helping their wives recover, they would be more empathetic as well.
Unfortunately, companies aren’t in the business of subsidizing our personal life decisions regarding having children. My hope is that American institutions will soon start to offer some type of token paid parental time off for at least the first child.
At the end of the day, I know my wife and I have tried our very best to raise him so far. Looking back, the two years went by quickly. Looking forward, I’m hoping for many more wonderful experiences.
Whatever financial sacrifices you think you’re making to be a stay at home parent will be worth it. You won’t look back wishing you could have made more money. Instead, you’ll look back and be happy about all the time you spent with your little one.
Are there any stay at home dads out there who would like to share what it was like for you? Stay at home moms feel free to share your thoughts and also how your husband or partner has helped or how we dads can do more.