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Stay at Home Dads: 'For now, this is my career. My daughter is my priority.'

As for the future, I will go back to work, in my own time. I feel the pressure of not having a “career” right now.

Tim Hendy

SINCE OUR DAUGHTER was born in April, we have become one of the small but growing number of families where the father stays home to take care of the child while the mother goes back to work.

This is not something we would have chosen. We would both rather have things the other way around, but it came down to simple economics. She earns far more than I do, and so there was no real discussion to have. Here in Western Canada, attitudes towards stay-at-home dads are likely not much different to those in Ireland. The reactions have been universally encouraging, supportive and positive.

Reactions 

But, my wife is frequently asked how she feels about going back to work. Couldn’t she take more than three months’ maternity leave? Won’t she be sad to leave the baby at home? But why is it only “sad” that a mother has to go out to work, but not when a father has to, as in the majority of cases? It’s taken for granted that the father will go and spend a large part of the day away from his children. It’s expected. I am rarely asked how I “feel” about not doing so.

So how do I feel about it? I don’t think I could ever expect my partner to give up her job and stay at home if I weren’t prepared to do it myself. So while the idea took some getting used to, I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time with my daughter, to watch her grow and develop, to accept the responsibilities of parenthood, and to support my wife in her career all at the same time.

Isolation

I can see how this role could become isolating. If I didn’t play sports regularly and keep contact with my circle of friends, it would be difficult to socialise. There are few ‘Dads’ groups. But this might change. As for the future, I will go back to work, in my own time. I feel the pressure of not having a “career” right now. I miss having colleagues to interact with.

I know that stay-at-home mothers who left careers behind to take care of their children, and have the same pressures, so I am not entirely convinced it’s a “male” thing – but the drive to be the provider is still strong.

‘But aren’t mothers more suited to the task of parenting?’ Maybe, who knows? Generations of evolution may have made this so, but how great can the difference really be? I certainly have less patience than she does, but none of the tasks involved are particularly demanding. According to the stereotype of the ‘idiot Dad’, I shouldn’t be able to go a day without some major parenting disaster but, so far, everything has been fine.

We don’t see ourselves as having ‘exchanged traditional roles’. The role is different for every person and – it’s hard to discuss it without offending someone – the lifestyle of the stay-home mums I know is not the same as mine. Yes, I had to trade the sportscar for a ‘sensible Dad car’, but I do most of the same things I always did. The biggest single issue is the perceived loss of autonomy, but I think most of us accepted that when we started a family in the first place!

So, for now, this is my career. My daughter is my priority and every task is a labour of love. I will continue to enjoy the privilege of taking care of her while it lasts.

Tim Hendy is an Irish expat living in Surrey, British Columbia since 2009.

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Tim Hendy

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