This topic is going to be a little funky because I’m bouncing between two similar, but different, topics. I’ve been in both boats and felt like talking about them since they’ve been heavy on my mind. This might be a challenge because I don’t want to rant about the divorce and fallout. Now, what are the two roles?
Stay At Home Dad
I was this from late 2012 until late 2018. The trigger was that my son had been diagnosed as special needs and was heading into Pre-K. I could only find temp work at the time, so my wife (now ex-wife) and agreed on me staying home. She had a job and I pursued writing while taking care of our son. It was a really different first year too because he was sick nearly every week. His tantrums were bad and a few of them lasted for hours, so I was more father than author. That’s as it should be. I managed to counter this since the first 3 books of Legends of Windemere had already been written long before 2012.
Anyway, this was my life for a while. I took care of my son, ran errands, cooked, cleaned, and held down the house to counter me not making a lot of money. It was fun and rewarding, but there was some awkwardness. Play dates were hard because it was usually the mothers. Most times I’d be able to chat, but there’s still something off with people when it’s the father being spoken too. I remember getting odd looks from older people in public as well. Taking my son food shopping during a time when I ‘should be working’ definitely didn’t sit well with a few strangers. Was a problem for people I knew as well, but I tried to shrug it off.
Have to admit that being a Stay at Home father was much more challenging than being an author. Yet, I couldn’t complain because it meant I created important bonds with my son that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t around that much. I do wish I got a little more time to myself, but we always want that in retrospect. I wouldn’t trade all the moments I had with my son for anything, especially since I’m not with him every day.
This is still an odd thing to consider myself to be. I’ve come to accept it more, but it still hurts on the days that he isn’t with me. After spending about 6 years being with my son every day, I’m used to having my little shadow around. That’s really the biggest difference between the two roles. As a Stay At Home, I was with my soon all the time. Being single means I’m working and he’s with his mom at times, so there is no longer unlimited access to my own child. This is probably more for divorced fathers though. I do know of many that are fine not being around their kids because child-rearing is ‘women’s work’, but that’s not me at all. I cherished my time with my son and I think it made me stronger as a father and human being.
Unlike before, I no longer have a partner to help me out too. My parents are here to lend a hand when I need it, but I don’t want to depend on them too much here. This means I don’t get to have much of a social life. Some days, I’m okay with this, but there are times when I have to bow out of things and feel a little lonely. This is probably more that I still have that sense of being cast aside though. My friends do understand that I can’t always go out, which is good. One day, my son will be old enough to take care of himself or to come along for the fun.
The more I write about this, the more I realize the difference really comes down to how one prioritizes. As a Stay At Home with a spouse, I had more flexibility and someone who could take pressure off. As a Single Father, I have to put my son and job ahead of nearly everything else. Writing can’t be done on a whim because I have responsibilities and am no longer home while he’s at school. Nights are used for preparing for the next day and resting up. Definitely feels like there’s a lot more pressure on me than when I was a Stay At Home. Keep in mind that this is all personal opinion.
Now, I know I’m talking about fathers here, but 98% of this can go for mothers in the same positions. The only reason I’m not going to say 100% is that I really do think fathers have to work harder to create bonds with their children. Mothers tend to have a natural connection with their children regardless of the time they spend or even the treatment that they bestow. Maybe human babies imprint in some fashion and that’s typically with the mother? I really wish I could explain this, but it does cross a line into a personal realm that isn’t right to discuss in public. Again, my opinion here, so others might see things differently.
So, what do other people think of Stay At Home and/or Single Fathers?