The stay-at-home dad is kind of like a unicorn. You’ve heard about them, and you think they sound nice, but you cannot personally attest to their existence.
Or maybe you can. Maybe you’re surrounded by dudes in your parenting circle and you all shoot hoops while the kids run on the nearby playground, or you meet for a beer play date at 4 p.m. on a Friday and you talk Patriots. But I’m not. As much as I like basketball, beer, and Brady, I don’t have a single stay-at-home-dad bud.
Unless you count Zac, who lives in Maine and has to be my buddy because he’s also my brother-in-law. Zac has been a stay-at-home parent longer than I have, and he’s really, really good at it. In fact, he’s always made it look easy — he’s the kind of guy known to balance a baby on the hip, a toddler playing at his feet, and a healthy dinner on the stovetop. Oh yeah, and he totally has a glass of wine waiting for my sister when she walks through the door after work.
So I turned to Zac to unlock the mysteries of the elusive SAHD — the man, the myth, the legend. Here’s what he told me:
Q: Hey Zac. How did you decide to be a SAHD?
A: Hi Jess. My decision to stay home was pretty easy, actually. Coming from a one-parent home, I always hoped to have someone around when my kids got off the bus. Once Amy began med school and I began my career in education, we knew I would eventually be the at-home parent.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge?
A: Those early years were tough. We moved to a new community when my daughter was 4 months old, and I quickly started looking for friends. I can’t imagine what I looked like — some sort of Creeper Dad, hitting every mall, play space, and children’s museum in a 20-minute radius looking for anyone who had a baby or young kids. I sought out parenting groups, too, but most moms groups denied my requests to join. It was lonely, but I imagine most new parents staying home feel some of that.
Q: Those moms groups don’t know what they were missing! What else was tough? Anything a mom might take for granted?
A: Bathrooms. For the first five years of being a stay-at-home parent, most men’s rooms had no changing table. My children’s diapers were changed on sinks, tables, and floors, and I even started helping myself to empty ladies rooms.
Q: Good for you! And how about that question I know you hate… When are you going back to work?
A: Ah, yes, I’ve gotten that a lot. Most people assume I’m a SAHD because of my inability to get a job, and they can’t imagine I would choose this. Or that I would continue to choose this still, as my kids are now in elementary school. But this is who I am, and I’m confident in my role in our family.
Q: Your family is super lucky to have you. Is it getting easier to be a SAHD, as far as stigma goes?
A: Yes, definitely. Being a SAHD is not novel anymore. Close to a decade into this role and now living in Maine, I have a lot of at-home parent friends, many of whom are dads. We provide each other with support, laughter, and coffee. I love my peeps.
Q: They sound great. Can I come visit, and we can all shoot hoops together on the playground? It’s kind of this little dream I have.
A: Sure, Jess. Let’s shoot hoops.