I’ve been a stay-at-home dad since 2017. It was part of the calculus that went into our decision to have a kid in the first place. When we were considering the possibility of growing our family, we talked about a lot of different things. One big thing was who would stay home to take care of our child full-time. We knew that one of us would. We were fortunate enough that we could afford such a thing. My wife has a career that she has worked hard building. I work for myself and could continue to do so in a more limited capacity. It made sense logistically but it was also what I wanted to do. It may be hard for some to believe, but I chose to do this.
So it was wild (and somewhat irritating) to realize just how hard it was for people to grasp that me being a stay-at-home dad was planned. People struggled understanding that I was, in fact, doing this as part of a plan. I’ve heard or heard of all kinds of things people say to SAHDs, either out of curiosity or stupidity. Here are 15 of the things I’m sick of hearing as a stay-at-home dad.
"That’s not something a real man does."
OK, what? I’ve heard this a few times and it always makes me laugh. It also makes me cry a little for the people who think this is true. Wait, I probably shouldn’t say “cry” in front of these people because that’s also not something a "real man" should do, right? Give me a break.
"You must not have had a career then."
Buzzer sound WRONG! I did have a career before my kid was born. Still do, in fact. Albeit at a reduced capacity because of the pandemic and because I chose to prioritize raising my kid. But I’ve been working for myself as a photographer for over 10 years now. Up until my daughter was born my wife and I split everything 50-50. But you can’t tell "Sally at story time" that because she already has you figured out.
"Are you giving mom a day off?"
The first few times this one came up it went right over my head. At face value it seemed innocuous. It wasn’t until it kept happening that I realized that the moms were projecting their own desire for a day off onto me and my situation. Or the dads/grandparents/whoever that said it just never even considered I was there on purpose.
"Do you need help?"
This kind of piggybacks off the last one. And I’m a messy guy, I’ll admit that. Sometimes (OK, many times) I forget to pack something important. The first six months or so when I’d go places with my kid, I’m sure it looked like things were out of control. People offering to help felt nice. Then I caught the eyeroll. The "You obviously don’t know what you’re doing" look from the mom whose kid was behind her licking the floor at Target (true story). Now I just picture that kid, tongue fully adhered to the disgusting department store floor, and realize that I’m not doing so bad.
"Do you know how to…"
This also piggybacks off the last two. It’s the person who hasn’t yet seen an opening to assert that you’re not capable of doing something so they try to create one. If you’re reading this, and you see a dad struggling with something, by all means offer to help. But if there’s at least one iota of you doing it because you want to make yourself feel better, just keep walking. And maybe look around to see if your kid is busy licking a department store floor somewhere.
"You took the easy option."
LOL, OK. In my experience this one always comes from people without kids. Anyone who has dealt with kids knows that this s— is not easy. At all. This is when I daydream about a fitness-style boot camp to educate nonparents about what caring for a child actually looks like. It will, at minimum, include having to button a onesie (because Satan himself invented onesies with those little, tiny buttons you have to feed through the even tinier openings) onto a flailing baby who then evacuates his bowels the second you get him dressed.
"You must get to watch so many TV shows/movies/read books. "
This one is actually partially true but not in any way because of what people think. I read a ton of books. Board books, chapter books, cookbooks, you name it. I even realized that reading before I pass out helps calm my brain down. But it’s not because I’m laying on the couch flipping through the channels while my kid is plotting ways to escape our house through chimney. Get out of here with that nonsense.
"You’d rather be working, though, right?"
Um, nope! I mean, I would absolutely go back to working full time if something changed in our family. No doubt about it. If my wife lost her job and we decided it was best for me to look for work instead of her, sure. I wouldn’t even hesitate. But the way I see it I’ve gotten to spend four years becoming best friends with a human I helped create. I get to see her do all the things. I maybe have a few more years before she realizes it’s not cool to hang out with her dad all the time. I’m not wasting a second of that.
"How could you make your wife do that?"
This one always shocks me a little. My marriage isn’t like that, where one person can make the other do anything. So it’s startling that more than one person I’ve encountered in the last four years apparently thinks that that’s possible. Or even probable. These people just get a nod as I figure out how to get away.
"Are you in school or something?"
This is akin to the "you must not have a career" question. To these people, you’re not yet a lost cause, though. You’re not a deadbeat, out of work, loser who is "contributing" by taking care of a child. The people asking this are a little more hopeful. Stay-at-home dad, to them, is a temporary thing because something is on the horizon and mom can return to her rightful place at home. These are the most fun people to screw around with if you have the time.
"Must be fun being the only guy around all those women at story time/wherever."
Again, this one is always from dudes and mostly childless ones. I mostly just laugh this one off and envision the day they find themselves in a room full of moms trying to corral their own offspring. The one mom whose pants are on backwards because her three kids have banded together to make her life a living hell. The one whose kid wedged himself between two bookshelves and promptly pooped his pants. The true warriors.
Some sort of comment about me "not contributing."
I’ve heard this once or twice and it’s once or twice too many. People who have said it are literally watching me take care of my kid. And to toot my own horn a little, my kid hasn’t ever broken a bone or gotten lost in a store (definitely just jinxed myself with this). She’s never missed a meal and, at 4 1/4, she still loves her nap. Not to mention I still have an income. What else is contributing if not for that?
"SAHDs are just free babysitters."
The "free babysitter" trope is lazy. It just shows that people can’t be charged to think a little deeper. But it also kind of harkens back to the "giving mom the day off" notion. Like how in the world is dad actually here on purpose. I’ll be the first to admit mom did the heavy lifting for birthing our child. But I do share the responsibility of raising this kid. That’s serious business.
"SAHDs can’t cook or clean."
WRONG! My wife and I plan out meals together but I do a lot of the cooking. I also do a good bit of the cleaning. We divide and conquer. Like a team.
"Is that your kid?"
This one worries me. The thought of some rando raising an alarm because they think they’re doing the right thing is a nightmare. An understandable one if that person really thought they were doing the right thing. But my kid is a spitting image of me. Get yourself together if you can look at my daughter then look at me and seriously not see the resemblance.