Parents

Dads Who Stay Home With Kids Challenge The 'Typical' Role Of Fathers

Calgary dad David Bacque thinks everyone should try it.

Welcome to Dad Village, Huffpost Canada’s series about all things fatherhood.

A quarter of new dads feel socially isolated, and supports for fathers tend to be lacking, even though this generation is more involved in parenting than ever before. That’s why it’s so important to connect! We hope this series will get dads talking: to each other, to their partners, and online.

It used to be that when you pictured a stay-at-home parent, you pictured a (harried, exhausted) mom. But that’s changing, and it’s benefitting everyone.

In 1976, dads who stayed home with kids accounted for just one in 70 of Canadian families with stay-at-home parents. By 2015, that had risen to one in 10. And since 2015, thanks to the new shared parental leave policy, it’s likely even more dads are choosing to stay home with their kids — if not permanently, at least temporarily.

David Bacque, however, is in it for the long haul.

Bacque is a 37-year-old married father of two kids (ages three-and-a-half and eight months) living in Calgary. He’s been a stay-at-home dad (SAHD) since 2016. He writes about his experiences at lifewithbenjamin.com, and posts gorgeous, stylized images about dad life to his 16.2k followers on Instagram.

Along the way, Bacque normalizes dads staying home with their kids, and challenges the “typical” role of fathers.

We asked Bacque all about SAHD life, the challenges, the joys, and why other dads should consider staying home with their kids.

Here are his answers in his own words.

How did you become a SAHD?

“I was working at an oil and gas company as a geologist during the oil price crash. Subsequently, I was laid off. The timing of my unemployment just happened to coincide with the birth of [our] first child, Benjamin. So at that time, I decided to take time off to be home with our new child.

During my time off, our attitudes changed about how we’d like our children raised and decided that it would be best that I stop pursuing full-time employment and stay home with Benjamin when my wife returned to work.”

Describe a typical day with your kids.

“Imagine a day filled with quiet voices, emotional stability, and a house without peanut butter smeared all over the walls. Now, imagine the complete opposite of that, and you’ve pretty much imagined my day.

Most days involve waking up at 7 a.m. We eat breakfast, then try to get outside to the park, zoo, or play centre for a while. For some reason, parenting is easier outside, so we try to get out as much as possible. We either come home for lunch or eat on the go if I’ve packed enough snacks.

After lunch, we either go back outside or play inside. Either way, my day is filled with questions, bargaining, and reciting the same set of rules over and over again.”

Do you ever feel isolated? How do you maintain a social life and connection with others?

“Being a SAHD can be isolating, but thanks to all the play centres and digital communication, I always feel like I am talking to someone throughout the day.

To some degree, the fact that I am an introvert by nature, I feel more comfortable in a slower social setting. When I was working in an ‘open-concept’ office, at times, I couldn’t concentrate with all the talking, clicking, and people walking by my desk.”

You’ve talked before about how stay-at-home-parent culture is a very mom-centred space. Is it difficult to fit in because of your gender?

“I think the reason that the stay-at-home-culture is mom-centred is because moms traditionally take maternity leave with their children and some then choose to stay longer.

I would never say anyone has made me feel awkward at playgroup because I am a dad. However, there are limitations to being a dad at an all-mom playgroup. I have heard on a few occasions’ moms exchanging phone numbers and arranging separate play dates with their children.

The reality is that, for me to attempt to organize a one-on-one play date with another mom ultimately feels wrong. As harmless as it is, the questions that could arise from such a thing aren’t worth it.”

What has being a SAHD taught you about the role of fathers, or changed how your view fatherhood?

Having a newborn is stressful and creates a whole new dynamic in day-to-day family life. I’ve seen many cases of well-meaning fathers try to integrate themselves into the new routines and rhythms their partners have established while working full-time. The problem is that the routine changes so fast with a new baby that the father often ends up holding the bottle wrong or not rocking the baby well enough, leaving all parties upset and unsatisfied.

The truth is that most new or expecting fathers I talk to feel the same way I did. They want to be available for their families. Unfortunately, they worry that their careers will be tarnished or that their colleagues will think less of them.

I really think this is something that needs to be changed!”

What have you gained the most by taking on the role? How do your kids benefit from having dad at home?

“I have gained a whole new perspective on what it means to raise a child in today’s society. I mean, it’s a tough job to raise children! And society, for whatever reason, doesn’t support parents in these roles. I know Canada has made great choices when it comes to paternity leave and extending parental leave to 18 months, and those are great! But there still is a lot of pressure to be career-focused and do what’s best for your career and leave the tough job of raising children in the hands [of others].

I know when our family decided that I would stay home with our children, our choice was met with shock from friends and family. I heard comments like, “You’re just going to throw away your career?” or, “When are you going back to work?”

As for the benefits our children get from having a dad in this role: I hope they grow up with a different perspective on what fathers and men provide for a family.”

Would you encourage other dads to stay home with their kids? Why? Any advice for them?

“Yes! Staying home with your children is, hopefully, something you’ll never regret. Kids give you a whole new perspective on life. They live in the moment, they are wildly creative and don’t mind if you don’t comb your hair.

I have heard dads tell me that they envy me and wish they could stay home with their children, but are stuck in the career mind battle. Also, I’ve heard dads tell me I’m crazy, and they could never do it.

I would encourage anyone who’s thought of taking time to be home with their kids to do it! It’s the hardest, the worst paying, and the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had.”

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