If I had to go through a job interview to become an at-home dad, I would not have been offered the job. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have even been granted an interview.
My resume was sparse. I coached 1st-, 6th- and 8th-graders in soccer. I was a camp counselor one summer. I babysat two bratty boys after school for about a year. But that was it. No other experience with kids. I had never changed a diaper, fed a baby or, honestly, held a baby. Ever.
Such a resume would not inspire confidence that I could handle being with a baby all day long or, eventually, four kids under 6!
And yet, my wife “hired” me. Maybe she saw something in me I didn’t see in myself.
Probably, she prayed a lot.
It was not easy at first. In fact, it was downright terrifying! I was clueless, but I knew there was no way I could call my wife anytime I had a question; she had a very full-time job. I knew I had to figure things out for myself.
Sure, I called my mom and my mother-in-law a lot. I asked way more questions to the doctor than he was willing to answer. But, mostly, I learned by doing; kind of like on-the-job training.
After about 6 months, I began to feel fairly confident. I learned how to soothe our daughter when she was fussy. I figured out when the best times were to feed her baby food and when I should give her a bottle. I discovered the difference between the hungry cry and the tired cry.
I also got to experience our daughter’s first time rolling over, her first word and her first steps. I got to know her better than almost any other person in my life and I found that I really liked it.
My confidence grew with each additional baby we added to our family. I became really good at establishing routines, handling sibling disputes and knowing what to ask the doctor when our kids were sick.
If I had not become an at-home dad, I don’t think I would have learned all that I have about babies and raising them into the children they are today. I would have probably let my wife do almost everything and stood on the sidelines like many other fathers.
I’m sure our kids would have turned out fine but, statistically, their odds may have been lowered. According to Dr. Kyle Pruett, child psychology professor at Yale, children who do not have an active, engaged father are more likely to become pregnant as teens or abuse drugs. I’m not sure I would have become the involved father my kids needed had I not stayed home.
The good thing is that dads don’t have to go to the extreme I have and be at home to be engaged with their children. Through my experience, I have learned that they can be involved by going to doctor’s appointments, taking on those late night feedings and going to the park without Mom. Also, they can get involved with All Pro Dads, get more advice from the National Fatherhood Initiative or read some of the thousands of awesome and funny blogs by other dads (such as those here on Momaha!).
But there are also a few things that moms can do to help, which I will share with you in my next blog, just in time for Father’s Day!
Al Watts is the President of Daddyshome, Inc. – The National At-Home Dad Network and an at-home dad of four children living in west Omaha.