“Watch me, Daddy!” screams a child with excitement in the middle of the day at a local park. You look over to see that it’s the boy’s father with him at the playground. One’s first thought should be how nice of a day it is outside for families to be outside. However, that’s not the case with some people. Often, when a dad is out with his child, the reaction he gets from onlookers is not what you’d think. We chatted with local stay-at-home dad (SAHD) Steven Reda, who seems to take this whole thing with a great deal of humor and sarcasm (two things he says are wonderful coping skills).
How does it feel to be a SAHD?
“I’m gonna be honest here … the first day I was alone all day with my first daughter I may have cried … maybe … just a little bit,” recalls Reda. “I don’t know what to say except that it was overwhelming and scary! What if I forget to do something or not do something? Why is my wife letting me do this? Did I brush my teeth or shower today? You know, the usual stuff,” adds Reda. However, it’s not just dads who worry about these things. Every parent has those worries and more, but Reda has the right mind about it. “It’s clearly a matter of just doing it and letting the confidence build from there,” he says. “I read all the baby books, but once my little girl was in my hands, all that went right out the window! Now, five years later with two daughters, I feel like I can do this stay-at-home-dad stuff in my sleep — or without sleep (which is usually the case).”
I still have my “Man Card!”
“I was concerned at first about feeling isolated and finding other dads,” recalls Reda. “Which is why it was so great to find this dad group (NashDads) right here in Nashville.” He says he gets the “it must be Daddy’s day off” remarks. “But it’s not like I feel the need to correct anyone,” says Reda. “As long as there’s a changing table in the men’s room, I’m good. Being a stay–at–home–dad is something I chose. I quit my job and left my career behind to do this. It isn’t something I have to do — it’s something I get to do,” he adds.
It’s this common misconception that everyone has that gives the general public the thought that there’s gotta be a reason for him being a SAHD. “From what I’ve seen from TV sitcoms and other media, it seems the stay–at–home–dad is portrayed as a bumbling, Mr. Mom type oaf who just fumbles his way through the day until his wife gets home,” says Reda in disgust.
He adds that media usually portrays SAHDs as ones who are thrust into this way of life by circumstances beyond their control versus it being a conscientious decision. “As far as I know, most of the dads in our group chose this life and we enjoy it — and yeah, were good at it!” says Reda with confidence. “I run a clean, orderly home. I ensure that chores, errands and home maintenance is complete by the end of the week so that weekends can be family time. I cook, clean, change diapers and I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed any of my masculinity or manhood. In fact, doing this has made me a better person all around.”
There doesn’t have to be a reason for his choosing. “There were those who asked if I feel emasculated in some way because it’s my wife who earns the money and not me,” recalls Reda. “I never really had that problem or issue with stepping into this role. I don’t feel like I’m less of a man than anyone else.”
Have a plan of action.
If you’re thinking about becoming a SAHD, that’s wonderful. Heads up, though, have a plan of action. You don’t have to follow what works for Mom — because even what works for some moms doesn’t work for others, and that applies to dads, too! Coming up with a daily schedule is a great idea and will keep down the overwhelming feelings. “I pace myself,” says Reda. “I do one chore a day, I exercise and I do meal prep during nap time. If there’s no nap time, then it’s microwaved hotdogs for dinner and that’s OK, too,” he adds.
Once you’ve got a good system in place, things will run much more smoothly. Don’t let the first bumps in your new job get you down. Just like any other job, it’s a learning experience. “I have my systems and routines in place, and I get to watch my daughters learn and play and grow,” says Reda. “I get to see the impact my interactions have on them, and its pretty amazing!”
Maintain the fun factor by keeping things light with the kids. Plan different things to do on different days when you can. It will keep everyone happy by cutting down on boredom. “I make sure to leave the house with the kids, whether it be to run an errand or hit a playground,” says Reda. “There needs to be something to break up the day. And coffee! I didn’t even drink coffee until I had children. Oh, boy, do I now!”