Thompson's Station dad Derek Atkin knows all about life as a stay-at-home dad. He gave up work when he and his wife’s first son came along in 2011 (he’s also stepdad to wife Amy’s children from a previous marriage). Their second baby together was born in 2013.
“I went from a single guy with a lucrative career in advertising with a Corvette and a three-bedroom house to a stay-at-home dad of four kids, two of which have special needs,” Atkin says.
Keeping it real, Atkin shares five realities he knows in the stay-at-home dad lane:
Your life will change.
“No matter how much you try and cling to what was, things will be different. You have to embrace it. If you fight it, you will lose," Atkin says, noting that doesn't mean you won't be able to do the things you did before becoming a stay-at-home dad. However, some things will change or become problematic. "If you prepare for it ahead of time, it makes it easier when the time comes,” he says.
Get out of the house.
Atkin says is way too easy to fall into the trap of being stuck in the house. “You have to make a point to clean yourself up and get out of the house — it's one of the reasons groups are great, but even without one, you need to find places to go and things to do. Even going to the grocery store on a regular basis gives you some connection with adults, and you will need that.”
Giving up work is a huge shift in a man’s mind.
Atkin was 40 when he stopped working in advertising. “It’s very tough to no longer be the provider. If you have the wherewithal to do a work-from-home business, it will be of benefit," he says, noting that even selling stuff on eBay while sitting around the house can be a means to feel better about not doing the 9-to-5 routine any longer. "It may take time to figure something out, but even a hobby has the possibility to be turned into a money-earning positing, and it's worth exploring."
Your relationship with your spouse is going to change.
“When it’s all on her shoulders to bring in the income, it’s an added stress. Taking care of kids is a 24/7 job, and at times it will feel like it’s never ending. You have to communicate with your spouse about your needs, and you will need time off. There will be times — and it’s acceptable — to hand the screaming child off to your wife as she walks in the door, but you cannot do that all the time. Your spouse will need time to decompress before having any dealings with the kids. You have to talk about it so that no one feels like their feelings are not being respected, but understand the door swings both ways.”
Social media can be your friend.
“There are many dad groups out there. I find they provide a great sounding board for how you are feeling, and getting feedback from guys in the same boat can be a huge benefit," Atkin says. He warns against becoming glued to the computer all day, because it can be a trap that's easy to fall into. "You do have to understand that all this adult dialogue that you had is going to change. You need to make up for it on your own. If you don't find local guys to connect with, those online are the next best step," he adds.
CONNECT WITH NASHDADS
Dad-to-dad support and camaraderie are essential for fathers from all walks of life. Connect with other Middle Tennessee fathers through the NashDads group. Members of the group share a common quest: “Being the best dad you can be.”
NashDads organizes weekly play groups so kids can build friendships. Field trips to local museums, attractions and libraries are in the mix, too. The group occasionally has Dads’ Night Out events that include bowling, games or grabbing a beer. Connect with NashDads at nashdads.com. They’re also on Facebook.