10 Top Tips for the Stay-at-Home Dad
More and more dads are making the decision to leave the workplace behind to stay at home and take care of their children. Whether you’re leaving the workforce altogether or balancing work with childcare responsibilities, it’s important that both you and your partner acknowledge that raising a child is a job. And although you aren’t pocketing a paycheck to look after your little one, managing your new role as you would a traditional career will keep you from pulling out your hair and feeling underappreciated.
In fact, now that you’re working in the home, you need to treat your home like your workplace. Employ these ten essential tips to keep your new business running smoothly:
Practice hands-free parenting. Multi-tasking takes on a whole new meaning when you’re home alone with a baby, especially while baby is awake and in constant need of your attention. Using a front carrier, a play mat with dangling toys, a bouncy chair, a playpen, or a swing makes it possible for you to do something else while still providing loving, excellent care for your baby.
Start a habits log. Babies, like adults, aren’t 100 percent consistent about what times they eat, sleep, poop, and play every single day. To help you figure out your baby’s patterns, write down what your baby does throughout the day, including the start and end times. For bottles, keep track of how many ounces the baby eats.
Knowing how much time baby generally goes between naps — and how long she naps at different times in the day — makes it easier for you to plan when you can get out, when you can make a phone call, or when you can relax.
Develop a nap routine. Like it or not, you need to put your child down for naps in the same way every single day. Develop sleepy-time cues, such as turning out the lights and turning on soft music, to let your baby know that it’s time to settle down for sleep. Even playing the same song (or singing the same song) every single time before you put him down helps him learn to expect what’s coming. Creating this routine makes the nap-time process run more smoothly and cuts down on the amount of time it takes to put baby to sleep.
Walk and talk. Mobile meetings are essential if you choose to continue having an outside job in addition to watching baby. If you live in a quiet area, you may want to talk on the phone while pushing a stroller around the neighborhood because many kids are calmed by the great outdoors and the movement of the stroller.
If you must stay indoors, use the mute button on your phone. If the baby is making a fuss when you need to speak, there’s no shame in putting her in her crib, shutting the door, and stepping out into the hallway for a minute. Babies cry, and as long as you don’t put anything sharp or dangerous in the crib, she’ll be fine for a short time while you conduct your business.
Get your music on. One of the most amazing things about infants is that they come out ready to adapt, mimic, and adore everything you love. Most babies find music calming and funny, and playing with toy instruments, such as a xylophone and a mallet, helps teach them about cause and effect.
Nurture independence. If baby gets too used to being in the same room with you and being able to see you at all times, putting him down for a nap, leaving him with a baby sitter, or even going to the bathroom will all be more difficult. Utilize safe spaces such as playpens, his crib, and bouncy chairs, and feel free to move about your house within earshot of your child.
Relax when you can. You won’t always have the option to take time for yourself when you just feel like blowing off steam, and you certainly can’t decide on a whim to take a day off. Utilize at least one nap time to its fullest extent by doing whatever activity helps you recharge your batteries and feel refreshed. Maybe it’s a shower or a nap of your own. Or maybe it’s reclaiming your passion for Internet mindlessness. Don’t spend every nap time cleaning or rushing around to finish up those last bits of work because everyone deserves a break.
Personalize your business. If you continue to do outside work, don’t keep your daytime setup a secret. Make sure to schedule meetings, phone calls, and deadlines to suit the schedules of all people involved, and be honest about why you need to meet when you do. The support you get from folks when you tell them that you’re working from home to take care of your child can be both surprising and moving. Embracing your new role and personalizing your business around it can buy you patience and flexibility from others.
Secure a daytime support system. Don’t wait until the need arises to have help on-call that can come in to relieve you as needed. Rely on a mix of baby sitters, friends, family members, and other stay-at-home parents in your neighborhood. To keep costs down, consider trading favors with other parents in your neighborhood — just keep in mind that this arrangement means you’ll be saddled with their kids at some point, too. No matter whom you choose, make sure both you and your partner are comfortable with that person.
Plan lunches. Parenting requires a lot of energy and time, and if you don’t have food that’s ready to eat at your disposal, you’re more likely to pick up fast food, eat a candy bar rather than a meal, or skip lunch altogether. Make sure to prepare healthy meals full of protein, vegetables, and whole grains, which give you a boost of energy for the afternoon. Also, keep on hand high-protein, natural snacks, such as nuts, fruit, and granola bars, which can serve as pick-me-ups for the late-day grind.