Today dads as primary caregivers are still a rare breed, and it’s not due to their unwillingness to spend more time with their kids. In fact, about 50% of fathers declare that they would be happy to stay at home with their children if the situation was right for the family.
Freelance jobs give modern dads an opportunity to combine the roles of a caregiver and a breadwinner. So what is it that stands in the way of a loving father? There are all kinds of beasts, some of them easier to vanquish; some of them are die-hard.
The beast: Stereotype
There is a whole Stereotype family pestering a stay-at-home and work-from-home dads. “Men cannot take care of the children”, “He must have lost his job”, “That’s not masculine”, and even some wild implications, such as “Men are not to be trusted”.
Their poisonous hissing is enough to ruin your confidence and determination, even if your current situation derived from a rational decision you’ve made after a long and thorough talk with your partner.
How to vanquish:
The only right thing to do with those vicious vermin is to ignore them. The right mindset and a smile will help and – puff! – the beast is gone. Also, it is advisable to befriend other dads like yourself.
As I said, they are rare, so you are not likely to find them among your closest acquaintance. Hail the Internet! There are platforms, where dads all over the world can share their experience, their pride and, sometimes, their anxieties.
Remember: you are lucky to have this opportunity to stay with your children and watch them grow, just as much as they are lucky to have a balance between dad-time and mom-time and benefit from both parenting styles.
The beast: Multitasking
Probably, the mightiest of them all. If you are a “work-from-home” dad, meaning you combine childcare with work, you will sometimes be overwhelmed with all these often-contradicting responsibilities.
How to vanquish:
You don’t need to defeat this one, you must tame it. The first thing to do is to fence it out: set boundaries. It might seem trivial, yet the first rule goes: learn to say “no.”
Friends and neighbors may think that working from home/freelancing means having ample time, so they can use you as a casual free childcare for their own kids, as a ride to go shopping, or simply a pair of hands to help and a pair of feet to go on errands wherever they need it. Of course, it’s good to help each other out once in awhile, but it you have a deadline looming, you have got other priorities.
The boundaries, unfortunately, apply to your family as well. It may not be simply a figure of speech – sometimes you just have to close the door to your room and lock everyone out while working on something very important, that requires concentration. If your children are old enough to understand, that daddy is busy, they can read a book, color, watch cartoons on TV or play. Tell them that you are working; use this opportunity to teach them the importance of earning money.
Alternatively, you can arrange baby-sitting for the busiest hours. To keep your mind at peace while they’re away you can monitor your kids via android family tracker as I do (I am not paranoid and I trust people I let my children go with, but kids do get lost sometimes, I just don’t want this to happen). It will buy you time and tranquility to work productively.
The beast: Deadlines
Emergencies of all kinds tend to overlap. It is inevitable that a time will come when you have a crucial deadline and you do not have anyone to look after the kids.
How to vanquish:
There are two options for you, if you want to be a hero and don’t want to let anyone down.
First: you can find a co-working that provides childcare (even if you didn’t budget working elsewhere, this can be life-saver when it comes to crucial tasks and deadlines to meet).
If this one is out of the question, you can opt for outsourcing your work. I have only done this twice, when my younger one was down with cold and I couldn’t possibly leave her with anyone else, just as I couldn’t let down one of my important and frequent clients.
The beast: Jealousy
I don’t know how frequent it is, but it happens. In our case, my wife and I had to face the green-eyed monster as well. She didn’t want to leave her children for work, but her career was well-established and promising (and still is), and unlike me, she couldn’t do her job from home.
She hesitated when I offered her to take care of kids in order to preserve her job. I felt I could do it, felt willing to, and my ability to combine it with my work was quite a perk, but she kept having second thoughts even after the decision was already made.
Your partner may be jealous that you get to be the one with your son while he makes his first steps or with your daughter when she says her first sentence. It might break her heart. What can you do to ease her mind?
How to vanquish:
Support her. Constantly remind her how important she is to the family. She spends time with her kids as much as she can. She earns a steady income and provides stability. She pursues her dream, which sets a positive example for the kids.
Spending less time with her kids doesn’t make her less of a mom. She still does a heck of a lot. I always highlight the things my wife does for kids every day after work (and I teach our children about it).
The beast: Burnout
This one stalks any parent, as well as any passionate creative freelancer. Therefore, if you are a work-from-home parent, you are at a double risk here. Waking up in the morning and dreading the amount of work you have to do (worse: don’t want to do) can happen to anyone.
How to vanquish:
The first three “musts” are: prioritize; take care; schedule.
Prioritize your tasks (both working and parenting) for the day and for the week, maybe some of them you can delegate (after all, you are not alone; you have friends, family, and your partner).
Nurture long-term clients (if they keep returning, it saves you time on looking for the new ones), make some changes – maybe you decide to fire some of the low-paying clients in order to cut down the amount of work you must do to maintain the income level.
Take care of yourself – this is very important. You must have a day off sometimes, you have to visit a doctor, you ought to sleep (people are generally supposed to, you know – even heroes). Schedule both your work and the time for yourself, and stick to the schedule.
If you don’t have the time to relax or finish your work, outsource errands (get your groceries or dinner delivered, shop from home, call a cleaning service). Of course, it may cost some additional money, yet sometimes it’s absolutely worth every penny.
Though working and caring for your children can be tough, it pays. Benefits of a parent at home instead of a daycare are countless, and thanks to technology, you can look after kids without suspending your career.
You are a lucky man! Don’t let isolation and stereotypes bring your down, conquer the beasts and be a hero for your kids, no matter what!