5 Stay-at-Home Dads Share Their #1 Biggest Struggle

Whether you’re a stay-at-home dad or stay-at-home mom, it’s easy to feel isolated and worn down by the demands of baby/kid life. The difference between the genders, though? Support groups and meetups for SAHDs are way, way less common. And it makes sense: Even in 2020, women still make up the majority of primary caregivers, with 27% choosing to stay home with their kids as of 2018. However, the number of stay-at-home dads has nearly doubled since 1989, from 4% to 7% according to the Pew Research Center. Yet the stigma against men taking on the historically “feminine” role of childcare rather than being the family breadwinner is unfortunately alive and well.

Outsiders may question these dads’ chosen lifestyles, but newsflash: SAHDs aren’t just in it for the opportunity to watch Netflix all day. Domonic, a stay-at-home father of four, told SheKnows why he chooses to stay at home with his infant twins. 

“Stories of child abuse, neglect, sexual assault, and so many other dangers [in childcare] are the reasons we came to the conclusion that one of us should stay home,” he explained. “Not to mention the astronomical costs of daycare, which we’d be paying that for two children for at least the next five to six years. It also just so happens that my last career working as a case manager for an adoption agency didn’t pay nearly as well as her career in nursing, so I had to ‘take one for the team’ so to speak,” he added. 

No matter why you become a stay-at-home dad or for how long, chances are you’ll face some hurdles. Here, we spoke to five dads about their biggest struggles. 

Domonic, Ohio

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My left and right ventricle 🙏🏾🥰

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Domonic tells SheKnows that his biggest SAHD struggle is “overcoming the societal pressures of men being breadwinners or financially head of the household. The idea of traditional roles being switched and still operating as the family’s so-called ‘man of the house’ in a world where everything is about keeping up with the Joneses. Putting my ego aside and accepting the responsibility of taking care of my infant twins has been eye-opening for me as a husband and father. But watching my wife get up every morning and go to work, come home tired, and provide for our family is a very conflicted experience. My wife is extremely grateful and very blessed to have a career that allowed our family dynamic to operate with one income for now. My wife is always encouraging me and celebrating my resolve/ patience and she says she doesn’t know many men who can do what I have done in caring for two babies from infancy. So that type of encouragement helps me feel adequate and gives me a sense of worth as the man in this family.” 

Matthew, Melbourne 

“It was the adjustment from working full-time for the first six months of our little boy’s life and then becoming the primary carer,” Matthew tells SheKnows. “Up until then, I got the glory jobs like coming home from work to play, feed, and bedtime routines like bath and book time. After that, it’s a nighttime feed at some point and off to work again first thing. The challenge was learning the new routine, which is his routine, not mine. I also wanted to be super dad every day, but you quickly learn what is achievable in one day, and even what is achievable in a two-hour sleep cycle! Our boy has also learned very quickly how to be mobile, a new skill he seems to have developed since my tenure started. I thought it was going to be days of Netflix, playtime, feed, sleep, repeat. But I’ve had to baby-proof the house and there really is very little downtime. My partner has a great mother’s group that I sometimes meet, but there aren’t a lot of people who reach out to see how you’re doing, which perhaps is not a guy thing to do? There’s a loneliness factor. Then there’s the challenge of having a proper shower every day!”

Adam, Denver 

“It’s my belief that all stay-at-home parents face similar struggles like isolation, loss of identity, and so on,” Adam tells SheKnows. “Personally I have a hard time with self-confidence. I want to be the best dad I can be and hope I can do the same job as a stay-at-home mother would. At the end of the day, no parent and no kid are the same. I try and take it day by day and learn from my mistakes while embracing this amazing emotional experience.”

Pete, London 

“My greatest struggle is the assumption that the care I am providing is inferior because I am not a woman,” Pete tells SheKnows. “A couple of examples: The A&E nurse who asked if the T-shirt my sick child was wearing was food-stained because ‘Is it Daddy-day-care today?’ and the mum outside the changing room who told another mum, ‘It’s going to be a long wait — I’ve just seen a dad take his baby in there.’ It’s frustrating for three reasons. Firstly, my kids have two dads so it is extremely disheartening for people to suggest that they’re missing out because they do not have a female primary carer. Also, I am basically looking after them 24/7 so it’s annoying for people to assume I’m just pitching in for the odd Saturday morning to give my non-existent wife a break. Finally, it gives dads who don’t get involved in childcare a free pass to live up to society’s low expectations.”

Bill, New York

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I’m pleased to be a #dovemenpartner with @dovemencare to talk about the importantance of #paternityleave. . . I’m very lucky to be with my kids more than most men. It’s perhaps the #1 reason why I do what I do. The time flies by (cliche but true alert) and I want to enjoy it as much as I can. When Caleb was born in 2013, it was the first time I was able to stay home and be around, and it was life changing. . . Did you know only 15% of American companies offer paid paternity leave? Maybe that’s why 73% of US dads agree there is little workplace support for fathers. . . To meet an urgent need, @dovemencare is launching the $1 million Dove Men+Care Paternity Leave Fund, encouraging men without paid leave to apply for a $5,000 grant. This is literally money baby. . . Visit dovemencare.com/pledge to show support and take the #PaternityLeavePledge

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“I think the most difficult part of being a SAHD has to be balancing my work (blogging, etc.) with the kid’s schedule (driving them around) and having them understand the need for both,” Bill of Guy & the Blog tells SheKnows. “It’s also very difficult for me at times to just drop my work right in the middle to go pick them up at school or to an activity. I just can never seem to focus on one task and ‘get in the groove.’ However, it’s this juggling that makes it really worthwhile and keeps it interesting and exciting for me. I’m never really settled, and that’s mostly a good thing. Mostly.”

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