When most people think about a stay-at-home parent, they immediately think of Mom. More families, however, are finding that Dad better serves the role. For stay-at-home Dad’s living in Bloomington-Normal, there aren’t as many support groups or resources geared towards your needs. This scarcity of resources along with the fact that you are bucking social trends means you’ll want to give careful consideration before making your decision.
You Are Not Alone
If your family is planning to have Dad be Mr. Mom, you’re not alone. According to the United State Census Bureau over 158,000 fathers have identified themselves as stay-at-home dads and the numbers appear to be growing.
Although there are no published numbers for Bloomington or Normal, Illinois, anecdotal evidence indicates that the trend in catching on in central Illinois. More dads are describing their occupation as stay-at-home parent than ever before.
If your family is thinking about getting in on this movement, you’ll want to consider the rewards and challenges before you make your decision. You’ll need to consider how to divide household responsibilities, how to handle finances, and how to explain your decision to your friends and family. You’ll also want to identify local resources to help you get through the day.
Rewards of a Stay-At-Home Dad
Having either parent stay home can bring financial and emotional benefits, such as reduced child care costs and individual attention to your children. There are, however, additional benefits to designating Dad as the primary parent-at-home. These benefits may include higher self-esteem and better behavior in kids.
According to a report from the University of Texas at Austin “children who grow up with an involved father do better in school, are less likely to drop out, have higher self-esteem, [and] experience fewer emotional and behavioral problems…” In other words, having Dad home makes kids happy, and happy kids do better in school and in life.
The Challenges of a Stay-At-Home Dad
Before Dad resigns from his paying job, consider whether he is willing to fulfill the job requirements for his new role of stay-at-home dad. While Dad may be relieved to give up a tedious daily commute, he’ll be replacing it with making beds and doing dishes. Parents should discuss whether Dad will do all of the cooking, shopping, cleaning, and laundry or whether Mom and the older kids will be expected to chip in. Having clearly defined expectations will help avoid arguments in the future.
In addition, the family should thoroughly examine the issue of money. While the books may balance without Dad’s income, he may be reluctant to quit a paying job and rely on an allowance from Mom. To overcome this hurdle, the family will need to define how money will be handled. Referring to all income as “our money” instead of “yours” and “mine” may be a good first step.
Finally, Mom and Dad both need to prepare themselves to address questions from friends and family about their non-traditional arrangement. Friends who describe Dad as “unemployed” should be reminded that Dad works hard and fills a valuable need for the family. Having a ready response will help Mom and Dad avoid feeling like they are being attacked for making a decision that works best for the family.
Things Dad Should Know
When moving into the role of stay-at-home parent, Dad will probably find himself primarily responsible for doctor’s appointments, meals and scheduling. Identify the best local medical facilities, knowing where to grocery shop and finding fun activities for kids will be an important part of Dad’s daily life. Make sure and explore your local resources to find the information you need.
For dads in Bloomington-Normal, here are some local resources to help you get started:
Medical: Check out resources from OSF Medical Group and Advocate-Bromen Medical Group.
Activities: The Bloomington Public Library and the Normal Public Library are great places to spend an afternoon with the kids. Dad’s might also want to consider a family membership to the Children’s Discovery Museum in Uptown Normal or a to the Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington.
Other Resources: The Bloomington-Normal YMCA has a variety of services to parents, families and children. You should also check out offerings from the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department and the Normal Parks and Recreation Department.
Enjoy the Rewards
Having Dad stay home can be a rewarding experience for the entire family. It allows Dad to form a closer bond with the kids and provides Mom an opportunity to cultivate her career. In many cases, it also makes good financial sense.
If your family has made a decision to appoint Dad as the stay-at-home parent, you may need to do some preplanning. Once all of that is settled, however, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the rewards.
None of the sites mentioned gave me any money or incentives to include them in this article. I did receive a goodie bag from OSF Medical group when my baby was delivered. That was four years ago and I think they give those out to all the new moms. So I don’t put much stock in that. One time the snow leopard at the Miller Park Zoo winked at me. But my husband thinks the leopard either had something in his eye or that it was thinking of ways to break out of its cage and slice me open with its claws.