Being a stay-at-home dad (or mom) isn’t easy, but it improves every year. Our son was only a year old when I retired from my engineering career to become a SAHD/blogger. In reflection, it wasn’t exactly retirement. Taking care of a toddler was a lot of work! However, it got easier over the years. Now, our son is almost 9 years old. This is a lot closer to retirement than when I started the SAHD journey. Today, I want to talk a bit about the skills I mastered to become a successful SAHD. These skills helped my family survive and thrive through those early years. If you’re thinking about becoming a stay-at-home parent, you should cultivate these skills. Check them out and let me know what you think in the comments.
The first skill is cooking. Mrs. RB40 is one lucky lady. Every day, she comes home from work to a delicious dinner. Well, it’s not always great every time, but she always has something to eat when she arrives. This is huge. Everybody loves delicious food and a healthy meal always makes you feel better afterward.
I got lucky with this one. My parents had a small Thai restaurant when I was in high school. I worked there and learned how to cook. Over the years, I improved and expanded my cooking skills. Now, I can cook Thai, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and various other cuisines. It’s a great way to eat well and save money.
In my opinion, a stay-at-home parent really needs to be able to cook or at least gather ingredients together for a simple meal. Your partner is tired and a good meal will cheer her up. It’s demoralizing to work all day and come home to a frozen dinner that needs to be microwaved. If you can’t cook, you can learn. There are so many resources on the internet these days. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Thai food – Hot Thai Kitchen is great. You can find pretty much any Thai recipe on this site.
- Japanese food – Just One Cookbook
- Korean food – Maangchi’s site is great. Her cooking videos are a lot of fun to watch.
Cooking was way tougher when our son was small. He wanted attention and he didn’t understand I need a little time to cook. I just tried to prep as much as I could when he napped and then cook when Mrs. RB40 got home. Now that our son is older, it’s much easier. I cook on the weekdays and Mrs. RB40 cooks on the weekend.
Basic competency at taking care of baby/toddler/kid
This one is necessary before you even consider becoming a stay-at-home dad. I took 8 weeks off when my son was born to help out. I learned how to change his diapers, feed him, wrap him up like a burrito (swaddle), how to comfort him, play with him at the park, and more. Nobody knows how to do these things before having a kid. You have to learn and become competent as you go. By the time I quit my engineering career, I was pretty good at taking care of our son. You have to demonstrate basic competency if you want to be a successful SAHD. My wife trusted me with our son. She knew I’d take good care of him.
Mrs. RB40’s input – You have to want to take care of the kid, too. That’s a prerequisite. If you don’t really want to be the caretaker, it’ll be better for everyone if you get a job.
Kids will drive you insane if you can’t calm down and be patient. You need to learn to be patient to be a SAHD. This was really tough for me because I’m not very patient by nature. The toughest time was when RB40Jr was 2-4 years old. We spent all day together and he threw a lot of tantrums. A few times, I had to escape to my room and hide under a blanket because I couldn’t take it. I set him up with a kid DVD and told him to let me nap for a while (unless there is an emergency). Now, I don’t even remember what he did to make me so mad.
This got a bit easier as he grew. He still does things that make me mad sometimes, but now he knows there are consequences. He’ll listen if I take away his tablet privilege. A stay-at-home dad has to be patient and never hit the kids.
Another important skill for a SAHD is money management. I pay the bills, manage our investments, watch our net worth, and keep Mrs. RB40 in the loop. She doesn’t have to worry about our household finance. This takes a load off. I think it’s important for the stay-at-home spouse to understand the household finance just as well as the working spouse. Unfortunately, the divorce rate is still very high in the United States. About 50% of marriages end in divorce. The working spouse already has a lot of power because they bring home the bacon. The stay-at-home person needs to understand the household finance as well. This helps balance the power dynamic in the relationship.
Also, one of the biggest reasons for a divorce is money. Both partners should have a complete picture of the household finance so there are no surprises later on. Luckily, I blog about our cash flow every month. Mrs. RB40 is our editor so she has to read these cash flow posts. This keeps her up to date on our household finance.
I’m not sure if this one is essential for every SAHD, but making some money on the side has been very helpful for me. Over the last few years, I’ve been a blogger, landlord, market research participant, scooter charger, and more. I’m contributing to our household financially and I feel good about it. I love my wife dearly, but I don’t want to be 100% dependent on her income.
This one was difficult when our son was very young. I was tired from taking care of him and I didn’t have much time or energy to side hustle. Once he started school, I was able to do a lot more.
If you don’t side hustle, you probably should find some activities to get yourself out of the house. This year, I’m coaching our son’s soccer team. It’s a lot of fun. Every SAHD should be involved in the community somehow.
More helpful skills/abilities
Readers think I should add these skills.
- Think skin – You need to have thick skin to be a SAHD. People will say stuff to your face and behind your back. Some say I’m taking advantage of my wife, but it’s mostly online. In real life, I haven’t had any negative experience.
- Confidence – Some people may feel emasculated to be a SAHD. I’m very confident that I made the right choice for my family so I never felt that way. Side hustle probably helped here. We will survive if anything ever happens to Mrs. RB40.
- Self-care – You have to take care of yourself so you can take better care of your family. Go to the gym and use their childcare for a short break.
- Partner – Make sure your spouse feels like she is part of the family. My son was very attached to me when he was a baby. Sometimes, Mrs. RB40 felt a bit left out. I sent Junior her way when she got home. I need the time to make dinner anyway.
Okay, that’s all I got today. These 5 skills helped me become a successful SAHD. My wife is happy and she continues to work. My son got the rare privilege of having a stay-at-home dad. I don’t have to work for a corporation anymore and I love my life. Our family is way better off than when I was working full-time.
Did I miss anything? What do you think are some useful skills/abilities for a stay-at-home parent?
Starting a blog is a great way to build your brand and generate some extra income. You can see my tutorial – How to Start A Blog and Why You Should. Check it out if you’re thinking about blogging.