Stay at home, Dad?

I have been a stay at home dad for the last four years. Living in Singapore, one of the most expensive cities in the whole world, makes this a bold and irresponsible statement until the facts are considered.

Singapore, always under construction

I arrived in September 2011 as a trailing spouse with an 11-year old son, and the prospects of an interesting new life in Asia. My long-term visa does not allow me to start working immediately on arrival, but with a little bit of luck and perseverance a job can be obtained in this wonderful city.

But things were to be a little bit different for us. In May 2012 I found out my wife was pregnant –a true revelation, when you sit on the other side of your 40’s. We were very happy with this new chance at parenting and I realised this would mean that I could be out of the workforce for quite some time.

Carla arrived in January of 2013 and the first few months were difficult. Living away from family and friends, and not being a young couple anymore, means that her demands were more … difficult to deal with. Even with the very generous maternity package that my wife got from her employer, we found ourselves in a precarious position whilst finding stability in a new country.

Carla and Carlos, 2015

Time flies and the day my wife has to return to work is approaching fast. I have always been an involved father and a competent cook, but now I have to hone my skills as quickly as I can, to gain confidence in house-minding and time-management. And most importantly, to improve my baby-management skills and become a confident stay-at-home-dad.

"Practise, practise"

The challenges are multiple: I had to re-learn how to change a nappy (or diaper, if you prefer) without getting any of the mess on me –a skill that has to be learned and practised incessantly, like the “wax-on, wax-off” routine of the Karate Kid movies. I had to become proficient at providing support, comfort and entertainment for my baby daughter. And I had to become proud of it.

Here’s the nut –being a stay-at-home-father is not seen as a manly activity to be proud of. Society expects men to be successful, and this means landing on the moon, running a venture capital fund, joining wars in distant lands or fighting bare handed with a grizzly bear.

You will not feel confident about it at the start.

Men do not change soiled nappies –except in emergencies, comedy and farce.

But it’s all about perceptions isn’t it?

If I describe myself to you as “I am the Chief Operational Officer for a successful family-run concern now based in Singapore” you would invite me to contact you in LinkedIn. But if I told you I am a “stay-at-home-dad” it does not convey the same image of excellence and maturity. It brings a whiff of “Mister Mom”, missed opportunities and mediocrity you may not want to be associated with.

Do not fall into the trap of perceptions.

Did you do your homework?

I am the “Lead Flight Director” of my family –just like Gene Kranz was for the Apollo missions.

Nothing happens around here without my involvement and I know this business from top to bottom. My family is my business. I have become very good at it and I am proud of my skills: time management, problem solving, conflict resolution, team building, risk management, prioritising, emergency management, logistics, medicine, nutrition, law enforcement.

And the list goes on. None of my former employers gave me this much experience.

So I have to conclude that

I am the best man for the job, and in my family failure is not an option.

The recession of 2008 and its long damaging tail around the World (CM: and in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic) has created many changes in society, and Stay-at-home-Dads have seen their number increase by the thousands. And whilst the perception of the value of a stay-at-home-dad has improved by leaps and bounds, there’s still a lot of work to do.

At AMIGO Dads we help change perceptions, whilst providing a platform for independent, resourceful and valuable fathers that are managing the most important project of their lives: their children.

[ Originally published in October, 2015 ]