Being A Stay-At-Home Dad: When Does It Make Sense?

It can feel heart-breaking to leave your baby with somebody else at the end of maternity leave. When it seems hard to find child-care you trust completely, many parents explore the idea that one of them will stay at home with the children.

Although many families struggle to get by on one income, going to work means extra expenses like transport, suitable clothes, and often more expensive convenience food. These take a big chunk out of a pay cheque. 

And of course the biggest expense is child-care, even if you can claim tax credits.  Average cost for a full-time nursery place is £177 a week for a baby, more for a toddler, and a lot more in areas like inner London. Average cost for a child-minder is about £3.84 an hour, or about £173 a week for a 40-hour week plus travel time.

Mums and dads who do these sums often work out that one of them is mainly paying for somebody else to have much of the pleasure of being with their baby. 

Some partners manage to split work shifts and child-care, but this isn’t always possible. Stereotypes say the stay-at-home parent is likely to be mum, but a recent survey by insurance company Aviva suggested that around 6% of fathers, or 600,000 men, now consider themselves their child’s primary carer – a tenfold increase since 2000.

The decision about who will stay home isn’t always as simple as who earns most, unless there is a huge gap in earnings. When mum’s job is more stable than dad’s, or her career has more prospects, or if dad feels more strongly about daily involvement with his children’s lives, it makes sense for dad to stay home. Sometimes unemployment makes the decision easy.

Being a stay-at-home dad can also work well if dad can work from home, as long as the IT connections and infrastructure are set up in advance. However, those who do it often find themselves working late into the evening to meet deadlines because they need to spend daytime hours with the children. 


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Dads who stay at home comment that they have a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with their children by being actively involved in their daily lives, and that they are more confident fathers.  They feel they are good role models for their children by showing that men and women can work equally in a household.  Most feel lucky to spend so much time with their children, though just like mums some find it difficult at times.

The main problem dads report is that they are in a minority.  When they take the children to play groups or swimming – or any kind of family day out, they might be the only man there, and it can be difficult for a man to make friends with a group of mums. Online support groups, local dads’ networks and at least one evening a week to go out with mates can be sanity-savers, as stay-at-home mums know only too well.

Andrea Vaned writes for is the UK’s first website dedicated solely to saving, managing and making money for families. The website brings together all the best ways to save money with weekly supermarket price checks, deals and voucher codes; manage money with tools like budget planners and a pre-paid MasterCard; and make money with useful guides, eBooks and eCourses.

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