Tag Archives: Family

Home Daddy: One Man’s Choice To Be A Stay-At-Home Dad

With the “Mommy Wars” dominating news headlines, it’s easy to forget about the other half of the story – the male half, that is. In the endless debates between working moms and stay-at-home moms, the issue of men balancing family and career rarely comes under scrutiny.

According to a report released this summer, stay-at-home dads have doubled in numbers since 1989. And many of these men stay home by choice. The report is American, but the situation is similar here: “In Canada in 2011, 12 per cent of fathers stayed home with children while mothers earned money, up from just 1 per cent in 1976, according to Statistics Canada.” (Globe & Mail)

In our family, Daddy’s been at home with our two girls for almost a year. My husband made the choice to pursue a new career after losing his job. It wasn’t the plan that he become a stay-at-home dad forever, but we budgeted for at least 6-9 months. The fact that this may extend to 12 months and beyond doesn’t bother us (much).

In contrast to the overwhelming majority of women who stay home, men don’t normally choose to stay home and care for their children. Many of them are at home due to job loss or an injury or illness. The job loss my husband experienced was welcome – his work hours were grueling, and I often joked that from May to October I was a single parent. He worked early mornings, evenings and weekends. It wasn’t a family lifestyle we wanted to maintain.

There have been challenges to having my husband be the stay-at-home parent, and many of them are related to the stigma we face. Although no one would say it to our faces, we get the sense that “getting back to work” is what men must do. Most women sigh and say “oh, you’re so lucky,” when another mother is able to stay at home with the kids. But society generally expects that fathers will need to find work again. After all, what kind of man could be satisfied with the life of a stay-at-home dad? I know my husband has certainly had his doubts, and has worried about his future career and our financial situation (which is actually pretty good for a one-income family!)

There’s also my own internal struggle – trying to accept that it’s ok for me to be away from my kids. And not only that it’s OK, but that I actually prefer it this way. I’ve done it all in the past – stayed home full-time, worked part-time and worked full-time (even double full-time some months!). The happiest I’ve felt is working 2-3 days/week. I welcome that time away from my children to re-connect with my own goals and dreams, but it’s lovely to have the extra days at home to play, bake, cook and (yes, on some days) pull my hair out.

As some wise women have pointed out to me, we’re doing a wonderful thing for our girls. They’ve developed a strong bond with Daddy, and watch their Mommy go out to do the work that she loves. My oldest daughter gets to come straight home after school, and I know my youngest is learning so much with Daddy.

My husband chose to stay at home to make life better for our family, and I chose to go back to work to make life better for our family. Isn’t that all that really matters? The only things I want my girls to believe about all this work/family hullabaloo are:

1) Their Dad rocks
2) Their Mom rocks
3) Gender roles be damned!

 

Camping in Bon Echo: Part 1

My family loves to camp. Or maybe I should say my husband really loves to camp, and I sort of love it. I don’t mind sleeping in a tent, and I’m happy outdoors as long as the bugs aren’t too bad. But I have a terrible fear of bears, and feel uneasy in the wilderness. I know that I have a better chance dying in my automobile than dying at the jaws or paws of a bear, but there isn’t much rational thinking that occurs when I’m imagining myself (or my girls) being eaten alive.

Camping 1

Despite my reservations, I believe that camping is a fantastic activity for kids. Not only are they learning new skills and an appreciation of nature, but they’re doing what kids do best – getting dirty and exploring the world!

So each year we plan a camping trip with good friends of ours, who also have two daughters around the same age as our daughters. This year we chose Bon Echo Provincial Park, about a 2.5 hour drive from Ottawa.

Camping 4

We reserved site #165, which is one of five walk-in sites at the Sawmill Bay campground on Mazinaw Lake. Bon Echo also has back country camping, cabins and yurts. 

Positives:

  • There’s a lot to do with kids. We rented a canoe for 1 hour and went to check out the native pictographs on Mazinaw Rock. The park offered amazing kids programs every morning at 10am, and most evenings at their amphitheatre.
  • The beaches are sandy and clean. The girls spent many hours wading, swimming and building sand castles.
  • The walk-in sites are beautiful – rocky and treed, and right on the water. You could easily jump off the rocks at your site and go for a swim. The lake is the second-deepest in Southern Ontario.

Camping 3

Negatives:

  • For a walk-in site, I expected to have neighbours who had done a lot of camping and respected general camping rules. Nuh-uh, didn’t happen. We ended up with several yahoos camping on either side of us – one couple lighting their fire with charcoal and starter fluid, another dragging giant logs and brush to burn, and a group of campers with no respect for quiet after dark (to give them credit, they weren’t drinking or anything – they were just obnoxiously loud people. In fact, the following group at that site were the ones drinking and carrying on, and even they shut up at 11pm. I could have kissed them!)
  • Walk-in sites and young children don’t really mix (but as another positive, I’m in really great shape after all that walking back and forth!)
  • Lack of policing from park rangers: our friends were staying in the main Sawmill campground, and had a horrible experience with drunken teenagers (or maybe they were 20…whatever). And in the walk-in campsites, we didn’t see a single ranger in seven days. I realize funding is scarce, but I think a walk-through each evening is warranted.  I could have made the park a ton of money by handing out tickets for all the infractions I spotted
  • The park was BUSY. Although I appreciate the human bodies surrounding me (as protection from bears, of course!), my hubby and I could have done with a quieter experience. We camped Achray in 2012 and it was very peaceful.

Camping 2

Although my negatives seem to outweigh the positives, we still had a wonderful time. The girls had a blast with their little friends, and the giant tarp my husband rigged up over the campsite saved us from days of rain. We’re already planning our trip next year, and need ideas. What are your favourite campgrounds for kids?

Oh, and no bears were spotted. That didn’t stop me from having a 2am heart attack after I heard what I thought was a bear – it was just a really loud racoon :)

 

Back to School on a Budget

Big groans! I’m sure we’re all seeing the back-to-school posts in our newsfeed, and if you’re like me, you’re dreading the end of summer (although this cold/rainy summer can go away now, thank you very much). Or maybe you’re more like that parent in the Staples commercial, with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” blaring in the background? I’m sure my husband feels that way, after being at home with both kids all summer.

But whichever way you see it, Back to School is coming, and will be here faster than you can say “School Lunches!” Given that my blogging theme this week is budgets, I decided to share a few ideas for back to school on a budget.

I remember LOVING back to school as a child – a brand new outfit for the first day, that barely broken-in backpack, and the shiny pencils and notebooks. But buying new supplies each year is both pricey and wasteful. Join me in saving money and helping our environment!

Buy Used

So simple, yet we always think of “new” when we shop back to school. But if we truly want to reduce our consumption and waste, we have to make use of what’s already in circulation. Hit up your consignment stores (Boomerang and Value Village are great), and see what’s already out there. Online classifieds are another great way to find shoes, Fall jackets and even snowsuits (oh yes…the snow will come eventually!)

Organize and Purge

When we already own a lot of stuff, it’s really easy to miss supplies that we never knew we had. How many times have you picked up something in your house and and said “oh man, I didn’t know we had this brand new pack of markers!” Then you dump them into the giant bin of dried-out markers, broken crayons and pencils.

Get your parents to come by or hire a babysitter for one whole day (this is a difficult task to do with kids around, as they’re constantly crying “no0000, you can’t throw that out!!”) Dump out all the supplies you own, and sort. Discard any dried out markers or pens, and take stock of what you already have. You might be surprised to find you don’t need to buy anything new!

Hit up the Family

I’m lucky in that both my girls celebrate birthdays in the Fall. So I’ve already sent an email around to the family, with a list of things that we really need for back to school.  I’ve also asked them to contribute money to an “activities fund” so that we can sign the girls up for swimming lessons, ballet and gymnastics, without breaking the bank.

Sales, Coupons and Price Matching

If you do end up needing new stuff, make sure to take advantage of sales. Watch the flyers, and pay attention to special offers from online stores (I love Well.ca, and they sometimes offer $5-$10 off if you’re spending over a certain amount).

Hide Your Stuff

Young kids are notorious for opening everything in sight. Keep a small bin tucked away in the closet, so that when those pencils and markers really do run out, you can re-stock with what you already have.

Have you done back to school on a budget? What are your tips?