Meet Paul, A Stay At Home Dad

INTERVIEWS | | March 1, 2009 at 12:00 am

Photo courtesy of Paul Stoddard

Meet Paul, A Stay-At-Home-Dad and also a designer at Swirly Designs. When not running the company with his beautiful wife Lianne, Paul is a SAHD. We spoke to Paul to find out what is it like.

What made you decide to stay at home?

When we found out we were pregnant in late 2004, I was working at an ad agency part-time while also doing freelance illustration. Daycare wasn’t an option for us and my wife’s job offered better health benefits, so it made the most sense for me to stay home. We had started a handmade ornament business on the side in 2000. We were continuing to grow that business as well and by the time he was born, we were experiencing some success with that.

Was it a difficult decision?

Not really, this was the best and only solution at the time for us. And I thought at least I would be able to still do freelance and work on the ornament business being at home.

What was the most unexpected thing you experienced being at home? Do you have a different opinion of SAHM?

Everything was unexpected!! I foolishly thought that I would be able to keep my general routine working in the studio and the baby would be content. But I soon realized that was a dream! It took me a long time to realize that working during the day was a thing of the past. It’s a good thing that I am a night owl – I learned how to adapt to working after he goes to bed (8pm) and work till to 2am!

I do have a tremendous amount of respect for SAHMs – I always did. My mom was a SAHM with 5 kids! It is a lot harder than I could imagine. I was never a “nap” person, but boy do I look forward to naps now.

It looks like a cool thing to be normally the only guys amongst all the ladies. Do you find mommies vying for your attention (are you normally the center of attention) or is it really an isolating thing that makes you stand out?

In the beginning it was sort of isolating to be the only dad, but after a while I got comfortable approaching the moms and they did too. They were curious about my situation and wanted to know more. And if our kids played well together, that was an even better conversation starter.

Nowadays, I am just part of the “gang”. Some of our friends even say that I’m the glue that keeps us all together. I’m always looking for things for the kids to do and will reach out to other moms to see what they are doing or where they have been.

What are the perks and what are not with mostly being the dad at playdates, classes, playgrounds etc.

As the dad, I was very stressed out when he was younger. I had a fear that I was going to “screw him up” somehow if I didn’t do this right. I feel, that dads may not always have that motherly instinct when it comes to the development of a child. At around age 1 my wife and I knew we needed to get more involved in playgroups to get him exposed to other kids and be able to interact with other kids his age. I started taking him to a local playgroup, but I quickly realized that the only person that would interact or even talk to me was the instructors. I noticed that the other mothers would congregate together and make playdates with each other after class. I questioned whether we had made the right decision. I felt that he would be left out of certain situations because I was sometimes the only dad.

Then I soon realized, if it was good for him, I didn’t care if I was the only dad at the playgroup. I got over my fear, and started to enjoy the playtime I got with him. Within time, the mothers did approach us and talked to us. I got more comfortable and started conversations with a lot of the moms, asking questions about feeding, sleeping habits and general development issues. Eventually we joined Gymboree. I felt really at home here, because there were a lot of dad’s involved. Everyone was very approachable and I enjoyed getting to talk to the parents and watch the kids interact. To this day we have stayed close with a lot of the families we met there.

The everyday perks are endless. I get to experience so much with him being at home. As parents, we sometimes forget how fast they do grow. I’m glad that I got to see and be part of this early stage in his life.

Do you have a message for other dads about your experience?

There seems to be more dads at home nowadays than when I was younger. If parents have to make a decision about who stays home, the dad shouldn’t think that he can’t do it. First and foremost I think the child comes first, so whatever is best for the child..that should help with the decision. You really have to check your ego at the door, and throw out all the preconceived notions about staying at home. I realize that every family is different, this scenario just seemed to be the best for us and so far so good.

How about for people (moms and dads) who do not realize what it is like being at home?

It’s probably the hardest and the most fulfilling job you’ll ever have. To think that you are helping mold your child and helping them develop into there own person is just a great feeling.

*Photo courtesy of Paul Stoddard

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