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At Home Dads

By Tom Signal

Traditionally in two parent families a key role of the father has been that of primary income earner but increasingly this is being challenged by rapidly changing economic conditions and shifting ideas about the roles of men and women.

Some fathers become primary caregivers for purely economic reasons. In our family this was one but not the only reason I became a full-time dad.

We simply did not like the idea of our sons being brought up by strangers at child care centres.

When I took over as a full time dad I went in cold turkey with no inkling what to expect but I learnt very quickly. Probably the hardest part in the beginning was learning to deal with comments I was getting when I would go to town to do our shopping.

People would say “Oh, it’s your turn to babysit today” and when I replied that this is my full time job they would ask “Well, where’s the mum?”. When I then told them she is at work some people could just not agree to this – including my own aunty.

My first son, Benjamin, was only three months old when I took over his full time care. He is now just over two years of age and has a little four month old brother, Hayden.

This time, their mum returned to work when Hayden was two months old and it has been hard at times with the two boys, but we work together to make it work.

I think dads would have an easier job taking care of children if society was more accepting and encouraged us to do a good job. It is often said that children need their mother around all day for the first twelve months, but our boys certainly do not seem to be suffering from being mainly in my care.

Despite this arrangement, we did not need supplement feeds for Benjamin until he was nine months old, Hayden is still fully breastfed and we use milk that Leighanne expresses during feeds in the morning and evenings, along with some breast milk that was frozen before she returned to work.

I find being a full time dad challenging yet rewarding. Watching our boys grow and learn every day is so pleasing.

Fathers who have no input into the raising of their child are missing so much, who would not be completely taken by the first smile or the first time your child says “dad”. It makes it all worthwhile.

But after saying this some fathers have a hard time at home with the child and often we do not have people we can turn to or even just ring up and have a talk to.

I am not bonding as well to Hayden as I did with his older brother – that is not to say I do not love him, because I do, and I will never do anything to hurt him.

Maybe it is because my first son Benjamin and I are very close, but I feel I will get through this.

Some days it would be good just to be able to pick up the phone and talk to another dad just to say how I am feeling about my child and our experiences of bringing them up. I am sure I am not alone feeling this way…

Tom would like to start a group in Palmerston North.

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