Could you stay at home and look after the kids while your wife went out to work? For many dads, the answer would be a resounding no, but a growing band of ‘home dads’ have made this choice. Dad Info spoke to father-of-three Edmund Farrow to find out why he’s happiest at home.
Edmund Farrow has been a home dad for all three of his children. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife Elaine and their three children: Matthew, 7, Daniel, 6, and Joanna, 3.
We spoke to Edmund about his reasons for being a home dad, how it affects his relationship with his kids and what people make of his unusual family setup.
Why did you decide to stay at home with the kids?
‘I’ve been a home dad for all three of my children – Elaine and I just thought it made sense. When she was pregnant with Matthew we discussed it and it seemed logical that I should stay at home.
‘We earned about the same from our jobs, so that wasn’t a factor. But Elaine needs the stimulation and company of other people every day – that’s not so important for me. It worked better for both of us if I stayed home and she went out and earned the money.’
Has it affected your relationship with your kids?
‘I think so, yes, because I’m around them all the time. When they were small that could be as much as 16 hours a day – and maybe a couple of hours during the night too.
But it’s also a very different relationship than a lot of dads have with their kids. They’re the fun parent – they come home and read stories or do bath time, then at weekends take them out to the park or whatever.
In our family that’s my wife’s role. She’s the one who takes them on trips and stuff like that, whereas I’m the one who makes sure they’ve eaten their breakfast and knows where all their things are for school.
‘I’m the person they run to if they hurt themselves. And I’m the one who knows all their friends and their parents, and who knows the most about them. For example, if we go to the doctor they have to speak to me.
Quite often, healthcare professionals start talking to Elaine, assuming she’s the one who knows things like when they last went to the doctor. But she doesn’t know that kind of information, I do.’
What’s it like reversing the traditional roles?
‘It can be strange at times. Elaine gets asked questions like who the kids’ friends are and she just doesn’t know. That can be awkward if the person she’s speaking to isn’t familiar with our situation.
‘In general, there’s a conflict of expectations when a couple has reversed traditional parenting roles. People expect mums and dads to be a certain way – you see adverts where the dad goes out and earns money to buy the house and big car, then comes home and reads the occasional story; mums are supposed to take kids on nature walks, know all their friends and understand them best.
‘We feel the expectation of society, but also of our roles. So Elaine feels she has to be the perfect dad and the perfect mum, earning the money but also taking the kids on nature walks – there just isn’t enough time in the week for all that.’
What do other parents think?
‘Some men wish they could stay at home with the kids, but they earn more than their partners, so the finances just wouldn’t work. Others are scared stiff at the idea of being at home all day with their children!
‘The stay-at-home mums I talk to are usually delighted to meet me and start lining their husbands up for extra work – I’m living proof that men are perfectly capable of looking after their children.
There’s a common misconception that dads can’t change nappies or get the temperature of bottles right. Of course they can do those things, but sometimes they need a little training.
‘Mums have months of maternity leave to get used to dealing with small children. Then they expect the bloke to look after the kids for a Saturday afternoon and he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. When mum comes home and the baby’s not fed, she doesn’t let him look after the kids again, which is a bit unfair.’
Are you happy being a home dad?
‘Overall, very much so, yes. I’m enjoying it and have enjoyed it but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone – you have to be suited to it. And like any job, there are days where I think, “What on earth am I doing?Especially when the kids were young, it was really hard work and very time-consuming. One small child keeps you busy, two are constant and three never-ending, especially if they’re not sleeping well.
‘But once you’ve looked after one child you do get used to it – it’s almost like building up your childcare muscles. And generally we’re very happy with our setup. I’ve been a house dad for so long that nothing really phases me now!’