Tips from a New Stay-at-home Dad

by JP, Sidekick Dad

JP or Sidekick Dad, is a husband and new dad (a girl dad to be specific). He is a college student, switching careers from the financial field to be a future teacher.  He also writes a blog called Sidekick Dad and, most importantly, he is a sidekick to his amazing daughter.  

You can follow Sidekick Dad via Instagram @sidekickdad and visit his blog www.sidekickdad.com


Tips from a New Stay-At-Home Dad

Be Present

As in, live each moment focused on your kiddo so that you can connect with them and that they learn from you in each and every interaction.  I realized my daughter would not remember every toy I bought her, but she will remember how much love and attention that was given to her.  I learned early on, as my daughter started walking at around the age of eight months old, that I needed to shift how I engaged with her and part of this was making sure that I was not on my phone as much.  Also, I realized that I needed to plan laundry and other household chores around her naps and after she is asleep for the night.  Being present has allowed me to get to know who my daughter is from an early age while also letting her know how important she is to me.  

Another aspect of being present that I want to mention is taking opportunities to meet new people and their children whether it is in a story time at your local library or at the playground.  This provides the opportunity for your kiddo to interact with others, share, and play.  They may make a new friend and you may, too.  As a stay-at-home Dad, I am learning this more and more. As my daughter runs up to other kids, I need to take the initiative to introduce myself. 

Go on Adventures (Weather Permitting, of course!)

Take your kids on outdoor adventures regularly, for fresh air and to reinforce an active lifestyle from an early age.  Several mornings each week, after my daughter eats breakfast, I pack a bag and we either go to the beach, the botanical gardens, the zoo, or to one of several public parks with playgrounds that can be found around the city we live in.  One advantage of this is kids under two often get in free.  For example, our zoo membership will pay for itself after we have gone just a few times.  And the public parks are a few hours of fun without any cost.  

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I have noticed how much my daughter looks forward to these trips.  When I tell her that we are off on an adventure and that we need to get ready to go outside, she will get her shoes and try to put them on (we are still learning, but she is so close!).  It also teaches her what we need to do before we go, like putting on her hat and sunscreen.  Most importantly, she engages with nature, the outdoors, and physical activity which demonstrates the importance of living an active life to stay healthy in the long run. 

The Importance of Lifelong Learning

When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, in addition to talking and singing to her, she would also read stories to her.  We continue to regularly introduce new books to her.  Now, at almost eighteen months old, our daughter still wants to read books throughout the day.  Books are one of her favorite activities and that love of learning will last throughout her lifetime.

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Be her Coach as well as her Cheerleader

Be her coach so that you can teach her and guide her.  At the same time, remember that it is just an important to be her cheerleader so that she is encouraged to try things on her own and will even be excited to do so.  While it is great to applaud your kiddo’s successes, it is important to applaud their efforts even should they fail.  This lets her know that you will be there to help her get back on her feet when she falls, while also providing her the opportunity to learn to stand on her own at a young age; this will carry her confidently into adulthood.  We have to be okay with letting our kids fall knowing we taught them how to get up again and that we are there should they need our help.  

For example, this past weekend my parents visited, and Nana went and bought flowers for our daughter to plant.  Well, when it came to watering the flowers, Nana took control of the watering can instead of letting my daughter figure it out.  The next day, I took her out and showed her the watering can, where we fill it up with water from the hose and sure enough, she started dumping the water on her shoes.  However, after a few pours she carried it over to her flowers and watered them as opposed to her feet, shoes, and everything else around!  Now, she is delighted each time she waters the flowers on her own. 

Families and Friends Advice vs Following Your Own Intuition

Something I learned quickly, once my family and friends found out I was going to be a stay-at-home dad, was that they were ready to share tons of advice (some of which was unsolicited advice…okay much of it was unsolicited).  While it is great to hear advice from others, if it does not align with your beliefs or opinions, stay confident in your decisions for your child.  You know her best and what is best for her.  

For example, we decided not to travel with our daughter on a long road trip to visit family; her mother and I felt that she was too young at the time, for such a long ride in the car.  Instead, we invited family to come to us.  I heard multiple times from my family members that they knew someone who has a kid younger than our daughter, and they drove all the way down the east coast.  Every interaction that we have with others is a teaching moment for my daughter.  She will witness how her mom and dad handle every interaction.  So, instead of getting defensive, I just said, “that is great for them, but we were doing what was in the best interest for our kid”.  

Patience 

Have patience with your kiddo when they have a bad day, but also remember to have patience with yourself.  Moms and dads can have bad days too, and that’s okay.  As parents, we do not have all the answers or needed experience to handle every situation.  However, the one thing that I know for sure is that I love my kiddo and will figure it out!

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To close…

Remember that at the end of the day, time spent together is worth so much more than fancy trips or expensive toys.  The time we spend together is when she learns and grows and ultimately becomes her own person and that is an amazing thing to witness every step of the way. 

Lastly, if you’re a dad or a mom, not used to bows and ponytails, please know you’re not alone.   Some days my daughter has a crooked ponytail with an upside-down bow, but we keep trying!  While I am not an expert, I hope that these tips are helpful!  


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