General Advice Warning. The information on Dad Mode is intended to be general in nature and is not personal financial or product advice.

I was sitting on my couch last night staring off into space, weighing up options for the next ten minutes of my life.

Do I eat an ice-cream or clean up the dumpster fire of a toy pile in front of me?

Not an easy choice.

On one hand, if I eat the ice cream, I’ll make myself feel better (temporarily), but on the other, if I tidy up, I’ll be able to relax while I eat said ice-cream.

Tough one…. NOT.

I obviously had the ice cream first.

While I was enjoying its creamy goodness, my mind wondered why my son refuses to tidy up his toys when I ask him to. “Impossible to know” I think to myself. “Some things are better left a mystery”.

I finish my ice cream and get down on my hands and knees and start scooping up toys. Fatherhood at its best.

My attention then shifts to the uneasiness that has been creeping up on me lately. It’s a familiar feeling at this stage. It’s the overwhelming sense that I’m only worth how much I contribute financially. At first, I try to chalk it up to frustration that I have to clean up these trains for the fourth time today. Elio bloody loves trains. But then reality sets in as the last Thomas the tank engine finds it’s resting place for the night.

I place all of my self-worth on how much money I make.

This is a problem as a stay at home dad because I make uhhh nothing.

To preface this, I’ve never really earned decent money consistently. I’m a chop and change kinda guy, and unfortunately that doesn’t lend well to climbing the corporate ladder. It’s because of that, I became a stay at home dad in the first place. My wife can earn much more money than I can, so it doesn’t make sense for me to work.

And yet, I still feel worthless for not contributing financially. Logically, I'm aware that we are better off if I don’t work, but still, I lie on the floor scrolling through job boards in a half assed effort to feel like I’m doing something.

Us humans live in a society that values things like income, career progression and social status above all else, we know this. But compounding that, there are the pressures and social conditioning of men traditionally being seen as the breadwinners. Whether we like it or not, this societal conditioning dictates everything we do, think and feel.
We are not as autonomous as we think we are.

This isn't good. Somehow our masculinity is supposed to track our net worth like a fucked up body to bank index fund.

I’ve struggled with this for a long time. And now, as a stay at home dad, it’s become really hard to think of myself as anything other than useless with out an income.

So how do you quantify self-worth?

Well, In an ideal world, we would all be content living our lives, intrinsically knowing that we are valuable just for who we are.

This is very hard to do, after a lifetime of thinking a certain way, those train tracks of habit are deep seated. My son would like that line.

So instead, my focus is on seeing the value in what I DO instead of what I DON’T do. To start seeing fatherhood as the incredibly valuable job that it is, and to stop thinking that my penis is smaller than that of the man who makes 150k a year. I should probably stop thinking of penis size as a measure of manhood too… baby steps.

Why are stay at home fathers valuable?

For my benefit and hopefully, yours too. Let’s go through some reasons fathers of the stay at home variety are important and contribute in ways that aren’t financial. All of these apply to stay at home mums too, by the way, those legends need to know they are valuable.

You show your kids that a parent of any gender can be a primary carer

Never underestimate the effect a positive role model can have on your kids. I have both a son and a daughter and if they decide to have a family, I want them to feel like they have options. When it comes to who looks after the kids and who works, there is a choice.
Being a stay at home dad shows them that the job doesn’t have to default to the mum. Besides, more women in the workplace can only be a good thing.

You build the bonds that you otherwise wouldn’t have with your kids.

Being the primary carer, I’ve been there for the cliché developmental milestones, first steps, words etc. But also the meltdowns, the giggle fits and the scraped knees. As a result, whenever my kids are upset, they come to either me or their mum in equal measure. Being able to soothe your kids when they are upset is a beautiful thing that I don’t know if I would have if I wasn’t there all the time.
It’s yet to be seen how this initial bond will develop over time, but my hopes are that we will continue to build on the solid foundation of these first few years together, and they will be happier for it.

Your partner has the opportunity to explore their aspirations.

Traditionally, after kids, the mother would be expected to stay at home and be the carer, irrespective of any dreams or desires of doing something different. The ones that did, would be labeled as ‘bad mums’ or ‘not committed to their family’. None of the same attitude is directed at the fathers if they chose to continue their careers.

Your partner might want to be a SAHM (stay at home mum) and that’s totally fine, but having the option to decide who does what without any added expectation is incredibly freeing, and I’m sure appreciated. In our case, my wife can work as a freelancer in a profession that she really loves. I’m proud that I can help make that happen.

Keeping these points in mind is how I’m going to try and decouple my self-worth as a stay at home dad from income and start appreciating myself for the value I bring to my family. I hope you can do the same!

It’s not going to be easy, and we have a long way to go to remove the stigma stay at home dads deal with every day, but by valuing ourselves, we can get there.

Stay strong!

Cya in the next one xx.