Editor's note: Cory Byrom is a stay-at-home dad to three children all under the age of six. Sometimes, once the kids are in bed, he does stand up comedy in the Atlanta area. He is also the husband of HLNtv.com's Art Director Kelly Byrom.
As established parenting roles continue to evolve, one area seeing the largest shift is in the number of fathers who now stay home to raise their children. CNN Money recently reported that in 2010, 20% of married fathers with children younger than five years old were the primary caregiver in their household. We asked one stay-at-home dad to share his experience from the front lines in filling this non-traditional -- but increasingly common -- role.
At 6' 1”, 200 pounds and with facial hair that could be described as “in the Magnum P.I. tradition,” it is often (correctly) assumed that I must be a pretty tough guy. When I meet people for the first time, it's not unusual to immediately get questions about what sort of job a Manly Man like myself has. Lumberjack? Prison guard? Crab fisherman? Ultimate Fighting Champion? I've heard them all. I merely chuckle lightly and tell them those are mere child's play compared to my actual profession: I'm a stay-at-home dad.
That's right, in 2006 when my wife was pregnant with our first child, we realized it made much more sense for me to give up my high school teaching job to stay home with the children, given that her salary was more than double what I was earning. This was perfectly okay with me. I was burnt out on teaching anyway, and staying home with our son seemed like a ton of fun.
Then we had another kid.
Now it's a lot less like hanging out with kids all day and a lot more like wrangling feral cats.
Even though it made perfect sense for us -- just as it does for many families -- I'm still met with surprise whenever I tell people I'm a stay-at-home dad. Any time someone calls us to discuss our kids, whether it's the doctor's office, ballet class, or pre-school, my wife's the one who gets the call. Many people also assume that I somehow can't quite hack it, bumbling my way through each day, feeding the kids chocolate cake for lunch and vacuuming the drapes like Michael Keaton's "Mr. Mom." I may not clean the drapes very often (or ever), but I do know how to cook a decent meal.
But the misconceptions are all right with me, because staying at home gives me time to focus on my true passion: Laundry. Oh laundry, how I long to sort and fold you! There are some days where I'm lucky enough to wash and fold upwards of four baskets -- though it often feels like even more because folding children's clothes is quite deceptive. See, while that pile may seem the same size as a comparable one of adult clothes, each piece is like 1/8th as large. This means that at some point you start to feel like you're trapped in some sort of twisted domestic nightmare, where you continue to fold laundry but the pile gets no smaller, forever.
Some days I just let the kids run around naked in an attempt to lessen the laundry burden, but I learned the hard way that you shouldn't do this with the ones that aren't potty trained yet.
But then there is the occasional day where I don't fold laundry at all. This day is known around here as grocery day. Grocery day is especially fun during the summer, when our older kids aren't in preschool. This means once I get all three of them in the store and a couple of them in the shopping cart, there's no room left for groceries. I can't deny that it's a money saver, though.
Plus, if I waltz into the supermarket at the right time with three kids in tow, I'm almost guaranteed to get some attention from the ladies. Granted, “the right time” is first thing in the morning, and “the ladies” are mostly octogenarians, but hey, I'm a father of three who's been married for nine years; I'll take whatever attention I can get.
Consider it one of the little perks of my chosen profession. Honestly there many others too. Being a stay-at-home dad is a blast. The hours are the pits and the pay stinks, but it's hard to complain about getting to spend time with your kids every day. Between drawing and coloring, Legos, playing outside, and yes, a little television, the days do fly by. Plus, I'm usually lucky enough to at least get one or two of the kids to take a nap, which provides a few moments of precious downtime when being active in social media gives me a little adult interaction -- and keeps my brain from turning into a puddle of goo.
It all does require a certain amount of patience, but as long as I mix it up with a variety of activities things usually go pretty smoothly.
We established our routines early on and now it's not hard to just roll with the punches -- and with two boys and a girl there are plenty of punches, especially from the girl. And I imagine things will only continue to get better, because in just a few short years, they'll be old enough to fold their own laundry. Maybe then I'll be able to pick up a more relaxing hobby, like lumberjacking or crab fishing.