TBR: Books for SAHDs

For today’s book review, I’m looking at two guides for stay-at-home dads. One is The Stay-at-Home Dad Handbook, a new book by Peter Baylies, the founder of the At-Home Dad Network; the other is Stay-at-Home Dads: The Essential Guide to Creating a New Family by Libby Gill, which came out a few years ago.

Although the two books cover similar overall territory (making connections with other at-home parents, housekeeping, suriving on one income), there’s an interesting difference between their tones. Gill is somewhat breathless about the trend of at-home fathers, writing things like: "But they’re also pioneers, exploring the frontiers of a family option that’s always been there but is now catching on like wildfire." Her book is aimed at both at-home-dads and their wives, and focuses a lot on the decision to have a father as a full-time parent. Baylies is much more matter of fact about whole thing; he assumes that his readers have already decided to be stay-at-home dads, and simply offers advice to make the journey smoother. Gill argues that most families with an at-home parent make that choice because they think they can do a better job than a paid child care provider; Baylies assumes that they do it because it’s rewarding, even fun.

The most useful part of Gill’s book was the lists of questions for husbands and wives to discuss. In addition to being married to an at-home-dad, she’s a career coach, and it shows. She does a good job of identifying some of the hidden minefields that can show up for what she calls "SAHD/WM" families (the "WM" is for "working mother") and I like to call "reverse traditional" families, especially with regard to money issues, but also about differences in parenting styles.

My favorite part of Baylies’ book is the multitude of real at-home-dads whose story and advice he shares. Whereas Gill’s examples always seem to be made-up composites, Baylies’ book feels like he’s invited you over for lunch with some friends, and everyone’s chatting about their experiences. A good bit of the advice that he offers could just as easily go in a book for stay-at-home mothers — but how many fathers would feel comfortable reading it? My one quibble is that many of his examples seem more suited to parents of older children than those caring for infants and toddlers.

Both books go through a standard calculation arguing how the second income often gets so consumed by taxes, child care, and other related expenses that it hardly increases the resources available to the family. I always find these short-sighted, in that they only look at a point in time, not at the impacts on future earning potential, retirement benefits, etc.

One interesting aspect of the discussion of how to save money in the Baylies book is the inclusion of the money that can be saved by doing major home maintenance, repairs, and improvement yourself. This reminded me of a point that Jennifer made to me after reading The Two-Income Trap. She wrote:

"I was very struck while reading this book about how changes in the economy make a guy’s work around the house more important than ever. When you’re sending half your income to the mortgage, suddenly keeping those gutters cleared and recaulking the tub becomes a big deal. The average American family now keeps two cars instead of one, and we keep them longer than ever before: now the husband who can tinker on the car is a very valuable asset. But when he doesn’t get dinner on the table? No big deal because eating out is almost as cheap as eating at home, and overall a small part of the budget anyway. Can’t mend those torn jeans? Just go get another pair at Old Navy. And when’s the last time anyone’s work clothes got ironed anyway?

Put it all together and the one remaining big cost that is associated with
traditional mom’s work is child care. So I’m thinking my husband — who’s
great with kids, who does his own wiring/plastering/carpentry on our house,
who can fix the family car — is an economic juggernaut!!! "

2 Responses to “TBR: Books for SAHDs”

  1. amy Says:

    Thanks for the book reviews. We’ve realized recently that we’ve slipped almost completely into SAHD/working-mom land, since I’ve found I can’t keep getting up at 4 to do my own work before heading off to the stuff that pays money, even though the paid job’s PT. I’ve switched the “my work” hours to afternoon, and that makes for a much saner life. But it also means I drop off my daughter at her morning playgroup and then don’t see her till 4-5 pm most weekdays, and guess who’s doing the bulk of raising her? So I think it’s time for us to embrace this SAHD thing more fully.
    Incidentally, I’m looking at keeping this job even though I’ve got a mental boss who’s seriously old-school when it comes to what constitutes professionalism. A woman in her 50s, unsurprisingly. Because of the way the university labor rules work, and because of the progressive attitudes in the department, she can’t just fire me, and I’ve got surprising power over the situation. While we’ve been teetering on the brink of my leaving for a while now, and I’ve done enough freelance work & saving that my family would be OK financially if I left, it’s occurred to me after a highly charged meeting that there might be some good learnin’ in the situation. And that I have some cards in protecting what’s a remarkable work environment generally in this department. So I’m leaning towards staying, but requiring that we go for what’s essentially university-sponsored couples therapy for bosses/employees, and work closely with upper management in mediating problems. This would put us in the unusual situation of having an old-fashioned ambitious whipcracker caught in a vise between upper management & an employee interested in more flexible, casual, and humane work arrangements, and might be an interesting case study in the strength of those newer attitudes & commitments, and in how changes in attitudes about work happen or don’t. It seems to me that if I want to study these things, reality beats the pants off books.
    Does the world need another blog? We’ll soon find out….

  2. House Husband Says:

    My wife keeps asking me to put something together on being a House Husband.
    Maybe I will some day.

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