One real consequence of being a stay-at-home dad is a feeling of isolation.
It can happen to those with the best of intentions and the strongest of wills. Sometimes it is hard not to find yourself trapped alone in a corner after days in the house with the only real adult interaction coming from the local news. Maybe you’re feeling like an outsider as the only dad at the grocery store, or worse, losing touch with your own circle of friends and family.
That feeling of isolation can happen to new at-home fathers or veterans who have fallen into the rut. Either way, it is important to shake the feeling in order to feel better about the job you are doing and yourself in general.
Keep Active in Your Interests
It can be tough to get away when a 40-hour-a-week career becomes a 24/7 job, but no one can stay sane working all the time. Becoming a stay-at-home dad didn’t change who you are, so don’t stop doing what keeps you happy in the name of the kids’ well being. It’s not like you are abandoning them to go climb Mount Everest.
Whatever it is you like to do – camping, fishing, golfing, working on cars, riding bikes or doing puzzles – find the time to keep doing it. If you enjoyed a morning workout before you went to work, figure out a way to keep it up, even if it means starting the day a little earlier. Don’t stop reading up on current events because of a needy toddler, even if you have to catch up after bedtime.
Dads also can keep sharp on their hobbies with the family involved. Brainstorm ways to slip aspects of your interests into daily activities with the kids. They’ll learn to appreciate what you like and you’ll keep fresh.
Find Your Time
While making sure you don’t neglect your interests, find a way to unwind and clear your thoughts sans the family or anyone else.
It may seem to be counterproductive to be by yourself, but getting a break could be all you need.
In a busy household with an equally busy wife, it can be hard to justify getting away. But it is a must to remember who you are.
Make a plan for a break and catch a movie by yourself or go on a long walk. Take that nap that has been eluding you. Figure out how often you need the time, work with the family and get it in. Even a few hours a week could be enough to re-energize while keeping focused on the task at hand and not feeling down on yourself.
Form or Join a Playgroup
A lack of adult interaction during the day is a leading contributor to feeling isolated. So connect with fellow at-home parents to let the kids blow off some steam while getting in some adult time.
Whether you try and form your own or find out about a group second-hand, it is a chance to meet new people, try some new activities, get out of the house and have even more adult time.
This could be a chance to bond with local SAHDs if you can find them, but even gatherings with the neighborhood moms won’t hurt.
If they know what you’re about, you likely won’t be left out in the future.
Connect With Peers
The world may not be flooded with at-home dads, but there are plenty out there, even if they aren’t in the same neighborhood. With the Internet, the world is a much smaller place, and there are many resources for SAHDs.
A wealth of dad blogs exists and huge communities, such as AtHomeDad.org, offer platforms for primary caregiving fathers to virtually gather. Visit message boards and share your story and read what others are going through. Get advice or give advice.
Take the chance and start your own blog or forum to get a little more off your chest. It can be comforting simply to find that you are not alone.
Losing touch with your established adult relationships is asking to fall into the isolation trap. Plan a gathering somewhere and invite your extended family. Let the kids run around together while the adults catch up.
If you and your wife are used to having friends over every second Saturday, there isn’t much that should change that. Plan to gather with the guys to watch the occasional game. Reconnect with your better half every chance you get. That should help alleviate some of the isolation.
Don’t sit on the sidelines when opportunities come up to help out with the kids or do a good turn. Does the preschool need a chaperone for the field trip to the zoo or a parent to help out with the Halloween party? Don’t be shy; sign up.
Again, it will get you out of the house and help break up the routine day. It will help keep you active and you’ll earn brownie points with the kids for helping them out as well.
Finally, be open about how you are feeling. Vent with your wife and let her know how you’re feeling. Her support alone could help ease some of the tension. Even if all the talking comes from you, getting it off your chest will be a relief.
Get a good friend or another family member on the phone and repeat the process if needed. A different perspective is always good.
And if things don’t get better, seeking professional help is not a bad thing, especially if an isolated feeling is graduating to depression.