Stay-at-Home Dads: The Essential Guide to Creating the New Family

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Over two and a half million men in the U.S. are full-time stay-at- home dads, and it's a number on the rise. In this groundbreaking book, media executive and working mother Libby Gill provides a step-by-step blueprint for transitioning into a stay-at-home-dad family. She takes readers into the homes of families who have successfully created this child-centered lifestyle, to show how they, too, could benefit from such a change. Stay-at-Home Dads...
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Over two and a half million men in the U.S. are full-time stay-at- home dads, and it's a number on the rise. In this groundbreaking book, media executive and working mother Libby Gill provides a step-by-step blueprint for transitioning into a stay-at-home-dad family. She takes readers into the homes of families who have successfully created this child-centered lifestyle, to show how they, too, could benefit from such a change. Stay-at-Home Dads reveals how to:

* Create a business plan-from budget and mission statement to job description and performance evaluation
* Make the most out of one income
* Overcome gender stereotypes
* Maintain a healthy work-family balance
* Return to the workforce when (and if) the time is right

Whether you are a couple already struggling with the challenges of a two-career existence, or just starting a family, this indispensable handbook is for you. Complete with a comprehensive resource guide and invaluable tips from the trenches, Stay-at-Home Dads will significantly enhance the quality of life for millions of stressed-out couples across the country.

Author Biography: Libby Gill is a veteran of development, production, and corporate communications for Studios USA, Universal Television, Sony Pictures Entertainment Television Group, and Turner Broadcasting West Coast. During much of that time, her husband has been a stay-at-home dad to their two young sons.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452282742
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/1/2001
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Libby Gill

Q: What prompted you to write this book about the stay-at-home dad/working mom (SAHD/WM) lifestyle?

A: It came out of my own experience. My husband has been parenting our two boys full-time for ten years while I have been supporting the family. Over the years, we discovered how much we had in common with other couples doing the same thing and, even more important, how many couples who had never seriously considered a stay-at-home dad/working mom option might benefit from a book like this, which shares success stories from couples all over the country.

Q: Do people actually plan this sort of role reversal, or do they just fall into it?

A: In truth, many of them just fall into this arrangement. But then they wish they had been more proactive in sorting out some of the issues and negotiating their roles in advance.

Q: Can you really plan this type of lifestyle?

A: Absolutely. My book includes an entire chapter just on drafting what I call "the family business plan."

Q: Can you tell if certain couples are good candidates for a SAHD/WM family structure?

A: There is no magic formula, but there are some pretty strong indicators. First of all, these are couples who firmly believe that no one can parent their children better than a loving, involved full-time parent.

Q: So that rules out daycare?

A: For these parents, it does. But that's not an easy decision to make, and for some parents, it's not even realistic. However, if parents are considering daycare vs. parentcare, there are some key questions they should ask themselves. You need to think all this through and decide if daycare or parental care is right for your family. Ask yourself:

  • Do you think your kids will be just as happy and nurtured by a nanny or daycare worker as by a parent? Do you think the benefits of being around other kids in daycare outweigh the benefits of parental care?
  • Is the fear of "falling behind" in your career greater than your concerns about daycare?
Q: And once you've ruled out daycare, how do you decide between Mom and Dad staying home?

A: There are lots of factors that contribute to that decision about dadcare vs. momcare, particularly who's bringing in the bigger income. But before you consider finances, you need to really think about who is better suited to be a full-time parent. This can be pretty challenging to our traditional thoughts about male and female roles, but it's well worth discussing with your partner. You need to decide if you believe:

  • Men have the same nurturing capabilities as women.
  • Dad is willing to put his career on hold.
  • You can both handle any unflattering stereotypes that might come your way.
  • You're willing to commit to ongoing communication and negotiation about your unusual lifestyle.
Q: Other than concerns about daycare, what are the primary reasons men choose to become stay-at-home dads?

A: There are six key reasons men become stay-at-home dads:

  1. Dad is out of work or making significantly less than Mom.
  2. Mom's job offers health benefits and/or greater stability.
  3. Dad passionately wants to be a stay-at-home parent.
  4. Mom passionately wants to pursue her career.
  5. Dad can work at home and still be a full-time parent.
  6. Dad (and sometimes Mom) is a shift-worker who cares for the kids in his off-hours.
Q: How do you prepare what you call the "family business plan"?

A: It's not really as complicated as it sounds. It just involves some soul-searching and open communication with your partner. The first step is to check in with your spouse and see if you think your marriage is strong enough for this kind of scrutiny and honest reflection. It can be challenging to buck the norm and you need to make sure you are in a stable place before you take the role-reversed parenting plunge. Once you decide to proceed, there are a few key steps:

  1. Create a family mission statement that articulates your goals and objectives as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.
  2. Draft detailed job descriptions that clearly spell out who does what -- for example, does he cook but she runs errands? Does she buy the kids' clothes, but he keeps the family calendar? You should consider all the basics, including whether you want any outside help, who gets time off when, as well as special needs like medical issues, religious training or music lessons. If in doubt, spell it out.
  3. Establish periodic review times, so you can check in with your spouse, see what's working and what's not, and make course corrections along the way.
Q: With our economy today, how can couples possibly think about living on one income?

A: Many of us have bought into the notion that two incomes are better than one, but if you do the math, you'll see that that may not be the case. Frequently, that second income comes at great expense. Break down your income, or incomes, and your monthly budget. Now take a look at how much of your budget is devoted to work-related expenses, including childcare, commuting, clothing and dry cleaning, lunches or coffee breaks, and all the hidden extras like convenience foods and takeout meals. If you eliminate one of your jobs, you can often make up the lost income by just downsizing a little.

Q: What are some downsizing tips that can work for SAHD/WM families?

A: Try some tricks like:

  • Start a neighborhood babysitting co-op. More fun for the kids, cheaper for you.
  • Join the frequent-user clubs for everything from videos to pantyhose.
  • Buy in bulk. Always.
  • Clip coupons. Sometimes kids will try something new just because they have a coupon.
  • Shop in consignment stores -- trade your toys, clothes, furniture for someone else's.
  • Use your neighborhood library. It's fun and free.
    Check your local paper for free weekend activities like street fairs and cultural festivals.
  • Make saving a game and teach your kids a valuable life lesson at the same time.
Q: Isn't it hard for men to give up the traditional role as breadwinner?

A: Not for all men, but for a lot of men it can be a real challenge. Most guys have been socialized to be providers, not to be caretakers, and it can be difficult to take a backseat to their wives with regard to earning potential. It's these deeper issues, what I call "emotional finance," that really need to be sorted through and discussed. Things like giving up control, personal power, feelings of masculinity and self-worth. It can be tough on men, especially in the beginning.

Women need to be sensitive to their spouses' feelings and let him find ways that make him feel good about their financial arrangement, whether it's being the one who picks up the check or handles the family finances. But most of the SAHDs find that the rewards of seeing their children flourish outweigh any negatives.

Q: Besides figuring out how to live on one income, what are some of other challenges facing SAHDs and their working wives? And how do you deal with them?

A: SAHD/WMs face a lot of stereotypes, even from their friends, families and neighbors. Some of the most common include:

  • He's Mr. Mom, some kind of dopey guy bumbling his way through childcare. The most effective method to combat this one is to fight back with competence. Brush up on cooking, childcare and cleaning skills and wow 'em.
  • He's a loser living off his wife. Guys just need to be confident in their contribution and look past other people's unenlightened states of mind.
  • He's a little creepy, hanging out with kids all day. SAHDs need to meet the moms, their comrades-in-arms, and get comfortable in their own neighborhoods.
  • She can't be a good employee, because she's got kids. Never, ever apologize for having children. Just explain how well-balanced your work and childcare situation is, and that the same dedication you show your family is what makes you such a great team player at work.
  • She can't be a good mom, because she works. It seems like working moms just can't win. Just refuse to give into the Guilt Trap and remember that your kids have a full-time parent at home with them.
Q: What about sex? Does rewriting traditional roles change your sexual roles too?

A: The truth is most parents say that just having kids is what really changes your sex lives. But switching traditional roles can have an affect too, especially if you don't monitor your own feelings and discuss them openly with your spouse. Some techniques to keep the sexual sparks burning in your marriage include:

  • "Role-reversal reversal," that is, consciously trade roles back in the bedroom so that he takes on the dominant role and she takes on the more submissive role
  • Try "planned spontaneity." Schedule romance, because it's not just going to happen magically.
  • Put a "never miss date night" on your calendar, work out all the logistics, and stick to it!
  • Try a "quarterly romantic retreat," that is, an overnight or weekend getaway from home and kids.
Q: How should SAHD/WM couples approach career planning?

A: The most important thing about career planning for stay-at-home dad/working mom couples is that it must be a shared exercise. Mom and Dad need to identify their short and long-term work and family goals, determine timetables for their goals, then look at them side-by-side to make sure they dovetail.

SAHDs also need to consider ways to keep their skills strong and their networking contacts up to date in anticipation of reentering the workforce. They might also want to consider working at home or telecommuting as options. Working moms need to watch out for the two-headed dragon of guilt and obligation overload and establish appropriate work-family boundaries.

Q: Do men and women really parent differently?

A: Although there is no research data to suggest that either gender is predisposed to be a more effective parent, some studies actually do back up what common sense tells us -- there are some basic differences in male/female parenting styles. In general -- and this is a broad generalization, especially with regard to SAHD/WMs who by definition defy tradition -- men are more action-oriented and women are more comforting. Parents should discuss, and ideally agree upon, the philosophical issues of childrearing, even if their approach to it differs dramatically. The biggest win for kids is having two involved parents and benefiting from both their styles.

Q: What are the ABCs of the SAHD/WM lifestyle?

A: A is for attitude, including appreciation, respect, flexibility, perspective and humor. B is for balance by teamwork, battling isolation and maintaining outside interests. C is for communication, as a couple, to the kids and to the outside world about the joys as well as the challenges of this unique lifestyle.

Q: What are your favorite "tips from the trenches," from the SAHDs themselves?

A: Use Cheerios (a handful in the toilet bowl) for tinkle target practice when you're potty-training your little boy. Change your baby’s diaper in the trunk of the car -- it's level, it's carpeted and, best of all, there's no escape. One dad with a special-needs son decorated his boy's wheelchair each year for Halloween to fit the theme of his costume. One year he was a cowboy in a covered wagon, the next Batman in his Batmobile.

Q: Is there actually a feeling of community among SAHD/WM families?

A: Definitely. There is a real spirit of cooperation and camaraderie among SAHD/WM couples who offer parenting tips and guidance, and just generally support each other. Stay-at-home dads network in local play groups, with or without kids included. They are also linked on the web by great sites like, the online resource guide for SAHDs and parents. And there’s an annual conference, The At-Home Dad Convention, held in Chicago every fall. Parents can check the Resource Guide in the back of my book or go to for more information.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2001

    Insightful and Inspiring Look Into the Stay-At-Home Dad Lifestyle

    Libby Gill did a superb job writing a book on a parenting topic that has been misunderstood for quite some time - Stay-At-Home Dads. In her book ¿Stay-At-Home Dads: The Essential Guide To Creating The New Family,¿ Gill provides an honest and in-depth look at the stay-at-home dad lifestyle. She presents the practical reasons behind the choice these dads and their spouses made, the issues and daily challenges they faced together, how they resolved them, and how they managed to make the stay-at-home dad lifestyle work for their families. What is most impressive about Gill¿s book is that she does not impose a self-prescribed one-size-fits-all philosophy to parenting. That¿s because much of the information Gill provides comes from the interviews she conducted with the stay-at-home dads and their spouses. She eloquently addresses both sides of the coin in a well-balanced format. One that presents a TEAM (Together Everybody Achieves More) approach in which parenting is viewed and treated as an equal partnership. Gill¿s book, however, is about more than just the stay-at-home dad lifestyle. It is about the love, commitment, and passion that drives these parents to put the needs of their children first. In today`s world ¿putting children first¿ is easier said than done. But Gill, along with the parents, in this book, demonstrate how any parenting couple can make the stay-at-home lifestyle a successful and rewarding endeavor. Gills book is not just a book for parents who want to consider the stay-at-home dad lifestyle to read. It is a book every parent should read. How invigorating it was to finally read a book that offers an insight into parenting that any parent can relate to and benefit from. Hogan Hilling Proud Stay-at-home dad

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2009

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