In 1976, stay-at-home dads made up 2% of coupled families with at least one child under age 16 and one parent staying home. In 2014, they made up 11%. Alberta still has some of the lowest numbers in this regard, and the reason has a lot to do with our province having had the highest single income households in the country. Well, that was until we were faced with the current economic downturn. As big companies made unprecedented cuts to jobs, with it went the affordability of a single income homes. More than 25,000 Albertan men of prime working age lost full-time employment last year. In comparison, nearly 12,000 women of prime working age gained full time jobs.
So what does this all mean? Well, it means that there is a shift which for some feels forced and for others feels like a mixed blessing. I was one of those 25,000 guys suddenly without a job. My wife picked up the slack and started working full time and I became a stay at home dad. Now, I feel the need to qualify that 2 days a week we had care outside the home for our 2-Year-Old son so that I could spend some intentional time on the job hunt.
The first couple of weeks of being home with him was pretty difficult, Netflix was on far too often and I can confidently say I’ve watched almost every episode of Paw Patrol, Pocoyo, Super Why and Thomas the Tank Engine ever made. My wife would come home and ask what we did, I certainly didn’t want to admit letting our toddler binge watch TV but I knew being dishonest would be worse. In the days to follow I started looking for something to do close by, and lucky for me the airport is right around the corner! So we created a routine where we would stop at Tim Hortons, grab a Double Double for myself and 2 plain TimBits (one for him, one for me). With Tims in hand we would then and pull into the runway viewing area. Every now and then I would take a couple of pictures and Snapchat videos and send them to my wife at work, to prove we actually got out of the house and away from the TV. I think we were only ever there 10 minutes before I packed us up and we headed for home. I realize now I was dealing with some depression and while feeling the trauma of being without work these quick trips were all I could muster.
After the Tim’s run and watching airplanes I thought, that wasn’t too bad… so I began to plot out my next plan of daddy and toddler fun. I searched google for some ideas and found some great sites like Calgary’s Child. Some of the ideas there were pretty great but either cost too much or didn’t exactly appeal to me as a father. I settled on things I liked to do instead and made them into fun events for my kid. We went to Bass Pro, or what I like to call the “Calgary Aquarium” and my son loved it. There were fish, animals and another airplane! Of course I took photos along the way, you know to prove to my wife, and even myself, that we did actually get out of the house. After a few more of these outings I started getting feedback on Facebook and Instagram from friends asking where I was coming up with these ideas. My wife came home one day a few weeks in and suggested I start a “daddy blog” and so I did… sort of. I took to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as a start and the impact was almost immediate! Before I knew it I found myself getting calls from media outlets wanting to share our story.
What began as a way to survive and cope in a time of loss, frustration and feeling stuck became a very liberating event. My son and I have had some amazing adventures; he likely won’t remember many of them however, I definitely will! Not to give my former employer any credit for sending me off, but being without work has given me a precious opportunity to spend time, which is so fleeting, with my son. Our kids grow up so fast, and more often than not we become so busy with “providing” that we miss out on actually being with them and enjoying the fruits of our labour.
My wife is a rock, she’s been someone that I’ve been able to really lean on during this time and I happy to say that our marriage has benefited from this experience as well. These might have been some of our most difficult times so far, but our experiences over the last six months have prioritized what is truly important to us as a family, a lesson we might not have learned without the struggle.
Not to get political but, PM Trudeau made a statement on gender equality recently, stating “because it’s 2015!” Though I might not agree with everything he says I can say yes to that. I have a good friend who decided to resign from a position that he is extremely gifted in to allow his wife to pursue her career. I asked him if that was a difficult decision and he said “no, my wife didn’t hesitate to help me pursue my goals… it’s my turn to step up and make room for her to pursue hers.” He is going to be house dad for a while and is excited to bring the same sort of flavour to his community that I have been able to do with YYCDaddy. More and more often Dads are finding themselves at home, at least 25,000 in Alberta, and in my opinion this shift that will deeply benefit our kids and our families in Canada, providing we make the most of it. I am thankful to have found a silver lining in the stormiest cloud we’ve seen yet.
Bryan Goehringer is a husband, father, dog owner & founder of YYCDaddy as well as a Men’s Mental Health Advocate.