Fatherhood – the best job in the world

Stay-at-home dad Steve Westrop, father to Samuel, 13 months, tells Practical Parenting why caring for his son is the best job in the world.

Steve Westrop, stay-at-home dad, 'A dad's view' column, July 2007 issue

I used to think I had the best job in the world. As good as it was, though, I’ve since found a better one. It has its tough times and the pay’s rubbish, but the other benefits make up for that. Just don’t get me started on the hours!

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It’s obviously still considered an unusual career choice: for a few weeks I was convinced my flies were undone because of the strange looks I’d get in the street.

Fortunately, this wasn’t the case – I’m simply a Stay-At-Home-Dad.

It wasn’t exactly planned, but then, again, neither was Samuel! He was just a few weeks old when I became ill with fibromyalgia (a musculo-skeletal disorder) and was signed off work.

Unfortunately, things haven’t got any better. I now have to use a wheelchair or walker for anything more than the shortest of distances, and I’m embarrassed to admit that my 13-month-old son can walk faster than me!

Despite that, though, we have lots of fun and a fantastic relationship.

Challenging parenting stereotypes

I’m sure we’d all admit that parenting can be challenging at times, and I don’t want to make out that it’s harder for SAHDs than SAHMs – but it’s definitely different.

For example, I used to find it really difficult going to the clinic with Samuel, as some of the mums would seem uncomfortable about a man trying to join their ‘club’. They’d all meet up once a week for coffee, but I never found a way to invite them over to my place without it sounding like a chat-up line.

Taking Samuel swimming still causes a few raised eyebrows, too, particularly at one local pool where there’s a wonderful purpose-designed baby section with changing tables, playpens and so on… in the ladies’ changing area. I asked the staff if we could use these facilities, but they didn’t know what to say.

Don’t worry, I won’t venture in there. It’s hard enough getting a pushchair in there, let alone a wheelchair.

Best part of being a stay-at-home dad

Overall, I adore my job. I get to do more with Samuel in a day then many men do with their kids in a week, if not a month. Swimming, trips to the park and soft-play centres, appointments at the clinic, shopping – we’re rarely at home!

And I’ve learnt so much this past year.

For a start:
*Ladies’ and gents’ loos are quite different (I have to use the ladies’ at times to change Samuel)
*Humpty Dumpty isn’t really an egg
*Wendy from Bob the Builder was once a man called Lenny
*And, as Samuel has demonstrated recently, hot-cross buns can’t be tumble-dried.

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But, more importantly, I’ve learnt to adapt to being disabled and being a dad, and in doing so I’ve realised that it’s the best job in the world. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

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