As we enter the new millennium, it is becoming increasingly apparent that our children, in general, are not being raised with the same care, safety, and comfort as in generations past. The recent school shootings in Colorado and Georgia sadly have not served America as wake up calls, but rather as reminders of the society that our children live in and learn from, each and every day. On any given week, one can usually find a story on a television news magazine that offers hidden camera or other proof that kids are being neglected and abused by their daytime caretakers. Unfortunately, most young parents today are forced to be two income families, which generally means having to find decent, cost effective daycare for our kids. Leaving our kids alone with virtual strangers to care for them is a way of life, and may be the root of the problems our youngsters are having in America today. As a two income family with three kids, there came a time recently when my wife and I had to stop, assess our situation, and carry out some changes that would benefit not only our immediate family, but also, in a manner of speaking, society in general. It came time for our children to stop sacrificing, and time for us to shoulder more of the responsibility of nurturing them and making sure that they were on the right paths, and staying off of the wrong ones.
My wife and I were having problems with day care, and with our household. Bills weren't being paid on time, laundry wasn't being done, the house was a mess, the kids were unhappy, and dinner wasn't being made, resulting in many nights of take out or delivery food. It was definitely time for some changes. The main question was; which one of us would give up a well paying job and career to be at home? Our decision wasn't based solely on money, for I made slightly more than my wife did. Our decision was based on other factors, such as benefits, insurance, and long term goals. In a nutshell, I soon found myself at home, in charge of every aspect of the household.
Statistics show that the number of men taking over the role of "househusband" is on the rise, but there are relatively few magazines, books, or support groups that men can turn to for help. Here are a few tips on how to effectively run your household, along with some suggestions on where to turn for help and support.
The very first task to undertake is to figure out a budget. You need to figure out how much money you have coming in, how much you average per month in utility and credit card bills, and how much, realistically, you spend at the grocery store. If you find that you have more going out than you do coming in, obviously it wouldn't be a wise choice at this time to try and be a househusband. If you find that you will be able to make ends meet but won't have much extra money, don't despair. There are numerous ways to cut corners, as you will find out.
The extent of most men's cooking knowledge is limited to the barbecue. If you don't know how to prepare basic meals, you're going to have to learn. Open your wife's cookbooks and start familiarizing yourself with the terms and ingredients of popular meals. Remember, cooking is not brain surgery. Don't be afraid to experiment, or fail. Most people make the mistake of taking cooking too seriously, thus putting pressure on themselves to make everything just perfect. Well, I'm here to tell you, cooking is a very imperfect science. If you don't believe me, just open two different cookbooks to the same dish (i.e.: meatloaf). Glance down the list of ingredients and preparation methods, and you will see minor (or major) variances on preparing the meal. Everybody has his own taste and style, so find yours, and move forward. Don't dwell too long on recipes, but rather use them as a guideline. After making many dishes, good and bad, you will gain confidence and feel more comfortable, and learn to trust your judgment and instincts.
Baking is usually thought of by men as some taboo ritual that only women can do correctly. How does bread rise? How do you get the frosting that color? Why do you sift the flour? The truth is, men, that baking is simple, and it creates treats for your family that are inexpensive and fun. Again, open a cookbook and familiarize yourself with the terms and ingredients involved in baking a cake, or making cookies. Baking, as well as cooking, is merely an act of following directions. Remember when your wife brought home a computer desk or wall unit in a huge box with a thousand screws and pieces in it, and you were asked to make it all look like the picture on the box? All you did was read the instructions and go piece by piece, until it all came together and formed the piece of furniture in the picture. Cooking and baking are the same as putting together that desk. Follow the procedure, step by step, and the item in question will slowly take the shape of your desired outcome.
The first step to take for baking is to invest in a bread machine, if you don't already have one. Bread machines are very versatile, and can perform many tasks for you. Making bread is much less expensive than buying bread, and nothing bought at the store could ever surpass the taste of homemade bread. Bread machines generally come with cookbooks that cover a vast array of recipes. For instance, with a bread machine, you can make the dough for cinnamon rolls, pizza dough, and a multitude of different bread varieties. All you do is open the bread machine up, and dump in the ingredients listed in your recipe, and turn it on! Simple as that. Three hours later, you have a loaf of steaming hot, homemade bread, or dough that is ready for baking. The bread variations range from basic white bread to French bread, cheese bread, cinnamon bread, chocolate bread, and the list goes on and on.
Learning to bake is a necessity if you want to cut corners. How much could you cut off of your weekly grocery bill if you didn't have to buy cookies, bread, cake, cupcakes, or any other sweet snacks? Baking is also a fun activity for the kids to participate in.
Plan Your Meals
If your household is anything like mine was before I gave up my day job, it's chaos around dinnertime. What are we going to make? What ingredients do we have? Does everyone agree on the dinner menu? Avoid all of this confusion by planning out your weekly meal schedule. Planning your meals in advance not only helps you budget for the grocery store, but it helps to avoid those last minute decisions to order pizza or Chinese food.
I like to plan my family's dinner menu around my wife's lunch agenda. She tells me in advance which days she has business luncheons scheduled, and which days she will need to take her lunch to work. I will make something that she likes and is easily transportable on the evenings before she needs to take her lunch, and she takes the leftovers to work the next day. Another corner cut, as she doesn't get stuck getting fast food or some other last minute lunch. Leftovers are not only healthier for her, they save us a lot of money each month.
The first rule in grocery shopping is to buy generic goods when at all possible. Have you ever tasted a difference between generic garlic salt and a brand name garlic salt? No, but I'll bet you've noticed the difference in price. Buying generic is the number one rule to stick by.
Clip coupons, and obtain the scanning cards that the stores give away for free. The cards and coupons may seem to be nuisances at first, and might even be embarrassing for some men, but the savings offered are spectacular.
Buy in bulk, whenever possible. Usually things like ground meat or chicken drumsticks are cheaper when bought in bulk. I usually buy ground meat in five pound chubs. When I get the meat home, I divide the meat into meal size portions, individually wrap the portions in plastic wrap, and place them in the freezer. The same with chicken. Divide the pieces up, individually wrap them, and freeze them. If you follow these procedures, you will find that you don't waste as much food as you do when you buy individually for specific meals. Buy ten pound bags of potatoes instead of buying them individually. You can make potato salad and mashed potatoes, which are always good to have around to make a meal more interesting. Would you rather have greasy potato chips with your sandwich at lunch, or potato salad? Right, and guess which is much cheaper? Buy the twelve pack of toilet paper, the large package of napkins, soda in two liter bottles, not cans, and buy sugar, flour, and rice in large quantities.
There is an endless amount of good, cost efficient meals to make. Individual preferences vary greatly, but some of my favorite, cost efficient meals to make are spaghetti, meatloaf, fried chicken, stew, chili, stuffed bell peppers, hamburgers, tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, and anything barbecued. These meals can all be altered from time to time to make them a little different each time my family has them. Side dishes can also be rotated, taking away from any monotony you and your family might encounter.
If at all possible, plant yourself a garden. Gardening can be very rewarding, and can also help you cut more corners. Grow your own yellow squash, jalapeno peppers, spices, and even watermelon. Find out the best seasons to plant and the best plants for your area and climate through your local do-it-yourself store, or on the Internet.
There are many things that you and your family can do, that are very cost efficient. Going to the park, going for a walk, or even going for a drive can create inexpensive, fun times for you and your family to get out of the house. My family's favorite pastime is fishing. After the initial cost of buying fishing poles, tackle, and licenses, fishing is very inexpensive. Pack a lunch, fill the cooler with iced tea and soda, and away you go. Who knows, you might even come home with a free dinner in the shape of a nice trout or bass.
Time For Yourself
Being a stay at home father can be just as frustrating as it can be rewarding. It is imperative that you continue any hobbies or pastimes that you enjoyed while working. You will be giving a lot more of yourself as a stay at home dad than you ever could have as an employee somewhere, and you need some time to yourself to do what you must to relax and blow off steam. If you treat your spouse well during the week, she will usually reciprocate and give you some alone time on the weekends. My wife misses our three kids immensely while working, and looks forward each week to spending time with them while at home on the weekends. These are the times that I sneak off by myself and play my guitar, read a magazine or book, or watch a sporting event. Remember, if you're not happy and content, your household will reflect your unhappiness, and you will defeat the purpose of being a stay at home parent.
Anthony David is an at-home parent in Northern California for a daughter aged nine, boys aged two and four, and a beautiful wife of ten years. Anthony has run a successful, happy, efficient home for over four years. When not donning the apron, he can usually be found playing guitar, fishing, or enjoying fine cigars. Anthony, born in 1967, believes that the young parents of today need to make a difference by taking a more active role in raising today's children.
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