I have been a stay at home dad (SAHD) for nearly seven years, and though there was a steep and painful learning curve for my transition into this role, I have come to really embrace it. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I can't imagine my life differently. Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that being a SAHD is for everyone. In fact, for the first few years, I was convinced that it wasn't for me. I struggled being the primary caregiver to my kids, and not a day went by when I didn't say to myself, "I can't do this anymore."

Better Appreciation

But I stuck with it. Much to the relief of everyone in my family, my complaining (whining?) eventually abated and I came to appreciate the time I got to spend with my kids, being involved in their lives and watching them grow. These are experiences that are difficult to fully appreciate unless you've taken part in them firsthand. Coming to that understanding took time because it tested the limits of my tolerance, patience, and mental fortitude. It also challenged the social mores that I was most comfortable with, and I found that this was perhaps the biggest hurdle that I faced as a SAHD.

A Bigger Role

That's because in traditional households, it is not uncommon for most of the child-rearing to fall on the shoulders of the moms, while dads often assume the important job of earning an income. After a hard day at work, it is perfectly acceptable for a father to want some time alone to unwind, have a beer with his buddies or watch some TV while mom continues with her domestic duties. Traditionally, other than sports or other fun activities, fathers were often given complete exemption from any parental duties with their kids, though whether or not they chose this route was dependent on the individual.

With SAHDs, this situation is reversed: it is the mom who comes home from a hard day at the "office." The key difference that I've noticed is that moms are often more willing to sacrifice their personal time in order to be with their kids. Whether it is justified or not, most moms I talk to feel guilty when they leave their kids behind and head off to their jobs, so when they get home, rather than seeking solitude or going out with friends, they want to be with their families.

Good for Kids

Consequently, our kids benefit from having two parents actively involved in their lives, and as we all know, when it comes to raising children, two parents are better than one. Two parents bring with them two separate sets of life experiences and two individual approaches to raising their kids. When two people share in the responsibilities, family life is more balanced and children grow up in a richer and more enjoyable home environment.

Good for Moms

Our kids, however, are not the only ones who benefit from SAHDs: for obvious reasons, mothers come out ahead, as well. In addition to providing much needed help in raising the children, which for the record is harder than most regular jobs, a SAHD demonstrates to his wife that his family is deserving of his time and attention, and what mother wouldn't celebrate that? Since a mom will usually put the interest of her family first, she will always welcome her husband's involvement because it can be an important part of her kid's emotional and psychological development.

Good for Dads

And finally, and maybe most importantly, being a SAHD is good for dads. Being a man in the modern era of parenting isn't what it used to be, and men are faced with challenges that previous generations didn't give much thought to. In addition to filling the role as man of the house, modern dads are expected to be sensitive, well-balanced, and most importantly, there for their wife and kids.

Being an involved father, however, can test us in ways that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable because it requires that we set aside our sense of independence and masculinity: we need to employ finesse and sensitivity when interacting with our kids, thus challenging our notion of what it means to act like a man. Though difficult, this process can be a positive one in that it helps us to achieve a healthier balance in our interactions with others while endearing us to our wives, who will always welcome our efforts to spend time with our kids.

Despite the fact that times have changed since our parents' generation, one thing hasn't changed: a man still wants to feel like a man, and nowhere is this more true than with the SAHD. We welcome the sense of accomplishment that comes with overcoming a challenge, and let's be clear, there is no greater or more important challenge than being a good father to our kids. It is a job that challenges us in ways that we never imagined, but it is this process of operating outside of our comfort zones that we grow as individuals and as men. It is through being there for our kids that we become stronger individuals and can take enormous pride in a job well done.

It may not always be easy, but nobody ever said being a man was.