For an ultra-cheap, proudly practical stay-at-home dad like me, Father’s Day is a bit of a moral dilemma because of the “B-word”… budget. After all, me staying home means we’re a single-income family. Whenever I would seriously contemplate becoming a stay-at-home dad, I assumed money would be my biggest source of anxiety. Now that I’ve actually made the switch, I’ve simply convinced myself that I have no money and therefore have nothing to spend. So far, that seems to be working out quite nicely—my blood pressure is at an all-time low and not spending money is almost disappointingly unchallenging.
Coming up with a list of Father’s Day gift ideas for stay-at-home dads, however, was a bit challenging. Because of the tighter single-income budget, these gifts must be both practical and genuine. We don’t want another coffee mug or a stupid t-shirt that rips off a 10-year-old American Express commercial (Doctor: $180,000… Engineer: $75,000… Father: Priceless). We also don’t want finger paintings, as I’ll explain below. What we want is something we need, can use or otherwise don’t get to enjoy as often as we’d like. If you need some inspiration, here’s my stay-at-home dad Father’s Day wish list.
Everybody tells you that having a kid comes with a lot of responsibility. Nobody tells you it also comes with crippling back pain. Including picking Macklin (my son) up out of his crib four or five times a day and rescuing him from whatever disaster he got himself into on the floor, I bend over and lift that 25-pound sack of baby fat nearly fourteen million times every day. Seems like it anyway. I didn’t really count. Math is for nerds. But yet, somehow my back muscles have neither strengthened nor grown accustomed to the grind. Therefore, back pain relief is at the top of my wish list for father’s day.
This practical-yet-awesome gift can be nearly free. Just wash dad’s vehicle the old-fashioned way—out in the driveway with a bucket of soapy water, a sponge and a hose. You’ll save $20 by not going to the carwash, and your kid can get in on some classic outdoor fun (who doesn’t love spraying things with a hose?). A clean car makes a great gift for a stay-at-home dad because as clean as he keeps it, he’s lugging a kid along everywhere he goes and kids can’t even keep their face clean. Not even a part of their face. You’d think they’d learn that unobstructed nostrils make for easy living, but instead the nose gets treated like a ration box, storing leftover food for the hard times ahead. I don’t get it, but I’d love a clean car that was cleaned for me for free.
Uninterrupted Golf Nap
Before my wife and I moved in together, she was clueless about things like golf naps, floor pants and “brand clean sheets.” Let me clarify. Floor pants are pants you’ve worn out of the house but aren’t dirty enough to throw in the hamper, so you leave them on the floor in a kind of pants purgatory to possibly be worn again. “Brand clean sheets” are exactly what they sound like—as clean as if they were new. A golf nap is a special nap that can only take place on a weekend in the middle of watching four hours of golf on TV, which must remain on. It’s one of the most relaxing, indulgent ways to spend a Sunday afternoon, but it’s hard when there’s a baby crying up the place. So give your stay-at-home dad the gift of time. Take the child to grandma’s and allow him to spend at least part of Father’s Day on the couch watching sports and snoozing.
Nothing Artsy or Crafty
What do you do with a crappy drawing or a card full of “cute” misspellings if you don’t have a desk or a barren office wall to put them on display? Nothing. There’s nothing for us stay-at-home dads to do with kid art except immediately throw it away. And if I’m being honest, we’d rather not have to lie to our children by pretending to “appreciate the thought.” What I’d really appreciate is anything else on this list.
Favorite Childhood Memory
If you feel obligated to come up with something sentimental for Father’s Day, here it is. You know the saying you can’t go home again? It means however much we may fight it, time marches on. Things change. Nothing is permanent no matter how badly we may want to hang on. Though you can’t bring him home again, you can revisit and honor one of his favorite childhood memories. Growing up, did he love playing in a particular park? Pack a picnic lunch, make a day trip and let him show the kids how he used to play. Did his grandma make the most amazing caramel rolls every weekend at the lake? (Yes, she did.) Find her recipe and surprise him on Father’s Day morning with a memorable breakfast in bed. This is your chance to not only be creative and stay within budget, but really prove how well you know the stay-at-home dad in your life.
An Entire Beef Tenderloin
This one is not at all practical, but just like #6 was for the sentimental among us, this one is for those who just can’t resist spoiling a wonderful stay-at-home dad on Father’s Day. Don’t just bring home a couple filets… go to the butcher shop and buy the whole damn tenderloin. Then, give him free reign to prepare it however he chooses. If you’re concerned about the price, I understand. But remember, it’s a gift whose payoff is threefold: he’ll be in awe of the most prized cut of beef, he’ll delight in the highly technical process of cooking it and he’ll feel like a king as he serves up a true feast for his family. It may sound like you’re giving him work by making him prepare his own Father’s Day supper, but trust me, he’ll love it.
This… this is the dream. If I received only one Father’s Day gift my entire life, it would be the Baby Bidet. Unfortunately, this genius invention of mine has not yet materialized (still waiting for the right angel investor). I developed the concept for the Baby Bidet while listening to a friend of mine describe the horrors of dealing with a diaper blowout. Like all revolutionary inventions, the Baby Bidet is a simple idea. Picture a 5-gallon bucket. Inside is a mechanized washing system consisting of sponges and bristles that are soft enough for baby, but strong enough to remove even though toughest stuck-on poop from the deepest recesses of every pudgy fat roll. You simply fill the Baby Bidet with warm water, add baby soap, drop your child in feet first and hit the switch. Seconds later, you’ve got a clean baby with nary a wet wipe wasted. Though not yet a reality, I’m keeping this on my wish list until the day we stop buying diapers.
If nothing on this list seems to fit, I have one last idea for you. Scotch. Single-malt. Fifteen years or older. It’s my go-to request whenever anybody asks me what I want for fill-in-the-blank occasion. I drink scotch because it requires my attention. It can’t be drunk fast or in great quantity, at least it shouldn’t be. On the contrary, a good scotch forces you to slow down, to notice it, to pay attention to the moment… exactly what a busy, stay-at-home dad probably needs most.
Got any better ideas? Let me know… please.