parenting

Stay-at-home dads share tips on solo parenting, breaking norms, and surviving

Rappler.com

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Stay-at-home dads share tips on solo parenting, breaking norms, and surviving
Meet 3 hardworking Filipino dads who share the struggles and joys of taking on the role of a stay-at-home-parent

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Sayang naman ang pinag-aralan mo kung ‘di mo naman magagamit (What a waste of your education if you’re not using it).”

“Hayaan mo na ‘yan sa asawa mo, maghanapbuhay ka na lang (Leave that to your wife, just focus on earning a living).”

“Ang mga totoong lalaki hindi gumagawa ng gawaing bahay (Real men don’t do household chores).”

“Sa ginagawa mong ‘yan, nagtatago ka lang sa saya ng misis mo (By doing that, you’re just hiding under your wife’s skirt).”

These real-life remarks reflect the lingering stigma surrounding stay-at-home dads in the Philippines.

For generations, traditional norms have cast dads as the providers and moms as the nurturers within families. Yet, many brave dads are doing what they can to challenge this stereotype, showing that parenting is not defined by gender but by love and commitment.

From the office to the home

“Is Mommy feeling better now, Daddy?”

“Yes baby. Mommy is in the best place now. That’s why we can smile.”

These are the words Mark Janson Sotto, 36, told his daughter after his wife died of breast cancer in 2022. This compelled him to take on the role of a solo parent in the middle of a pandemic.

MARK JANSON SOTTO AND HIS DAUGHTER. Photo courtesy of Mark Janson Sotto

Prior to the tragedy, Janson was just like many professionals in Metro Manila, commuting daily to his office in Makati. When the lockdown happened, Janson relocated to Bulacan. This move offered a lower cost of living and the flexibility of working from home, marking a significant lifestyle shift. 

“The prospect of returning to the daily commute and office environment was not appealing anymore,” Janson said. He resigned from his corporate job, opting for a more flexible home-based role as contracts manager for a San Francisco-based corporation. This decision was driven by flexibility, cost of living, and wanting to be present for his family.

Like many other stay-at-home dads, Janson found that working from home offered a unique opportunity to balance professional responsibilities with an active involvement in his child’s daily life. This shift not only challenged him and the traditional gender role, but also highlighted the fulfillment and value of hands-on parenting.

“From spending quality time during her development years to being present at her milestones, these moments are priceless,” he said. 

However, burnout and monotony still plagues Janson. Being used to a dynamic office environment, adjusting to the routine of home life became humdrum. He combats this by structuring his day to include variety and personal time – Janson enjoys watching movies and TV series, singing, reading non-fiction books and articles, gardening, and biking. He also teaches college students part-time.

“I also like trying new things. My most recent hobby is fishing!” he said.

Janson still struggles balancing household responsibilities and parenting duties, especially after the unexpected passing of his wife, but adjusting his priorities per day and practicing self-care as a father helps him manage.

“Establish your priorities and let them be your North Star when making difficult decisions,” Janson said. To better support stay-at-home dads, he suggests improving parental leave policies and providing tax benefits or subsidies for families where one parent stays home to care for the children.

The way of the househusband

Greg Salo Jr. embraced his role as a stay-at-home after losing his job due to the pandemic. Starting a home-based business allowed the 45-year-old to support his family while being present for his children’s needs and online classes.

GREGORI SALO JR. AND FAMILY. Photo courtesy of Greg Salo

“We agreed on it so that there will be someone who will be at home during the online class of our daughters. Also, I would be available to drive for them when needed,” Salo said.

As schools reopened, he adapted again, preparing baon (school snacks) for his children and carpooling other students, earning additional income while managing household duties.

Greg recognizes the obstacles he encounters. “Our greatest challenge lies in financial difficulties, necessitating frugality and cutting down on daily expenses,” he said.

Despite financial challenges, Greg finds fulfillment in being present for every milestone in his children’s lives. His day is a balance of tasks, managed with careful time management. He suggests that local government units (LGUs) could support stay-at-home dads by providing income opportunities and organizing activities that promote bonding and mental health.

For Greg, being a stay-at-home dad is not always rewarding, but brings “fulfillment once you accomplish a lot.” He demonstrates that one can find fulfillment in the most challenging circumstances with adaptability and a positive mindset. 

Fathers know best

John Liberato, 44, embraced his stay-at-home role after he and his wife consciously decided to “prioritize [their] daughter’s childcare.”

JOHN LIBERATO AND FAMILY. Photo courtesy of John Liberato

“She really needs the focus of her parents. We don’t want to always rely on our nanny,” John said, highlighting the importance of being present during her formative years.

Despite the initial difficulty of adjusting to this new role, John has found ways to contribute financially through part-time work. “I always ensure that I do my part to still contribute to the financial needs of my family,” he added.

One thing John does miss, he said, is his previous work and having “adult conversations.”

“I feel that I need to talk to someone other than my daughter,” he said.

John has no regrets so far. He said the opportunity to be present for his daughter’s milestones and to provide a stable and nurturing environment is invaluable.

From working 24/7 to mastering the art of baon and bedtime stories, these fathers prove that hands-on, stay-at-home parenting isn’t limited to gender: It is defined by love, commitment, and dedication to raise their child to the best of their abilities. – Kila Orozco/Rappler.com

Kila Orozco is a Rappler intern.

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