Papamoa dad Shane Mulcahy has been a stay-at-home parent for the past seven years, taking up the role when his and wife Claire's first child was 5 months old and continuing as babies two and three arrived.

When the family made the less-conventional choice, they were living in the small, rural Manawatu town of Marton, where Mrs Mulcahy was a science teacher at Rangitikei College.

The decision was an easy one.

Mrs Mulcahy has good career prospects and teaching gives her 14 weeks' holiday a year - when the family can spend time together - compared to the usual four.

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Mr Mulcahy says caring for his 5-month-old daughter Isabella was "all good," and he adapted to the additions of sons Quinn and Louis by "just getting on with it" and sticking to strict routines.

Early on, he worked weekends at Mitre 10 to supplement the family's income and interact with adults - something he missed during the week. He also plays sport.

"You've got to have an outlet so you're not confined to your own little world," he says.

Living in a small town certainly helped financially too.

"The mortgage was small and we were isolated somewhat as well. All we bought there was groceries and that was about it." Mr Mulcahy took the kids to Mainly Music one day a week and volunteered on the kindergarten committee but says there was some stigma around the couple's choice.

The older women, in particular, saw being at home with children as a woman's job, he says.

"You're sort of left out a little bit."

Stay-at-home dads are rarer in Marton than they are in the Bay but Mr Mulcahy says the men he knows consider him lucky - particularly when the Rugby World Cup is on.

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"All the extended family thought that it was awesome," he says.

Son Quinn came along just over a year after Isabella and Mrs Mulcahy spent six weeks at home, before returning to school for the new year.

"That was definitely trickier, you had to be a little bit more on the ball," Mr Mulcahy says. "In saying that, you'd try and get them down to sleep at the same time.

"It's a bit hard to remember really, it was all a bit of a blur. I had routines and they did it and it just made it a damn-sight easier."

He finds his own way of doing things, preferring to do household chores in the afternoon and getting the kids involved in anything he was doing - including house renovations.

Now that I see it from the other perspective, you miss out on a lot with working all the time

When third child Louis arrived, Mrs Mulcahy was home for eight weeks before returning to teaching.

"It was a bit trickier but I just got on with it."

Mr Mulcahy says if the children had grown up with mum at home instead of dad, they may be slightly different people.

"I'm a little bit: 'Oh, come on, use your brain'," he says. "I think it's definitely got to affect their personalities having a male at home."

Since moving to Papamoa three years ago, youngest son Louis has started school and Mr Mulcahy now runs an arborist business - during school hours and weekends - while Mrs Mulcahy teaches at Papamoa College.

Moving to Papamoa was "the best move ever", he says.

"Papamoa rocks. It's an awesome place. There's a really good vibe. Everyone's sort of on the same wavelength," he says.

Both parents share a close bond with their children, now aged 5, 6 and 7.

"I'm like a mother lion to my kids," Mr Mulcahy says.

"I'm certainly harder than Claire is.

"If I say 'no' it means no and I don't cave in."

Children are not young very long and not spending time with them wherever possible is an opportunity missed, he says.

"I wouldn't change a thing, best thing I ever did."

For Rotorua dad Shane Morris, the toughest thing about becoming a stay-at-home parent is accepting that he will not be the breadwinner for his family. He and partner Ashleigh French made the decision for Mr Morris to stay at home and look after their 20-month-old daughter Ever, when she was 7 months old.

Shane Mulcahy and his three kids (l-r) Isabella, 7, Quinn, 6 and Louis, 5. Shane has been a stay at home dad since Isabella was 5 months old. Photo/Andrew Warner
Shane Mulcahy and his three kids (l-r) Isabella, 7, Quinn, 6 and Louis, 5. Shane has been a stay at home dad since Isabella was 5 months old. Photo/Andrew Warner

Mr Morris needed some time out from work and Miss French needed to return to her job as a paediatric nurse, in order to keep the position.

With Mr Morris at home and Miss French doing shift work, the couple can now enjoy precious family time during the day.

Miss French also has two school-aged children, who live with the family every second week.

Overcoming the fact he is not the main provider, Mr Morris now relishes the chance to teach and care for his daughter and says other men are missing out - coming home tired at the end of a working day when the household was at its busiest and most stressful.

"Now that I see it from the other perspective, you miss out on a lot with working all the time," he says.

In saying that, Mr Morris says he has sacrificed "a bit of freedom" to stay at home and now has a real appreciation for what stay-at-home parents do.

"When I was working I was a bit expectant of a few things," he says.

The couple share the cooking but Mr Morris does the general household chores, including the vacuuming. "There's a Catch 22 there, because I still do all the outside stuff - mowing the lawn and cutting the edges.

"She does a lot of the washing but that's because she's fanatic about it," he said.

The responsibility of fatherhood has also curbed Mr Morris' social life. "I don't really drink any more," he says.

He admits being a stay-at-home parent is tougher then anticipated.

"At first I thought 'yep, this is pretty cruisy', but it gets more and more intense as they start doing more," he says.

He also cops a bit of flack from his mates about staying home.

"There's definitely a perception of it that it's not the manly thing to do," he says.

But those who have scoffed at the idea are now jealous of Mr Morris' lifestyle, he says. "They're the ones that missed out by not doing it."

He has a close bond with his daughter and enjoys watching her learn.

"You really are having such an input in teaching them. The bond that is there, there's nothing that can top that. It's definitely made us way closer." Mr Morris says living on one income is a struggle at times and he plans to return to part-time work next year.

In the meantime, he laughed at the idea of joining mums' groups and says Miss French meets up with other mums and children when she is home and the couple have a lot of friends with children.

All the extended family thought that it was awesome

There are days when he misses the interaction with adults but he made up for it when the opportunity came along.

"I end up yakking my mates' heads off. The 'Missus' gets home from work and I start yabbering away. She just wants to relax," he says.

Overall, he describes the decision as the best thing he's ever done. "I'll never regret it. I do really live the good life, to be honest."