Thursday, August 23, 2007

In Praise of Stay At Home Dads

When my husband's first child was born, he made the decision to stay home with her. For the first three years, Todd did the mommy thing and his partner went to the office. This was way before the current wave of well- educated men who've come to the same conclusion - kids thrive when a parent is home and if Dad is the best choice for the family, he should leap at the opportunity.

By the time we became an item and later married, Todd had two children and was a work-from-home single parent. His children were the focus of every decision he made. Their welfare was carefully weighed against career advancements and when in doubt, the kids came out on top. He was part of a new breed of father - nurturing, involved men who knew they could change diapers, cook meals, and kiss boo boos as well as their female counterparts. They were open to the idea of a man's unique role in the development of his children. The current crop of stay at home dads guide and shape their families like no generation before them.


It wasn't long after Todd and I married that he went back to the office environment. With the combining of our families and a new baby, it seemed best that way for us. He handed the torch to me and now I'm the chief boo boo kisser. I think this kind of saddens him and he misses the constant stream of hugs and laughter. Sitting in a cubicle is not his thing. For him money is a means to an end, not the goal. I certainly understand.

He still finds time to help coach football teams, make and decorate special birthday cakes (and the kids really put his abilities to the test!), read the Hobbit at bedtime, and go to every school function. It's that important to him, but it's taxing. Now his life is too full, mimicking those of exhausted super-parents who try to do it all.

As much as he misses his years as a stay at home dad, he's told me he felt isolated and devalued by a society that looks down on men who are not racing up the corporate ladder. This is slowly changing, but in a recent article on Seattlepi.com, Seattle area stay at home dads still find it hard to connect with other like-minded fathers. They still feel left out and ignored at predominately mother/child centered playgroups.

The good news? They are not discouraged. They are redefining parenting and networking groups to suit their needs. No more tea parties at the library. Meetings at the local skate park followed by a walk to the bookstore and a jaunt into the local glassblower to watch the flames shoot out of the torch are more their speed.

It's been shown that full-time fathers are more relaxed than their female counterparts. My husband can attest to this. No precisely packed diaper bag with matching changing pad for him. His style - a bottle and bag of munchies in one jacket pocket and diaper and wipes shoved in the other. Dad's are more likely to change a diaper in the stroller behind a park bench or let their kids pick out their own clothes (who cares if the socks match, she's happy). Do the kids suffer for this? I don't think so. They're probably more relaxed and self-confident because of it.

I, for one, am proud of the choices my husband has made in regards to parenting. Back in the early '90's he was a maverick. I'm glad the ranks of men like him are growing. If you know someone who has taken on the job of full time parenting..give them a pat on the back. It's not easy.

One of the best resources on the web for full time dads is http://www.rebeldad.com/index.html. It's much more than a blog. It contains a vast array of resources. Brian Reid, of RebelDad, is living his subject matter and easily conveys the emotions, joys, and frustrations of being a "Rebel Dad".

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Way to go Todd. You are a rare breed, my man!!!! You should be proud of yourself!!! Your children may not show it now, but one day they will tell you how much they have appreciated it all these years!!! Your step-children will too!!!! You have had a great influence on them as well!
Love and Kisses,
Aunt Tina

Sid said...

I was a single parent/father back in the 60’s after my kid’s mother decided she no longer wanted to be a mother/wife. There were no books or instructions on how to raise 3 kids, handle 2 jobs, and write a book all at the same time. PTA ladies helped but always with a sense of pity rather than cooperation. “Marriage brokers” came out of the woodwork to help me right the ship and recreate a “normal” family structure. Child care was expensive so I adapted by giving up most all social life in order to provide the maximum time for the kids that I could.

Your comments on the attitude of others to child rearing dads struck a chord. Suburbia couldn’t accept the possibility that maybe, just maybe, fathers could equal or perhaps even better, the running of a home, job and children. After all, even the feminists wanted to do all 3 and eventually realized that maybe focusing on 2/3 was hard enough for either sex. Even the kids’ school teachers had a hard time adjusting to my presence at conferences and after school activities as if I were just pretending to be a mom.

I was interviewed by a local TV station once. I still have the tape and watch it occasionally to remind myself that, some 30+ years later, the kids have pretty much turned out OK. The girls are great mothers. They have super husbands who are actively a part of my grandchildrens’ lives and care. My son finally just got married and can’t wait to have a kid of his own to parent. I take comfort in the statement I made to the TV anchor lady who did the interview – “Raising kids is an emotional roller coaster, you experience some of the greatest ups and some of the worst downs – but in the end, it’s worth it.”

To your husband - welcome to the club; dues are high, heavy time commitments necessary, arguments and slovenliness are frequent, “but in the end, it’s worth it.”

Sid

Lisa McGlaun said...

Tina,

Love you girl! I'll pass on a hug from you to Todd.

Later,
Lisa

Lisa McGlaun said...

Sid,

Thanks for this. I bet it was really an adventure back then. As a child of the 60's I can certainly relate to what you are saying. My memories of fathers of that time - work, work, work, come home eat, sleep, sleep, sleep.

They worked hard and collapsed when they got home. I don't remember any who were really involved with their kids. It was left to the women.

I'm sure they were out there but not in my neighborhood.

Thanks again for sharing,
Lisa

Happily Anonymous said...

I wasn't a stay at home dad but I did get custody of my son and it worked out great. My ex had custody of our daughter and that also worked out well too. Both kids turned out just fine.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Happily,

Of course they turned out fine. It sounds like they had two loving parents. I applaud any parent that takes custody after a divorce. It's tough going it alone.

Thanks for commenting. Have a great night,

Lisa

Bob Johnson said...

Good job Todd! It would have taken a lot of courage to go against what society thought was the norm. I would have loved my father being with me more as I was growing up, especially if he made great dragon cakes.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Thanks Bob,

I'm going to make sure that he sees these comments. He's kind of a non-conformist but at the same time it was tough on him to be the only stay at home dad he know. Feels kind of lonely.

You should see some of his other cakes! Maybe I'll post pictures someday...they're incredible. No matter what the kids ask for he manages to pull it off and make it look scrumptdillious...is that a word?..lol

Peace,
Lisa

Anonymous said...

Go Todd! I am just waiting for Deb to make enough at the Real Estate thing then I can become a stay home Dad too.

All y'all's Friend, Ray

thewishfulwriter said...

Your husband sounds like an absolutely amazing man. any parent who puts his/her children first in this world is to be commended in this day and age.

sounds like you are a very lucky woman and your children have it made - such great role models!

Lisa McGlaun said...

Heather,
He is a great guy..We are very lucky to have each other.

We're gearing up for the kids to go back to school so it's been an interesting week. He'll love reading these comments, sometimes all the work can be mentally exhausting.

It will give him that little boost.

Thanks...hugs,
Lisa

Lisa McGlaun said...

Ray,

Hello friend! You and Debbie do such an awesome job with your children. We could all learn a few lessons from you.

Here's to you having your turn at home..cheers. And when Debbie gets rich from her job can she find us a new house commission free?..wink,wink.

Love you guys,
Lisa

Anonymous said...

That's my boy!! :-) We're very proud of you, Lisa, and the children. Love to all, Mom

Lisa McGlaun said...

Mom!!!!,

Your first comment! Yeah. I'll tell him you were here.

Love you too,
Lisa

ruthie said...

Hi Lisa,

I applaud your husband and all the fathers that have made the decision to stay at home with their children.

I am passing this blog on to some male friends that have working wives in high profile/high paying jobs. I know they may feel a little isolated from the "working" world and sometimes wonder what they are missing.

What a wonderful parent (whether male or female) that chooses to be the primary care giver to their precious children. We all know what love, dedication and labor this involves.

What a priceless gift not only to the children, but to the parent as well. These parents are not missing out on what truly matters!

What a great blog!

Your friend,
Ruthie

Lisa McGlaun said...

Ruthie,

So good to hear from you! I hope your friends find the link to RebelDad helpful. It's a great resource.

Talk to you soon. I'll pass on your kind words to Todd.

Hugs,
Lisa

Jayne said...

That's a great story!

Lisa McGlaun said...

Jayne,

Thanks for the compliment. There's a great guy behind the story, so it was easy to write about him and other fathers like him.

Come by again. Thanks for your participation.

Lisa

Todd McGlaun said...

Wow. When I read this last week my first thought was of what a wonderful wife I have. Accepting compliment has not always been my strong suit, so having her heap such glowing praise on me was kind of uncomfotable. I never felt like I was doing anything special... I just wanted to be Dad for my kids. They are such blessings to me, I didn't want to miss any of their growing up. And my own Dad was a great example... he didn't get to be the stay home parent, but he did always go out of his way to make time for a game of catch, or to come to my school events and other activities.

After reading everyone's comments, I can only say thank you for all the kind words. I am humbled and appreciative. I have been blessed with great kids, an amazing wife... and clearly, great friends. Both those that I know and those I don't yet. Thank you all.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Honey,

Face it, you are well loved and not just by me.

Kisses and my never ending gratitude for the man you are,

Lisa