Wednesday, August 06, 2008

stay at home dads

Yesterday, I posted a piece on stay-at-home-wives and today,this article Dad's Hit the Mother Lode came across my screen.

The subtitle reads: Mr. Moms find staying at home with kids has its ups -- and downs.

The rest reads: Mike Biewenga, a stay-at-home dad for the last four years, noticed something funny when he took his daughter to story time at a nearby library. Gathered around the reader in a circle, mothers sat farther from him than from other moms.

"There was a gap, then me, then a gap, then the rest of the circle," says Biewenga, 33, of Arlington Heights, Ill. "And I mean, I shave, I comb my hair. I'm a normal-looking guy."

And when Gregory Keer, a Los-Angeles area high school teacher, took his kids to a park get-together once during his years as a stay-at-home dad, he recalls that he hung out on the sidelines, because he was "not one of the girls."

There are about 159,000 stay-at-home dads across the country and 5.6 million stay-at-home moms, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures, which are from 2006. The numbers don't include single fathers, the many who work part time, and those with kids older than 15. Still, it's a small number compared to the moms. And while it's grown slightly each of the past few years, so has the number of moms.

But things have evolved, at least in terms of attitudes. Many stay-at-home dads say they feel their lifestyle choice, whether made of desire or economic necessity, is more accepted now.
"I've had guys tell me privately that they wish they could do the same thing," says Rick Walker, 50, who's spent a dozen years as a stay-at-home dad to Nicole and Chloe, now 14 and 12, in Southlake, Texas. "But they don't know how to broach it with their wives."

Yet many also speak of feeling isolated in a world where mothers have their coffee dates and group playdates, but fathers often plan activities alone, or find themselves sitting on the bench, speaking on their cell phones or talking only with their kids at playgrounds and birthday parties.

"It is kind of a lonelier experience," Keer says. He recalls it was his wife who arranged that park get-together, and assigned him to bring brownies, though he was the primary caregiver. "For me, it would have felt gender-inappropriate," he says.

For Biewenga, the isolation was a reason to create, where some 10,000 visitors a month, he says, swap stories and seek advice. The site also advertises the 13th annual at-home dads convention later this year.

Biewenga, who talked with a reporter during his two kids' nap time, found that at first, "I was going nuts being at home by myself." Exclusionary behavior from some moms didn't help.
At playgrounds, he notes, he sometimes was treated like a potential child molester.

Dads also tell of mothers being hesitant to come to their homes for playdates during the week, or to have them in theirs. Jen Singer, who hosts, says that's understandable:
"What woman wants to have a man in her house in the middle of the day when her husband is working?"

But some fathers, such as Adam Keeble of Allendale, N.J., say they're accepted easily into their town's community of mothers. He also has no trouble, he says, having playdates at home.

Keeble, an aspiring novelist who's been home for five years, says the frustration of the job is similar to that a mother might experience: "On a sunny day with the kids playing in the sand, it's great. But then there's the miserable February day when . . . it's only reruns of 'Dora.' "

For most stay-at-home dads, life improves when the kids are in school at least part time.
Bob Hurley, a stay-at-home dad of two sons, agrees. He began caring for them when he was laid off twice and his wife had a good sales job.

But even now, he says, there are awkward moments. "We'll be at a party and the moms will be talking about their stuff, and the guys will be talking about their work, and I'm not really part of either conversation."

And . . . your thoughts? I'm still processing this one...

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Xia said...

My husband is a stay at home Dad. We have joined a working parents playgroup where moms and dads get together with the kids on weekends. He has also attended a moms group locally a few times, but I did the initial meeting and asked if it would be okay and he doesn't go to many as he's the only man. There are no Dad's groups that we've been able to find, and he's not of the personality to start one.

What saddened me was when our church Mother's group would not let him attend some playgroup events over the summer stating it was just for mothers. I could understand him not attending during the year when they meet and all the kids play in the nursery so they can have discussions and such. But just a playgroup hanging out at a park or in someone's backyard? I respected their decision, but it's sad because of all of the playgroups I would like my daughter to be a part of, my church group is of highest importance.

Xia's Mommy - Stephanie

Lylah said...

thanks for sharing your thoughts stephanie. blessings on you!