Over on Offbeat Families, we’ve got an entire archive of posts about stay-at-home dads, but this is our first stay-at-home-dad post here on Offbeat Home!
Last week, I cut through the park in our neighborhood while I was walking home from some errand or another and saw a group of about 10 or 12 women enjoying a picnic with their kids. The kids had all finished eating and were playing while the moms chatted and laughed.
I have to admit that I felt a pang of jealousy when I saw them. The kind of camaraderie I saw at the park or that I had with my colleagues in the professional world is rarely available for dads who serve as their family’s primary caregiver.
A few years ago, when I was in the midst of my first stint as a stay-at-home-dad, we moved to Concord, NH for my wife’s work. I looked around for a dad’s group. There wasn’t one, but there was a group called the Mom’s Club. Close enough, right?
I called them up and was surprised when they said they’d have to put it to a vote before they could let me bring my kids to any of the events. I thought it was weird (what the hell was going on at the playground with their kids that they needed to vote people in? Survivor: Playground?), but I figured it was just one of those things. Even weirder, though, was the response I got after they voted. They decided that my kids and I could come along but there were TWO VERY SERIOUS STIPULATIONS.
- We couldn’t attend any events at a member’s home.
- I could be asked to leave any event at any time by any of the attendees who preferred that a man not be there, and I would have to oblige.
Apparently, the primary rationale for these rules had something to do with some of the moms’ awkwardness around breastfeeding. Because it makes perfect sense that I’d create an elaborate plot involving fathering two children just to have an excuse to see breasts, right? (Step 1: Have kids, Step 2: Join a playgroup, Step 3: Finally see boobies!) So, I told them nevermind because, seriously, screw that.
All that to say being a stay-at-home-dad can be an isolating experience sometimes. We don’t quite fit in with the stay-at-home-moms and we don’t quite fit in with the bread-winning dads. For me, isolation is the worst of homemaking’s perils. I know many moms feel isolated, too, but my guess is that the dads among us experience it more often.
When our son was three I went back to school. When he started kindergarten I returned to the workforce. Unfortunately, our daughter began having health problems about a year ago and I started missing a fair amount of work in order to get her to and from appointments 70 miles away in Boston. We’d wanted to move to the city for a while, but the frequent drives to Children’s Hospital, along with other factors, prompted us to go ahead and make the leap.
After much discussion, my wife and I decided it made more sense for me to re-exit the professional world upon moving. Of course, we knew the move itself would be a big adjustment for the whole family, but we also looked forward to someone (um… me) being available to handle appointments without the dreaded 6:30 a.m. sick day/meeting count.
While I miss the fulfillment of grown-up work, a paycheck, water cooler chats, and not having to deal with people’s awkward comments when they ask what I do (“So what do you do?” “I’m a homemaker.” “Oh. “Well, good for you! That’s precious!”), I’m reminded that being a homemaker is exactly what I’m needed for now.