When I meet somebody new, one of the first questions I am invariably asked is “what do you do for a living?” I used to tell people that I was a stay at home dad for my six year old son and one year old daughter. This usually prompts the response, “Oh, a Mr. Mom, eh?” I bite my tongue at this point, because I want to say, “No, my children have a mother. I’m still their Dad. We don’t call their mother Mrs. Dad, so why should I be called Mr. Mom?” But instead of getting into an argument, I simply nod and smile.
These same people may also think to themselves that I’m either a: a burned-out result of the business rat-race, or b: a liberal new-aged hippie type. Neither of these answers could be more false. The simple truth is that we needed daycare for our newly adopted daughter and the prospect of spending $8,000 or so a year for both kids to be raised by someone else for several hours per week was a distasteful idea for my wife and me. Her recent promotion and health insurance benefits were sufficient for us to make it on and I had the opportunity to start my own communications business out of the home, so I made the leap and quit my job.
Now I start out conversations by telling new acquaintances that I run my own business out of the house and also stay at home with our children. I don’t know why I feel embarrassed sometimes to be a stay at home parent, and I’m guilty that I do. Why is a male stay at home parent such an alien idea in the 21st century? If my wife was staying at home, no one would tell her that she’s leaving a huge gap in her resume and it’ll be harder to get back into the workforce when the time comes. No one would think she must be having a rough stretch career wise or a mid-life crisis. When a woman chooses to stay home to raise her children, the response is always, “Great! I admire you for that. I wish I could’ve done that.”
On a daily basis, I proudly join the mommies at the kids’ school parties, I carpool to hockey practices, perform the drop offs at daycare, school, and karate, and drag the kids to their doctor and dentist appointments. I bake cookies for the school bake sale, trade recipes with the other parents, and make sure the homework is done, dinners are made and the permission slips are filled out. I have my own daddy flair that I perform my duties with, though. My daughter doesn’t always have bows in her hair and wears jeans more often than skirts. I chauffer my son in the minivan with Green Day blaring instead of “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” and the reward for good marks at school are a game of NHL 2006 on the Xbox. I don’t try to change who I am; I incorporate it into my current role as key parental unit.
I realize I’m not the first to do what I’m doing, and I feel a kinship with other stay at home Dads. As such, I feel an obligation to break the mold of traditional husband/wife roles and to pave the way for stay at home parents who aren’t judged by their genders, but rather by their convictions to do what is right for their families. So next time you meet a guy who tells you he’s a stay at home parent, tell him “Great! I admire you for that. I wish I could’ve done that,” because if you ever get the chance to be more active in parenting your children by staying at home, you’ll never regret the decision to do so.