by Krista Wilkie Samson
Seven years ago I had a friend in the cul-du-sac where we lived who would see me using driveway chalk with my child and come over. I found it odd at first when this neighbor came over, because he was a guy. He was breaking traditions: watching his kids after school, and taking care of the house, shopping, and laundry during the day. His wife had a wonderful job opportunity that the whole family benefitted from, and she became the sole breadwinner. In agreement that one parent should stay home, he became a stay-at-home parent.
When made, that decision sounds like everybody wins. We are, however, talking about a relatively unique demographic: stay-at-home fathers and/or primary caregivers. The problem lies in finding like-minded individuals who can identify and empathize. We are seeing an increasing amount of these types of dads, so some available networking would be helpful.
One stay-at-home father tells me emphatically that he sees things much differently since his spouse became the breadwinner. "It's hard work. It never ends. And it's every day." Also, although he adores his one-year-old, he's not much of a conversationalist. He confesses the whirling home life of cycling chores, baby's nap times, and diaper changes, leaves little time to get out of the house. Very blessed indeed, but isolating nonetheless. The first few years can be like that.
I have a wonderful childcare bartering system with a few friends I trust emphatically. Some evenings I pursue hobbies and leave the kids home with my partner. Women nurture friendships to keep them healthy and keep lines of communication and support going. Dads need to do that, too, but is it as easy for them to do?
These guys need to go walking while the kids are cradled in the stroller. They need to meet once a week for basketball, a book club, a beverage, or bowling while the kids are with the spouse. They need to tell their spouses how they are feeling, because it's likely their spouses have been there. They need to suggest to the public library to begin a stay-at-home dad's meeting or reading class for their kids. They need to call the Parks & Rec offices or gymnasiums and suggest a dads' class in whatever dads like to do.
In other words, tell the public services and agencies what you need, and they have to listen. We pay taxes for public services, and private agencies want to attract consumers. This being such a newer niche, perhaps no one has a clue what stay-at-home dads need to stay healthy. Tell them.