One of the goals of the NYC Dads Group is to move the conversation forward on the changing roles of fatherhood. This includes sharing our story in the local media as well as with countries abroad (i.e. see previous Brazil article). We are fortunate to have a group member, Tzach Yoked, who is a journalist for M’aariv – the second largest newspaper in Israel.
Maariv Israeli News Service — Tel Aviv, Israel — Maariv, an influential Israeli newspaper, has been reflecting the national consensus and providing Israelis with the latest news and opinions from this perspective for over fifty years. Sunday through Friday, the paper carries full coverage of international and domestic politics in Israel as well as sports, business and entertainment.Updated daily. Updated daily. (Hebrew)
He wanted to share with the Israeli audience the fact that communities of dads are no longer unique, but becoming more common in the U.S., as well as share some of the latest census & economic data. The piece by Yoked is titled: House Father. As you would expect, the article was written in Hebrew so Yoked was kind enough to translate it for all of us….
“I can not believe I came here alone” said Robert Jeremiah a moment after the elevator door closed. The first time we meet and before he says hello, he complains. A kind of brotherhood of warriors fathers – he and his two twins, I am with my 10 months old baby. “Not easy at all,” he continues, take a breath, wipes the beads of sweat running down his forehead.
We meet at the lobby of the building located at the corner of Third Avenue and 80th street. Rows of strollers and diaper bags welcome us. On the third floor Melissa Levis is waiting for us, wearing a pink flowered dress and a pirates hat.
“Where do you live?” I’m interested.
“85th Street”, he says – a 5 short blocks, 10 minute walk on a bad day.
“And you?” He wants to know.
“Jersey City”, I reply – a distance of two subways and one bus.
“I admire you,” he says immediately finding it hard to believe I did it. “I would never be able to do it alone.”
I smile with satisfaction. No doubt, he could never do that.
I lied. We left the house two – one excited, one anxious, but as I found out soon, at no point was I really alone. Between 4 to 6 women were with me at any given moment, some young women in their 20s, some older women at retirement age. Following us all along, ready to lend a hand when necessary. When Nina’s face crumpled, they tried to make her laugh at almost any cost and any facial expression – ridiculous as it may be; when she threw her sock to the floor, they rushed to pick it up; When we got down of the train, they competed who will help me. No doubt, even in the city that saw almost everything, a father and his young daughter in the middle of the day still manage to excite quite a few residents.
The American author Michael Chabon described once how one lady reacted when he took his daughter to the supermarket. “You’re such a good father,” she told him, “I can see it immediately.” “The good thing about being a father”, he concludes at the end of the article,” is that the historical expectations from us is extremely low. “
If a visit at the supermarket create such exclamations, I think to myself, I wonder how these women would respond if they saw the activity held that morning in the third floor of a residential building on 80th street.
“Party Music for Kids” (aka, Moey’s Music Party) – 15 children aged six months up to 4, accompanied by -15 fathers. Another meeting of the group, NYC Dads Group, “The destination for involved fathers as they navigate parenhood”, as noted in the group’s Web site.
300 parents total, all, full-time fathers*. Educated people, mid-high class, people who out an hold on their career in favor of changing diapers and a visit to a neighborhood park. Some, like Robert, a former teacher at an elementary school in New Jersey, did so by choice. For others it was imposed – the result of a social revolution and the recession.
Melissa is welcoming us. As you would expect from a woman in her role, throughout the party – 45 minutes – the smile never left her face. When she took out the pirates hats, the excitement was felt in the room. When she takes the pom poms away, the dads were indifferent. During the songs, some fathers are sitting on the side and let the kids playing.Most of them join the activity – dancing, taking pictures, know almost all the lyrics by heart.
“Are you coming to change a diaper?”, Asked me one of the fathers. Like two girls in a nightclub, we retire from the rest of the group and go to a side room. Share the cream, analyzing the metabolic behavior of two babies.
“Our child was born two years ago, for my wife and I it was very clear that one of us will stay with him at home,” says Lance Somerfeld, 37, one of the founders of the group. Why was it clear? “First of all because we both believe that there is a tremendous value for the time parents spend with their children in the early years. The second reason is economic.” Lance, a former teacher at an elementary school in the Bronx who decided to take a leave without pay. “Since I had a tenure, the job is waiting for me for 4 years from the time the child was born.”
The annual cost of a nursery school in New York, he says, is around 24 thousand dollars a year. “If you earn around 45 thousand dollars a year, after taxes it comes out almost the same. So at least the child is with his father”. Why, then, the couple decided it would be him to stay home and not his wife? “First of all because I really love children and all my life I was working with kids. Second, my wife earns more than me.”
The group formed in November 2008, shortly after the birth of his son. “My wife took maternity leave for four months,” he explains. “When she returned to work I realized I was going to to be alone all day and thought to establish a social network that would be a meeting place for fathers and a network of support. I wanted to establish a group of fathers that would allow me to be with other fathers during the day and will help when help is needed. After all, even today, if you check the parenting books, classes and programs on television –they are all targeted exclusively for moms. There is no source designed for fathers like me”.
Stay at home dads group are perhaps a unique phenomenon, but not rare. In recent years, similar groups have been founded in almost every major city in the United States. You can find quite a few blogs dedicated to the subject and dozens of articles about the phenomenon.
The reasons are varied, but the data is clear. If in 1945 the share of men in the U.S. labor force stood at 70%, today it is a little less than 50%. Data released last year indicated that 159 thousand fathers are raising their children while the women go to work, 3 times their number just a decade before. The numbers, it is important to stress, relate only to married couples where the man is home and the woman at work.
Even so, however, when it comes to women of stayed home moms the number stands on 5 million. Overall, 22.6% of married women who have children under age 15 devote their lives to raising children and manage the household.
Some can see these numbers as the evolutionary development of the macho men from the ’50s and the ’60s. Others can see is as the best proof to the feminist revolution in the western world.
A new study published recently founded that young women, married and educated who work in major cities in the U.S. earn 8% more than men. However, in general, women continue to earn less than men. The gap, however, continues to shrink consistently. The latest data published by the U.S. Bureau shows that women’s average salary is 77.9% compare to the parallel men. By comparison, in 2000 the ratio was only about 64%.
We also need to take into consideration the educational revolution in recent years. If the numbers indicated for years that more women than men graduate from the university, this year, for the first time, more women than men completed their Phd studies. The data, released by the Council of higher education (Council of Graduate Schools), indicated that 50.4% of last year doctoral degree recipients were females. In 2000 the rate of women among the group was only 44%.
We should also remember the recession, which contributed quite a bit to what many see as a shift in the order of Creation. According to recent data, over two thirds of the 8.5 million jobs who have disappeared from the market since December 2007, were held by men. Most of them, as can be assumed, in the financial sector and the infrastructure field – two sectors that took the hardest hit due to the economic crisis. Figures which recently published by Newsweek magazine revealed that out of the 15 jobs which are expected to rise in the coming years in the United States, 13 are distinctly feminine professions.
*Disclaimer: even though it was stated in the article the NYC Dads Group is approximately 300 involved fathers that includes many full-time stay at home dads…however, there are plenty of dads in the group who work full-time or have flexible schedules.