Matt, one of our NYC dads group members, shared this post he enjoyed from the The At Home Dad Network message board. As a teacher on leave & current stay at home dad, I really enjoyed reading the internal thinking of this stay at home dad as he ponders to be a speaker at his daughter’s school for career day. A good read…
Though my wife, an attorney and partner in a (struggling) law firm, volunteered to speak at our daughter’s school’s career day, the teacher surprised us and said she’d like me to do so instead. I’m caught a bit off guard and not sure how to handle it. If you can believe it, she’d never encountered a dad staying home full time by choices, and that’s half the reason she chose me. The other reason, she said, is to carry the flag for the value of full-time parents in general.
Were we still living in a fairly affluent community in the San Francisco area, where there were plenty of others like me and I was not seen as an oddity, I’d jump at the opportunity and know exactly what to say. I’ve been home with my kids for nearly seven years now, and I’m proud about what I do, especially since, with a wife who’s admittedly not cut out for full-time parenting, we are in our proper roles.
But we now live in a fairly depressed area where unemployment is pushing 20% and underemployment- -like parents working fast food and retail part time, and glad to be doing so–is much higher. Consequently, the automatic assumption is that I’m home because I’m unemployed, and I even get resistance here that I “ought” to be looking for (nearly non-existent) work, as much to set a good example to my kids as anything. Many overly macho guys are even less sympathetic, suggesting I’m a wuss for “letting” my wife support me. Hell, we’re an anomaly here just because we’re still married in an area with VERY high divorce, serial marriages, single-parent homes, foster families, etc.
So, I’m in a quandary about what to say to these kids who, from a very young age, carry their parents’ values. Many of their families couldn’t dream of having a parent by home by choice, unable to even dream of affording it. And to consider having dad home is, as I said, akin to suggesting they get on a spaceship and fly to Mars. I even get the tired old argument that the Bible says that men are supposed to support the family while women stay home with the children (and never mind that I’m agnostic). So, to go in and tell them that it’s a viable option for a man to consider being home full time is going to be very, very bizarre on many levels. Were this my sixth-grade son’s class, I don’t think it would as big a deal, even if I’d expect the challenges of getting the kids to accept what I do greater, since he already gets flack for my being home.
But this is a second-grade class. As it is, I constantly get “Oh, YOU’RE the dad who stays home” response when I first meet the kids’ parents. To try and explain the hows, whats, and whys, I’m just not sure where to begin–or what to say. Yes, I’m overthinking this a bit. But living here for going on four years has done that to me. My family is ostracized for not being Christian (and evangelically so like many of the residents), for being vegetarian (and not going hunting and fishing like most of the men here do), and for being “rich” (which we’re not–barely hanging on to our house at the moment), since there’s a ridiculous amount of blue-collar (and low-income) pride in many residents. I don’t want to tell the teacher no, but I honestly have no idea what to say to the class.
Help? Thoughts? Please? And thanks in advance.