My husband had a tough time of it as a stay-at-home dad. He'd always had lots of female friends so he thought it would be a breeze to fit into playground society.
He was wrong.
Playgroup was the worst. While the first group he joined was inclusive, when we moved across town and he sought out a new group he was shunned.
He persisted for a few weeks, but the mums ignored all his attempts to join in, so he gave up. It made it a lonely existence and meant he returned to the workplace with mixed feelings: grateful to finally have adult conversation again, but sad to leave his child in the care of others.
Why are dads treated like paedophiles at the playground? Why are they seen as strangers instead of potential friends and their children possible playmates?
Is it because husbands are uncomfortable with their wives befriending the local stay-at-home dad? Is it as prehistorically simple as that?
Jenna Karvunidis from Chicago Now has written a post called "Advice to stay-at-home-dads from a cold, cold playground mom" and it's brutal. Even the GIF used to illustrate it (above) is cruel.
Jenna offers a helpful explanation to stay-at-home dads who are wondering "What's up with these stuck-up moms and their oooh, everyone wants in my pants attitude? Can't you just give a HELLO to these ice queens without getting yourself on a registry? Sheesh*. Allow me. I'll be your guide for the next 60 minutes into the cold world of co-ed playground politics. My holster is full of advice for the flustered dad crowd who just doesn't understand the motives of the cold shoulders walking around in yoga pants. "
She defends her behaviour of her fellow playground mums, saying dads shouldn't take it personally. It's just the reality of the world we live in. She writes:
We have zero income and rely on the goodness of our relationship with our spouse in order to care for our own children all day. I'll just be honest with you. I love my husband to pieces and pieces. I'd pick him out of all the stars in in the sky, but even if he morphed into a troll who demanded I fix him 300 sandwiches, I'd carry on like I do without missing a beat. I get to be with my kids all day. That's a gift. If there was any drama or reason for him to leave me, it would mean leaving my kids to get a job in some cube somewhere. No, he's never expressly said "thou shalt not hang with stay-at-home-dads", but I believe the message is implied along with not setting his car on fire and sneaking poison in his breakfast. If I want to keep my spot in life, it's just easier to not rock the boat.
I know, you just want companionship and coffee and that thing where your kid screams for my kid's fishy crackers and I say yes and then they knock each other out over a game of tag while we play on our iPhones, but as long as my position in life is determined by my husband's happiness with my daily activities, I'm just not going to risk losing a good thing even if it means excluding someone in need. Sorry.
Clearly she has some deeper issues: the idea of feeling so desperately indebted to a husband for providing for his wife and child? Please!
We were curious to see if other Aussie dads had experienced a similar stay-at-home mums and dads divide, so iVillage's Jo Abi asked Darrell Wallace, blogger at Wait Until Your Mother Gets Home if he's experienced discrimination in the playground. Here's what he had to say:
What is it like for you at playgrounds?
I find that I quite often get the cursory responses from the other mothers at the playground, they will exchange the initial pleasantries with me but we very rarely get past the hellos and kids names and ages before they have to be somewhere else. There are even days that ill go to a playground and I don't even get to say hello to another adult as the mothers are there in a group and tend to stick together.
In saying that though I have had the extremely nice mothers that have offered to take my little girl into the female toilets, and are willing to hold a conversation for the entire time we are there. On the whole it is a very isolating experience being the stay at home parent, and I feel this is exacerbated by being a male. I know my wife can take the kids to the park and end up with phone numbers of other mothers and arrangements to meet for "play dates" etc.