friendship

Why I avoid stay at home dads

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!

Stay at home dads - playground friend or foe

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

What are some of your worst experiences?

There are some days that I don't even get a hello, I am completely ignored, generally this isn't too bad as it means that I focus all of my attention on the kids and play with them the whole time, so my experiences with them are a whole lot richer for that fact.

Probably the worse situation though came when my 4 year old son made friends with another little boy of about the same age while we were playing. The mother came onto the equipment, took her sons hand and dragged him away saying "I've told you that we don't talk to men at the playground" my son, being quite a vocal four old then tried to ask the lady why her son isn't allowed to talk to a man! She ignored this completely and left.

Have you considered joining a proper playgroup?

When I first become a stay at home parent, my wife suggested that I continue to take our kids to the playgroup that she had been taking the kids to. They meet once a week at a local park. We took a plate of food to share, the kids were to go and play while the adults talked. My wife assured me that they were all really lovely people, so I decided I would go. After about 30 minutes of trying to join in with conversations with responses ranging from the cursory to being ignored I decided that I would go and play with the kids!!

One of the mothers later messaged my wife and told her that I had come but I hadn't tried to talk to the mothers but had just played with the kids. Needless to say I haven't been back to that playgroup.

Do the mums make assumptions about you...that you are just helping out for a day...

It interesting that this is one of the big things that annoys me. It happens with both mothers and fathers. Everyone from cashiers at shops that say things like "oh, it's nice that Daddy has a day off with you" through to random people in the street that say, your having a day with the kids. I have had mothers ask me if I'm baby sitting for the day (which is another thing that frustrates me, they don't assume a mother is "baby sitting", and they would find it quite offensive if they were referred to as babysitters)  they also assume that we didn't make the choice to swap roles, even after I explain that I am the full time at home parent.

They still assume it is something that men would not make a conscious decision to do. They assume that I must have lost my job, that my wife earns more money or some other reason for being at home.

How do they react when you explain that you are a full time dad?

Most are extremely surprised. They ask when I am going to go back to work and get an even bigger shock when I tell them "when the kids are at school" relating to the previous point, they assume that it is a stopgap measure and I will be rushing off back to work at  any minute now. Our fourth child was quite young when I took over the role, and I had a few mothers that asked questions along the lines of "doesn't she just want her mummy" type questions. The was that she was always Daddy's girl and was more than happy to be with me. The fact that she was breasted and my wife expressed milk for her for during the day was the only real obstacle we had to overcome.

I do also get some really really nice reactions. Some of the mother express a desire that their husbands or partner would do the same. I also have a lot of my male friends that tell me that they wish they could do or could have done the same thing.

How do you wish it was for you in these sorts of situations?

The reason that I started a blog about this was to try to encourage other fathers to take on stay at home pent roles as well. I would love for it to be seen as normal and for no one, mothers, fathers and strangers to accept it as it is. I would l.  The assumption to be that there are 2, 3 or 4 more kids at the playground and that they're there with their parents. I don't want to be seen as exceptional or be seen as an outsider, I want stay at home Dads to be seen as normal. I would like to not have to explain that I am a stay at home Dad, and for mothers to see me as someone who is doing the best I can for his kids, the same as they are for theirs.

ADVERTISEMENT

I would love to be able to go to the park and hold a conversation. I go out each day to do something with the kids, but being able to have an adult conversation whilst doing it would be nice. It is one of the biggest things I enjoyed about being at work, the fact that I am quite a talkative person and enjoy having conversations with others. It is something that I have sorely missed this year.

Where or who makes you feel the most accepted as a stay at home dad?

The most accepted I feel as a stay at home Dad is amongst my male friends. I have a number of friends that I play golf with and they all tell me that it is a wonderful thing that I am doing and they all would love to do the same. I actually have a friend that is planning on working part time next year because of what I have done this year.

My former colleagues also really accept what I am doing. Prior to  taking on this role I was a male primary school teacher so have mainly female colleagues who have all been stay at home parents at one stage or another. They all tell me that it is the most valuable thing that I can do for my kids.

How do you wish mums treated you?

I don't know what it is that means that stay at home dads are not really accepted by their female counterparts. In relation to the original article, I would say that I am not there to "hit on" you or to try and start a relationship. I am not trying to make my wife or your husband jealous, but all I can say is that your relationships must be pretty insecure for you and your husbands to feel as though you can't say hello to and hold a generic conversation with a member of the opposite sex.

I don't know if having a male doing a role that was/is traditionally female is seen as threatening, but I can tell you I have never once had the thought of "competing" with you. I am not trying to prove that men can do it better, I am here to try and do what is best for my family. At this stage of our lives it was for my wife to go back to work and for me to the the stay at home parent.

What could they say or do to make you feel more comfortable and accepted?

I want to be treated like any other parent at the playground, at a playgroup, at preschool. I don't want to be seen as different or outside the norm. I do things differently to my wife, she likes the crafty, painting, reading books side of things more so when they are with her they do more of that, I like being outside, in the garden, playing with a ball and doing science things more. I don't want these to be seen as gender differences, I want these to be seen as differences in likes and parenting styles and have it accepted amongst everyone that Dad's can do it and we have the same (or very similar) social and emotional needs as our female counterparts.

Do you feel weird about socialising with stay-at -home dads? Would your husband have a problem with you hanging out with one?