Grand Rapids Stay-At-Home-Dads Speak Out
Grand Rapids Stay-At-Home-Dads Want to Be Heard
We live in a rapidly changing world where technology, roles and child-rearing arrangements look nothing like they did 20 or 50 years ago. Today, you’ll find some families in West Michigan with a stay-at-home-dad at the helm of the child-rearing ship.
As with any group of people trying to break into established groups and cultures, your typical SAHD faces challenges that a stay-at-home-mom would rarely encounter.
Before we go any further, we always want to emphasize that everyone involved in the raising of a child has an important and difficult job. Our aim in this article is to continue the ongoing conversation specifically about the challenges and experiences SAHD’s face. It’s hard understanding something you’re not willing to talk about. So, let’s get to it!
Grand Rapids Kids (grkids.com), keeps getting the same request: please talk about and include stay-at-home-dads in what you do. It was from these requests that Melody and guest writer, Tom Mulligan, found and interviewed five Stay-At-Home-Dads for this article. You won’t want to miss the great SAHD Tips that Jason, Kevin, Matt, Paul, and Ray find helpful for all parents!
Note: this is an update of a series that originally ran in 2013.
What Grand Rapids SAHD’S Want You to Know
1 – WE MADE CHOICES
As every person on the planet knows, each family has a story to tell. Learn some stories about how these men landed in the role of SAHD in Grand Rapids.
“My wife, Catie, was working the 3rd shift from 5:30pm-5:30am, and I was working as the overnight operations manager from 5pm-8am. Then we found out we were going to have a baby in September of 2012!
“We soon realized the difficulty of finding overnight childcare. Additionally, the cost is more than double that of normal daycare.
“Catie’s job had the better benefits for our family and she had a better schedule. So, after much debate, anxiety, and some trepidation we decided that I would leave my job and stay at home with Ariya until I found something that could accommodate our schedule better.
“However, after more time had passed we noticed the positive affect it was having on Ariya. We knew, though, that we had to start cutting back on a lot of things and change the lifestyle that we were used to if we were going to make this work. We created a strict budget, and try our best to adhere to it. We have since gone from a two vehicle and one motorcycle family, to a one vehicle only family. We cut our cable/internet bill from over $200/month down to $66/month, and subscribe to Hulu. Those are just a few examples. It wasn’t easy to do it, and we struggle at times, but it’s completely worth it!”
The Zondervan’s Story
Ray and Robin Zondervan made the decision to have Ray stay at home because of a change in finances and a look at family priorities. As an automotive project engineer, Ray watched his industry spin off the road when the economy crashed a few years back. Luckily for Ray, he landed upright by finding work again within a month.
Yet, what was supposed to be an occasion to celebrate instead brought larger questions for Ray and Robin about his role in the overall well-being of the family.
“I felt I needed to provide for [the] family in other ways than just bringing home a paycheck,” Ray shares.
And now, Ray’s contributions go beyond the thousands of diapers he’s changed. He brings in the hat trick of stay-at-home dad skill-sets: managing three young children, maintaining a supportive environment for Robin after work, and being handy enough to add bathrooms and playrooms to the house.
Jason Hiscock’s Story
“Early in our relationship when discussing kids, my wife and I both felt that we wanted a stay-at-home parent. My wife and I grew up with two really great stay-at-home moms, and we felt that was something we really wanted our children to have.
“We wanted to have kids around 30, and at that time my wife had a great career, and I was still searching for my calling. I really feel that I have found it as an at-home parent.
“It is weird looking back at it, because we didn’t think it was that strange! I have always done most of the cooking, and we were, and are still pretty evenly split on household chores. So it really was not a big transition for us.”
Jason has been at home with his kids for four years now and has two children, ages 10 months and 4 1/2 years.
2 – WE ARE A LOT LIKE STAY-AT-HOME-MOMS
Being a stay-at-home-dad comes with many of the duties a SAHM would find, but with a twist. Jason notes, “Being a SAHD is a lot like being a SAHM, but with more notoriety, and less same sex-friends.”
Tips from SAHD’s that SAHM’s can also appreciate:
- Roughhousing has long been associated with fathers and is a great way for children to learn important lessons from dad.
- Sometimes going out unmatched, untucked, unbrushed, and (with) mismatched socks isn’t worth the battle.
- Minor injuries are nothing to make you stop playing for the day. “I don’t make a big deal about a skinned knee. It’s a learning experience,” says Paul, a SAHD from Sparta.
- “Make sure you are wholly dedicated to the kids. Don’t go in thinking you can get stuff done at home like working in the garage or fixing stuff. Remember, the bottom part of the totem pole is the strongest. Without you there, everything else comes crashing down”. -Paul (Sparta)
- “Stay relaxed and trust yourself. You can stress out over everything. I find it works for me to accomplish one task at a time. Finding a routine for everything helps out with that too.” – Matt (Grand Rapids)
3 – WE’D LIKE TO BE ACCEPTED IN PLAY GROUPS
Grand Rapids is fortunate to have a group of men in the role of supporting each other through the difficult days. If you’re one of these men, consider getting involved in the at-home dad community here.
Even so, many stay-at-home dads mentioned how hard it is for them to find social connections in many play groups.
Jason has tried to join up with other SAHD’s with little luck: “From my 4 years in the game, I am coming to the realization that most dads are not as willing to assimilate into the SAHM culture as I am. I have tried to talk the other dads with littles into joining Play Date Grand Rapids (where Jason is very active), but none seem to want to come over to me and the moms!” Possibly with more conversations and awareness this will start to change.
Kevin says, “Also, I’d like to see more play groups for SAHDs either advertised or created, but it would be nice to have acceptance in all play groups. Some play groups are exclusive to only moms, and at times it’s feels like trying to get into a country club. We don’t bite, we can contribute to a conversation, or share problems and solutions that we’ve experienced as stay at home parents. Dads like to socialize with adults too, and it doesn’t matter if our fellow parents are men or women. We just want to talk about topics at times that have nothing to do with Frozen or Doc McStuffins!”
4 – WE ARE NOT LAZY
Overall, Men Are More Involved With Their Families
A recent study by Kim Parker and Wendy Wang of the Pew Research Center explored these shifting responsibilities among parents. They found that since the mid 1980s, men have more than doubled their share of housework and childcare to 17.3 hours per week in 2011. Their involvement is still a long way from women who average 32 hours per week, but these changes develop slowly.
“Be patient moms, us dads are just getting warmed up.” – Tom Mulligan
As Kevin Vail puts it, “We’re not lazy bums who don’t want to work, we actually share in the duties of the housework and responsibilities. I have even more respect for my Mom after becoming a stay at home parent; it’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but also the most fun and fulfilling. I’m taking online classes to obtain my degree in computer programming so I can continue to be a SAHD but with the ability to work from home, so I’m a husband, father, and student right now. We had to make difficult decisions and quite a few sacrifices to ensure that this was going to work and be in the best interests of Ariya, and we know they were the right choices because of how happy she is.”
Whether realized or not, there is a stigma attached to SAHD’s that is hard for them to overcome. Kevin adds, “We’re the other parent, not a stranger. The roles haven’t changed so much as they just shifted. Nor are we ashamed that we are the ones at home, because I for one LOVE being able to spend each and every day with Ariya while she grows and discovers new things. It’s quite the adventure.
“Being a stay-at-home dad can be hard on your ego. The logistics of feedings, changing diapers, and routine are not too hard to figure out. The harder part is coming to terms with the fact that society equates “what you do” with “who you are.”
Even if you’re ok with being a stay-at-home dad, other people may not be. A lot of people are awkward about it. That can be tough,” says Matt, a SAHD from Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids SAHD’s show exceptional ability to balance demands at home. These awesome dads have routines, sharp parenting skills, and support networks to help them do the job exceptionally well.
Advice for Other Grand Rapids Stay-At-Home-Dads
As a veteran SAHD, Jason Hiscock has some advice for the new dads on the block. Here’s what he wants new SAHD’s to know:
- Most all Mommy & Me classes/events are open to dads, too. At most events, the instructors and other moms bend over backwards to help you out and make you feel welcome as the “stranger” in the crowd.
- Understand that being a SAHD can be a hard dynamic for others to understand, for your self confidence, and for our wives’ natural nesting instincts. Seek help if you are having trouble in any areas. Being a stay at home parent is isolating enough without the added stress.
- Routines help keep families and households running smoothly. Eventually you will find a rhythm that works for you. Stick with it. Until it changes, because as your children grow it will!
- Find a playgroup if you need some socialization with people over two feet tall. It is ok to go out with a baby too little to do anything if you need to talk or just be around other adults! There are many neighborhood groups, church groups, Facebook groups, etc. Don’t be intimidated by being the only dad! You can learn a lot from other moms, and they will benefit from seeing some of your parenting style, too. If you don’t know where to start, look for a weekly event somewhere and start going every week. You will find the same group of people showing up often, and remember that you are all there for the same purpose.
- Look for SAHM resources if you need help, just change the “M” to a “D” in your mind as you read! Almost everything focused on moms will relate to you. Cooking, cleaning, running your household, and balancing your kids/family are most likely your priorities, too. Just remember that your kids only have one Mom, whether she works full time or not. You are still Dad, and the Man of the house. You just might wear an apron and have breast milk all over your shirt!
Stay-at-home-dads! While the role of being a father at home full time is often misunderstood, you’re standing tall and carrying your families on broad shoulders.
Being the full-time parent at home is a special opportunity for mothers and fathers alike to shape their child’s character and perception of the world. Paul says, “They work harder than anyone thinks. It’s a 24/7 job and (with) no tangible reward like a paycheck to motivate you. At least as a male, you struggle with not being productive like your spouse, which makes this a very tough job mentally.” However, a man who accepts this role will most often find his groove and excel at this task in time.
Are you a SAHD in greater Grand Rapids?
Tell us about your experience and what’s on your wish list. We can’t make any promises, but we can start a conversation.