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Column: This Father’s Day, a discovery that dads can stay at home, too
Shannon Casas
Shannon Casas

Father’s Day always seems to be just a little less important than Mother’s Day for some reason.

Mothers are the ones changing most of the diapers, making the school lunches, taking kids to appointments and otherwise managing the household. Even for women with full-time jobs, that work falls mostly on them. So, Mother’s Day is the one day they get to sleep in and maybe take a little break from answering every question and serving every need of their kids.

Meanwhile, on Father’s Day we joke about whether dad needs another tie — my dad hates ties — and may go out for barbecue.

Both days are a bit of a struggle at my house as we came to parenthood through adoption from foster care. But, as is tradition, much of the household management has fallen to me. Despite the demands of my job, it has been more flexible than my husband’s job. So, I’ve been the one arranging their appointments, corresponding with their teachers about any issues and otherwise making sure all the things that need doing are done.

That responsibility and all the decisions that go along with it are exhausting, especially on top of the responsibility and decisions made daily at work. 

My husband has been the one doing the cooking, which is greatly appreciated. I make the plans for what we eat, make the grocery list and pick up the groceries.

But not this past week. We recently made the decision that he would become a full-time stay-at-home dad. 

One day this week, I was working, and I could see meals getting planned on our joint calendar, with notifications popping up on my phone. A feeling of freedom flooded in — one less thing I had to do. One morning, he and the little one took a quick trip to the grocery store. I left for the office as they were unloading the car.

And all week he has been doing the cooking as usual, while I unfortunately missed dinner with my family most every night due to a confluence of special projects and short staffing at the office as we seek to fill a couple of positions and others take well-earned vacations.

So, the dad at my house is getting a shoutout. Just this week, he’s also taken the kids to the dentist for a checkup, to the doctor to check a strange bug bite, to the zoo for some fun and to ninja classes.

I’ve made some suggestions here and there, like take the kids to the library to check out some new books or try out that park that just opened.

I’ve got some guilt for the hours I’ve worked lately, but I’m feeling pretty good about the choice we’ve made. It may not be a long-term change in our house, but it’s working for us so far.

Growing up, my mom stayed home. She worked jobs here and there, but it was a pretty traditional split between her staying at home and my dad being the breadwinner. Since 1989, when I was a child, the percentage of moms staying at home decreased by one percentage point from 28% then to 27% in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, the percentage of dads staying at home has gone from 4% to 7%. I’m interested to see how the pandemic has influenced those trends.

COVID-19 taught us to question some priorities, especially after many, including my husband, spent some time unemployed. Turns out, he does a decent job managing the boys’ schedules and making sure our house is stocked with what we need — and probably does it better than I can in the few hours and brain cells I have left after a long work week. 

COVID-19 also taught many to pursue jobs that fulfill them, leaving ones that didn’t. Staying at home with the kids isn’t for everyone. 

In the past  few weeks, we’ve also socialized quite a bit more as the pandemic strain has lifted. And of course there’s always the question: What do you do? I’ve watched my husband hesitate a bit before he answers. Often I jump in to answer first, anyway. Sometimes people stumble over the idea or express concern. Reactions have been mostly positive, though. Having a parent stay home at all isn’t the norm, and a stay-at-home dad is still a rarity. It’s a bit risky, it’s a bit unconventional and I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t a bit hard letting go of my idea of how things should be done.

But I talked to my kids one morning this week and watched their eyes light up about the trip they took with dad to a nearby zoo. So long as all our needs are met — whether for food, clothing and shelter or for connection and purpose — a little unconventional is OK with us.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident. 

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