I used to dream of owning a Harley Davidson motorcycle. I spent hours and hours flipping through a catalogue trying to figure out which Hog I hoped to buy and which leather saddlebags I would drape over that said motorcycle. But my desire hit new levels if I happened to be on the road when two Harley’s passed each other in opposite directions. Harley riders always nod to one another or give each other a wave. There’s an unspoken Harley brotherhood. They have a connection.
Well, my life did not take a path where I now sit upon a Harley throttling throne. Instead, I walk the sidewalks of New York City pushing a stroller, in which sits a beautiful toddler, and I’m saddled by two great kids, one of which usually holds my hand as we stroll along.
I’m not part of the Harley brotherhood, but I am a part of a brotherhood. There is a group of men that I have a connection with. And often times, when we pass by one another, we smile and give a nod. There’s a kindred spirit between us. We give off a vibe. We are stay-at-home dads. And if you happened to see the new Pew Research report on at-home dads, you know our population has risen over the years and our membership sits at over 2 million.
It was almost 10 years ago that my wife and I discussed over her growing belly what our monetary and career roles would be. We both could have continued to be part of the workforce, but we were about to be first time parents and we wanted to take in every second of our baby’s life. Luckily for me, my wife was about to graduate from law school, so the lots fell in my favor and I started the journey of being a stay-at-home dad. Then, our second child was born and I continued to be the one to stay home with the kids.
I have never been one to stay inside, so I ventured out into the world daily with my kids. We went to parks, libraries, museums and even to various Mommy and Me classes. As I made my rounds, something was obvious; there weren’t too many men in my position. Often times I was the lone man in a playgroup or at the park. And so I tried to start my own Dad’s group. The most we ever had was 5 guys. We usually had afternoon cookouts in my backyard and we discussed the changes that were happening in our families while our children played. Unfortunately for me though, the other dads either got jobs or moved away and I was once again the lone man in the playgroups.
Then, something happened. Maybe it was because of the economy or maybe it was the changing times, but other men started choosing my route as well. Many men lost their jobs and were forced to become stay-at-home dads, but as a result, they became more involved in the lives of their children. No longer was I the lone guy at the park pushing his child on the swing. The park was full of men laughing and chasing their kids. It became more common to stroll through Central Park with my kids and encounter other stay-at-home dads. Sometimes we talked as our kids played and sometimes we just gave one another the old Harley nod and smile as we passed.
But the trend may be in reverse. The new Pew Research report shows that in 2010, the number of stay-at-home dads dropped. And as the economy gets better, the numbers probably will drop further. But that’s okay. These past few years have changed the way society views fatherhood. There are fewer and fewer commercials showcasing dads as incompetent parents who can’t figure out how to fasten a diaper or clean a toilet. Instead, dads are depicted carting their kids to school, making breakfast, and being involved in the day to day of running a household. They show up to school events as frequently as they show up to sporting events. Maybe some men were forced to become active participants in their child’s life because of changed circumstances, but most men I know have continued to be active participants because they enjoy it. They have a desire to be present in their kids’ lives.
For years, we (dads) were told we had to step up and be more involved in our children’s lives. To not focus on making money or things outside the home. And we are. The Pew Research report shows that the big rise and drop in the number of stay-at-home dads correlates with the fluctuation in the economy. But I don’t care about that. I care about children having a father in their home that they look up to, they like being around, and they can count on. I care that fathers are no longer held up as something to be feared: “just wait until your father gets home.” He’s been home all day.
Maybe I ended up with a stroller instead of a Harley, but Harley Davidsons do not love you back. I’ll stick with my stroller.
Another version of this post can be found at CityDadsGroup.com.