[cinci_dads] Stay-at-Home Dad Article

  • From: "Mike & Moira L." <daphne@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Cincinnati Dads" <cinci_dads@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003 20:55:50 -0500


    Just thought I'd forward this brief article/attachment from the New York 
Times.  It pretty well summarizes some of the perception difficulties with 
being a stay-at-home dad.

Title: A Dad Says Caring for an Infant Is Work, Too
The New York Times Sponsored by Starbucks

June 8, 2003

A Dad Says Caring for an Infant Is Work, Too


ICHAEL ZOREK wonders whether one day ? maybe within his toddler's lifetime ? people won't be interested in choices like his. But right now his son, Jeremy, is only 14 months old, and complete strangers are curious about his father's role in his life. "You tell people, `I'm home full time with my son' and they don't know what to say next," Mr. Zorek said. "Usually they ask, `You mean you work from home?' And I have to explain that Jeremy is the only work I do right now."

"I'm often asked about my child care arrangement," said his wife, Shelly Friedland, a lawyer who arrives at their Upper West Side apartment at 7:30 or 8 most nights. "When I tell them `my husband is home with my son' there's a silence."

It has been a year since Mr. Zorek left his public-relations job to care for Jeremy, and a year since I wrote about his decision to do so. His tentative steps toward that choice began when his wife was pregnant and they realized they would have to spend Mr. Zorek's entire after-tax income on a nanny's salary, effectively living on his wife's income as a corporate lawyer.

"For almost the same money we could have a parent there full time and I could also do the things that a nanny usually wouldn't do, like putting the photos in the albums," Mr. Zorek said back then.

So he bought a filing system that would hold 900 photographs and he left the office for home. A year later, what surprises him most (aside from the fact that he is remarkably good at shopping, and cooking, and entertaining an energetic toddler all day) is how unusual he is, even on the progressive streets of New York. "I don't know any other stay-at-home fathers," he says, admitting he yearns a bit for pals like himself. "I hear they're out there, but I don't meet them."

For reasons he can't explain, he says, dads tend to come to the playground only on Fridays, but he rarely talks to them. "I've become friendly with a couple of the moms there," he says. "I have more in common with them than the fathers."

When strangers see him out and about with Jeremy, they often call him Mr. Mom ("No," he says, "I am just Dad") and they say things like "Giving Mom a break, are you?" ("No," he answers, "she gives me a day off on weekends.")

His role as Jeremy's personal shopper has resulted in junk mail and spam e-mail messages that read: "Dear Michael, right about now you and your husband are finally getting a good night's sleep." And a toy company sent a card that said: "Mike, you are so special, there's a day named in your honor. Let us wish you a very Happy Mother's Day." He even threatened to cancel his subscription to one parents' magazine when it ran an essay contest that was open only to women with children.

"I'm the one who does the shopping and I'm the one who does the cooking," he says, still angry. "Why is it only sexist when women are excluded?"

The tentative plan is for Mr. Zorek to re-enter the working world when Jeremy is in kindergarten. He worries that he will face the same awkward silence from interviewers that he now faces at cocktail parties; the same silence women face when they re-enter the work force ? and then some. So he is doing what so many women do when they opt out for a few years of motherhood: volunteer projects for causes he believes in "to keep my hand in" he says, and to fill the potential résumé gap.

Mostly, though, his days are filled with Jeremy. Though he has yet to tackle the growing pile of photos he swore he would catalog back when he began this job, he is generally tackling fatherhood with all the organized gusto he brought to his working life.

He has created a Web site for his son, filled with pictures of the boy with the celebrities they happen upon as they wander around New York (whoisthatwithjeremy.com.) And he has been shuttling Jeremy to "look-sees" and photo shoots for his burgeoning modeling career. That has earned the toddler nearly $1,000 in the last six months, which, the father notes, is "more than I have made in the last year." 

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