As the saying goes, "Home is where the heart is." This statement holds true for Tony Piper, who Emily Maynard graciously excused from The Bachelorette on Monday after witnessing the single father's strain.
Appreciative for his honorable discharge, Tony admitted to ETonline that he would have "voluntarily" left on his own terms had he not been officially sent home to be with his son. Had the show offered to fly his son to Charlotte, NC for a visit, however, he may have regained his strength and composure to continue pursuing Emily.
"It was one of the best days of my life. He came running up. I hugged him and kissed him," he said of his special reunion in Oregon. "It was like a piece of my heart was back."
The family unit is not yet complete, though, as Tony is still looking for a wife and stepmom for his beloved little boy. "I want a family. I had a family once and it was the greatest thing ever," the divorcee said. "I wanted to find love and I thought, 'Hey, I'm taking a risk, but I could get rewarded by the love of my life. That could ultimately be rewarding to my son as well.'"
In previous interviews, host Chris Harrison has pointed out that he's noticed a stigma against Emily for being a single mom on a dating show versus Jason Mesnick's single dad status. "I don't think it's tougher being a single mom than a single dad. We all go through the same obstacles," Tony said infusing his opinion of the dilemma. "It is tough just because society says that a single mom should always be around her kids. You shouldn't be away for a long period of time. The motherly role in society is a lot stronger."
If the producers were to approach Tony about relocating The Bachelor to his hometown, as they did for Emily, and allowing his son to tag along on trips, he'd entertain the prospect of starring: "I did see how accommodating they were for Emily. Everyone on the show has been awesome. If I got that kind of treatment, I'd really consider it. That's kind of a dream."
Should he be cast, he'd take a similar approach as Emily in shielding his son from all his suitors until he narrows the field down. He is cautiously wary of that strategy because "you wouldn’t see how they interact with the #1 thing in your life." Many of the guys on The Bachelorette are trying to convince Emily they'd make a great stepdad for Ricki, but "until you're put in that position, it's hard to say if you can handle it," Tony rationalized.
Of the remaining gentlemen, Tony senses paternal instincts in a slew of guys. He described Doug as "a big teddy bear father type. We shared a really close moment when I told him I had a son." But, he's up against frontrunner Sean, whose "morals and values" lead Tony to "think they'd be a great couple." Arie is in the race to the altar and Tony believes the "fun, happy-go-lucky guy…could go far."
Ryan's demise might stem from seeing Emily connect with other men, Tony predicted. He was also hesitant about 25-year-old Chris being equipped to step into fatherhood right off the bat because of his tender age and lack of experience with young ones. Although Jef is also very youthful, his financial stability, which "is pretty big when it comes to families," Tony advised, gives him some added maturity.
Preppy and wealthy Kalon is garnering a lot of attention on the show. "He was a bunk mate of mine. I was there to be a friend to him. What I didn't see is the stuff that's on TV now," Tony said perplexed. "Everybody wanted to make him the outcast. What I saw on TV is a totally different side of him." Feeling duped, he now thinks that Kalon could be there for the wrong reasons.
The Bachelorette airs Monday nights on ABC.