With all the changes in contemporary parenting, perhaps the biggest remains relatively unsung. As more women succeed in the workplace, and general unemployment continues, a new class of parents have emerged: the stay-at-home dad (SAHD). Whether working from home between drop-off and pick-up, or shouldering the load of childcare (don't call them babysitters!), this current generation of fathers eat quiche, do diapers and still pop a Bud at the end of the day. Interviews with SAHD's reveal that past job experience is a help herding toddlers (particularly if you were a rock musician); bicep curls with the heir can substitute for going to the gym, and 'a look but don't touch' policy prevails when hanging with mommies at the playground. Here. the real stay-at-home dads across the country reveal ten secrets of the guys behind the apron:
Even Dads get cranky - and one of the first things they say is "I have a college degree, too." Shannon, Kansas City, MO.
Previous job experience can help, especially if you were a rock musician. "The biggest and most pleasant surprise, the aspect of my parenting experience no one predicted, was this: time spent with the proud misfits, the actors, the rockers, the misbehaved, the difficult drunks, the brazen cross dressers, the gender-fuzzy, the socially awkward - all those years provided the perfect training ground for stay-at-home-dadhood." Robert aka "Uncle Rock," Phoenicia, NY
There's safety in numbers. "Dad's don't like to ask for directions or read the manual. You don't need to go it alone. Go out and connect with other people in the same situation to find parenting more meaningful and engaging and social. There's a Dad-ternity, a fraternity of dads." Lance, New York, NY
Dads don't experience a latency period. "A secret that most dads have is that they are thinking about the other moms more than the moms realize.... I check out the nannies, however, I check out the stay at home moms more. I desperately try not to give away what I am thinking because the deck is already stacked against me. Most already assume that I am a deadbeat for not bringing home enough money to keep my wife at home with my child. So why further the cliche by wanting to sleep with the Swedish nanny who comes to the playground promptly at 9 am, coffee in hand, wearing something my wife wouldn't dream of wearing out in public? The other moms I hang out with hate the Swedish nanny because they see their husbands staring... but not me, I'm too busy making conversation about potty training and weighing in on the pros and cons of crying it out.... They won't see me staring at the swedish nanny and they will never know that I would rather sleep with each of them. one at a time, or all at once, I'm flexible like that," Carlos, NJ
Weight-training is a side benefit. "When the baby is born, begin using him or her as a dumbbell. That's right, SAHD's need exercise. As the kid grows, so will your muscles. When you're standing at your 17 year old's high school graduation, you'll be more ripped than any of those dads that work in an office. You've been doing 160lb curls and shoulder presses five days a week. When the kids are off to college, you can finally follow your dreams…become a pro wrestler!" Tommy, Los Angeles, CA
Cocktails at five, but not beer before breakfast. ""Your kid will wake up in the middle of the "Downton Abbey" finale, your every meal will get cold before you eat it, any conversation you have with an adult will be interrupted as soon as the gossip gets juicy. You have to accept this. If for some reason you have difficulty accepting this, I recommend a Rittenhouse Manhattan at five o'clock." Greg, New Paltz, NY
They have bad days, too. "The first rule of having a bad day is to admit that you are having a bad day and hope that the God of Toilets will let you out of his swirling bowl of [poo]." Shannon, Kansas City, MO
TV is a necessary evil babysitter. "M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E. Sure, we've all heard that kids shouldn't watch TV… But, a half hour of cartoons can't hurt so Daddy can submit the March Madness brackets which will pay for April's grocery bills!" Tommy, Los Angeles, CA
Timing is every thing. "Anything and everything that is going to come out of your child, is going to do so at the wrong time, in the wrong place and will likely cover all of the wrong things. Puke, pee, poop and nose ooze will at some point become a catastrophe for you…. I have carried my soiled son out of a theme park pants-less after begging strangers for extra diapers and wipes. I have washed my children in an ocean when no other options were available and have dried my own suit with a bathroom hand drier when a shoulder ride turned into an unexpected deluge of urine. I don't know how they recognize those rare instances when I haven't prepared, but they do and they make me pay for it each and every time." Patrick, San Juan Capistrano, CA
As a working mother, why did Stay-at-Home Dads obsess me? It began as research for my novel "Playdate," a cross between "Shampoo" and "Mr. Mom," about a Southern California father and his breadwinner wife. I didn't know anything about the SAHD movement when I began, but having raised two kids while working full-time, I had a lot of personal experience to process. My hope was that, somehow, if a man, even a man in short pants carrying Girl Scout cookies, said the things that obsessed us mothers at the playground, it might have more weight. And I discovered, from taking this fictional voyage and talking to this canny crew, that we have a lot in common, and a lot to teach each other.