Stay-at-home dads find their choice admired, not controversial
The stigma is gone. Stay-at-home dads are no longer a phenomenon or a trend. They are a fact of modern day American life.
It has almost reached SOP status. Standard Operating Procedure says that when a family needs a stay-at-home parent, Dads can fill that role as well as moms.
Still, the circumstances under which the female parent works while the male parent handles household duties usually require some sort of explanation. The stories are just not as controversial as they once were.
Take Scott Kennelly of Elk Grove Village, for instance. After 20-plus years working his way up in a manufacturing business, he and his wife, Barb, found themselves dealing with changes at home as well as at his work four years ago.
"I was working 5:30 a.m. until 2:30 in the afternoon," said Kennelly, who is 46 years old. "I knew there were changes happening in the company, and one day they called me the office on a Friday and said they needed me to start working second shift on Monday. I was a supervisor, so I would be working from 2:30 in the afternoon until 10:30 or 11:30 at night.
"The kids (Michael, now 13, and Logan, now 8) were young and involved with sports," he said. "I would never have been able to see my kids, other than in the morning. So we had the weekend to talk it over, and after a long discussion, we decided that I wouldn't go back. I would stay home with the kids."
Barb, who had just started a good-paying job with Discover Card, was fine with the decision.
"It took some getting used to, but it works out so much better than before," she said. "He does laundry better than me, cleans better than me, cooks better than me. A lot of my friends wish they had someone like Scott at home. I could never do what he does."
Kennelly said he had to make an adjustment to not going into work on a daily basis.
"When I first started, I loved my job, loved going in in the morning, but toward the end it was rough, and contributed to me having a mild heart attack," Scott said. "Once I left there, a year after I left, I had no more stress issues, anxiety issues. It became an easy adjustment."
Despite all the protestations that children expect their fathers to go to work, Kennelly said his boys "loved" his new status. "One of my first gigs was being a lunch supervisor, so I was able to see the kids every day," he said. "I could pop into class and say hi to them. Their friends thought it was the coolest thing in the world, because the rest of the supervisors were women."
Kennelly does get out of the house when the boys are in school. He works for the Elk Grove Police Department community emergency response program, and serves as a crossing guard before and after school.
Kennelly said he does not get any grief from friends or neighbors about his status.
"Quite the contrary," he said. "I have people who envy and admire me for what I do. When I first left (the manufacturing job), I would get phone calls from people saying, 'You have a lot of guts for what you did, and I'm glad you are able to do it.' They all admire me for it."
Randy Reid, 45, also of Elk Grove Village, was working as a consultant for Seimens, a job that required a lot of travel, so much that there were some weeks he would leave the house on Monday and not get home until Friday.
Eight years ago, his wife, Bernadette, got pregnant with their first child, and she told him there were going to be some changes.
"She said, 'You will not be traveling once we have the kid,'" he said. "At that point I told them, 'Don't send me on another project; I'm not going to be able to travel."
In August 2005, when their second child was born, he had run his course of available work at Seimens, and his wife was making more money at her job as an accounting manager, so all elements came together to put Reid into the position of a stay-at-home dad.
"We are both accountants by nature, and we had planned to live on one income once we had our first child," Reid said. "We knew we could live comfortably with one income."
But Reid had to adjust to staying at home.
"I'm very social, and I was also meeting a lot of people in my work," he said. "It was hard going from meeting 15 people a day to having an infant around. I had to get out of the house a lot. I became very friendly with the grocery store ladies. I had to have some sort of adult conversation."
Although he was not uncomfortable with his new station in life, Reid said it took about a year for him to find a group of parents to hang with.
"Some people looked at me a little strangely, I suppose," he said. "I might have looked strangely at me too, seven or eight years ago."
Reid is a working stay-at-home Dad. He does some bookkeeping for his brother that takes a lot of hours, and he gets that work done before the kids wake up in the morning, while they are at school and after they go to bed at night.
With WiFi internet access available, Reid said he can get work done in the backyard while the kids are out, unless his work requires a phone call. "It's kind of hard for me to say 'Don't ride your bike down the block' while I am on the phone."
Reid said his daughters, Gabriella, 8, and Madeline, 6, do not get any chiding from friends because, like Kennelly, Reid is popular with his children's friends. "Most of their friends like me and like to hang out with me," he said. "I get down on the ground with them, I play in the pool with them. A lot of them used to call me Silly Mr. Randy. Now I'm just Randy."
The adjustment for the kids is in the house, where Reid, a former Marine Corp reservist, runs a tight ship.
"I'm a little more strict than my wife would be," he said. "I expect more out of them than my wife would. I think their attitudes would be much different if my wife was home more than I was."
Unlike Kennelly, Reid does not cook.
"That is the biggest problem we have in the house," Reid said with a laugh. "I am not much of a cook. My kids' tastes are not that very adventurous because of that. The kids complain about it."