Stay-at-home dads adjust to new role

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Dropping their careers to take care of their children is one of the many pivotal points in a stay-at-home dad’s new role. 

Allan Tagbo and Tim Payne are part of a local stay-at-home dad group. Even though the numbers of stay-at-home dads have risen according to Census data, Tagbo said it is a struggle to get most men to participate in the group.
According to Census data, there were 154,000 stay-at-home dads in 2010. There were 93,000 stay-at-home dads in 2000, which is a 66 percent increase.

THE BEGINNING

While attending acting school in California, Tagbo welcomed his first child, Aristotle, 13, into the world.

“School. Acting professionally. Son. What am supposed to do at this point?,” he said.

Tagbo decided to drop out of school, get a job and do community theatre at that point. In September 2011, Tagbo was laid off due to a struggling economy. A week or two later, a job for his wife became available.

He and his wife, who stayed at home prior, had to figure out the best option for their family.

“Instead of taking all of this time looking for a job, I just went ahead and said let’s switch roles. I’ll stay home, you make the money and we’ll go from here,” Tagbo said.

Payne was a pastor for five and a half years after receiving his master’s of divinity from SMU Perkins School of Theology. Payne and his wife Mandy decided that Tim should stay-at-home while Mandy continued her job as a CPA. Payne currently teaches classes at church and substitute preaches.

“I’m still able to live out my calling in a different way than what is traditionally thought,” Payne said.

THE TRANSITION

Tagbo said it was hard for both he and his wife Andrea to adjust to their new roles in the beginning.

“For her, working in the corporate world was very, very different,” Tagbo said.

He said he was used to working in the corporate world running a team with structure and a schedule. Now he is solely in charge of children and breaks are sporadic and random.

“I may get a break when I go to the bathroom, but someone will be knocking at the door,” Tagbo said.

Tagbo also said his family took a while to get used to the switched roles because of their Filipino culture. Tagbo’s male relatives who hold high corporate positions embrace the “machismo” way of thinking and he said the stigma toward a stay-at-home father was present in the beginning.  

“They’ve got their opinions and their feelings about it but this is my family and we’re doing the best we can for what we have now,” Tagbo said.

Tagbo said he went from being a monetary provider to providing time to shape his children’s well-being, education and social skills.

Payne said when he and his wife started dating, they decided they didn’t want two high-demanding jobs at once. He said it was an easy transition for him because he was already a part-time stay-at-home dad as he worked out of his house.

Early on during the times Payne didn’t take his son Luke to a babysitter, he would work from local coffee shops while his son slept.

“Having a little, three-month-old baby sitting there sleeping, especially with a man, could break down a lot of walls,” Payne said. “So a lot of people would come to me, ask about [Luke] and ask what I was doing if they saw a Bible.”

Payne said tension from stay-at-home moms and daycare workers is a subtle jab and is only because the role not what they’re used to.

“I think with any situation when you have something that’s out of the ordinary and you inject that into the situation that stayed the same… there’s always an adjustment period,” Payne said.

THE KIDS

Tagbo said the transition took a toll on his children for a brief period. They acted out because they were used to the way their mother did things, he said.

“I’m typically more task-oriented so [I had to] learn some of those soft skills that mom had to get them to cooperate,” Tagbo said.

Tagbo believes children with stay-at-home dads will learn early on that specific gender norms are not always the only way.

Payne said he believes Luke might notice a difference in other family dynamics and be more aware of the social norms around him. He said their current roles are right for their family and it has brought a greater sense of order to their lives.

THE GROUPS

Al Watts is the president of the National At-Home Dad Network. He said the organization tries to provide support, education and advocacy for stay-at-home dads.

As a stay-at-home dad, Watts told stories similar to the ones Tagbo and Payne told. They all had an adjustment period, felt the tension from stay-at-home moms, and relatives took a while to get used to the new role.

Tagbo and Payne said they found stay-at-home mom groups and other parent groups where mothers were the majority, but solely dad groups were slim to none.

“It can be really isolating for dads or moms,” Payne said. “That was a big part of my reasoning for not only me but for Luke too.”

Tagbo created the Dallas At Home Dads Meetup Group in June 2012 to meet other stay-at-home dads during the summertime.

“I don’t know if it’s the stigma or whatever it is, but [stay-at-home dads seem] less inclined to participate or not as social as women are,” Tagbo said. “It’s been slow going.”

Hanging out with moms can be awkward while being with dads who can have more in common can be rewarding, Tagbo and Payne said. Tagbo and Payne usually talk about their kids, fantasy football, sports and other topics.

“I think for dads who are staying home as well, it’s time for them to come out of the closet in a sense,” Tagbo said. “We’re definitely welcoming more people to participate in these kind of things.”

THE CENSUS

There are few in-depth statistics dealing with stay-at-home dads because of the group’s small number, said Lynda L. Laughlin, family demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau in the Fertility and Family Statistics Branch.
 
Watts said he is not considered a stay-at-home dad in the Census because of the category’s limitations. Tagbo and Payne were not currently staying at home at the time of the last Census surveys.

 

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