'I'm Not an Anomaly': More Dads Staying Home to Raise Kids

PHOTO: When David Lessers wife, Allister, had their daughter Penny, he opted to leave his job as a plaintiffs personal injury lawyer for good and stay home.
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When David and Allister Lesser had their daughter Penny, he opted to leave his job as a plaintiff's personal injury lawyer for good and stay home.

Though the two felt the decision worked best for their family, friends, relatives and coworkers weren't so understanding.

"The perception is still that the man goes out and works and the wife, maybe she works or maybe she stays at home, but that's usually the choice," David Lesser said. "I got and I still get the question 'So what are you going to do next?' That this is somehow a very part-time thing. It's still pretty unusual for the dad to stay at home."

But that way of thinking seems to be changing as more fathers choose to stay home, care for the children and take over the household tasks.

On NBC's "Up All Night," Will Arnett's character raises the couple's infant daughter as his wife -- played by Christina Applegate -- returns to her job at a talk show.

On ABC's "Modern Family," Eric Stonestreet plays Cameron, a stay-at-home dad helping to raise his adopted daughter with his partner.

And recently the parenting blogosphere erupted with chatter after Tide released a commercial featuring a "dad-mom" folding clothes.

On Dec. 5, a U.S. Census report said that one-third of fathers -- up from 26 percent in 2002 and more than the 154,000 originally reported by the census for 2010 -- with working wives regularly cared for their children younger than 15. Of those fathers with preschoolers, one in five fathers was the primary caregiver.

The Daddyshome Network

Al Watts, president of Daddyshome, a national at-home dad network, said the Tide campaign was "awesome" and showed that "marketers are finally figuring it out."

Watts has been an at-home dad since 2002 when his daughter was born. He said he left his job in advertising after his wife got a promotion. They now have four children ages 9, 7, 4 and 3.

Daddyshome, which started in 2003, has 2,000 members in 47 cities in the U.S. and Canada. Watts said that besides chatting in forums on one of the group's sites, members also met at the annual At-Home Dad Convention, in its 16th year.

Hogan Hilling, a board member at large for Daddyshome, said society had the wrong impression that fathers chose to stay at home because they had no other option.

"No one takes into consideration that dads want to do this," he said. "With the recession, it has put men in a position to rethink and reevaluate their role as a father. [They now say,] 'I'm not working. I'll be a stay-at-home parent."

Hilling said thanks to groups like Daddyshome, fathers were learning about at-home dads and also gaining the support of their wives but more needed to be done.

"We're making a small step," he said today. "At-home dads have been a wakeup to fatherhood and how we look at fathers. We have to educate people. We have a pool of fathers. Why don't we offer them emotional support."

Saxon Palmer and other fathers said they find that support in the NYC Dads Group.

"It helps you combat the judgment," he said of the group, which goes on excursions to museums and the zoo and attends art classes. "You're like, 'Look, I got a posse of other guys doing the same thing so I'm not an anomaly.'"

"The more people who say I'm doing the right thing, [that] I'm a better dad for him, I'm more confident," he said. "I'm more relaxed so it's important for me to see other dads doing it successfully."

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