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Stay-at-home dads not immune to stigma

Mar 11th, 2009 | By | Category: Latest News

dadmainALTHOUGH it might seem cool to be a stay-at-home father these days, life behind the buggy has its share of challenges, dads say.

The latest census shows 23.4% of males who are not in paid work, look after a child who is a member of their household, compared with 46% of females http://www.stats.govt.nz/census/2006-census-data/quickstats-about-unpaid-work/quickstats-about-unpaid-work.htm?page=para002Master.
 
For some dads, the reality of what it takes to run a house is a bit of a shock.

Scott Lancaster is a stay-at-home dad and co-creator of the website www.diyfather.com and the recently released book for new fathers, Call Me Dad. He started the website with the idea of providing a forum for new fathers.

On the website dads can sign up for newsletters, post their questions and get information for fathers’ meetings.

When he was looking for information aimed at stay-at-home dads, he says he couldn’t find anything. “I thought: ‘Oh my god, I’m going to look after a crying, pooping little thing, what am I going to do?'”

In association with Plunket, Mr Lancaster says DIY fathers are trialling male-only parent groups in some Wellington suburbs.  

Aagon Wills, a 35-year-old former sales manager, says he was the only guy attending Plunket group and the mothers thought he was “a bit of a novelty”. 

“All of the mothers thought it was great. They were swapping female-oriented advice like breastfeeding and I would just tell a joke or something.”

His wife missed the corporate world and he was disillusioned with it, so they swapped roles and she is the main earner.

Mr Wills thinks it is really good for a male to understand what you need to do in the house.

“I didn’t know you had to wipe skirting boards.”

He believes there is a stigma attached to dads for staying at home and looking after the house and child.

His dad did not understand why, and some of his friends thought it was great but they were horrified that he had to do the housework.

Mr Wills is not completely out of the working loop – on Sundays he works at Newtown’s Baby Star shop.

He thinks there is a stigma even for a male working in a baby shop.

Women walk in and steer away from him for things like maternity wear, but for items that are associated with males, such as car seats, they seek his advice.

Grant Cook, 37, swaps cooking and gardening tips with his friend who is also at home with a child.

He says he knew he was in for cooking and cleaning right from the start.

Mr Cook, a former painter, who has been at home with his daughter since September, says material like the Plunket information he read was aimed at women.

He finds females joke around and make remarks on his capability.

“I’m quite a big, hairy guy with a few tattoos and I probably don’t fit the stereotypical new-age, stay-at-home-dad sort of look.”

Picture: Aagon Wills with 19 month-old Harrison

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