Marc Harris, 36
Marc Harris, 36
At-home dad for two years
Wife: Jeana Chicosky, 32, president of a commercial printing company
Children: Emily, 4, and Jake, 2
Marc Harris has always been a somewhat nontraditional father. When his daughter was an infant, he brought her with him every day to the job sites he supervised for his contracting business in Houston. But that was before his wife, Jeana Chicosky, was promoted to president of the printing company she works for, requiring the family to move to Tennessee two years ago.
"We had been talking for a while about my staying home with the kids because I was getting tired of the politics of the contracting business," says Harris. "Then we found out she was going to be relocated and figured this was the time to give it a try." But like many cautious couples, the two agreed on an initial trial period. "I think I was more afraid of being bored than of not knowing what to do," he admits. "Man, was I wrong!"
Harris couldn't have anticipated how much he'd enjoy being his kids' primary caregiver -- nor how ostracized he'd feel. "The mothers I meet are totally standoffish," he says. "They barely acknowledge me when I'm with Jake at Tumble Gym. One mother still doesn't let me in her house when I bring Emily over for a playdate -- and the kids have been playing together for over a year now." Then there was the neighbor who, upon meeting his wife for the first time, consoled Chicosky about her "husband's situation," obviously assuming that Harris couldn't keep a job.
Fortunately, Harris came up with another outlet. Last year, he and another at-home dad posted a message on one of the SAHD Web sites looking for men who were interested in forming a dads' group. The message generated responses from all over central Tennessee. "We're up to 16 dads now, as far-flung as Nashville and Columbia," he says, meaning he can wind up driving 40 minutes each way, "and the kids are from about 6 months to Emily's age." They get together for weekly playdates with the kids and a monthly dads' night out. "You don't realize how great it is to have other guys to relate to," he says. "It's very validating."
Harris says his second year as the primary caregiver has been a bit more challenging, since Jake is now an active toddler. ("When he's not sleeping, he's moving.") Still, there's no question this was a good move. "Jeana loves her job, and I feel very fortunate that one of us can be home with our kids," he says. "We both know what a luxury it is to be a single-income family."
Both children of divorce, neither Harris nor Chicosky had close relationships with their own fathers growing up. His was a traveling salesman, gone a week at a time. "I saw my father only on weekends," Harris recalls. "Once my parents got divorced, I saw him only every other weekend. So knowing exactly what kind of dad I don't want my kids to grow up with has made this experience even more incredible for me."