The Reality of Being Home
That's what women since June Cleaver's day have been saying. But today more dads are like Ben George: A creative-writing lecturer in Wilmington, North Carolina, and editor of the essay collection The Book of Dads, he stayed at home two days a week with his 3-month-old until she was 3. He, too, felt the need to make something of his life outside of the house. "When I was home with my daughter, I really enjoyed being a part of all the changes in her life," he says. "And who knows how that closeness will play out in her life -- maybe not at all for her, even if it does for me. But at the same time, I knew that I wasn't only a father. It's not my whole identity."
Some dads miss the satisfaction of bringing home a paycheck. Steve Kaback, a high-school teacher who works full-time while his wife teaches college, used to stay home with his children in Elmira, New York, when they were 3 and 6 (they're 9 and 12 now), but the arrangement eventually began to eat at him. "I loved hanging out with the kids," he remembers, "but I had just turned 40, and with nothing going on in my career, I sank into a weird place emotionally after a while. To not be contributing anything to our family finances was uncomfortable for me. I think back on that time fondly, but I also make a point to remember that I was pretty depressed too."
A lot of guys juggle two hats for personal and financial reasons. "The working dad in me is jealous of the stay-home dad I was," says Jeremy Adam Smith, a Web editor who works from home but spent the second year of his son's life taking care of him full-time. "There's a lot to be said for traditional, or reverse-traditional, arrangements," says Smith, who created a blog called Daddy Dialectic. "But in our case it wasn't going to work long-term because we needed the money." Like most dads who spend more time with their kids than their fathers did, Smith will tell you that the experience still leaves him feeling inadequate. "I work at home. I carve out a lot of time during the day to be with my son. That sounds great, but I also spend a lot of time on my laptop while I'm with him. And yet that's the choice I made, and that's the life of a parent in the 21st century."