Stay-at-home fathers are redefining stereotypes, fatherhood and family, and they’re here to stay.
Take northwest resident Michael Reed, for example. He’s been working the payless 24/7 job for almost eight years.
“Being a stay-at-home-dad is probably one of the greatest things you can do,” Reed said. “Sure, you have to pick up the kids from school, take them to soccer practice and to games. It’s a job, if you will, but you don’t get paid with money. You get paid differently with their love and smiles. Those type of things are priceless.”
While some would argue that living in a house with a teenage and preteen daughter could be terrifying, Reed said he’s living the dream.
It started after he lost his job as a data entry clerk. Since his wife, Christy, was working full time, they decided it was best for Reed to stay home with the children.
He soon found himself in charge of his then 7- and 4-year-old daughters. At first, Reed admits he didn’t feel prepared.
“I was scared,” he said. “I was also feeling very down on myself because typically dads are the ones that have to provide for the family. Without the support of my wife and family, I don’t know how I could continue to do what I do.”
After switching from full-time work to full-time dad, he found that both daughters did significantly better in school.
Despite the positive change, some of his family members were still shocked by his decision. Other times, when Reed would take his daughters to the playground, some mothers would assume he was divorced and it was his day to take care of the girls, he said.
Even when he tried to join a stay-at-home moms group, he said he would be seen as interfering with their realm.
“There are a lot of stereotypes,” Reed said.
Things are slowly changing.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were an estimated 199,000 stay-at-home dads in 2015. These married fathers with children younger than 15 remained out of the labor force for at least one year, primarily so they could care for the family while their wife worked outside the home.
While the path to becoming a stay-at-home dad wasn’t something that Reed originally sought, he always knew he wanted to be deeply involved with his daughters.
“I grew up with a dad who wasn’t there much because he was always working,” Reed said. “I made it a point that, once I was a dad, I had to be there for my kids no matter what.”
In between cooking dinner, taking the children to soccer practice and keeping the house clean, Reed also manages to offer boyfriend advice and goof-off in the truest of dad forms.
“I would describe my dad as a superior role model in my life,” said his daughter, Alexis, 15. “He has all of the best qualities a best friend would have but also all of the qualities of a superb dad. He is always there for you from boyfriend troubles to homework help. He always helps me become a better person for my future.”
“My dad is one of the best dads in the whole world,” added Emma, 12. “He is kind, nice, and funny. He is always there for me when I need him the most.”
Christy works as a sales representative at Cox Cable, and Reed said he eventually wants to go back to work, though he is worried that his almost 10-year gap on his resume will be a challenge.
Christy said she is thankful of the work that Reed has done for the family.
“From the time we became parents, Michael has always been a hands-on father,” Christy said. “Spending time with the girls and taking care of them is always his favorite thing to do. From making their meals to taking them to and from school and soccer practices, he has always been happy to do whatever is needed.”
Reed said he encourages any father who can be a stay-at-home dad to do it. Being able to care for his daughters has taught him that 18 years go by fast, but the memories he’s made last a lifetime.
“Would I trade this in for anything? No,” Reed said. “You couldn’t offer me enough of anything to trade in my experiences. Seeing their smiles every day after school, listening to their joys and sorrows and being their support system is priceless.”
To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.