Stay At Home Dads

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It is a typical weekday morning at Garry and Rynett Vall's Parma home. Rynett has left for her job as a computer instructor at Cleveland's Metro-Health Medical Center, and Garry, an x-ray technician by trade, is making toast for their adopted three-year old son Andy...

Garry: Before he arrived, my wife and I were both working. And as he got older, he needed more time. My wife and I talked for a long time and discussed our options. We decided that since her income is bigger than mine, her benefits are fabulous; it was the wise choice to give up my job and be a stay at home dad. She works full-time.

Kevin: How do you like it so far?

Garry: It was really, really tough at first. I think it was my ego. It made me feel bad. I felt like I wasn't contributing. I got over that. Now, well, I feel like I'm doing my part. I'm watching my son grow and I can see what I've achieved through him. The difficult part is over. Once I get over that, then I encountered the "dad fever." I was tired of staying at home. I wanted to get out and do something. So I got a part-time job and it's been fantastic since then. I spend all day with Andy and then, my wife comes home around five o'clock or so. Then, I start work at 6 and we just exchange roles.

Stay-at-home-dad Internet sites have also been a help. Garry located several local dads on-line. They get together for afternoon outings with their kids, and for comradery. He says neither his family nor his wife's have any problem with their arrangement, but he has come under fire from a few women accusing him of just being lazy. And, Garry maintains he experienced prejudice when he and Andy got involved in a playgroup at a local elementary school...
Garry: Yeah, and I personally felt ostracized from the mothers. They would mingle together and they talked about subjects that I would love to have interacted with. Things like sharing recipes--most women don't look at a man and say, "Do you have any good recipes?" But I do. I've got secrets, like how to get stains out of fabrics. Little tips like how to stop your child from crying, little tips of the trade that I'm really anxious to share--but it's hard to find a woman to really listen. But these stay-at-home dads listen. It's nice. I can talk to them about fatherhood.
At Cleveland's Metro-Health Medical Center, Garry's wife Rynnet is on her lunch break. She says her friends and co-workers support their arrangement, and she herself, has no regrets...
Rynette: Why would it really matter who it was, whether it was the mother or father? And a lot of that is individuality. Like I said before, Garry is probably a little more patient than I am. It just worked out. They are best buds.

Kevin: Do you feel like you are missing out on anything?

Rynette: Actually, it works out because when I come home, then I play with Andy after supper. I get him ready for bed. I have time with him, too. And then, Garry has time for himself. He can do whatever he wants to do or needs to do. Things like that--finishing up laundry--one of us can do that while the other plays with him.

Back at home, Garry fields a phone call from a fellow stay-at-home dad...
Garry: All right. That's how it's done. That was my friend, Steve, and he spoke with this other dad, Chuck. I have only met Chuck two times. We decided we are going ice-skating--just like that.
The Vall's live in a condominium complex, and Garry says this makes outings especially important for Andy...
Garry: I enjoy watching Andy play with other kids. It's kind of a disadvantage living here because most of these people are seniors. As much as I love playing with him, it is not the same thing. He needs another three-year-old to play with. Unfortunately, there aren't any around here. That was an incentive to sign him at the school so that he could interact with other kids. My wife is the same way. She wants him to become involved with other kids. She supports me 110% when I enroll him in these classes at the YMCA or other activities.
Garry is one of an estimated two million American fathers who spend most of their time raising kids while their wives work outside the home. I'm Kevin Niedermier, 89.7 WKSU.
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