Monday, December 13, 2010

I am a little famous in Japan

A few weeks ago I was interviewed for Nikkei, a Japanese business newspaper.  The words or even the concept of "Stay at home Dad" do not really exist in Japan.  The results of my interview are the second to last paragraph.

Here is the translation
Stay-at-home dads who take the lead in child rearing a growing group in New York – meeting to give each other advice and support.

In New York, more and more groups of “house husbands,” who are devoting themselves to childcare, are forming. That’s partly because an alternative family pattern where the woman works outside the home and the man takes care of the house is becoming more established, and it’s partially because more fathers have questions about childrearing, or feel isolated in mostly-female childcare centers. Slow improvement in U.S. employment rates is also a factor, and as the numbers of “house husbands” increase the networks get stronger, offering a place for them to seek information and advice.

On a weekday morning in October, one man after another arrived in the playroom of a high rise apartment building near Wall Street, each pushing a stroller. They’re all at-home dads.

“Have you ever felt like a woman didn’t trust you to take care of children?” “First-time parents are in the same position whether they’re women or men.” (Some quotes from the dads during their discussion) On this day 8 members of the “NYC Dads Group” pulled their chairs into a circle and began a lively discussion (facilitated by Donald Unger: author of Men Can: The Changing Image & Reality of Fatherhood in America), all while they were soothing their crying kids and offering snacks and milk bottles.

Lance Somerfeld (37), who started the group, is a teacher. When his son Jake was born in 2008 he and his wife, who works in the insurance industry, both took 4 months of leave. After her maternity leave, she returned to work, but Somerfeld’s job as a teacher allowed him up to four years of unpaid childcare leave, so he chose to become a stay-at-home dad.

Once he actually started raising his child he realized that there wasn’t enough information aimed at dads, so he began scheduling regular meetings of male friends who were in the same situation – dads staying home with their kids. When he set up an online group for stay-at-home fathers to arrange to meet with their children in tow, within about two years more than 300 men registered.

According to the U.S. Census Department, there are about 160,000 married men with children under the age of 15 who have chosen to become stay-at-home fathers. The number of households where a woman is the only breadwinner increased in 2009 for the third year running, rising to its highest level ever. After the financial crisis of 2008, more American men than women are unemployed. There are also many cases where, in households with small children, the husband has temporarily become a stay-at-home dad to save on childcare costs.

But society still hasn’t caught up to this lifestyle. Matt Schneider (35), who has two children, doesn’t conceal his irritation when he says that “there’s more attention from people and the media, but the angle is always how rare it is to see a man pushing a stroller in the afternoon.” On the website, aimed at stay-at-home dads and involved fathers, men seek advice on what to do if they feel their wife doesn’t respect them now that they don’t have an income, or write about their feelings of isolation or social alienation.

Going back to work, or seeking a new job once the kids are grown, is another source of unease.  M******R*** (47), who lives in Brooklyn, quit his job at an educational institution two years ago, with the intention of changing careers. But the financial crisis struck immediately afterward, and the situation completely changed. Since his wife’s salary is enough to meet the family’s expenses, he has put his career search on hold and become a stay-at-home parent to his 7 year old twins. When he’ll go back to work is up in the air. “I’m sure that before long they’ll get annoyed having dad around all the time. I’ll think about it then,” says Ring. 

While they find the stronger bonds with their children satisfying, the possibility that they won’t be able to go back to work until the children have become independent is still a concern for some American stay-at-home dads.

Article by Hiroko Nishimura
I was significantly misquoted, my kids are not 7 and I will be looking for a day job when they go to middle school.

and thanks to NYC Dad's Group for the translation


  1. I was going to say, 7??? And, you are going to start a full time next year? I thought this was it for you, you are good at this!

  2. Silly, it is commonly known that Japanese people have only 7 fingers. Ffortunately they have the surgery when they are very young. So for them 10 equals 7.

    You can look it up. Now does it make sense?

  3. The statements that the attribute to men in the group, albeit potentially misquoted, aren't any different than what women who are stay-at-home moms worry about. It's funny that the paper is treating this as a big deal.
    I mean, in a way it is: changing roles and such. But in a way it's not: people are worried about the same c**p.

  4. Sassafrassis, that is what I tried to tell the reporter. I don't see myself as a Stay at home "Dad". I am just a Stay at home "Parent". That is not so much news.

    That is also why I never joined any SAHD groups. I did not want to limit myself only to the company of other men.


You do not have to be nice!


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