Guest Post: My husband will be sharing his thoughts on the transition from military man to stay-at-home dad in today’s edition of Biracial Buggy.
My life has gone through a major change recently because I’m retiring from the military. After nearly ten years of service, I’m getting medically retired. It’s going to be a huge adjustment because as anyone will tell you the military is not just a job, it is a way of life.
The other major life change coming is that I will become a full time stay at home dad, which will bring with it a whole other set of adjustments to make. I would say one of the most difficult aspects of becoming a stay at home dad will be developing a strong support network. I feel this is a task that is much easier for women because most of the established networks anywhere you go are primarily composed of women.
I have already had to experience the isolation of being a stay at home dad. What I have to deal with, particularly in a military town, is a severe shortage (as in hardly any) of other stay at home dads and stay at home moms whose husbands are so insecure, they don’t want their wives hanging out with other guys while they are at work. I don’t understand why some husbands are so bothered by this, because I don’t feel it is much different than having a colleague of the opposite sex. Although I was an Infantryman, so I haven’t had a female colleague in years. It also seems as if most people here assume that if a man watching his child, either the mother is gone or he is a single father.
My first experience took place when I went to a playgroup my wife set me up on from a stay at home moms group on Facebook. I was supposed to meet the other moms at a park. Unfortunately the only person in the group who I actually knew did not show up. When I saw other moms there, I wasn’t sure if they were part of the group or not so I didn’t know if I should talk to them. I stayed at the park in case someone else from the group might see me and know who I was. I sat on the bench and played with Buggy. What happened next caught me by surprise.
All the other moms at the park not only didn’t talk to me but completely avoided me. It was as if there were a giant invisible force field between them and Buggy and I. I’m not sure if the women I saw were in the playgroup or not but even if they were not, I didn’t feel their reactions were warranted. The other moms would not talk to me, come near me, or even make eye contact with me. I can understand if they didn’t want to talk to me because they didn’t know me, but it seemed like a bit much to keep so much distance from me. After a while, some of the moms left the playground completely. I don’t know for sure if it was because of me but that’s definitely how I felt.
I admit I don’t have the friendliest looking face. I’m a dark skinned, husky, black man with tattoos and facial hair, and I’m probably about 5’10 or 6’0 depending on what convenience store I’m walking out of. All in all, I fit the physical profile of several armed robbery suspects. But on that particular day, I don’t feel like I seemed too threatening while I was wearing flip flops and playing with my infant daughter at the park. In any case, I didn’t really understand but I also thought it might have been a misunderstanding. Maybe around here it’s like in some Middle Eastern countries where women are not allowed to speak to men they don’t know outside the house. Of course, I felt even more awkward because when I left and a bunch of women went back to the playground.
The next time I went to playgroup, my “sponsor” showed up. This time around went much better, I actually socialized with the other parents and I was suddenly approachable. Although to be fair, it was a completely different group of women. One really nice lady even gave me a rice biscuit for Buggy. I felt so accepted. I think these groups just have some kind of SEAL Team 6 or Freemasons thing going on where you can’t get in if you don’t know someone.
The other side of the coin is that a lot of people think that if a father takes care of his child, that he’s a really great parent. I think society needs to get rid of this idea that a man is an extremely excellent parent just because he performs the most basic parenting duties, most of which are not considered very remarkable if the mother does them. But like I always tell my wife, I am a father because of what I do not because of what I did.