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04 January 2014


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It's taken me a few days to come back to this post. I cannot speak specifically to the image of single fathers, but only to fathers in general.

Since my husband is the primary caregiver for our children, I have had lots of opportunity to think about the image fathers have. I think it is generally supposed that they don't really take care of their children. Father might be there, but it is assumed that mother is in charge.

The best example I can think of is when they go out shopping. Until the clerks got accustomed to seeing him out with the children, my husband was asked a lot if he was babysitting. That he was actually really responsible and not temporarily deputized was seen as an oddity.

Another example is at the pediatrician. We both usually attend their appointments. The doctor and staff know that I work full time and my husband is at home and yet almost every question is directed at me. Many times I have to say I don't know and ask him. It doesn't seem to occur to the staff to ask him questions directly, even though he is right there, but to use me as a mediator.

So if you are a single father, you probably do have to wage an image campaign on your own behalf, especially if the children depend solely on you for their social life.

A related story: There are four houses with children and a stay-at-home spouse on my street. My husband is the only father staying home. Two of my neighbors were part of a playgroup, but our family was never invited to join. A new family moved into the fourth house and one of the neighbors immediately invited the new mother to join the playgroup. Now she did this in front of me while all our kids were playing together, so there was no intent to hide it from me or exclude my children. The obvious sticking point with this playgroup was that it would be a man bringing the children and not another mom. They probably figured he had no interest in hanging out with a bunch of women and their toddlers. And they'd be right. My husband has no interest in joining a playgroup, so this wasn't an occasion for hurt feelings, but our children were being excluded because their primary caretaker is their father.

If a father is the only caregiver for his children, he really does have to strike out on their behalf because the default is to leave him--and them--out. I suspect it is less of an issue with older children, especially sons, but a man with daughters or toddlers probably looks at a lot of closed doors.

Melanie B

Jenny, that's really interesting about the playgroup. I suspect that points to the fact that playgroups are really only incidentally about the children playing and are really vehicles for mothers to socialize with each other.

I don't know any stay at home dads, but I'd be open to socializing with them via playgroup because many of my best friends have been men. But that's interesting that the men might not be interested in having that social outlet with other stay-at-home parents.


At least in our circles, the dad-equivalent of a playgroup is "Game Night." As in, board games, with kids messing around in the background, either playing their own games or watching movies.


I wouldn't say that he isn't interested in having a social outlet with stay-at-home parents, but he wants to do 'guy stuff.' We knew a homeschooling family with five children at church where the father was the primary caregiver and the mother had a full time job. It worked out really well because their youngest was the same age as our oldest and their big girls thought our youngers were grand fun. I think that father and my husband relied on each other and socialized quite a bit, but it was centered around projects, chores, and small engine repair, not chitchat and field trips. Sadly that family moved away and now we don't know anyone with the father at home. As for the playgroups, he does not want to be the intruding man in a mothers' group and, besides, he has chores in the yard to tend. :)

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