Shannon Carpenter can pinpoint the day he first became a Stay-at-Home Dad (SAHD): It was Jan. 1, 2008, and his daughter was 15 months old. Every day, he took her to day care, dropped her off, headed to work, picked her up, and began the process anew the next day. Carpenter, who was working as an elder-care abuse investigator, felt like he was in a rut. His wife, an advertising professional, was pregnant with their second child.
“I said, ‘I think we should have someone stay home.’ Never in my mind did I ever consider it would be me!” he says with a laugh. “I knew no one who did this. And then I looked at our career paths and did the math and I said, ‘I should be the one.’ We laughed for a minute, but then it was like — ‘If you take gender out of it, and you factor in the personality — it should be me.’ I’m OK with being by myself, which is another big part of it. So I quit my job, threw up, and that was it.”
And he hasn’t looked back. The Kansas City, Mo., dad of three is proud of his stay-at-home chops, and wants to help other SAHDs survive and thrive with “The Ultimate Stay-at-Home Dad: Your Essential Manual for Being an Awesome Full-Time Father” (Penguin Life), out Oct. 12.
“There is no advice for dads,” says Carpenter. “Not good advice. It’s all platitudes. ‘Grin and bear it.’ And it’s like, no, I need to know how to cook with children. What to put in my diaper bag. The first time, I put half my garage in it, but forgot the bottle.”
He recommends writing a job description to ensure that both dad and spouse are on the same page in terms of expectations, including time off, meals and house cleaning. “My wife and I have been together for 25 years and the times we argue, it’s about expectations,” he says. “The way we’ve treated it — my job is to raise them. Everything else is secondary.”
Over the years, he has found a community of other SAHDs — men who have become close friends. For the past 11 years, they’ve embarked on the Dads Trip: “5 dads, 16 kids. We pick a direction and go. We see all the weirdest, goofiest stuff we can — the largest ball of twine, biggest baseball hat, a Corvette museum with a sinkhole in it. You can do anything. Stop doing things you think you’re expected to. Embrace who you are as a dad and as a man.”
And while it has taken a while, he says that society at large has become more accepting of dads who stay home — although not in the Internet comments section.
“If you go to any comments section — people think we’re lazy, that we sit around eating bonbons,” says Carpenter. “I get my dads together — we’ll build you a deck, we’ll do honors chemistry homework, but I can also bake like a bastard.”
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