According to a U.S. Census statistic cited by the New York Times, in the last decade the number of men who have left the work force entirely to raise children has more than doubled to 176,000. You might have a friend or neighbor who is a stay-at-home dad (SAHD). Sometimes I see them on the fringes of the playground and play groups unsure of whether to breach the mom circle. Other times they’re the life of the party. The moms surround the stay-at-home dad like some sort of mysterious creature or guest of honor.
Sometimes I notice flirting. I cringe.
Obviously I didn’t give stay at home dads much thought until I became a stay-at-home mom. A friend’s husband was a part-time SAHD and we casually mentioned getting the kids together for a playdate. Once the casual mention become a formal invitation I broached the topic with my husband. I was surprised at the quickness with which he shot down the idea. He isn’t the controlling type and he is a super laid back guy. So, what was the issue?
“I don’t know the man well and I don’t feel comfortable with an unfamiliar man in my home, alone with my wife and children. It’s kind of a primal thing,” he said. It made sense but I asked him whether he’d feel differently if the play date attendee was his wife. “Sure. You can take her.”
In all seriousness the playdate idea made me uncomfortable as well but I wasn’t sure why. Selfishly I was happy that my husband made the decision for me. He seemed like a wonderful father and husband but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of spending time alone with him and our kids in my home. Why? Was it instinct? New mom jitters?
I spent some time thinking about the situation because chances are I’ll have to cross this bridge once again. I think it’s wonderful that our country is starting to diversify it’s perceptions of parenting and gender roles. That is an amazing thing. In theory. In practice it’s a bit difficult to get used to for me anyway.
Are opposite sex playdates cool? Should my husband be there? Am I a jerk for feeling weird? Am I supposed to be friends with your wife? What am I supposed to talk about? Love and Hip Hop? I have no idea.
Do you have playdates with parents of the opposite sex? Is your partner okay with it?
Words By: Veronica Armstrong
Veronica Armstrong is a photographer, blogger, and freelance writer whose stories spring from the cinderblock walls of her married graduate student apartment. You can find her on Google+ or see more of her writing and photography on her blog.