His name is Ryan Stutchman, and he is handsome, he is smart, he has a great personality, he is a SAHD, “stay at home dad,” and he is my son. For a while he was a WAHD, “work at home dad,” and as his mother I understood that better, but when he became a SAHD, I did not comprehend. Suddenly, I did not understand my own son. His dad and I watched him work at our computer business starting at age thirteen. He was one of our very best workers. He worked with us until he went away to OSU for college. He got a job there working with the mentally handicapped. His work ethic was noticed by his employer and he quickly went from house sitting the handicapped to being promoted to a management job in the office, all the while juggling being a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and going to college. I was so proud of his work achievements. As hoped for by all parents, he found a smart and beautiful wife. He moved to Texas and got a great job in Austin. His wife also had an impressive job as an international accountant. It was not long until her talents were recognized and they were transferred to Belgium for several years.
While in Belgium he figured out a way to work from home using his computer skills. He became a quality assurance consultant. To fill his need for human interaction, he became a member of STUDS. Studs are spouses trailing under duress successfully.
This is a group of men in Belgium that get together once a week who are there because they have a wife working in Belgium and they are staying home. It served as an outlet for my son. While in Belgium, his wife became pregnant and they had their first baby. After the baby was born my son became a WAHD, “work at home dad. “ It made perfect sense. He was now a STUDS and a WAHD.
They moved back to the United States and landed back in the Dallas area. I thought my son would go back to the traditional roll of working, but he did not. His consultation business became harder for him to manage as his daughter became a toddler and he finally gave that up. Still as his mother, I kept thinking he would go back to work, but he did not. I found myself being a little embarrassed when people would ask me what he was doing now, and I would say he is a stay-at-home dad. I was ashamed of myself for not saying it with more pride and finding myself making excuses to people why he was not working a traditional job. In fact, I kept trying to come up with ideas for him as to where to go apply. His daughter is a happy baby, his wife enjoys her career, and he is happy, so why was I, as his mother, not throwing my shoulders back and saying with pride, “He is a stay-at –home dad?”
I did not know the answer to my own question, so I decided it was time to sit down with my son and just interview him and his life style, and then maybe I would gain understanding of this new type of family. To start our interview I asked him why he wanted to stay home with his daughter and his next baby that is on the way. He looked me in the eye, grinned till his dimple showed, and said, “The same reasons you chose to stay home with my sister and me when we were little. You loved us and couldn’t stand to put us in a day care. I have made the same choice mom. Only difference, it is my wife that makes the best income to allow one of us to stay home.”
He had me there. I understood perfectly but decided to go on with the interview so I could learn more about being a SAHD.
I asked him what his days were like. He told me a big part of his day was his membership in the Dallas Dads club. He explained there are dads clubs everywhere and you find them on the internet. Monday through Friday his group meets at ten with their children and do things together until about twelve thirty. They go to parks, splash zones, indoor playgrounds, the zoo, the children’s museum, and a variety of other things. They have a private Facebook page in which the schedule for the week is posted. Most all the dads in the group have the same situation he has. They have a professional wife who has the higher paying career. Once again he looked me in the eye and said,” My group is great for the kids, but it is also an amazing support group for us dads.” I understood what he was telling me.
I asked him if he ever feels like there is a prejudice against him. His answer surprised me. “It is other mom’s that I feel prejudice from,” he said.
“What?” I asked, totally surprised by his answer.
He explained if he goes to the park alone with his daughter and there are a group of mothers there they give him weird looks. Their looks reflect the thought they are thinking; wondering why this man is there with a child in the middle of the day. He also went on to say that if his dad group shows up at a park, and there are at least five of them with their children, in less than thirty minutes the mothers will gather their children and leave.
I asked him if he thinks it has changed his marriage in any way. He told me it does upset the order of things as I knew them watching shows like, “Leave it to Beaver.” He said in talking with other stay-at-home dads he has found the wife tends to become more controlling of the family. He understands to make up for the fact the wife is not able to spend as much time being a mother to her children; she tends to tell the husband how to rear the child. Then the husbands get a little ruffled because they are with the child and they feel like they know what the child needs.
I asked him about money. I felt it would be awkward for a man to ask his wife for money. He said in the new world it does not work that way. Because the wife is at work, most of the dads manage the budget. They pay the bills, do the grocery shopping, and set allowances for themselves and their wives. He said he allows $50.00 a week for he and his daughter to go out and do things, and he gives his wife a portion to go out and do her things, the rest, goes for living as it does in any traditional household.
His typical day and that of most of the dads in his group is as follows:
8 AM: He gets up and has an hour of alone time to enjoy coffee and breakfast.
9 AM: Daughter gets up: He makes her a nutritious breakfast and allows 30 minutes of cartoon time.
10 AM to 12:30 PM: Dads club and whatever activities that brings for the day.
1 PM: Lunch
2 PM to 5 PM: Daughter takes nap; he cleans and cooks while she is asleep. Once she wakes up, it is play time with daddy.
EVENING: Wife home: Nice dinner is ready, house is clean, she gives their daughter a bath and he falls asleep exhausted.
I told him when I was a stay –at-home mother I would sometimes get jealous of all the beautiful career women I knew his dad was interacting with every day. Did it bother him that his wife was networking each day with professional men? He answered, “No that does not bother me. What does make me jealous is the adult activities she gets to go to and I can’t because of watching the baby.” I questioned him, “What are those activities? “He said, “Things like long lunches at good restaurants with co-workers and happy hour.”
I asked him what he did besides, “Dallas Dads,” to get his adult fix. He explained that once a month, the Dallas Dads take an evening away from their children and go to a movie together or a sports bar. He said it helps to make him feel connected to the adult and business world.
I inquired about his meal planning. I expected him to say it would be fish sticks and hotdogs. Boy was I wrong, he told me cooks like a free spirit. He tries a little bit of everything, using fresh ingredients much of time. He likes, “Cooking Lite,” magazine, and will spend up to two hours fixing nutritious meals. He makes sure his daughter eats healthy. He spends around $50.00 to $75.00 a week on fruit alone. He pretty much sticks by the rule, no fast food, with one exception. Once in a great while he will take his daughter to Chick Filet. I am beginning to think he is a better parent than I ever was.
I asked him about his future once the children are in school. He said he will either get a job or go back to school. I started thinking, “I wonder if he will be too old for the job market then”, but I caught myself; I believe a person is never too old to start a new adventure….that goes for my son and myself as well.
We finished our interview by talking a little bit more about his daughter, my grandchild, and I saw the love flood in his eyes. I knew then I was proud to say, “My son is a SAHD.”
To find out about Oklahoma stay-at-home dads follow this link, http://www.tulsadads.com/
To look at what the Dallas Dads are doing go to: www.dallasdads.org
To find out about the Belgium STUDS go to: http://belgiumstuds.be/