One such moment for me was when I met Gary McVey.
In January of 2004 I was beginning my second year as an at-home dad in Kansas City and I had begun to feel confident enough to venture beyond our home with our 18-month old daughter. I had her enrolled in a “Mom’s Day Out” program once a week (I didn’t like the title of the program either, but that’s a story for another post) and in a program called “Parents As Teachers” where a “Parent Educator” came into our home to help teach me how and what I could teach our daughter.
I met Gary briefly at the Mom’s Day Out because his son, Jackson, was in the same class as our daughter. I was surprised to see another at-home dad (I didn’t know any others existed) but he and I didn’t have much opportunity to chat dropping off or picking up our kids in the chaos that comes with 1 and 2 year olds who are tired and hungry.
Then, in January, I decided to attend one of the weekly community playgroups that the Parents As Teachers organization held at the elementary school near our home. When I arrived that first time, Gary happened to be there too!
Naturally he and I struck up a conversation since we were clear outsiders in a sea of moms. Gary, unlike me, was a veteran at-home dad. He had been at-home since his oldest, at the time in Kindergarten, was born. He appeared confident and happy with his role. And he knew other at-home dads.
What? We weren’t the only ones?
He explained to me while our kids fast became friends that he was involved in a group of Kansas City At-Home Dads that called their group “KCDADS.” They met each Monday for playgroups at 11am rotating each week between the north side of the KC Metro and the south side where we lived. Also, he informed me that they met for beers once a month for something he called “Dad’s Night Out.”
I had been wondering if there were other at-home dads out there and I was excited to learn that there were. But what kind of guys were these? I was about to find out.
Gary invited me to the next Dad’s Night Out which happened to be later that week so I could meet some of the other guys and decide if I wanted to join the group. When I told my wife about it, she was very supportive and, I now know, relieved that I may have some friends for the first time in two years.
Later that week, Gary came and picked me up in his wife’s immaculately clean car. We then picked up two other at-home dads, Mike Sinkule and Eric Parry (who’s wife would soon become my wife’s OBGYN and deliver our 2nd child). We met up with 5 other at-home dads: Bob Harte, Andy Ferguson, Andy North and Steve Lundy.
For most of the evening I sat, drank and listened to them talk about their kids, sports, politics and other manly stuff. They laughed, chided each other and clearly loved being at-home dads. Before I left with Gary, Mike and Eric, they all encouraged me to come to playgroup the following Monday.
I did and made weekly playgroups and monthly dad’s night outs a regular thing. It saved my life.
If I hadn’t met Gary, I may not have remained as an at-home dad for more than a few years and I am sure I would not have been able to feel comfortable having four kids. My marriage would have suffered. My life would not have become as wonderful as it has become.
I developed great friendships with Gary and the other KCDADs. I learned from their experiences and gained confidence as a dad. My wife especially noticed that I became happier and more satisfied in my role.
So, if you are struggling as an at-home dad, don’t do it alone. Find other at-home dads near you; they are out there! Go to our website at www.daddyshome.org and find an at-home dad group near you or start your own.
It just might save your life.