Peek Into One Stay-at-Home Dad's Life

I got an e-mail from Max, a Milwaukee stay-at-home dad of two-year-old twin girls. This view of one dad's life was so interesting, I thought it should be a guest blog on its own. Here you go:

I didn't imagine being a stay-at-home dad, so there was a certain mental obstacle to overcome. My father was the "traditional" head of the household and always worked at the same job when I was growing up. I sort of expected that would be the case for myself.

In 2002 I finished my MBA and was ready to be the big breadwinner. My girls were born one month after I was laid off in 2003. Not being able to find a job so my wife could stay at home was painful. I felt I was letting everybody down.

My wife was able to take six months off after the girls were born. Since I still hadn't found a job, it made sense to stay home while my wife went back to work. It was a hard decision but my wife was incredibly supportive. I couldn't be a great stay-at-home dad if it wasn't for her backing me up.

We share household chores. We both clean and do the laundry. I am sure I could do a better job with the housework and do more chores, but the fact is my wife is a better clothes folder and I am a better cook. As a team, we focus on our specialties. I do a lot of the grocery shopping and almost all of the cooking. I do all the heavy lifting. I also make her lunch.

I am sure my involvement is shaped by the fact that I am a stay-at-home dad. I prepare the girls' meals. I get them dressed. I change diapers and work on their potty training. I read them books and take them on outings. I think up little crafts with pipe cleaners and glitter glue. It isn't anything different than what a stay-at-home mom would do. I remember one friend showing me this electronic gizmo where you insert a story cartridge in it and it reads a book to your child. He thought it was great. I just thought wouldn't you want to read the story to your child? Wouldn't reading the story yourself benefit both the parent and the child?

Parenthood is far better than I expected. Every day something wonderful happens--something my girls say, or do, or learn, or experience. I marvel at life and in watching my girls go from babies to little people with personalities and ideas.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 28, 2006; 9:13 AM ET  | Category:  Dads
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My husband, who had an Ivy League MBA and whose work as an international consultant required him to travel 80% of the time, became a SAHD to care for one of our children during medical treatments. Like the poster, after getting past the initial hump of his new world, found it to be a wonderful experience. When he went back to work the next year, he made a point of finding a job that would allow him to be home with our kids several evenings a week. His relationship with our children is far richer for his time as a SAHD.

As the parent who has always worked f/t, I'm jealous of the special bond they share from their time together. It has spurred me to cut back my work schedule a bit to spend one day a week home with them.

Posted by: HollyP | March 28, 2006 9:26 AM

While my husband was at home with the kids and I was the sole breadwinner, I did find myself growing more distant from our children. I worked more late nights, and handed the thorny problems off to my husband. For this reason I think our current arrangement of both working and sharing responsibility for our kids is best for us. It requires us to be a tight-knit family with each parent sharing equally-strong bonds with the children.

Posted by: HollyP | March 28, 2006 9:30 AM

Stay at home dads. You lucky dogs. I would just love to kick back at home and raise kids, but my wife wouldn't have it. I'm not even allowed to think about it. Then I ask her what we would do if I got fired, like because my boss found out I was sluffing off at work and spending too much time blogging. I don't have a degree. I put her through George Mason to become a registered nurse, but if she went to work full-time while I enjoyed the easy life, in her mind it would be unfair!

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 28, 2006 9:31 AM

gosh, max, that sounds swell. i can almost hear the bluebirds chirping in the sunshine.

as a sahd myself, i think it's safe to say that my parenting experience has not been quite as idyllic.

by all accounts, my two children are "great, intelligent, sweet," but there are days when i'd love to hand the reins over to my wife or a nanny or somebody.

i spent years as a senior creative in advertising, but since relocating to seattle, i've been unable to get back into an agency.

so i freelance, i play mr. mom, and i think i'm a fairly competent parent. but unlike max, not every day is wonderful and marvelous and glitter glue.

some days i just want to escape to a nice quiet office, have some coffee in peace, and deal with unreasonable clients.

Posted by: spaceneedl | March 28, 2006 10:18 AM

Being a stay at home parent does not consist of "kicking back" for an "easy life". Try it.

It can be rewarding and fulfilling, but it can also be frustrating and isolating. Imagine spending days without any adult conversation, or without any same gender conversation (pretty hard to discuss the Final Four with the other mommies at playgroup!). Get used to being on call. Get used to cleaning up some pretty vile messes. Get used to changing plans instantly. Prepare to deal with feelings of resentment of and from your spouse.

OTOH you will share moments with your child that will influence your relationship for life. My daughter is 21 and about to graduate from college, but the two years I spent at home with her pre-K are still helping us to love and understand each other.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 28, 2006 10:22 AM

My husband had more child care experience being oldest of 6 kids and I had better benefits and pay, so 15 years ago we opted for him to quit his job and stay at home as we raised our family. He did a wonderful job, still does, butnow that the kids are older he is looking for a job with no luck, and he's not being choosy. It is hard enough for stay at home parents to return to the workforce, but potential employers do not seem to understand when a man does it.

Posted by: milwaukee mom | March 28, 2006 10:26 AM

Father of four -- your attitudes seem like they are from a different century... What do you think about women being allowed to read, vote and drive cars???

Posted by: Stay At Home Man | March 28, 2006 10:28 AM

I'm jeolous. I would love to be a SAHD. But here is the next logical step for the dad in this blog. Homeschooling. I would just love to see that be a natural step for most folks. My son is being homsechooled by my wife. I just wish I could trade places as I'd love to teach my son. He learns just like I do, and we understand each other. And I know parenting is not all warm and fuzzy. My son has his moments, but I'd rather me be there dealing with him during his moments than a teacher who has no clue how to deal with him because she has 29 other screaming kids to deal with. Anyway, kudos to SAHD's, maybe some day I'll join you! :)

Posted by: RobertG | March 28, 2006 10:33 AM

Pay no mind to Father of 4. He just likes to rile us up.

My husband is a stay at home dad, and frankly, I think he has the harder job. Our children are in school now, so he also takes a couple of classes and freelances once in a while, but he does all this from home. He does the lion's share of the home duties, but I cook (because I'm a much better cook than he is) and do laundry. He cleans and shops and runs errands and fixes things and tends to the kids. I do think that the fact that he is so involved makes his relationship with the kids and me more rich and satisfying for all of us. We are all very close, because we all work together as a team. I love to see him with the kids. I have friends who are SAHMs with husbands who have very demanding jobs, and they often complain of feeling isolated and alone while their husbands work long hours and travel. Yes, maybe they have more discretionary time than I do, but I would not change my situation for the world.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 28, 2006 10:42 AM

Just had to comment on the homeschooling comment from RobertG: homeschooling is not the logical step for everyone. It certainly works for small minority who do it, but in a country of 280 million it would be a disaster if everyone did it. Academic standards, social skills, group activities, etc. are so vital to being successful in our busy technical world, and many homsechooled kids suffer in those areas when brought back into the mainstream.

I am a teacher who took time off/worked half-time to spend the first 2 years with my daughter, but there is no way I'd homeschool her myself, There are two main reasons why: 1.) because she is an only child and needs those social skills mentioned above; and, 2.) because parents and children have their own special dynamic which I have found to conflict with the act of teaching. My daughter needs to develop dynamic relationships with other adults whether it's academics, sports, music, etc. I believe she responds better to a new/different face and that allows us to take the role of supporters, encouragers, and to fill in the blanks on the really important stuff like spirituality/morals, behavior management, and goal-setting. Just my $.02.

For what it's worth, I loved being home with my young child as much as her mother was! We split the duties in our household 50/50, and though we have different tasks, they aren't necessarily split along traditional gender lines. We both work about 75% which means we both get time alone with our child, and we all get time together as well. It works well, and I feel very fortunate. Kudos to all families that make their system work no matter what that system is - there is no more important job than raising a child!

Posted by: do it all dad | March 28, 2006 11:13 AM

I "retired" three years ago when, daily, my wife and I were wrestling with who could get off work in time to pick up the kids at daycare before 6pm. Seems like we had three kids just so we could feed them dinner and put them to bed. We were fortunate that we could pay the rent with just one job. Her's was quite a bit better paying, so I'm the home guy. There's pluses and minuses, but I don't think very many people find it that strange anymore. OBTW, while the pressure is way, way less, the dad's I know who lament "how easy you've got it" and "do you play golf every day" are usually the ones who feign deafness or ignorance when it comes to all things child-rearing. I've never heard a women say it or anything like it. While play groups and such were/are awkward/non-existent, SAHD's have a built-in advantage in communicating with kids: our rarity in day time activities. The kids all come up to play or talk to the only male around.

Posted by: SAHD in Annandale | March 28, 2006 11:59 AM

I have been a SAHD for 14 years. I recently asked my son (now 18) if he was unhappy about his dad being home instead of working. He said "No, of course not, You have always been here for me and my sister. I've loved being able to spend time with you and knowing that you would be there when I came home from school". I cannot put into words how much that meant to me.
Being a stay at home dad was incredibly lonely. It was almost like a sentence to solitary confinement - at least it was ten years ago. Men do not have the support system that stay at home moms have. I was tolerated but not welcome at the playground. I was not invited to lunch, or moms day out. I had a new baby and a 4 year old in a new city ( the reason for my new status, my wife had been transferred.)
I regret that I could not continue working, but i do not regret the time I have been able to spend with my children.My wife attributes some of the success with her carreer to having a husband at home, taking care of the children and the house.
Now the kids are older. My son helps taxi my daughter to her activities. I play a lot of golf and enjkoy meeting other adults at the golf course. Life is good and I have few regrets.I'd like to think I have been a good father, but if they end up in therapy it will at least be for different reasons than if they had been raised by a mom.

Posted by: Mike Montgomery | March 28, 2006 12:09 PM

Growing up as a child, I always saw men as the more angry, aggressive gender. When I went to San Fransisco on my honeymoon 15 years ago, I noticed a complete reverse in gender attitudes; I saw several instances where the female blew up at the person behind the counter or they were just plain rude to others for petty reasons. The men, on the other hand were all pleasant and gentle. I just assumed it was a local San Fransisco thing. Now I am witnessing the San Fransisco attitude reversal moving into the DC area. I've lived in the Northern Virginia suburbs all my life and made a few observations:
1. Dads are participating more in the child-rearing responsibilities.
2. More women are choosing work over raising kids.
3. Dads are much happier than they ever were.
4. Only home schoolers have more than 3 kids.
5. Women seem more stressed than ever before and most have lost what I call a gentle spirit. I think they even smoke more than men nowadays.
I just wunder if my observations are skewed, or maybe there is a correlation?
As for women getting driver's licenses, I can hardly wait till my daughter gets hers!

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 28, 2006 12:13 PM

I think the interesting thing about Max's piece is that if you reversed the gender, and it was about a SAHM's experience, most of us would find it charming but probably wouldn't have made it onto this blog!

Putting it here was a nice way to bring dads/men to this blog (all the other blog posts are predominantly by women). So now we know men are reading this column too.

Posted by: beentheredonethat | March 28, 2006 12:15 PM

ps I just read father o 4's post, and I think his observations ARE husband and I have 5 children and we would never homeschool them (and we're not alone)...many women choose to work, but many women work not by choice (same for dads too)...working doesn't preclude raising kids...I don't know how to assess whether dads are happier now than before....your comment on women and their "gentle Spirit", etc. doesn't deserve a comment back!

Posted by: beentheredonethat | March 28, 2006 12:22 PM

Great conversation, I appreciate all of the views here.

I;m considering going the route of SAHD for many of the reasons that others have highlighted. Were there any books/websites/magazines/ other resources that SAHD's have found useful or wish existed? thanks in advance

Posted by: northern cal dad | March 28, 2006 1:27 PM

Do it all dad, you just listed the reasons I DO homeschool my kids: academic standards, social skills, and group activities.

Posted by: Oakland | March 28, 2006 2:01 PM

beentheredonethat wrote: "I think the interesting thing about Max's piece is that if you reversed the gender, and it was about a SAHM's experience, most of us would find it charming but unremarkable..."

I think lots of people would have found it remarkable. They would have asked how this woman's children were ever going to succeed in a social setting, what kind of example she was setting for them, what she planned to do if her husband lost his job or divorced her, and what she thought she was contributing to the world besides clean laundry.

But there seems to be no end to the number of mean things people can find to say about mothers, wherever they work. I'd propose that:

1. All people need some interesting work to do, and some leisure time to spend with their families. It is possible for a parent to fulfill these needs whether or not he or she works outside the home.
2. All children need some time to interact with friends and non-family adults, and some time to interact with just family. It is possible to fulfill these needs for a child whether or not he or she attends school or daycare. I don't know of any stay-at-home parents who actually stay inside the house all day, or any working parents who leave their kids in daycare overnight.

I think when people get upset and defensive it's mostly misdirected anger. We should be angry at employers for pushing the workweek for professionals to 50 and 60 hours a week. We should be angry at employers for cutting pensions and benefits for wage earners, and for not paying them a living wage in exchange for a full workweek. We should be angry that most employers neither provide on-site day care nor compensate their employees well enough that their employees can afford to pay for good care. We should be angry at political leaders for failing to provide Americans with a better safety net if they lose or can't get employer-sponsored health insurance. We -- dads, moms, and anyone who wants a decent future for our country -- should redirect our anger and our efforts to where they could do some good.

Posted by: Gloria | March 28, 2006 2:25 PM

My biggest problem is that when men quit work or for whatever reason decide to be a stay-at-home parent, everyone thinks it's all noble and advanced, and what a wonderful man for sacrificing his career for his children. When a woman does the same thing, it generates blogs like this and books like Mommy Wars and working moms vs. at home moms. Such a double standard.

Posted by: Hats 'n' Horns | March 28, 2006 2:59 PM

Agree with Gloria. Large part of the problem is that work is TOO demanding, takes TOO much time and doesn't allow you "enough" time with your kids. Enjoy staying home with the kids and wouldn't miss it for the world.

Posted by: Bogota SAHD | March 28, 2006 3:00 PM

I think Gloria's post is the most insightful and well written one this blog has ever had.

Posted by: SarahZ | March 28, 2006 3:03 PM

For those of you who are new to this blog, be warned, "Father of 4" is only looking for a fight. Please don't take the bait. He's just looking to stroke his own ego by insulting random bloggers. He hasn't achieved what he would've liked to with his life and is simply taking his anger with himself out on others. It's apparent that he has an unfulfilling job (otherwise why would he be spending so much time on this blog?), and dreams of living the easy life. Really we should feel sorry for him.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 28, 2006 3:29 PM

do it all dad:

"1.) because she is an only child and needs those social skills mentioned above; and, 2.) because parents and children have their own special dynamic which I have found to conflict with the act of teaching."

My son is an only child (for now), and he is getting plenty of social skills. Why is it that when someone mentions homeschooling, everyone automatically assumes that there is no socialization? It's quite the opposite. My son has many playgroups and friends he spends time with.

I'm sorry to hear you say #2 above. I frimly disagree with you on this matter. It is perfectly natural for a parent to teach a child anything. Isn't that what parenting is supposed to be about?

You also mention sending children to school to fend for themselves in this busy technical world. I'd rather not set my son up to be a "busy technical" worker, but rather a leader of some kind, or whatever he wants. I do not want him to be caught in the rat race. And I agree with Oakland; Academic standards, social skills, and group activities, are the very reasons we (my wife and I) are homeschooling my child. In fact, most major colleges prefer homeschooled kids to public because the homeschooled kids want to learn rather than being forced to learn. That's my .02 anyway.

Posted by: RobertG | March 28, 2006 3:42 PM

Sorry "Father of 4", don't mean to rip on you. I just call it as I see it.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 28, 2006 3:44 PM

Amen, Gloria!

Posted by: Catherine | March 28, 2006 3:46 PM

Robert G, just curious -- how did you learn that most major colleges prefer homeschooled kids?

Posted by: Cadence | March 28, 2006 3:57 PM

"We should be angry that most employers neither provide on-site day care nor compensate their employees well enough that their employees can afford to pay for good care."

Even with the on-side day care at my wife's office, we pay roughly $25,000 per year for our two kids.

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 28, 2006 4:05 PM

Oops, make that on-site (not, on-side) day care.

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 28, 2006 4:06 PM

Gloria, I think you misinterpreted what I meant by that statement--I'm in complete agreement with you that what a SAH parent does is most remarkable and important. My point was, as Hats'n'Horns said, that (sadly) in this society a SAHD is considered to be special--more special than a SAHM, because he is a rarer thing. No value judgment there, that is just how things are right now at this point in history. Otherwise I completely agree with you!

Posted by: beentheredonethat | March 28, 2006 4:07 PM

It is difficult to absorb the fact that you are at home and your wife is at work. However, there are alot of fathers that would Love to spend quality time with their children. Take advantage of it.... When you get back to work, you will miss those special moments!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 28, 2006 4:16 PM

Does anyone wonder why all the mom's have jobs and the dad's don't? Most of this is discrimination against white men in the workplace. A fear of lawsuits from vicious lawyers and scared-as-heck big business. I hate to be chauvanistic but I think God gave women wombs for the purpose of remaining with their children more than their dads. I think 50 years ago we had better lives and children were raised better by women. Men are not prepared to 'raise' children as well- they have neither the patience or the momther-child intuition required. Women are now having affairs at work and the children are being raised by tv sets and video games after their parents divorce. What a mess. Why not have a world where women just don't start families until and unless they are willing to be mothers. And the moderator here, you are certain not going to publish this insight! At least think asbout it tonight at home. You know I'm right.

Posted by: Bob Tweedy, Sioux City, Iowa | March 28, 2006 4:19 PM

I wish my wife was able to earn enough money for me to be a stay at home dad....especially now that two of the three kids are in elementary school all day. I could be playing golf every other morning while she is at work. Instead, my wife goes to Target and/or Costco every other day while I am at work. I get to see all the junk when I get home.....Like my dad said when I was a little kid and asked him why mommy goes to KMart every day and buys a few bags of stuff, he replied, "It's cheaper than a shrink."


Posted by: Paul | March 28, 2006 4:21 PM

I would like to agree with you, BUT:
1. Anger is an emotion that will motivate a person to act on an issue. It has a enormously detrimental effect when one uses it to further their cause.
2. I think the government and employers have done a great job in helping out working parents. Not only with tax cuts, but with work from home policies. I have 1 brother, 2 brother-in-laws, 1 sister-in-law, and my very next door neighbor that work from home full time.
3. be careful for what you ask for, look what's happening in France.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 28, 2006 4:21 PM

Bob, your comment that women naturally have more patience than men made me giggle. Assumin that your gross generalization is true (it ain't), patience, or the lack thereof, can be a learned trait. If we expected men to have more patience, they would.

And I ocntinue to be amused that some people think that possession of a uterus somehow conveys magical parenting powers.

Posted by: NewSAHM | March 28, 2006 4:42 PM

RobertG, I certainly am not looking for an argument and thought I made clear that "homeschooling works for the minority who do it." I stand by my statement that "it is not the logical next step for everyone."

I hope you work with your child on "communications" especially, because you completely misinterpreted my post. Just as I realize that homeschooling works for some, I hope you realize that it does not work for everyone. Unfortunately, my experiences indicate that people who homeschool cannot fathom that there are other ways to educate their/our children. Every child is different, learns differently, has different skill sets - just because you believe in homeschooling does not mean it's the best method, possibly not even for your own child. Then again, they might thrive on it.

You said: "I'm sorry to hear you say #2 above. I frimly disagree with you on this matter. It is perfectly natural for a parent to teach a child anything. Isn't that what parenting is supposed to be about?"

Again, I do not subscribe to the "one size fits all" theory and am glad it works for you. In many relationships (both adult/adult and adult/child), the dynamics can lead to stalemates. Hearing the same message from the same person over and over again can lead to tuning them out, resentment, or boredom. In my situation (and mine only - just to be clear), I find my daughter a more attentive learner/listener when our "lessons" are well-spaced, broken up by other events. We have no extended family nearby so it's of supreme importance that she knows who to trust and listen to and when. Her K teacher is responsible for teaching certain educational skills, her dance teacher is responsible for teaching dance, her french teacher is responsible for teaching her french, etc. We, the lucky parents, get to fill in the blanks: supporting her newly found reading and number skills, teaching her how to ride a bike, showing her how to plant and nurture a garden, answering those important BIG questions that I know she probably won't ask in class (and for which I'd rather have her asking us anyways). If she only got all of the above from me she would not be as attentive when we do have these "educational moments." Most importantly, IN MY OPINION, is that she understands how to act in all of these different social settings, knows that she can't always expect things to go exactly as she wants, and that compromise and understanding are requisites to making her way in the world. FOR US, this is the method that works best.

I honestly don't have any idea whether she'll turn out to be a "leader," a waitress, an artist, or whatever it may be, nor do I care...I just want her to be happy. As long as she has the ability to respect herself and think for herself she'll figure it out. How "we" get to those ends may be different then the way you do, but they will hopefully both work. Isn't that the goal?

Posted by: do it all dad | March 28, 2006 4:44 PM

Why is it that it is our employer's responsibility to provide quality day care? And, as for the government, when has it ever provided something cheaply and efficiently (govt.employees please hold your fire -I also work for a fed agency)? The same people who are decrying costs of childcare also want social security and all sorts of other entitlements. I want my kids to have the best, like just about anyone I know. I just don't know that expecting other people to provide it will get the job done.

Posted by: Joyce | March 28, 2006 4:47 PM

Why do some people here find it necessary to harp on people who have made decisions that work well for them?

Everyone is different; accept it.

Posted by: Come on now | March 28, 2006 4:47 PM

To: do it all dad who said:

"It certainly works for small minority who do it, but in a country of 280 million it would be a disaster if everyone did it. Academic standards, social skills, group activities, etc. are so vital to being successful in our busy technical world, and many homsechooled kids suffer in those areas when brought back into the mainstream."

We homeschooled all 3 of our kids through 8 years AND know many families who've done the same thing. NONE I repeat NONE of them have had any trouble adjusting to life into the "mainstream" z'a matter of fact I say they fare better socially and academically than those that have spent their entire academic life in "school". You don't homeschool in a vacuum... we even have PCs at home now, and do many activities in groups, so they do not suffer "socially"... Again z'a matter of fact they more adept at handling difficult relationships. Of my 3 kids, my oldest just graduated from high school magna cum laude, and is doing equally well in college. The other 2 are maintaining 3.7 and 3.8 cumulative averages.... much better than their cousins who've spent their time in the public school system. My take is maybe in this country of 280 million people is that if we homeschooled all of 'em maybe we wouldn't fare so poorly when compared against the system in many foreign countries. Oh!! and by the way, personally it was no picnic and we did it at great financial strain on top of it!! Ge'chur facts straight before you hit the keyboard.


Homeschooling!!?? would do it again in a heartbeat!!!

Posted by: Joe | March 28, 2006 4:48 PM

homeschooling, cont'd

And btw, maybe we wouldn't have so many discipline problems, in addition to sex, drugs and alcohol abuse!!

Posted by: Joe | March 28, 2006 4:54 PM

"Why not have a world where women just don't start families until and unless they are willing to be mothers."

Bob Tweedy

Um, takes two to tango. Why not help families have more options than the "Father Knows Best" you describe? Mother-child intuition? Men don't have the patience for child-rearing? God gave women wombs for the purpose of remaining with their children? No, they have womds for the purpose of *bearing* children. Where did all this come from? Please provide the research citation, I'd love to examine it further.

And what do affairs have to do with the price of tea in England? Again, takes two. Or are men innocent in such interactions?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 28, 2006 4:55 PM

Yes RobertG, where did you get the information that more major colleges prefer homeschooled students?

Posted by: MajorUniversityAdmissionOfficer | March 28, 2006 4:59 PM

Re homeschooling, we homeschool and it's been my experience that those who protest or think they couldn't possibly do it, don't actually understand how it works. I know not everyone's going to homeschool, but it's hard not to protest when people insist that we're some weird, rare group of birds when we know their perceptions are based on erroneous ideas. As for how we know that colleges prefer homeschoolers, we know because they recruit our kids. Many top schools actually have an admissions person dedicated to working with homeschooled kids. Homeschool kids consistantly score well above their peers on standardized tests and are less likely to need remedial classes in college. They are also more likely to be accustomed to being self-motivated and working on their own so the freedom of college isn't much of a shock for them.
One of the things which I think misleads people about homeschooled kids is that they do develop and mature differently. They are usually allowed to mature at a slower, more natural pace and often aren't as savy about the manipulations and dysfunction which goes on between kids in most schools these days. So they sometimes seem less socially adept, at younger ages, but by the time they're in high school, they're as mature as their peers, but don't carry the baggage many kids pick up during their elementary years. Also, they are often allowed to advance at their own rate and so may be very advanced in one subject but lagging behind in another. So if you take a kid who's been homeschooled and put them into an sixth grade classroom, they will probably stand out. However, by the time they reach their later teen years their weaker areas have caught up and they're still more advanced in their strong areas. Plus, they are usually much more functional, independant and well-adjusted than their peers. Studies have found that young adults who were homeschooled do better in college, are much, much more socially and civically active and are more politically savy than their peers.
I find it amusing that everyone has a story about the mal-adjusted homeschooler or the depressed SAHM, but when researchers actually examine reality, homeschooled kids end up being more productive and better adjusted than others and SAHM's are happier than working moms. There seems to be a real disconnect between what people percieve and what is actually going on.

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 28, 2006 5:17 PM

What administrators at some top colleges have to say about homeschoolers:

Dartmouth College admission officer: "The applications [from homeschoolers] I've come across are outstanding. Homeschoolers have a distinct advantage because of the individualized instruction they have received."
Admission officers at Stanford University think they are seeing an unusually high occurrence of a key ingredient, which they term "intellectual vitality," in homeschool graduates (Foster, 2000). They link it to the practice of self-teaching prevalent in these young people, as a result of their homeschool environment.
"These kids are the epitome of Brown students," says Joyce Reed, who became an associate dean of the college twelve years ago. "They've learned to be self-directed, they take risks, they face challenges with total fervor, and they don't back off" (Sutton, 2002).

Hope you don't mind me pre-empting you, Robert G

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 28, 2006 5:37 PM

Rebecca said: As for how we know that colleges prefer homeschoolers, we know because they recruit our kids. Many top schools actually have an admissions person dedicated to working with homeschooled kids.

Um, they recruit other kids too. The fact that they recruit your kids doesn't distinguish them from other kids; it doesn't mean they PREFER home-schooled kids. And, because they can't recruit them in schools, they have to have another means, which probably implies another staff member who is responsible for working w/ families who home school their kids, because other people in the admissions office are busy going to schools, talking to school counselors, and doing whatever else admissions officers do.

Re comparisons between home-schooled kids and kids who go to school, I would want to see more than the assertions of a parent who has chosen to home-school her kids. Home-schoolers are, by definition, different on some dimensions than other parents because they make a choice that is statistically unusual. Moreover, home-schooling varies a great deal depending on who is doing it and for what reasons. Given the self-selection of home-schoolers and the variation in what home-schooling consists of, I would want to see a very careful report before accepting any conclusions about costs and benefits.

That's not to say I think it's bad---just that any simple assertions about how good it is or isn't are likely to be easily disprovable. Such statements need to be highly qualified, taking into account the attributes of the parents, students, and what the home-schooling consists of.

Posted by: THS | March 28, 2006 5:41 PM

When my wife and I were planning to have a baby we talked about what would she would do after her "6 weeks" were up. She wanted to stay at home. I wanted her to work given the high costs in this area. When she got pregnant, she said she only wanted to stay at home for just a year before going back to work. Not that I could control her otherwise, I was comfortable with the arrangement. I switched to a higher paying job but left one year before vestment with my former employer. I'm now working more hours then I used to.

Since she's been at home, I'm comforted knowing that our beautiful child is receiving expert care from her own mom and not in daycare. So much so, I'd be ok if she wanted to continue on at home.

Ironicly, she has become stir crazy and now can't wait to get back to work so she has another outlet. She's so unhappy with me and not pitching in more a divorce is even possible.

For her, it's not enough for me to work to provide during the week and work fixing the house on the weekends. She needs more. I now know, everyone's different and whatever works for you is ok. Just as long as the two parts of a couple communicate with each other and make sure they have each other's attention before it's too late.

Posted by: Can't Win | March 28, 2006 5:45 PM

Who says men don't have the patience or intuition for child-rearing?
Let me say right off the bat that I, myself, am not a parent. I am currently a graduate student and have spent the last 8 years working my way through school as a nanny for various DC families.
What I have seen from not only these families, but from MANY others in the community (and beyond), is that the fathers are in possession of every instinct necessary for their job as a parent. Like mothers, they want their children to be happy, protected, and offered the best experiences possible in life. Being male doesn't prevent fathers from loving their children as much as their wives do. So why on earth would they allow themselves to be any less successful in the raising of their own children? If you don't believe me, go to any park or school in the city and see for yourself. Heck, ask the moms! The dads are doing a fantastic job.
Like any other job, you get as much out of parenting as you put into it- and gender has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: observer | March 28, 2006 5:50 PM

Dear Can't Win:

Sounds like you are in a tough spot. When you say your wife needs more from you than the full-time work at your office and the weekend work you are doing at home, what you may be hearing is that she feels isolated and left with drudgery, whereas, from her perspective, you are doing things that are interesting, take you out into the world of adults, and show obvious results---which is more true of work on houses than housework.

I really think people are too reluctant to consider child care or to assume that care by a full-time parent is best. It's not best if your wife feels isolated and depressed. Clearly, the quality varies tremendously, it can be hard to find a good situation, and the cost is high. But if a workable arrangement can be created, being with other people can be great for kids. I've known kids who have been cared for in in-home child care settings and in larger (but still not large) daycare centers, and they love the people who take care of them, and those people love them. You might find that your child is just as well off and that things are easier between you and your wife if she had more of a life of her own. It might not turn out that way, but, if things aren't going well now, it might be worth a try.

My best wishes to you.

Posted by: THS | March 28, 2006 6:02 PM

My husband and I have recently switched roles, with me going back to work full time and him staying home with our 17 month old. I have to say, I agree with the person who remarked on how much easier it is to go to the office some days - being able to eat, take a break, or go to the bathroom whenever you want without someone else clinging to your leg is a relief. But I miss the rewards of being home; both roles have their advantages and disadvantages.

Anyway, I know my husband is feeling some of the isolation of being home all day, and would like to repeat the question that someone else posted: what resources have other, happy SAHD's found most helpful in making the transition?

Posted by: Megan | March 28, 2006 6:06 PM

Actually, it's not just my assertion, there's plenty of research (along with what I find to be encouraging quotes from Ivy League administrators posted above) which backs up the idea that homeschooled kids do well, an average and are considered desirable by colleges. There's a summary of the research you can look at here:

For example, numerous studies have found that homeschooled kids score much higher on standardized tests, without regard to parent education levels or income. Both the SAT and ACT folks have been reporting for years that on average homeschooled kids get higher than average scores. There's plenty of evidence out there. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of misconceptions and ill-informed assumptions as well.

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 28, 2006 6:07 PM

Can't Win:

I'm really sorry to hear you and your wife's difficulties. If it's any consolation, our most difficult time was the 1-2 year-old stage with our first child. The thing that helped the most was a real strengthening of my wife's support group -- meeting with other professional women in the same situation [if to do nothing else than complain about me and the other husbands].

The other big thing that helped was that we sat down and looked at the 'chores' and what we both brought in terms of expectations. I learned that she wanted me to cook more often [well, not so much cook as grill -- which I do enjoy] -- it helped her out tremendously and so I stepped up to doing it. She also found I was happy to carry laundery and sort it, but that I couldn't fold it well to save my life. While it wasn't something she enjoyed, she saw how much easier it made my life is she picked up that task and was willing to do it.

We also discovered a lot of the things that we thought needed to be done could be slipped, and we found that turning off the TV and talking was the best way to stay on the same page.

Good luck.

Posted by: A Dad | March 28, 2006 6:07 PM


A good friend and neighbor is a SAHD -- in our conversations some of the things he mentions are becoming active in playgroups when the kids are very young, and becoming involved in co-operative nursery schools [where you work in the classroom periodically] once they hit pre-school. Both help expand the support network.

I know that some chapters of the MOMS club also include SAHDs -- it's been a while so I don't know if that's a universal thing or not.

One of the biggest things is to increase the time you spend having 'grown up' conversation with him -- even if it's just what you did during the day or things in the news.

Good luck to you and your husband.

Posted by: A Dad | March 28, 2006 6:13 PM


The same journal also published:

where they note 35% of college admissions officers don't think home-schooled students do as well as students coming from high schools at adjusting socially to college.

[It's a pro-home school article -- my point is that it's difficult to make the argument that schools favor home schooled children.]

Posted by: Some Balance | March 28, 2006 6:28 PM

Can't Win, I'm sorry that you guys are having such a hard time. Perhaps if you could get away together for a weekend or something and try to talk and figure out what's up with her it would help. Also, you probably already know this, but you're going to have to resist the urge to try and "fix" or even address all her complaints - women hate that. She may well be complaining about you helping out around the house when what she's really saying is, "I'm overwhelmed and don't know how to cope." When you respond by trying to either fix the situation or defend yourself, it doesn't address her real issue and probably makes things worse. I know, we women are too complicated sometimes, but that seems to be the way it is. Also, understand that as a society we place so little value on raising kids and taking care of a home that she may be feeling insecure right now. Make sure you show that you respect what she does. For example, I find it very disrespectful when my husband leaves garbage on my clean counter- to me it's like if I went out and spent the money he earns frivolously and left our finances in shambles. It seems little, but little things matter. She probably isn't being fair to you, but she may need some extra support and listening right now. Try not to get too defensive and just listen to what she has to say and see if the two of you together can't figure out what's going on because I seriously doubt that taking out the garbage is serious enough by itself to threaten a marriage - it's what taking out the garbage represents to the 2 of you that's the real issue. Good luck!

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 28, 2006 6:34 PM

Some Balance:
Thanks for making my point! That means that 65% of college admissions officers don't hold that opinion. It's good to know that an assumption which too many people hold about kids they've had very little contact with isn't held by the vast majority of college admissions officials who have.

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 28, 2006 6:37 PM

Rebecca said: I seriously doubt that taking out the garbage is serious enough by itself to threaten a marriage - it's what taking out the garbage represents to the 2 of you that's the real issue.

You're so right!

Posted by: THS | March 28, 2006 6:38 PM


But from the article, 65% think there is no difference and 35% think home-schoolers do worse -- it's hard to count that in the 'win' column for the argument that college admission officers 'favor' home schooled children.

Posted by: A Dad | March 28, 2006 6:40 PM

Joyce, for my part, at least, I'm not so much pleading for government assistance as a refusal to accept inhumane, anti-family working conditions. A century ago, workers who went on strike for an eight-hour day, a living wage and reasonably safe working conditions were called communists and anarchists. Editorialists said they would destroy the American economy, and hired thugs and in some cases federal troops were brought in to break up their demonstrations. Well, you know the story. Eventually they won, and the American economy did not collapse.

Since then, though, we've started to let things slide. Here's a 2004 article from Business Week, (a publication that is hardly prone to communist ravings) on the working poor and how much worse blue-collar workers are faring now than they were in the 50s, 60s and 70s:

And here's one from Harvard Magazine on the middle class, which makes an excellent case that it's the higher price of necessities, not a craving for luxuries, that has made so many families dependent on two incomes:

I think it's incumbent on those of us who are doing comfortably and are happy with our choices to try to help those who don't have the kind of options they need. I'm not suggesting parents all go on strike, but that we mount some kind of resistance to corporate bullying. National Take Back Our Time Day is a concept I like. So are labor unions. (Yes, I know, Japanese and German companies are building cars in the South without unionized workers. But they were smart enough to offer their workers good wages and benefits to begin with, and they're reaping the benefits now. If only Detroit had been so prescient.) And I applaud workers everywhere, whether they are parents or not, who go home when it's quittin' time.

Posted by: Gloria | March 28, 2006 6:41 PM

To A Dad and Some Balance, actually, the article indicates that while only 35% though they would have a hard time socially, 49% thought they would do as well socially as their peers, the remaining 16% thought they would do better. So, the officials who thought they would do as well or better outnumber those who thought homeschool kids would have problems about 2 to 1. Not to mention that on every other measure, even more than 65% of respondents thought homeschool kids would do as well or better than their peers. Another study done in the midwest found "To the item, "The majority of homeschooled students are at least as socially well adjusted as are public schooled students," 44 percent agreed or strongly agreed, 3.5 percent responded "neither," and 21 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. Likewise, Irene Prue's (1997, 62) nationwide study of college admission personnel revealed that "... homeschoolers are academically, emotionally, and socially prepared to succeed in college."
The fact that 35% of admissions officers in the pacific west thought homeschooled kids would struggle socially, especially given the generally very positive results of studies of homeschooled kids, just isn't impressive.

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 28, 2006 6:56 PM

Or to put it another way, twice as many admissions folks believe that home schooled children will be below the norm than above the norm. Again, it's hard to see how this suggests they are 'favored'.

The evidence certainly suggests they perform on par with other students -- but the idea that admissions officers favor them is just not supported.

Posted by: Some Balance | March 28, 2006 7:02 PM

Regarding home schooling vs non-home schooling, I don't know why people feel so threatened by their decisions that they try so hard to convince others that their decision is the best. If the goal is to educate our children and there are multiple ways to achieve that, who really cares? If you want to home school, fine, then do it.

I personally have no interest in home schooling my children. I do believe that parents are teachers and I want to teach values; character; tolerance; joy and wonder in our world; self-reliance; independence; the ability to function in daily matters such as shopping, cooking, cleaning; caring for ourselves and others, etc. I am more than happy to leave the academic education to teachers in school with reinforcement and assistance at home.

I have a high school senior who is agonizing over the college process, test scores, applications, and all the craziness that comes with it. She has told different people which college she wants to attend and has been met with the full gamut of opinions - It's a good school, it's a party school, it's only for losers, great people went there. I am afraid that all the angst filters down from the adults who have such narrow minded opinions regarding the type of education their children receive and the importance of test scores.

I firmly believe that everyone has their own strengths and talents and how they use those in college and beyond is more important than whether or not they got in with the best test scores.

I admittedly know nothing about the details of home schooling because I had no interest in doing it myself and therefore never researched it :). So, for the home schooling experts, can you explain why home schooling stops after 8 years? I am really asking because I am curious and not trying to upset the apple cart. I am fine with your choice to home school just as I am fine with my choice not to. Thanks.

Posted by: bj | March 28, 2006 7:08 PM

Some Balance, you pick one isolated statistic about the perception (not even the reality) of a small group of admission officers and use it to discount a much larger pool of research which demonstrates that homeschoolers on average out perform their peers and are considered desirable candidates by colleges? That doesn't even make sense. Even the article you linked too notes that in every other measure (achedemic performance, number of classes they'll be able to handle, ability to finish course work on time, ect) many more expected homeschool students to perform better than expected them to perform worse. Oh well, facts have never been much of an influence on a determined ideologue.
BJ, I don't know what you mean by homeschooling only lasting 8 years. I do know that most kids can probably finish their education in 8 years while homeschooling, but it's not the norm or anything. I don't expect everyone to homeschool. However, as a homeschooler, it gets really irritating that there are so many people who feel they should be able to make insulting and factually innaccurate remarks like "academic standards, social skills, group activities, etc. are so vital to being successful in our busy technical world, and many homsechooled kids suffer in those areas when brought back into the mainstream." (The remark which kind of set this off.) Since we deal with so many people who think such things and have all sorts of completely off-base assumptions, we tend to be very well prepared to counter such ideas. It's not that we're trying to convince everyone that they too should homeschool. It's just that we aren't going to stand by silently while our choice is denegraded. People who homeschool by and large do a good job and their kids are sucessful and happy and we're well prepared to defend that fact.

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 28, 2006 7:21 PM

Leslie -

For the past few weeks I have looked forward to the blurbs on your blog, but the comments from your readers are making me question why I am tuning in. I thought that your book and the comments would offer different perspectives and insight on the work at home mother versus the stay at home mom and any other variations, but instead the comments are saturated by ignorant, judgmental, and close-minded readers who have failed completely in offering any type of insightful feedback or discussion topic. Thus, to save my sanity, I have chosen to discontinue reading this blog. Nice thought but unfortunately it seems that it has attracted the wrong kind of reader.

Posted by: MWK | March 28, 2006 7:28 PM


I'm not trying to argue against whether home schoolers do well or not. All of the evidence suggests they do fine.

The statement was made in this blog that admission officers *FAVOR* home school students. I pointed out that even in a very home-school friendly academic article it does not appear that admission officers *FAVOR* home school students -- in fact it is just the opposite [which the article points out is something that needs to change].

I'm not trying to make a case for or against home schooling -- it's a complex subject and many caveats on applicability. I'm certainly not opposed to it -- some of miy most respected friends have home schooled their children.

But the statement that admission officers *FAVOR* home school students has no basis in fact that I can find.

Posted by: Some Balance | March 28, 2006 7:30 PM

I once worked in the admissions office of a large reputable east coast university. Home-schooled kids weren't considered any more or less special than other kids, but they did require a little closer scrutiny, in order to get to know them and determine whether they would be a good fit for the school, and able to succeed.

In my present community, there are lots of homeschoolers, most of whom do fine although most of the young women end up pregnant before the age of 20 (not necessarily married).

Posted by: beentheredonethat | March 28, 2006 7:40 PM

Hello parents. It's me. I'm back. Actually I'm kicking back. My youngest daughter is practicing her violin, and my oldest daughter is next to me doing her homework. She just gave me a hug and said we never hug anymore, which isn't true, it's just an excuse to give Dad a hug. The boys are taking out the trash. I'm telling you, it's a wonderful life on the homefront! If the chores get done, we all get to watch American Idol, my favorite show and the only show I let my kids watch. I only wish my wife were here. she went to work. She hates going to work. Well, gotto go, baby boy wants a walk. No problem! Toodles!

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 28, 2006 7:42 PM

This home school tangent is amusing. It looks like the whole point of the article is that admissions officers have an unfairly negative view of home schooled students. It seems hard to argue that and at the same time argue that the home schooled students are favored by those same admissions officers.

Posted by: Looking In | March 28, 2006 7:43 PM

On Balance, Perhaps if it were you, you would not state things as strongly as that admissions officers favor homeschooled kids. However, I do think that the overall well documented generally positive view of admissions officials towards homeschool kids point to a very good reception for homeschooled kids. That combined with the fact that all schools favor those who score well on their SAT's and ACT's - something homeschoolers consistently do - seems to me to indicate, all anecdotal evidence aside, that colleges favor homeschool kids in general. Perhaps that's too strong a word for you, but I think it's safe to say that homeschool kids most certainly aren't at any sort of disadvantage when it comes to college admissions, contrary to what many assume.
beentheredonethat, you must live in a rather remarkable parrallel universe if "most" of the homeschooled young women in your community end up pregnant by age 20! Fortunately, in the rest of the USA, research has found that this most certainly isn't the case. Remind me to keep my daughter out of whatever odd dip in the galaxy you live in!

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 28, 2006 7:51 PM

Rebecca, I was referring to Joe's post where he mentioned 8 years of homeschooling prior to "mainstreaming"

Posted by: bj | March 28, 2006 7:54 PM


It's always nice when one can reach agreement on-line. And remember to the social scientist the plural of anecdote is data :-)

It's clear the home school movement is a growing phenomena -- it will be interesting to see if it continues to grow and creates a resurgence in SAHM/SAHD percentages.

Posted by: Some Balance | March 28, 2006 7:58 PM

More homeschooling anecdotes: In my old neighborhood I lived across the street from a homeschooled family of 7. I hardly ever saw them playing outside, but when they did they would shout rude things to passersby or create graffiti (one of them carved his name repeatedly in the drying cement of our sidewalk, even after I'd rubbed out his previous attempts). The other neighbors had plenty of stories about the trouble they got into.

In our new neighborhood there are 3 homeschooled kids on our street. They are so cheerful and have such incredibly good social skills-- resolving conflicts quickly, kind to children younger than them, respectful and friendly to adults -- that I'd homeschool my kids in a heartbeat if I knew they would turn out like that.

But that's just the point-- I can't be sure of that-- there's no magic recipe. Homeschooling is just like being a SAHM or a working Mom or anything else-- you can do it well or you can do it badly. You still have to find what works best for your family.

Posted by: Ms L | March 28, 2006 8:59 PM

Oops, a correction. Not 3 homeschooled kids, but 3 homeschooled FAMILIES. 7 kids from 3 families. Amazing kids, every one of them. Our neighbor even has a friendly, happy 14-year-old boy. Never thought I'd see that one. :)

Posted by: Ms L | March 28, 2006 9:40 PM

Just thought that it was a very well written article. Moving..almost.

Posted by: Sudarshan | March 28, 2006 9:42 PM

Just two more quick comments in case anyone's still reading about work-life stuff --

beentheredonethat: Sorry, I didn't mean to make my first post sound as though it was in opposition to yours -- more an elaboration. I got what you meant.

Can't Win: I'm sorry to hear you're having a tough time. Can I make what I think is a practical suggestion? Pick a Saturday (or a day you don't work) and tell your wife you're giving her the whole day off. She should go out and spend time with friends or at the movies or the coffee shop while you look after the baby. She should stay out for as long as you are gone during a normal work day. Care for your baby as your wife does (no fair calling a neighbor to babysit or parking the baby in front of the TV all day). At the end of the day, ask yourself: How does the house look? Did I get any laundry or chores done? Do I feel like making dinner and doing dishes right now? Am I more or less tired than after a day at work?

A male cousin of mine, who was in law school when his daughter was little, once said, "You're not fully a parent until you've spent eight hours alone with your kid." And I think he was right.

Posted by: Gloria | March 28, 2006 9:45 PM


Just wanted to say that I appreciated your observations re the need for changes in organizational and governmental practices and policies.

Getting late, so I won't say more now, but I think we could use some data here re what's being done to support families in different kinds of organizations in this country, as well as in other countries.

Posted by: THS | March 28, 2006 9:52 PM

It is just my opinion, but I think that if a lousy parent homeschools their kids, their kids are going to be as messed up or even more messed up than they would be if in school. However, if a good parent homeschools their kids, their kids are likely to benefit not only from the fact that they have good parents, but from the fact that some of the more negative and damaging aspects of our culture and too many schools aren't going to constantly be undermining their parent's best efforts. I really like the fact that my kids don't face pressures to grow up too quickly, get to interact with a wide range of people rather than being limited to kids their own age and know how to behave while moving about in the real world since that's where they spend their time. In the cases I've seen where homeschooling doesn't work, there have always been underlying problems in the family. When their kids returned to schools, the problems didn't go away - they just became a little easier to ignore since they weren't together all the time. So, there are families where homeschooling probably really is a bad idea. However, most reasonably happy families can probably pull it off just fine, if they want to.

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 28, 2006 10:24 PM

I've been a stay-at-home dad for 5+ years. When our kids were born, my wife made more money than I did, and had a more secure job. That, coupled with the fact that I had a much higher tolerance for noise, meant that I got the full-time parenting assignment.

Some quick observations for those men thinking of doing this:

1) Overall, I enjoy it. It's the right arrangement for our family.

2) It's not harder than an office job, but it is more relentless.

3) If you're thinking that point #2 is no big deal, then stay-at-home parenting is not for you.

4) For the most part, my children's demands are more reasonable than those of my former clients.

5) It is lonely. The moms are nice, but you're definitely not part of the gang.

6) If you're thinking that you can take care of your pre-K kids while operating an at-home business, see point #3.

7) I don't think I'm noble or anything for staying at home with my kids. I do think I'm a more mature person for it, perhaps only because I'm highly motivated to set a good example. You'll be amazed how early in life kids can spot a hypocrite.

8) I got my kids to try broccoli by letting them eat it while they were in the bathtub.

Posted by: Thoughts from a SAHD | March 28, 2006 10:29 PM

Great thoughts, SAHD! I'm sorry you didn't post them earlier in the day, because I think a lot of people--both men and women--would have liked to see them.

Lots of women, in particular, would appreciate your awareness of the relentlessness of kidcare.

And I'm sure that, in the years ahead, your children will appreciate and be amused by your creativity in helping them learn to like vegetables.

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 12:09 AM

Broccoli in the bathtub! Love it! =)

Posted by: DLM | March 29, 2006 8:42 AM

Dear THS, a Dad and Rebecca T

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I wish I had checked for responses last night after posting my original comment. You may not see this but if you do..

THS, my wife will return to teaching this fall and our child will go to daycare. As I mentioned, that was my original desire but became comfortable with her staying home and taking care of him as well. I am comfortable with both arrangements now. OTOH, I realize she is not comfortable in a stay at home role and as her mom told me may have been the biggest mistake of her life.

A Dad, you are very right. Our child is 11+ months old and it is only within the last month and a half things have gotten so bad. She wants to take a PT job at the local bookstore even though we don’t need the money. She’ll work nights. I’m not happy about it.. but now realize it’s critical for her to have another outlet. We need, and I will, turn off the TV. It is a relationship killer.

Rebecca T, I would love for you to expound on something you said, “you probably already know this, but you're going to have to resist the urge to try and "fix" or even address all her complaints - women hate that.”. I’m an engineer and naturally inclined to fix things. I want to fix this in the worst kind of way. I’m willing to meet her more then halfway to do it. So, I wrote some things down that I’m willing to change in our relationship if she’ll just give me a chance. I want to give it to her but don’t want to jeopardize what little is left. She hasn’t been talking much lately. I think she feels she’s over with the talking. Instead, I’ve been writing down my thoughts and giving them to her. She said that’s fine with her if it helps me. After processing what I write, she’ll give me a little bit of feedback. That’s an opportunity for me to listen.. which is what you suggested. But there aren’t many other opportunities unless I initiate them.

My wife, the baby and her mother are visiting my wife’s brother and family this week. She’ll return Saturday evening. Half of me wants to pull back some and spend the night at a friend’s house to give her some space Saturday night (admittedly being a little selfish hoping she’ll miss me). The other half of me wants to have dinner waiting for her with the house clean to show her how serious I am about helping her out and that I care. You said women are complicated.. so I’ll solicit opinions from those of you out there before I make my very male mind up. Which gesture would be most supportive to you? Thanks.

Posted by: Can't Win | March 29, 2006 9:02 AM

For the SAHDs who are looking for resources, if you're in the DC area, there's a great group -- DC Metro Dads --

If you're in other areas, Rebel Dad -- -- has links to a bunch of SAHD groups on his website.

Posted by: Elizabeth | March 29, 2006 10:04 AM

Can't Win,

Clean the house, do the laundery, and make the dinner -- it's the right thing to do.

If it's at all possible, take a couple of days off one day at a time over the next few weeks and let her get out of the house alone [have her take a book, meet friends for lunch, or go exercise] -- take a walk with just you and the baby, clean the place up a bit while the baby naps, and generally give her a break. Your mileage may vary, but it really helped us.

Posted by: A Dad | March 29, 2006 10:13 AM

Can't Win, I agree with A Dad-- dinner and a clean house is the way to go. If you're gone, she may think, "Didn't he miss me? Why isn't he here to help me with the baby after this long drive?" Or maybe something else, but it's more likely to be something negative if you're gone than if you're there.

I had some awful days when I was a SAHM and my daughter was that age. Is your wife getting enough sleep? Does she have an outside activity she can look forward to? Does she have enough time to have her basic needs met (food, exercise, sleep, and shower?). In my case I was chronically sleep-deprived and it took me a long time to realize that lack of sleep, more than anything else, was the main source of my distress.

Posted by: Ms L | March 29, 2006 10:52 AM

to rebecca t, bj, and looking in, and anyone else who cares to read this:

I would like to apologize for my initial posts…. Not necessarily for what I said as much as how I said it. I was reacting to the off-hand remarks and criticisms of do-it-all-dad.

Specifically, we began homeschooling because of the reasons he cites; academic standards, social skills, and group activities. Our children certainly did not suffer in any of those areas by being homeschooled, as a matter of fact they flourished. Having said that, homeschooling is not a panacea or an answer to every problem. It’s difficult, takes commitment, it’s time-consuming, takes commitment, and stressful in many ways… did I mention that it takes commitment. It’s definitely NOT for everyone and didn’t mean to imply that it is.

Our oldest went to kindergarten, and first grade in public school, and we began homeschooing her in 2nd grade at which time my poor wife had to begin by having her unlearn some of the stuff the public schools had let her get away with… creative spelling is one that comes to mind. They did so much group learning that she had a difficult time working by herself, and since the desks were grouped together by fours, she wound up doing a good part of the work for the entire group or did nothing at all ‘cuz someone would. We sensed that it wasn’t a good environment, and it wasn’t creating a good foundation for future learning. We took her out and eventually wound up homeschooling all 3 of our kids.

We only homeschooled through 8th grade ‘cuz we sensed at that point we were done, and had gone about as far as we could, reasonably. Financial and family pressures were starting to press in (my wife’s parents are elderly and need more attention). We were concerned as we placed them back in school that we were doing the right thing, but were convinced that is was the only thing we could do. We hoped that we’d been able to give them as firm and strong a foundation as we could, and from this point it was a letting go, also knowing that they still had their home as a refuge and sanctuary at the end of the day… and sometimes that’s what they really need. Looking back they realize the blessings they received as a result of being homeschooled, and exactly how varied and rich their education was. As part of a consortium of homeschooling families, they participated in trips to the symphony orchestra, trips to civil war battlefields, museums, a day on the Chesapeake Bay with marine biologists are just a few thing I mention.

Up to this point because of the foundation we’ve tried to give them, they’ve been able to excel academically and, at least so far, stave off that demon known as peer-pressure. They see first-hand now, the results of drugs, alcohol, and sex, on their class-mates, and what they see that is not a pretty site. A couple of their classmates have gravitated TOWARD my children ‘cuz they seem to more grounded for some reason, and not given to the whims and winds of what’s popular nor faddish (sp?). It’s not a question of being self-righteous nor better than-thou (tit for tat or getting even is not an option), but a matter of knowing that there is something more to this life than looking for a temporary high, or what feels good in the moment. What feels good in the moment, may leave scars can last for life-time. Make no mistake about it, there’s been more than one occasion where they’ve been ridiculed for their unwillingness to compromise, and it’s not a comfortable place to be. In some instances it’s been downright humiliating, and how long they will be able to stand up to it, I don’t know, but up to this point they’ve been able to come to their mother and I for what I hope is wise counsel and encouragement. Yes!! We talked ‘bout all this stuff while they were being homeschooled, we didn’t necessarily shield them from the big bad world as much as we tried to prepare them for it… something that as far as I can see; the current public school system falls woefully short. This is probably why American schools and students rank so far down the list in terms of academic achievement when compared to other countries. Can’t remember the stats specifically, but I know, they’re not good!!! You probably wouldn’t haf’ta to dig to far to find 'em.

As a result of our decision new clothes, cars, fancy tv’s, eating out more, expensive vacations, were either sorely curtailed or forgone completely. When my wife went back to work part-time in the evenings (she schooled during the day), I went to work earlier got home earlier in order to take care of the kids…. I’ve never been so tired in all my life, but those were probably the best years of my life, and I formed a bond with my children that I don’t think I would otherwise have. At the same time I learned that I’m a dad, that’s what I’ve been designed to be and called to be, and not a second mother, I bring something special and unique to the family dynamic as most of the fathers attest to in this blog. They are stay-at-home-dads, not stay-at-home-dads-trying-to-be-moms. And just so there’s not doubt, yes I did do my share around the house… laundry, cleaning bathrooms (I scrub a mean toilet), grocery shopping, floors (I don’t do windows, and only cook when hard pressed or it’s a matter of starvation). I do the yard work, though as the kids have gotten older they help in all these areas.

In our circle of friends and family there was one where the mom went back to work b/c she could earn more and get better health benefits, and her husband stayed home to school the kids. It worked, it wasn’t neat and clean but it worked!!! In contrast, another family that homeschooled their family of 5 found that one of their children had a learning disability that required a special school part-time and homeschooling part-time in his years of primary school. Today he’s in public high-school, and doing extra-curricular activities such as horseback riding and photography. We need to be attuned to each of our children’s needs; weaknesses and strengths and make the best decisions we can. As parents that’s our primary responsibility, so again it takes commitment, time, and as clear and unbiased consideration as possible. Yeah! We can go to the “village” and ask their opinion or insight, but ultimately to be the final decision lies and should lie with us.

Each one must effectively and as clearly as possible look at their own situation and assess what they are capable of and called to do, in light of the preceding statement. But let me assure you of this, when we realized that our children seemed to be not just adjusting but dealing effectively with and surviving the adverse and difficult situations that arise in school, my wife and I can only be thankful and spur them on to bigger and better things for themselves and for those around them.

Anyways, I just wanted to give my own personal experience… I know that and seventy-five cents, still won’t get you a small coffee at Starbucks. Though my wife and I made the decision together to homeschool (I ultimately left the it up to her since she would be doing the bulk of it), it definitely required sacrifices, and it wasn’t always pretty or neat and certainly not easy, but then what in this life worth doing ever really is.

Posted by: joe | March 29, 2006 10:53 AM

Can't win -

Also, don't worry about the "worst mistake of her life" comment by mom-in-law. Your wife tried something, it didn't work out for her, and now she's moving on to something else.

People are allowed to try new things, and are allowed not to like them. It is what life is all about: growth and experimentation. I think the key will be supporting her through this transition, letting her know that it's not the end of the world and that you will continue to support her as she continues to experiment and grow.

And, by leading through example, you might even hope that she will continue to support *you* as you experiment and grow.

Posted by: Bogota SAHD | March 29, 2006 10:55 AM

Hey joe:

" we began homeschooing her in 2nd grade at which time my poor wife had to begin by having her unlearn some of the stuff the public schools had let her get away with… creative spelling is one that comes to mind"

"We only homeschooled through 8th grade ‘cuz we sensed "

"You probably wouldn’t haf’ta to dig to far to find 'em. "

Pretty creative spelling there.

Posted by: Not an editor | March 29, 2006 10:57 AM

Yep!!! an' i wuz da one in charge ov spellin' an' cumpozishon!!!


Posted by: joe | March 29, 2006 11:04 AM

To Bogota SAHD..

Gene, is that you?

This is Matt. Thanks for the help.

Posted by: Can't Win | March 29, 2006 11:46 AM

To a Dad and Ms L.

Thanks for the input. That was the choice I wanted to make anyway.

Posted by: Can't Win | March 29, 2006 12:13 PM

Can't Win: Definitively the dinner and clean house option. Leaving to "give her space" just feels more like abandonement to me, and like you're just not "getting it".

Posted by: Mariela | March 29, 2006 12:42 PM

Can't Win....

From having been in your wife's place . . . have the house clean, all the way to fresh sheets on the bed, have dinner waiting, take care of the little one as much as possible that night, be one the one who puts him/her down for the night, gets up during the night, and take morning duty.

As I read your email and some other responses, the sleep issue is a big one. Is she getting enough? I totally agree with Ms. L. Sleep is crucial!

Also, give her regularly scheduled time away from the little one. If she knows that every few days she has at least a few hours to herself, it could make a big difference.

Best of luck! This was the hardest time for us, too.

Posted by: Mommy2aQT | March 29, 2006 12:45 PM

Great discussion. As a relatively new SAHD to an 8 monyh old little girl I'm grateful to read from so many spportive folks.

For Northern CA Dad: Check out sites like,, or my own humble little blog: There are lots of SAHDs out there surfing the web looking for some support due to the rather isolating affect of becoming a full-time father. We aren't too hard to find. Good luck!

Posted by: The Queen's Dad | March 29, 2006 3:02 PM

*clap clap clap* for Gloria, especially for pointing out that if Max-the-SAHD were Maxine-the-SAHM, people would have found a lot of critical and mean things to say.

Posted by: female grad student | March 29, 2006 4:13 PM


i understand you weren't happy with your daughter's school-- did you make any effort to complain to the school officials to get the situation changed? i don't mean that to sound accusatory-- my child isn't old enough to go to school yet and I'm just wondering whether parents ever try to get things changed? or do they just give up and pull their kid out? the public school in our neighborhood has been remarkably responsive to parental requests so far as I've seen (now provides preschool) and I wonder if parents are just not giving schools a chance to know what they want from the school.

In this age of charter schools, etc., I imagine schools are more receptive to parental demands than in the past-- got to compete to survive.

On the other hand, the complaints you mentioned seemed pretty trivial-- creative spelling and working in a group? I had that in school and I turned out OK! When I was bored the teachers let me do the "SRAs" in the back of the class-- maybe you could have asked your child's teacher to let your daughter do something like that when she was feeling bored.

Posted by: L Smith | March 29, 2006 5:12 PM

to: L Smith

Your question is valid and not accusatory in the least. No we didn't approach the school officials. Our decision was based on what we thought was best for our family at the time. In retrospect for us, it was the correct one. As I said in my previous post, homeschooling, public schools, private schools each have their advantages and drawbacks. Homeschooling worked for us, but it's not for everyone. Yes, the problems I cited were trivial at the time, but in addition to our academic concerns, there is also a decided socio/political/moral bent in the public schools these days that I do not agree with nor did I want my children exposed to until they were older and had more understanding and experience. Our goal was not to protect them from the world altogether, but to prepare them for it. To understand that there are consequences to actions and that just because someone or someone in authority says something is right or good doesn't always make it so. I'm not completely against public schools, I mean afterall, all of my children are back in the system and doing well. It's just that especially during those formative and important first years we wanted to be sure we could give our children the best we could. Homeschooling provided that for us.

Anyway, I hope this answers your question, at least in part, and thank you.


Posted by: joe | March 29, 2006 10:32 PM

Thank you, Joe!

Posted by: L.Smith | March 30, 2006 9:42 AM

This is an interesting blog, if for nothing more than the comments. The homeschooling thread is interesting, but I do wonder if people teach their children the differences between correlation and causation. Rebecca T asserts, from a study, that college admissions officers prefer homeschooled kids. My question is simple: compared to who? If this is a valid assertion - I believe it is not - then what control group was used? Maybe certain homeschooled kids are preferred to average students from public schools in the two lowest quintiles based upon certain test scores. I believe this is a dangerous assertion to make, because it is most likely statistically insignificant.

This is not a bash on homeschooled kids. I am amazed that people undertake this massive and critically important task for their children. While there may be not be a large body of research to make strong correlations on this topic, at least people can recognize a parent's devotion to educating his/her child(ren).

Posted by: Stop the Madness | March 30, 2006 9:47 AM

Can't Win -

Not Gene, sorry. Another American SAHD in Colombia. Are you here too?

Posted by: Bogota SAHD | March 30, 2006 9:47 AM

Bogota SAHD,

No, I'm in the States. But I know a SAHD here who I think is from Bogota. I figured it would be too much of a coincidence but thought I'd check!

Posted by: Can't Win | March 30, 2006 11:24 AM

Good luck anyways. Sounds like you've got your plate full these days.

Posted by: Bogota SAHD | March 30, 2006 11:32 AM

I'm going to try to feed my kids broccoli in the tub.

The one thing I like about sahd's is they 'get it' sometimes more than sahm's or working moms.
They understand their role as a sahd is primarily to take care of the kids, and they do that, and they think it's important, and they don't worry about how the world views them.

I am going to take the sahd approach to being home.

Posted by: lahdeeda | March 30, 2006 1:11 PM

To Can't Win --

If you're still reading, I wanted to give you some insight on the "trying to fix everything" issue that you had questions about, because this was a problem my husband and I had. I was in a very stressful place at work and was unhappy about things, so I would come home and complain. And my husband, being (a) a guy, and (b) an engineer, would try to "fix" everything -- everything I complained about, he'd say, "well, did you try X?" "How about Y?" "Could you tell him Z?" It was his way of trying to be helpful. What he didn't understand was that I was just venting -- I needed someone to just flat-out listen to me when I was frustrated, not solve my problems for me. In fact, when he'd present a list of possible solutions, I'd get really angry, because I interpreted that as him not believing I was competent to handle my own issues myself. I wasn't looking for advice, or for a dad to fix my problems for me; I was looking for a shoulder to cry on. I finally blew up at him, and we talked through our different expectations -- I agreed to say something like "just venting," and he agreed not to offer advice unless I said so.

I don't know if this is an issue for your wife, but it may be. And if so, the best thing you can do is to just let her vent -- listen closely, let her know you're there to support whatever she chooses to do, and will help her find a solution if she wants. But don't take charge of trying to fix the problem. It's her life, so show her that you respect her enough to let her decide on her own if she wants to.

You sound like a very supportive husband who is doing all the right things (the laundry, dinner, giving her time to herself, supporting her going back to work, are all total winners). But sometimes the hardest thing to do is to be silently supportive. So maybe -- just one thought here -- instead of presenting her with a list of things you're willing to change, ask her what SHE would like to see changed. You can still use that as a springboard for a conversation that can bring in your ideas, but that way, she's the one getting to take the lead and get her ideas out there for discussion.

Posted by: Laura | March 30, 2006 2:35 PM

Dear Laura,

Thank you for your response! I hear you and am actually aware of peoples' need to simply vent sometimes. A girlfriend once told me to shut up and just hug her and say everything is going to be alright. Of course, this only works in the narrowest of circumstances and can backfire terribly if you try to pull it at the wrong time!

In our situation now, it's probably a little bit of both. There are things that I DID need to fix because only I can do them. OTOH, now that I've made my list of proposals and given it to her (email), I will let her drive the discussion this weekend when she returns home. I'm all about support now. It's not a natural instinct of mine so I know I need to work on it. Counseling and books will hopefully help out there. But I have just one more proposal for her and then I'm done. She is a teacher and I'll ask if maybe she would want to teach summer school in July. I would think it would be more rewarding then a pt job at a bookstore for minimum wage. It would also allow us to ease our child into daycare since summer school has a shorter day. I'm really concerned he'll have a hard time with leaving his mom. I realize though the pt job is crucial right now and it is TOTALLY her choice. But maybe in July..

Thanks again. This weekend will be one of the most important ones of my life. Which is only fitting after spending one of the longest weeks of my life home alone.

Posted by: Can't Win | March 31, 2006 8:24 AM

Can't Win --

Please check back in after the weekend and let us know how it went!! I think just the fact that you are taking her concerns so seriously, and focusing so much of your time and effort on supporting her through this, should go a long way. Can't speak for your wife, but that's all I can ask of my husband.

Posted by: Laura | March 31, 2006 9:29 AM

Laura, I will. It doesn't add up to me either. She tried to get my attention for 3 weeks. Then when she finally gets it she wants to cut and run. I am still not convinced that her heart isn't elsewhere. That would explain alot of this.

Posted by: Can't Win | March 31, 2006 11:46 AM

Can't Win -

It is always possible that there is another, hidden problem here, this "heart is elsewhere" issue you mention. But it may very well be that she has just hit a limit here and is going goo-goo from lack of sleep, too much time with the kids, too little (perceived) support, etc. I think we've all been in situations where it just gets to be too much and we get irrational and aggressive - sometimes MORE irrational and aggressive when the one w/ whom we're peeved FINALLY starts paying attention.

Give her a chance. I would be very surprised if she left her lover, her provider, the father of her kids for some imaginary will o' the wisp once that same lover/provider/father of her kids shows that he's willing to support her in whatever it is she feels she needs to do.

Let us know how it works out. Assume you're busy vacuuming hairballs from under the couch right now so we'll let you get back to it. . .

Posted by: Bogota SAHD | March 31, 2006 2:32 PM

Bogota SAHD, Laura and others,

Well, it didn't quite work out. Yet. This weekend she'll move in with her mother who lives close by. I had the house clean, breakfast and other long standing requests done for her return. She feels it's too much too soon and doesn't believe I will keep it up. I told her that's just how I am. It'll take time to convince her. In the meantime, she is asserting control over her life and extricating herself from what she perceives as an unhealthy situation, ie. living with me.

I disagree that I am the problem. However, I do support her in her decision and want more then anything for her to gain her identity and sense of worth back. They are there.. they are just severely shaken. If she thinks it will help, I'm for it. Even though it makes reaching her even more difficult.

I think a professional will help us tremendously. We'll go seperately at first. But, counseling won't start until the end of this month. It won't be till mid May before we've each had a few sessions. That is really killing me. We are both impatient people.. but in this case, she seems to have more then me for some reason.

In the meantime, I will continue to love her and work hard to improve my ability to support her emotionally. Any literature you can suggest along that line would be appreciated. Thanks for your responses.

Posted by: Can't Win | April 3, 2006 12:27 PM

Can't Win --

I'm so sorry things didn't go as well as you'd hoped. It sounds like she has a lot of stuff she is dealing with internally, and in some ways is putting that off on you because you're the closest one and thus easiest to blame. It may well be that she does just need time by herself to depressurize from all of the stress she has been feeling for the past year -- having a baby and quitting your job are both really huge life changes that can take a lot of time to process, and then you may find that you don't really like where you end up and need to figure out how to reclaim some of what you feel you lost. (We combined baby and job change with move to a new state, so suddenly, I went from "Laura" to "Marc's wife" and "Riley's mom," and I really had a hard time with that for a while). Ideally, you turn toward your partner in doing that. But if she's also frustrated with some of the patterns you guys fell into as a couple (like the helping with the housework stuff), then it may be that she just feels the need to distance herself from that for a while while she straightens the other stuff out.

It still sounds, though, like you're doing the kinds of things you should -- she's just going to need time to trust that you're really going to make these changes permanent. And therapy may give her a chance to deal with those identity issues in a "safe" (i.e., not emotionally loaded) environment -- and give her some skills to talk to you about them in a productive way. In terms of books, etc., I'm a huge Dr. Phil fan -- I'd suggest his "Relationship Rescue." I know he's an acquired taste (my husband can't stand him), but I like how he cuts to the chase (i.e., things you can do now, rather than spend 20 years in therapy discussing your childhood), and I like his view of marriage as not 50/50, but as 100/100. He suggests doing a lot of what it sounds like you're doing -- focusing on your partner's needs, identifying things you can do to improve her life, etc. But there are also some exercises you can do together to figure out yourself and her and reconnect.

Whatever you decide, best of luck; it sounds like you really had a light bulb go on, and I hope it all works out for you.

Posted by: Laura | April 3, 2006 1:03 PM

Dear Can't Win -

Would agree with Laura. While not a Dr Phil fan (probably an acquired taste, as she says) and not a fan of counseling or therapy, I feel it can help in certain situations. This is one of them. It can give you both time and perspective, which can help you both decide/consider what is best for you and the baby, to break old patterns and establish new ones.

The waiting will be the hardest, as you already feel. We're hopeful that everything will work out. Give it time, give it energy.

As one male to another, I'd say that now would be a good time to start going out with your buddies - have a beer or three, talk, go bowling or to a game or whatever it is you like to do for YOU. You sit around at home moping/watching TV and you'll drive yourself nuts. Far better that you arrive tanned, rested and ready when you next see her, and try to get out with the baby whenever you can - it'll be good for you, good for her, and let your wife see that you DO care and ARE putting in time. I also just happen to think that spending time with your kid "grows" the soul; they're selfing little things, which helps take us out of ourselves. So have fun, do the house, and spend time with the baby. Plus go to work. Sounds like a piece of cake, right? But this could be a good time for you, really - get you out of the house, out of your life for a little and DOING things differently. Life = growth = experimentation. This could be good. Really. Maybe in the same way a tooth extraction can be good, but it really might work out and maybe you CAN win after all. Good luck.

Posted by: Bogota SAHD | April 3, 2006 6:28 PM

Dear Laura and Bogota SAHD,

Thank you so much for your responses. You've given me some really great suggestions. I will try hard to make the most of them.

We actually had a decent talk last night that was kind of unexpected. I'm so glad she gave me a week with her before moving out. I'm using it to open up completely with her. I'm willing to give as much as she can take. But that is a limited amount at the moment and recognizing that is key.

Laura, I will get the book. I think he's ok.. although I've only caught him a few times on tv. SAHD, I will take the time away from her to finish working on the house so that I'll be available for her completely if and when she returns. I will also spend more time with my friends who I've ignored even more then my wife as my work has consumed me. Jogging and the gym are now back after a 4 year hiatus. Smoking is gone.. although unfortunately not forgotten yet.

Regardless of the outcome, I will be a better person for this. I just hope I have my heart in one piece and my wife att my side. Only time will tell. Since you've shared so much, if there are any developments in the not so distant future I'll try to share as well. Thanks again!

Posted by: Can't Win | April 4, 2006 9:52 AM

It's hard to change but it can be good, too. I've worked hard at being less irritable with my kids this year - partly by how I respond to them, partly by taking better care of myself in the rush to get things done. The payoffs are slow to come, but they do arrive eventually: my kids being nicer to begin with; me being calmer, less riled by them. My wife's also happier now that the rest of us are bickering less. It's a process.

The point is, I'm sure the new "high stress" job you took isn't doing you any favors either. See friends, have a little fun, too. When you feel better about yourself, you can give more to others and be happier as you do so. And the same will be true of your wife.

Maybe if/when she goes back to work, you might want to take something less stressful too? Change is in the air. If you can support her need for chance, she can support you too (if you want to). Clear lines of communication are going to be key as you negotiate how it'll work - sick days with the kids, pick-ups and all that other daily grind stuff. I see it kind of like me and my kids in a way - everybody gives a little, makes the sacrifices they need to to help the others, yet somehow we all come out ahead. (God willing)

Posted by: Bogota SAHD | April 4, 2006 4:03 PM

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Posted by: John S | July 2, 2006 7:35 PM

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