Lunch with Marjorie: Making a valid choice to be a stay-at-home dad—part two

Editor’s note: Jim Maier and his wife decided he would be a stay-at-home parent when his son was born. Then, he founded Rockford Dads. Here is part two of his story. Part one appeared in the Nov. 29-Dec. 5, 2006, issue of The Rock River Times.

After various career attempts, Jim Maier started over in Rockford, working at MCI and at Rockford Chophouse. He also enrolled in a restaurant management class at Rock Valley College.

“I thought maybe I’d own a restaurant until I worked in one,” he said.

“You need career counseling,” I joked.

“I just don’t know what I want to do,” he said.

“Maybe what you’re doing now,” I suggested.

“I’m very good at what I’m doing now,” he said.

“I know you’re still eating,” our server, Marcy interrupted, “but I don’t want you to finish everything if there’s a possibility that one bite would save room for dessert. We’re out of lemon tart, but we do have a chocolate fondue.”

“That was the only thing I wanted,” Jim said.

“No, you totally didn’t. The fondue comes with fresh fruit,” she encouraged.

We ordered toasted almond and vanilla-cream coffee.

“How did you decide on the dads thing?” I asked.

“A couple of factors,” Jim said. “Michelle has a good job. I really suck at finding a job—a good job. Also, I don’t handle stress really well if I’m making high dollars. We (knew) we were sure not going to support our lifestyle on my income. Daycare didn’t make sense…costs as much as how much I was bringing home. I’m going to give my kid to somebody else to raise him? No!”

“Sacrifices?” I asked.

“We cut back…don’t eat out as much…don’t have help cleaning the house,” he said.

“You clean?” I asked.

“I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom and entry hall this morning,” he said. “If I were made of money, I would (happily) have somebody do it. But it needs to be done.”

“Do you know the winning lottery numbers?” Jim asked when Marcy asked what else we would like.

“Yes, but I can’t tell you,” she said. “I need them for myself. I’ve been giving them to everybody. I will only get about $20.”

I related to Jim reactions I got from friends when I closed down a business to stay home with my newborn.

“This is the dark side of the feminist movement,” he said.


“I think it’s crap,” he added. “You have conservative fundamentalists. You have liberal fundamentalists. If you disagree or do anything different than what they think, even if what they think is progressive, they have a problem with you or the ideas.”

“You’re comfortable with who you are,” I said.

“I’ve gotten to this point in my life…this is what I am,” Jim said. “I don’t always like it. It’s frustrating sometimes. I don’t fit well with the job world…I need to be managed.”

“You founded Rockford Dads? It says Stay At Home Dad on your card,” I commented.

“I think a lot of stay-at-home parents are fairly isolated,” Jim said. “You’re at home all the time. There aren’t many other parents in the neighborhood. Incidence of stay-at-home parents is significantly lower than it used to be. I need interaction. I know guys in general…aren’t as willing to seek out…I thought there have to be other stay-at-home dads. I’m trying to connect with other dads who are out there, so we all know we’re not alone. We deal with the isolation…but we want to be recognized as actually contributing to our kids being raised…and raised well.”

Last year, Jim attended a national convention in Oakton (Chicago).

“There were 150 stay-at-home dads from all over the country,” he said. “It was neat. I was really glad I went.”

“We (dads) talk…‘What do you guys do about this? What are you feeling?’ I mean guys don’t talk about their feelings, but…stay-at-home dads are more likely to.”

Jim wants to share this experience.

“The other day, there was a guy walking in my neighborhood with a stroller…saw him out the window,” he said. “I picked up (Andrew), grabbed my business cards, and ‘Hey, hey, are you a stay-at-home dad?’ He’s not totally comfortable with that, I could tell. ‘Oh, I’m a student, and I’m a stay-at-home dad.’ I’m like—we do stuff. It’s nice to get out of the house.”

“You’re using your technology skills,” I said. “You’re cooking. Your diverse interests seem to have a happy home with this. Did you notice?”

“I didn’t.”

“You’re defining, rather than reacting.”


“Most guys, a lot of men don’t get it,” he said. “It’s more common now than 10 years ago, but definitely an issue here. I’m at the hardware store…and ‘Oh, Dad’s babysitting again today?’”

“We call this parenting,” I corrected.

“It would be nice to be recognized—that this is a valid choice—by other men in society,” Jim concluded.

Interested Rockford dads can e-mail Jim at

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years. She can be reached via e-mail at

From the Dec. 6 – Dec. 12, 2006, issue

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