Editors 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 Id own a restaurant until I worked in one, he said.
You need career counseling, I joked.
I just dont know what I want to do, he said.
Maybe what youre doing now, I suggested.
Im very good at what Im doing now, he said.
I know youre still eating, our server, Marcy interrupted, but I dont want you to finish everything if theres a possibility that one bite would save room for dessert. Were out of lemon tart, but we do have a chocolate fondue.
That was the only thing I wanted, Jim said.
No, you totally didnt. 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 joba good job. Also, I dont handle stress really well if Im making high dollars. We (knew) we were sure not going to support our lifestyle on my income. Daycare didnt make sense…costs as much as how much I was bringing home. Im going to give my kid to somebody else to raise him? No!
Sacrifices? I asked.
We cut back…dont eat out as much…dont 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 cant tell you, she said. I need them for myself. Ive 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 its 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.
Youre comfortable with who you are, I said.
Ive gotten to this point in my life…this is what I am, Jim said. I dont always like it. Its frustrating sometimes. I dont 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. Youre at home all the time. There arent 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…arent as willing to seek out…I thought there have to be other stay-at-home dads. Im trying to connect with other dads who are out there, so we all know were 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 dont 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? Hes not totally comfortable with that, I could tell. Oh, Im a student, and Im a stay-at-home dad. Im likewe do stuff. Its nice to get out of the house.
Youre using your technology skills, I said. Youre cooking. Your diverse interests seem to have a happy home with this. Did you notice?
Youre defining, rather than reacting.
Most guys, a lot of men dont get it, he said. Its more common now than 10 years ago, but definitely an issue here. Im at the hardware store…and Oh, Dads babysitting again today?
We call this parenting, I corrected.
It would be nice to be recognizedthat this is a valid choiceby other men in society, Jim concluded.
Interested Rockford dads can e-mail Jim at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Dec. 6 – Dec. 12, 2006, issue