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Entries in Dads (3)

Thursday
Jul192012

Single Men Listening to Biological Clock and Becoming Fathers

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- Growing numbers of men who have never been married -- gay and straight -- are shattering that old stereotype of the befuddled dad struggling with how to care for a baby.

There are now more than one million single fathers raising children in the U.S., according to 2010 figures from the Williams Institute at UCLA.

The 2010 Census found that in 2.2 million households, fathers raised their children without a mother. That's about one household in 45. And the number of single-father households rose 62 percent in 10 years.

"I always wanted kids and I never imagined my life without having a child," said Steven Harris, the father of 5-year-old Ben. "I figured I'd get married, have a family."

Harris, 57, a New York City lawyer, told ABC News he dated in his 30s and 40s and even got engaged at the age of 50. He later called the wedding off and set his sights on becoming a father.

Because surrogacy contracts were not legal in New York, he went to California, where he used a donor egg from an anonymous woman and hired another woman from Sioux Falls, S.D., to be the surrogate.

He said he met her and her husband twice in California and that he was present for her 10-week sonogram and the 20-week sonogram. The entire process, including forms, lawyers and more, totaled $200,000.

"I got a call at midnight on a Thursday night from the surrogate saying, 'Steve, my water broke. ... You better get out here.' And I jumped on a plane and I was there at noon the next day when he was born, and I took him home on a Sunday," Harris said.

He said there was nothing "not fun" about raising a child. Harris said even changing diapers was fun. And those 3 a.m. feedings? "You know what?" he told ABC News. "It wasn't that bad."

"It's fantastic," Harris said of being a father. "It's enriched my life so much."

Brian Tessier, 46, of Boston, adopted two boys through foster care after researching surrogacy and overseas adoption. He said he heard his "biological clock" ticking after ending a 10-year relationship.

"[I] decided at that point to look inside myself and see what I wanted to do and really what it came down to is that I really wanted to be a dad," he told ABC News. "I think a lot of men do hear that biological clock. ... I just don't think we talk about it as men or admit it."

Tessier started the hotline 411-4-DAD to give adoption and surrogacy advice and information to prospective single fathers. He said the hotline directed men interested in becoming parents to agencies that were welcoming and competent. Tessier said that men he encountered told him some agencies were chilly and questioned their intentions.

"I think that's why a lot of men give up on that dream" of being a father, he said. "They think, 'Oh, I can't,' rather than get the facts -- and that's really what we're trying to do, to make sure that people do have the right information."

Tessier said that the number of callers has tripled since the hotline started.

And when it comes to questions from others -- and even Ben -- about the whereabouts of the mother, Harris in New York says he answers honestly.

"He's been asking for a long time and I started telling him the truth from the beginning," Harris said. "I tell him there are all kinds of families. ... We're a family with you and me with one dad. And for now, that's enough. ... I'd like certain things to be different in my life but they're not. You know, we're very autonomous -- me and Ben -- and I don't feel like there's anything missing in my life."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun182012

Is Dad the New Mom? The Rise of Stay-At-Home Fathers

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While Erica Howard-Potter manages her job as a high-powered tax attorney, her husband Jake Howard-Potter manages the house, the chores and the couple's very active 2-year-old daughter, Skylar.

Jake, who is a sculptor by trade, is the epitome of the so-called "trophy dad." The 37-year-old stays at home and stays fit, completing triathlons one day and expertly negotiating naptime and tea parties the next. And he is not alone.

"I had a dad say to me 'that skirt is really cute' and I thought who would have imagined that two dads would be sitting at swim class saying that a skirt is cute," he said.

According to the most recent Census, the number of stay-at-home fathers in the United States has tripled in the past 10 years up to 154,000. Yet, these at-home dads are still the exception to the traditional household and many treading in unchartered parenting waters.

Every day, Jake picks out Skylar's outfits, fixes her hair, takes her to and from activities and changes her diapers. While he tells everyone he is very proud to be a stay-at-home dad, Jake said people will give him mixed reactions, some of which seem dismissive.

"I think it's often perceived as something that people do without having a choice about it," he said. "This is something I was really excited to do."

As Jake plays with their daughter, Erica spends her day knee-deep in tax documents. This working mother said she doesn't feel resentment towards her husband, but jealousy.

"Definitely I am jealous when he calls and says 'oh she did x, y, and z' and I'm so happy that at least one of us gets to see it," she said.

According to a recent Pew study, women now place a higher importance on having a successful, high-paying career than men do. While some men might feel emasculated by not making an income, Erica said Jake's lack of employment was never an issue for them.

"He was way too supportive of me going through law," she said. "After all of that support I feel like it's our law degree, that it belongs to him as much as it belongs to me. He earned it as much as I did. He does the most important job, so I would never dangle a dollar over his head."

But it's a choice that not many families choose to make and the vast majority of at-home parents are still mothers.

Many at-home dads across the country have turned to the Internet for guidance and support from each other, and now there is a growing online community. Some at-home dads set up get-togethers.

"They talk about sports and politics, but if you go in there right now they will be talking about diaper changes, sleeping challenges, so we're really talking about a lot of the stuff that moms are talking about," said Matt Schneider of "NYC Dads Group."

While all the dads Nightline spoke to stayed home by choice, they all admit they made less money than their wives when they were working before they made the decision to take care of the kids full-time. Bryan Grossbauer was a teacher and his wife was a lawyer, making more money than he did, so he decided to become a stay-at-home dad.

"Welcome to 2012," he said. "It's just as crazy as a female saying I could never go into the workforce I am just going to stay home."

But stay-at-home dads still face some traditional stereotypes, even from family members. Greg Jobson Larkin spent 12 years serving in the Navy and now stays at home with four kids, while his wife works as the CEO of a big corporation.

"My in-laws think I'm a bum and I'm fine because I worked, already had a career," he said. "And I say, 'I am working. If it were reversed, would you say your daughter is a bum?' I'm a great father. Try to respect that."

Jake Howard-Potter said he feels "lucky" and "privileged" to be able to make their home situation work, and his wife seemed to agree.

"I am grateful that he is willing to do it," Erica said. "What it provides to our daughter is so invaluable and so I feel really grateful to him for it."

"I don't view any of this as a challenge, it's an opportunity," Jake said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun172011

Roughhousing with Dad Crucial for Development, Say Researchers

Jack Hollingsworth/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Dads roughhousing with their young children is crucially important in the early development of kids, according to a study by Australian researchers. Sunday is Father's Day and as the annual tribute to dads approaches, experts say the gift that keeps on giving -- for years to come -- is for kids to play a little rough with their fathers.

"We know quite a lot about how important fathers are in general for a child's development. Over the last decade, for example, that it's mainly mother that interacts with children and that's how they develop, and that's the important bit, that's changed. We know fathers are important," Richard Fletcher, the leader of the Fathers and Families Research Program at the University of Newcastle in Australia, told ABC News.

"Father's Day reminds us parents that we have no more solemn obligation than to care for our children," President Barack Obama said Wednesday in calling for fathers to be more involved with their children. "But far too many young people in America grow up without their dads, and our families and communities are challenged as a result."

The percentage of fathers who live with their children has doubled in the past 50 years, and dads tend to spend more than twice the amount of time with their children than they did in the 1960's, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.

Australian researchers watched film of 30 dads while they roughhoused with their children, usually through a game where the child would try to remove a sock from their father's foot, to see what effect it might have on children.

"Rough and tumble play between fathers and their young children is part of their development, shaping their children's brain so that their children develop the ability to manage emotions and thinking and physical action altogether," said Fletcher. "This is a key developmental stage for children in that preschool area between the ages of about two and a half and five. That's when children learn to put all those things together."

Although boys were more likely to encourage the start of roughhousing with their dads, researchers did not see a significant difference between boys and girls once the play started. But for the kids, it's not just play.

"When you look at fathers and their young children playing, you can see that for the child, it's not just a game. They obviously enjoy it and they're giggling, we know that's true, but when you watch the video, you can see that child is concentrating really hard…I think the excitement is related to the achievement that's involved," Fletcher told ABC News. "It's not about a spoiled child not wanting to lose, I think that child is really striving for the achievement of succeeding."

The researchers believe that the most important aspect of this play is that it gives children a sense of achievement when they 'defeat' a more powerful adult, building their self-confidence and concentration. However, fathers who resist their children, can also teach them the life lesson that, in life, you don't always win.

These kinds of lessons can be crucial in child developmental stages as they begin to build their outlook on the world. "We think it has implications for children's resilience. So, if parents want their children to grow up and not get into drugs and not get into trouble, if they want them to do well academically, than this is probably a good thing to do," said Fletcher. "We did find a correlation so that the dad's whose play was much better coordinated according to our measures, those children had less problems."

Fletcher admits that more research needs to be done, but he is hopeful that his team will eventually be able to help fathers know how to best interact with their child in their formative periods to ensure them a successful future. "It's a new area, but we're excited about the possibilities," said Fletcher.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio