'It ain't easy:' Stay-at-home dads learn on the job
JANESVILLE As Ross Raymond opened his front door, his 80-pound Labrador retriever bounced and barked, his 20-month-old daughter bounded and hollered, but his 3-week old son remained asleep.
With a firm grip of the dog’s collar and a few words to his daughter, the ruckus evaporated.
Since March 2011, Raymond has been a stay-at-home dad.
Ross, who lives with his wife, Nicole, on Lapidary Lane in Janesville, is medically retired from the Army after six years as a member of a Abrams tank crew. The stint did significant damage to his arms, legs and shoulders.
“I’m all beat up,” Ross said.
The injuries made it difficult, if not impossible, for him to return to his previous work driving truck. He worked for a while as a mechanic at F&F Tire in Janesville.
After losing that job, he conferred with Nicole, who works as an X-ray technician at Mercy Clinic East. The two concluded that between Ross’s Army pension and Nicole’s earnings at the hospital, it was feasible for him to be a stay-at-home dad.
He’s still learning on the job.
“It ain’t easy,” he said.
“Any woman that does it for five, six years or even longer, she might as well run for president,” Raymond said.
Census data put the number of stay-at-home fathers at 176,000 nationally.
In advance of Father’s Day, the Center for Work and Family in the Boston College School of Management released a study on the nation’s at-home fathers. Researchers concluded that, “being a stay-at-home dad is a choice, often made by both spouses for pragmatic and value-driven reasons, not simply a reaction to an unanticipated layoff.”
While it might not be a broad national trend, it did figure into Wayne Boardman’s decision to become an at-home father.
Boardman is a stay-at-home dad living in Beloit with wife, Angela, an 8-year-old stepson, a 5-year-old stepson, a 2-year-old daughter and a 3-week-old son.
“It’s a lot more work and stress than I perceived it to be,” he said. “It’s like having a full-time job—taking care of the kids, making sure we’re keeping schedules, and other things like meal times—it’s full-time work.”
Like the Raymond family, it was a combination of medical and economic circumstances that steered the Boardmans toward having Wayne stay home with the kids.
Boardman was diagnosed with renal disease in July 2010. He lost his job at Arby’s Restaurant in January 2011 and underwent a kidney transplant a month later. During his recovery, Boardman started attending Blackhawk Technical College.
“My wife and I talked about it, and we decided to have me not look for work,” Wayne said. “We had a good time to take advantage of the opportunity.”
The decision has paid off, he said.
“Going from 13 hours of dialysis a week and working 50 hours a week to being home—this has really changed my relationship with my stepsons and my daughter.”
Wayne and Angela married last summer, and he’s been in good health since the transplant, he said.
Raymond said he has a friend who is envious of his position. He thinks the friend is mistaken.
“He says, ‘Man, I wish I could stay home with my kids,’” Raymond said. “But after being a truck driver, I don’t think he’s got the patience.”
Just then, Raymond’s newborn son Ross Raymond IV awoke from his nap, crying and hungry. Raymond’s daughter Brooklyn, the excitable type, was moved to join in the commotion.
It was time for lunch. Raymond cradled his son, feeding him a bottle, while he sliced a sandwich for his daughter.
“Having to deal with people on the road is a lot easier than dealing with two kids,” Raymond said, raising his voice to be heard over his children’s voices.