When you see a dad with one or two small children, what do you think? Most people seem to assume that Dad just got a day off work.
But in many cases it’s really just another sign of today’s tough times. Whether it’s our culture that’s changed, or the economy, there are a lot more dads staying home with the kids and the housework these days.
And it’s the moms who have had to adjust to being the breadwinners.
Jim Faylo has gone from taping the ankles of professional football players to feeding blueberry applesauce to his infant daughter.
Faylo used to be head athletic trainer for the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League. He lost that job in December when the league called off its season due to the sagging economy.
The Faylos are part of an emerging national story: Dad’s losing his job. Mom’s making the money.
In Canada, Statistics Canada reports the 81 per cent of parents who return to work after parental leave, say they would stay off longer if they could afford it.
And dads are increasingly taking parental leave. In fact there was a 17 per cent increase in the use of paid benefits by fathers between 2000 and 2006.
But in today’s world, lots of people are losing their jobs, and a recent study suggests that about 80 per cent of the jobless in this recession are men. Jobs in manufacturing and finance have been hit the hardest. Those are traditionally male-dominated industries.
The industries that have been hit less hard? Education. Health care. The traditionally female-dominated industries.
Women made up 49.1 percent of the North American work force in November. What this means, is that sooner rather than later — and for the first time ever — women could make up the majority of the work force.
That’s doing more than altering budgets and bottom lines. It’s also changing duties at home.
In the Faylo home, Sybil Faylo goes to her job at All Children’s Hospital, where she works as a pediatric audiologist, and Jim Faylo stays home with big-blue-eyed, 8-month-old Ali.
On a recent Friday afternoon, in their home with hardwood floors and a sign on the living-room wall that says “LIVE LAUGH LOVE,” he had her dressed in a pink-and-green sweatshirt with an adorable little hood and matching itty-bitty sneakers. He read her the Squishy Turtle book.
Faylo is, he said, a 42-year-old Mr. Mom.
With her job, and their savings, the Faylos are OK, financially speaking — at least for now.
“But it’s a little challenge for the ego,” Faylo said. “My wife likes to joke that she’s my sugar mama now.”
That 80 per cent recession layoff figure out of the study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Boston’s Northeastern University? James Sellers didn’t need a stat to know that.
Sellers, who lives in St. Petersburg, is an out-of-work electrician, a licensed barber, a handyman and a 40-year-old who has been looking for a job, any job, since December. He goes to a WorkNet office to see what’s out there.
“All you’ve got to do is step in there and look around,” Sellers said. “A lot of men my age, late 30s, 40s.”
Jessica Greene, 44, runs the Tampa Job Finders Network on meetup.com. She also goes to the Monday-evening meetings at the WorkForce Tampa career center.
“Way more men than women,” she said.
Take Bob Long of St. Petersburg. He’s 35. He was in real-estate investment banking for the last 10 years. He got laid off in December. There went his six-figure job. His wife teaches second grade.
Now he jogs in the afternoon. He goes to the grocery store, does the laundry, does the dishes. He’s home when his daughters get back from school and he helps them with their homework and he takes them to their soccer and softball practices.
“It makes me feel like I’m contributing to the household,” he said.
Faylo, isn’t used to this. He has worked, he said, since he was 10 years old, when he had a paper route in his hometown in upstate New York. He has never not worked.
One day in December, though, he was eating lunch at a restaurant and he saw the news ticker on a TV there that the Arena Football League had canceled its season. He didn’t believe it.
So he waded through all the other scores, professional hockey, professional basketball, men’s college basketball, women’s college basketball, to see if he had seen what he thought he had seen — and there it was again.
No league. No job.
The dads all share a level of awkwardness around group activities such as hanging out at the park, going to a parent-child drop-in or taking the children to swimming lessons.
If you speak to enough of these men, it becomes evident that the term awkward gets used so frequently.
They point out that it can be socially challenging to be the only male with a group of women.
They are clear that the women are welcoming and supportive. However, as one dad explained, a lot of female conversation is about the inadequacies of their husbands.
The same discomfort can surround setting up play dates. Calls to a mom to set up a meeting can seem to have a sub-text — even when none exists.
Faylo takes his daughter for walks. They go to the store. He feeds her. He changes her diapers. Sometimes, he said, he has to call his wife at work and ask her where certain things are around the house.
“Anybody who says this is an easy job …” he said.
“When she cries, you don’t know what she wants,” he said. “You’re trying to mind-read to do what’s going to make her happy.”
One of her tiny pink shoes popped off. He slipped it back on. He squeezed her foot and he smiled at her and she smiled back.
It’s not all bad.
“When she gets older,” Faylo said, “I’ll be able to say, ‘Hey, we spent lots of time together.’”