Stay-at-home dads on bucking all the stereotypes

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Photo by TJ Wilson
Ryan Jor El Coleman and his family

New parents have decisions to make before their baby is born: Will we use cloth or disposable diapers? Do we clamp or cut the cord at birth? Should we bottle or breastfeed our babies?

Then parents must consider whether daycare or staying at home with one parent is the right decision for them. The number of stay-at-home parents hasn’t changed in 25 years, according to Pew Research Center. But there’s been an increase in stay-at-home dads from four to seven percent since 1989.

Three Charlotte dads spoke to CharlotteFive about their experiences staying at home raising their children. These dads are breaking stereotypes, raising awareness and building support for other dads who want to be a stay-at-home parent.

(1) Why they stay at home

Reasons for staying at home with the children vary. Ryan Jor El Coleman, 36, has been the stay-at-home (SAH) parent since the birth of his second child in June 2018. Coleman and his wife, Cashmere Coleman, 35, made a decision to have one parent stay at home for the first year of their children’s lives. Cashmere stayed home with their first child because Ryan was being promoted within the fashion and retail industry. A few years later, when they were expecting their second child, Cashmere’s new career in commercial real estate was important to her and Ryan became the SAH parent.

For some, it’s a financial decision. Darrell Humphrey, 35, and Meredith Humphrey, 37, based their decision to have Darrell stay home on finances. Darrell’s monthly income as a hospital chaplain was less than monthly daycare expenses. It just didn’t add up. Darrell’s been home for seven years with their three boys, ages, 7, 5 and 11 months. Meredith also had no interest in leaving her banking job to become a SAH parent, according to Darrell.

Courtesy of Darrell Humphrey

(2) What makes their jobs difficult

Being a stay-at-home parent isn’t easy for anyone. Chris Broughton, 38, has been at home with his son for almost three years. He acknowledged how hard it is to be a stay-at-home parent — mom or dad.

“Your main companion for most of the day is a 2-year-old who might not say much and can be irrational at times,” he said. “You’re just trying to help them grow up the best they can and you don’t necessarily get a lot of feedback.”

Ryan Coleman remembered when he was in the house with his newborn son: “The narrative is not there,” he said. “There were days when I said, ‘I cannot do this anymore.’” He decided to capture his experiences in a book that publishes this summer, “First 30 Days.” The book chronicles his first 30 days of being a stay-at-home dad.

Darrell Humphrey was asked by a few moms to leave his neighborhood’s park early on in his SAH parenting experience, being told: “‘You look creepy. Why are you here with your kids?’” He was there with his children and didn’t know what to do, so he left with his kids. He later went back and made it clear he wasn’t leaving the park because he had every right to be there. Eventually, a mom apologized and invited him to a neighborhood moms’ group.

“The stigma is that the man is supposed to be the head of the household and you’re supposed to be at work and the mom is supposed to stay at home,” Humphrey said. “If there’s a dad out with his kid, ‘Well I guess Mom must be sick.’ I’ve gotten that a lot in seven years.”

(3) SAHDs can side hustle, too

Each of these men has vibrant side hustles. Humphrey’s handmade cutting boards are on display at Ruby’s Gift in NoDa and online. Broughton uses his woodworking skills to make rocking horses, hall benches, toys and personalized signs for kids’ doors. He sells his products at Maple Tree Woodworks.

Coleman is an ongoing contributor for WCCBs News Rising. He talks about a variety of topics—from what to wear for New Year’s Eve to the top three must-haves for men and women. He’s a host, speaker and authored the book, “Fashion & Fatherhood.” Coleman also designs satin pocket squares. Find his collection here.

[Related: How Charlotteans make their side hustles work for them]

(4) How they find support

Humphrey founded Charlotte Dads in 2015. It’s one of 37 City Dads groups around the country. The Charlotte chapter has 300 members. They meet weekly for dad and kid activities at local parks, libraries, festivals and museums. Every month, the dads plan a dads-only event for activities such as go-kart racing and golfing.

“Some of those dads are my best friends,” Humphrey said. “Friendship and being able to have those real-life connections, not just the digital connections, is important.”

Courtesy of Chris Broughton

Broughton joined Charlotte Dads in 2016. He needed to get out of the house and talk to other dads about places to take the kids and parenting strategies. “On a dads’ night, I’ve got a dozen other dads to talk about potty training, what might work, what might not work,” he said.

Coleman is starting a group for men to discuss issues surrounding postpartum depression such as how to react, what to do and how to seek help. “My wife dealt with postpartum depression with grace,” he said. “I don’t have a support system in this arena and that’s why I’m creating this postpartum group for dads. So far, men are excited because they don’t have an outlet. No one ever talks about postpartum for men, no one talks about men that stay at home with their kids.”

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