Isaac Ikonen sneaks into the pizza sauce while his dad prepares dinner at their home in Waterford, Mich. Paul Ikonen, who works part-time, is now the primary caretaker of Isaac. "I don't know if we'd be this close if the lay-off hadn't happened," said Ikonen. (Kathleen Galligan/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

But he's not ready for the stay-at-home-dad label yet.

Ikonen also has worked part-time selling aviation cleaners; he has taken classes at Oakland Community College, and he has continued to hunt for a full-time job.

The part-time work doesn't actually add to the Ikonens' bottom line, since almost all of his pay goes to the babysitter required to get him out of the house. But Ikonen said it's crucial for his mental health to feel that he is providing.

"I think for our marriage, we grew up knowing that the husband is supposed to provide," Ikonen said. "He's supposed to go out and work all the hours. That's certainly how my parents were, and that's how (my wife) Janelle's parents were. ... That's kind of the model we've been given. And it seems like that is the best-case scenario."

Those types of identity struggles are common for stay-at-home dads. "I'd describe those feelings as ubiquitous," said Smith, who spent two years researching stay-at-home dads and interviewing them across the country.

Today's family

The goal for most families is to evolve to a place where both parents flourish in their roles.

Chris Singer, 38, and his wife, Deb Bailey, decided well before having children that one parent would stay home. It was always negotiable which one that would be.

The economy helped push Singer into that role when his full-time position as a communications director at a non-profit ended a month before 18-month-old Tessa was born.

Singer said it has been a time that he has cherished. He has loved being there to see Tessa grow. He also has tapped into what he dubbed a natural domestic side with ease.

"We cloth-diaper," Singer said. "I think I've done all but 4-5 loads since Tessa's been born."

In December, Singer started a blog called "SAHD In Lansing" to document his life and reach out to other dads.

Through the blog, he met another father from Portland, and the two began an online radio show called "Band of SAHD" in which they discuss parenting issues, among other things.

"It's a great opportunity," he said. "I know a lot of my friends will be like, 'I think it's cool you stay home, but I don't think I could do it.' But I get to see her grow, I saw a lot of the milestones, and it's kind of fascinating to see all the little changes that happen."

Singer also provides some income doing consulting work for Ingham County Intermediate School District, and his wife works for the non profit Michigan Fitness Foundation.

As much as Singer loves the stay-at-home arrangement right now, he said he knows it isn't forever.

"I think my wife accepted her role the same way I would if I was in her position," he said. "At times, she is envious and wishes she could stay home. But there will be a time when our roles will switch again."


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