An ode to fathers

Stay at home dads on the rise

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Photos



  • Joe's "patented rain system," which he invented so he could do farm work with Kai without her getting wet.




  • Joe and Kai Louise Gara of Warwick, N.Y.




  • Ken (left), Raymond (right) with their children pictured from left Jada, Liam, Alex and Grace of Andover, N.J.




  • Sean O'Regan with his sons Connor and Tristan of Warwick, N.Y.



"Staying home is 100 times more work than working. Working would be a vacation. It’s a lot more work and never ends."
— Raymond Griffiths-Ayers said.

The number of stay at home fathers is on the rise. In fact the number has nearly doubled since 1989 when 1.1 million were at home compared to 2010 when the number sky rocketed to 2.2 million, according to a study just released by Pew Research Center.

The largest contributor to the increase can be linked to the recession and fathers unable to find work.

"Roughly a quarter of these stay-at-home fathers (23 percent) report that they are home mainly because they cannot find a job," according to the study. "Nearly as many (21 percent) say the main reason they are home is to care for their home or family. This represents a fourfold increase from 1989, when only 5 percent of stay-at-home fathers said they were home primarily to care for family."

Although the main reason for the increase is linked to the economy, there are still many fathers choosing to stay home. Or just working from home as is the case with local fathers in Warwick, N.Y. and Andover, N.J.

Farmer father
Joe Gara, 38, of Warwick, N.Y. wears many hats. Not only does he have a job where he works from home, he also cares for his daughter Kai Louise (who is one years old), tends to the 50-acre farm, cooks and takes care of the home duties.

"My day begins at 6 or 7 a.m. when I do farm chores, then we have family time in the morning before Becca goes to work," Joe said.

Married to Becca Tucker, the couple purchased the property a few years ago with a friend. Neither Joe nor Becca have ever run a farm but they are learning as they go. Over the years, along with the addition of Kai to their family, the farm has grown to include 19 goats, nine pigs, 50 chickens (which will soon balloon up to 350 chickens next month), a vegetable garden and herb garden.

The family now sells farm fresh eggs to locals and essentially lives off of everything they grow. Joe says the family only really needs to purchase coffee and olive oil, everything else is home grown.

The morning family chores into breakfast sessions are Joe's favorite part of being a stay-at-home dad.

"Becca and Kai tend to the chickens and goats in the morning while I prepare our eggs with whatever's fresh from the garden," Joe said. "A big breakfast and quality family time fills our body and soul for work and play packed days."

After Becca leaves for work, Joe tends to household duties such as laundry and watching over Kai. Between noon and 3 p.m. when Kai goes down for her nap, Joe is able to sit down at the computer and get to work for his job.

Joe and Becca also volunteer for Ultimate Peace (www.utlimatepeace.org).

"A few days after Father's day our family is headed to Ultimate Peace Camp in the Middle East to teach the sport of Ultimate (Frisbee) to a mix of Isreali Jews, Arab Israelis and Palastenian teens," Joe said. "Mixed culture kids who normally wouldn't meet one another, towns are literally walled off from each other at home, spend days and nights together playing Ultimate, emphasizing our five principles: mutual respect, friendship, non-violence, personal integrity, and fun. My wife and I have been going every Summer since 2009."

Before making the switch to stay home, Joe used to work in New York City, logging long hours and commuting.

"Instead of working for the man, now we work for ourselves," Joe said.

Joe understands not all fathers have the opportunity to stay home with their children but he strongly encourages others to do it.

"The hours are long, the work is hard, but way more fun and better for the body than the office," Joe said. "Do it!"

Children's entertainer
Raymond Griffiths-Ayers of Andover, N.J. made the switch to be a full-time stay-at-home dad of four adopted children about six years ago.

Raymond married his husband Ken eight years ago and both were working New York City. Ken works for the government and Raymond is a children's entertainer/musician. When the couple adopted their first child Liam, who is 13, Raymond attempted to continue to work.

"The transition was rough," Raymond said of becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad. "I still would do birthday parties on the weekend to keep myself going."

However, juggling caring for their son and trying to be an entertainer eventually wasn't working out. So Raymond took the plunge to stay home.

"It was rough but I wouldn’t trade it for the world," Raymond said. "You get used to working full time in the house."

Over the years, Raymond and Ken adopted Alex and Jada (both eight years old) and last month got Grace, who is three.

When Ken leaves for work, Raymond takes care of all the children, including home schooling Jada and the household duties.

"Getting four kids up in morning in an hour and out the door to school, keeping the house in order, making meals for lunch, laundry, maintaining the home with four active children is a full-time job," Raymond said.

Staying active in the children's lives, Raymond also coaches soccer, volunteers at the school and helped run the school's variety show. He also continue to performs music on Wednesdays at the Y.

"Staying home is 100 times more work than working," Raymond said. "Working would be a vacation. It’s a lot more work and never ends."

Although, it is a lot of work, Raymond says he loves it.

"There are lots of things I get to see because I get to stay at home," Raymond said. "When the kids learn to walk, grasp the joy of reading, shooting their first bow and arrow, getting 100 on a test, being potty trained — all of those victories."

Active dad
Sean O'Regan of Warwick, N.Y. is still getting the hang of being a stay-at-home father. After his divorce, Sean acquired full custody of his two sons Connor, 10 and Tristan, 12 on Dec. 26, 2013.

Since then the boys have been living at home with Sean and his fiance Renee. Sean is a shift worker, which allows him plenty of down time since he only works about half the year. Before gaining custody, Sean only saw his children twice a month so the transition to full time was a big difference.

"At first I was scared because I wasn't sure how I would do," Sean said of being a stay-at-home dad. "It's a lot of hard work but it's worth it."

Since being home, Sean says he and his sons are closer than ever.

"There is nothing they can't tell me, no matter how bad or small," Sean said.

Along with enrolling the kids in school, helping with homework, clothes shopping, cooking, laundry — Sean likes to keep the boys active. Sean an athletic person himself used to compete regularly in triathlons including finishing two Iron Man races in 2006 and 2007. An Iron Man is a long-distance triathlon races consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile run.

Passing on his active lifestyle, Sean is constantly taking Connor and Tristan on hikes on the Appalachian Trail, playing basketball and frisbee and running at the track.

"I want them to take after me in that respect," Sean said. "It's important especially with the state of obesity in our country."

Already following in their father's foot steps, both Connor and Tristan are signing up for track next year.

"It's in my genes," Connor said of his athleticism.

Connor also enjoys building Legos and hopes to work at the company one day. Tristan enjoys reading.

"We play board games as well," Sean said. "I try to keep them away from the internet and computer."

Sean encourages more fathers to stay home with their children.

"There is no doubt about it," Sean said. "Everything is better at home."

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