Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Father Knows Best. A Stay at Home Dad's Story, by Joey Spinelli

Has anyone noticed that more and more couples with kids are choosing to have one of the parents quit their careers and become a stay at home parent?  I meet people daily that either just recently quit their jobs or that have been raising their kids for years as a stay at home parent while their spouse works extra hours at his or her job.  There was a trend in the 80s and 90s for both parents to be working full time jobs.  Now, as I go through my days as a parent, I am finding that more and more couples are making the decision that I made.

When I realized that I was going to become a dad, I had to rethink a lot of things about my career and myself.  As the realization set in that we were going to become parents, we sat down and tried to figure this whole thing out.   What happens when the baby gets here?   Do we hire someone to take care of him?  How will he know his caregiver from his parents?  Will we be there for all his “Firsts”(First steps, first words, etc ?)  Having someone do all that stuff for us sounded very cold.  But, what other choice do we have?  Its not like one of us could stop working, right?  Well, after weeks of talking about this, we decided one of us needed to stay home, but it came with a price.

Financial freedom was no longer my best friend.  Kids cost money to raise and there are things that I had not considered.  6 years later, I am now a stay at home dad.  I get up weekday mornings at 7am and get my kid up, fed, and drop him off at his school.  Then, I get home and clean the house for a bit.  If its Tuesday, I get myself showered and head back to my kids school for lunch duty at 10:30am where I help the kids open their juice boxes, tell them  to wash their hands after the bathroom, and occasionally try out my latest cartoon impressions on them while trying not to let them "Cheese Touch" me.  I walk around the whole time with my fingers crossed so I am “on base”.  Then, its back home to plan my grocery shopping for that week by cutting out my coupons and getting meals ready for that evening and if there is time, I attempt to get to the gym.  I then pick my kid up at 3:00pm or 1:30pm if it’s Wednesday, which is usually an early dismissal day.  Depending on the day, he may have his tutor that afternoon, his advanced learning program, art class, swim team, yoga, or gymnastics.  By then, its about 5:30pm and we have to start homework, eat dinner when his other dad gets home, then he starts getting ready for bed at 7:30pm.  My partner gets about 90 minutes with him a day.

It hasn’t been easy for me.  I will admit that the change from being a man with the answers in a technology field to being a dad raising a child in a home that I cant seem to keep clean enough has put me in a very tough emotional place.    I have had to learn many things the hard way.   First, I have had to learn that I do not have all the answers.   I spent years asking myself why does my house look like it needs to be cleaned when every single day I clean it?  Why are there crumbs on the couch when I vacuumed and wiped that couch down not even 12 hours ago?  Why can’t I look across my home and see every bit of floor and every piece of seating space I own instead of trucks, stuffed animals and all my office supplies strategically spread out like land mines?  

Second, I have to give up having my home looking like a well-decorated gay villa and accept that my house has an actual family living in it.  When my friends say, “Let’s get together for dinner, can you host?” I have to assume they are saying “Lets get together for dinner, can you host, and by the way, we are totally cool with kids stuff being out in the common areas of your house because we know how kids are”. 

Third, I have had to give up trying to understand why I cant focus on some things long enough to complete all my task that day for my task list.  The simple fact is that I have a 6 yr old child; my attention and train of thought are constantly being interrupted.  Like every kid, my boy not only wants to know why the sky is blue but he wants to know how long will it be blue, what if it was red, yellow or green?  Since he’s an only child I am his every waking thought as far as a playmate.  I am the one he wants to play board games with, get frozen yogurt with, spend hours playing Hot Wheels with, and camping out in his tent in the living room with.  I can’t do this stuff and think about how unproductive I am being.  I cant worry about how much crap is laying around the living room and how I hope he goes to bed early so I can put it all away before I go to bed.  I have to focus on the now because this is what I stayed home from work for.  This is what I wanted to experience and this is the commitment I made to my child and my family.   I am only going to get this chance one time.  Tomorrow, it will be gone and my son will either remember how I loved to play with him or how he was always bothering me with the things he wanted to do with me.  I also have to remember that my partner is working extra long shifts, getting as much overtime as he can so that one of us can be here for our boy.

I talk with many of the moms at my kid’s school.  There are about 8 of them that get there from my sons class about 15 minutes before the kids get out.  They each have quit their full time jobs and they are all raising their kids as stay at home moms.  They have all confided in me that money is tight with one income but that they want to raise their kids themselves.  I am envious at the ones that have the grandparents nearby to help them at times.  I don’t have that option.  I wish we did. But, there clearly seems to be a renaissance in the stay at home mom movement. Whether it is at my kid’s school, his swim team practice or online, I continue to meet family after family that has decided to have one parent stay home from work and manage the kids and household. 

There is some solace in knowing that we are not alone in this lifestyle choice.  There is definitely and understanding between myself and the moms at the school about sharing info on money saving tips, and where the best deals are on school uniforms.  We are part of a growing movement.   Of course it does raise the question, does a child raised solely by the parents fare any better than one raised by the parents, the afterschool programs, the sports camps and the day care?  I would have to think probably not.  But, it does make me feel better knowing that I was there for my boy every step of the way.  After all, that is what this was all about from the beginning, right? 

"Who am I? That’s simple. I am a gay parent that’s treated like a second class citizen and I am done taking it. 
Every day I am in the battlefields, in my kid’s school, PTA meetings, swim team, birthday parties with
other parents and I am forcing people to meet me.
Every day I stand right next to them and even if it’s just in my mind, I say “ Look at me will you! I am a gay man, right in front of you. 
I have a partner of 8 years and a 6r old boy. 
My kid is in your kid’s class and will be for the next 11 years. 
I am not going away so now would be as good a time as any to accept me and everything that comes with me."
Joe also blogs at 1 regular joe

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Where life takes you. Dara Fisher on bullying, growing up with gay parents and the New Kids on the Block.


One of my favorite television shows is Doctor Who.  It's about a Time Lord from Gallifrey that travels around in time and space in his Tardis, a blue police box.  There is an episode in which the soul of the Tardis is put into the physical body of a woman which allows the Doctor and the Tardis to talk to each other for the first time.  During their conversation, the Doctor tells the Tardis, “You never take me where I want to go!” and she responds with, “I may not take you where you want to go but I always take you where you need to go!”  What a great line....an amazing line really.

In life, we don't always end up where we want to go but we always end up where we needed to go.  I have found that to be a great lesson in this life.  

When I was a kid, having gay parents was difficult.  I grew up around amazing people and had such wonderful experiences but because of bigotry, the best part of my life was something I had to keep hidden.  I didn't talk about my parents the way other kids did because I was terrified that someone would find out that I lived in the gay community.  I grew up in Oklahoma which is probably one of the most religious places in the World.  Though religion certainly wasn't one of the popular topics at school, Christianity was always the backdrop of our lives.  Every day I felt like I had this huge secret that could never be found out.  Unfortunately, as with most secrets, it found its way into the World.  I didn't come out of the closet, I was thrown out by someone I considered my best friend and sadly, it really wasn't her fault.  
When I was in 5th grade, my Mom got me two tickets to go to the concert of the year at the Myriad in Oklahoma City.  It was the New Kids on the Block and if you didn't go, you just weren't one of the cool kids!  The day my Mom told me that she had gotten the tickets, I was so excited that I immediately ran to the phone to call my best friend, April.  I had two tickets and there was only one person I could imagine taking with me, my best friend.  When I called April and told her what I had in my little hands, she screamed in excitement and asked her Mom if she could go.  Her Mom said “No.”  Huh?  What?  What do you mean, no?  We just couldn't figure out why April's Mom wouldn't let her go.  There was a few weeks before the concert so we held out hope that April's Mom would change her mind but it just wasn't to be.  On the day of the concert, our little school was buzzing with excitement.  The school I went to was nothing but 5th graders and almost everyone was going to the concert, except April.  I felt bad for April but I couldn't change her Mom's mind so my friend Shawna went with me.  Shawna was another close friend of mine who also happened to have gay parents and was part of our family circle.  We went to the concert on a Friday night and had a blast.  It's still one of my fondest memories...well other than my Mom washing the clothes I had set out to wear that night and ending up having to wear purple corduroy pants and a white ruffled church blouse to the concert.  We spent the rest of the weekend being girls and talking all about NKOTB.

On Monday morning, I went to school as usual but when I walked into the school there seemed to be a weird vibe.  Everyone was staring at me and even though I was smiling and saying hi to everyone, nobody was really speaking back to me.  This went on until lunch when I walked up to April to tell her about the concert and she yelled at me, “I wasn't allowed to go to the concert because your Dad's a faggot!”  You could have heard a pin drop with the silence that took over the lunchroom.  I felt like I had been punched in the gut so hard that I literally couldn't breathe.  Not only was my secret out but EVERYONE knew and the laughter followed.  To this day, I still hear the word faggot and it reminds me of that moment.  Beyond the shock of having my family's secret yelled like that, I was absolutely horrified that my best friend had just called my Dad a faggot.  What the hell?  Nobody calls my Dad a faggot and walks away with their teeth.  Had we not been standing in front of the entire school, I probably would have punched her but at that point, the only reaction I could render was to cry.  I was embarrassed all the way to my toes.

That day was the beginning of some of the worst times of my life.  I was bullied relentlessly and it wasn't just verbally, I was being physically hurt.   After the lunchroom scene, I made it my goal in life to stay as far out of sight as possible.  When I walked in the hallway, I kept my head down.  I didn't raise my hand in class anymore.  My grades slipped horribly and I became painfully shy.  If I did have to speak in front of the class, I would have panic attacks because I knew what my classmates thought of me.  I only spoke to my friends who were part of the gay community and understood the pain I was suffering through.  In my school, there was a boy who targeted me and hurt me a lot.  One day I was putting my books in my locker and he slammed my locker door on my hand.  It was so swollen that I couldn't write for a week.  When my Dad came to the school to deal with it, the Principal told my Dad that me getting hurt was his fault for being a pervert.  As time went on, the abuse I suffered from that same kid got worse and worse and worse.  It culminated in me being shoved down a flight of stairs and being hurt bad enough that I had to go to the hospital.  The boy who did it was never disciplined at all even though I had pretty severe injuries and being pushed down stairs could have actually killed me.  That was the done point for my parents.  My Terri had enough and he decided to take matters into his own hands.  Terri had driven me to school the day I returned from my accelerated trip down the stairs.  Usually he would just drop me off and head home.  That day he got out of the car after I had walked into the school and stormed the Principal's office.  I remember the look on his face as he charged down the hallway.  I didn't know exactly what he was up to but I knew that whoever was about to be on the receiving end of that one was going to seriously regret it.  Mom told me afterward that Terri had gone into that Principal's office and told him that if his daughter ever so much as had another hair on her head harmed, he was going to personally take action.  The language Terri used can't be written in polite society but I do believe he got his point across.  That boy never came near me again...ever.  Though I still had to deal with all the comments and verbal insults, my body stayed safe and at that point, I was okay with that.

I spent the rest of 5th grade and most of 6th grade avoiding people.  My social anxiety was about as bad as it could get and I found that my books were much better company that most people.  When I was in 6th grade we moved to California and what a relief it was.  Moving to California meant that I got a new start where nobody would know who I was and who my family was.
The  majority of the bullying ended when we moved from Oklahoma to California.  Well, at least the gay bashing part of the bullying.  The social anxiety issues I developed as a result of the abuse stayed with me and it caused me to retreat into myself as a defense mechanism.  I had friends but only a few because I no longer had the ability to trust people.  I'm 33 years old now and I still have the same mentality when it comes to letting people into my inner circle.  I have my best friends, Domita and Naisha plus a few from my school years like Valerie.
I hate bullying.  It is easily one of my biggest pet peeves.  When I was in high school, I was known for standing up for my friends who were being picked on.  In fact, all the discipline issues I had in school was a result of me defending my friends.  Because of what I had gone through, I had a deep sense of what was right and what was wrong.  To this day my friends still tell me that I am one of the few people who have a clear definition of right and wrong.  It's hard to put into words how the trauma of bullying taught me to be a better person but I know that I am.  My Mom always told me that the only way around something was through it and boy did I go through it.  God knows I didn't want to go through all the bullying but in the end, I needed to.  I needed to see that side of the story so I could come out on the other side a better being.  What I went through as a kid has shaped a lot of my childrens' lives because of the lessons I learned.  I know that a kind heart speaks kind words.  The way you treat people doesn't make you a better person, it makes you a better soul.  The thing you think is the worst possible problem in the World, is ultimately just a drop in the bucket over the course of your lifetime.  I also know that life doesn't always take you where you want to go, but it will ALWAYS take you where you need to go.

Dara Fisher. A 33 year old Mother of 3 amazing children with her Prince Charming Keith.  
They live right outside of Palm Springs, California. Dara has degrees in Anthropology, Liberal Arts, and Business Administration.  
She works full time in the Hospitality Industry and attends college classes in pursuit of her MBA when she's not busy being Super Mom.   
She spend her spare time crocheting, quilting, and making a mess with pretty much anything she can get my hands into.  She is a huge Doctor Whofan and  can't eat while watching The Walking Dead. 
Oh and she also happens to be the daughter of gay parents and the Mother of a child with Asbergers  Syndrome and ADHD