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I Found My Tribe of SAHD

For me, the PEPS experience was cathartic and I knew I have found my tribe. It was not role models I needed, but peer models!

Being a Stay-At-Home-Dad is the HARDEST job I have ever had.  PEPS Group for Dads brings together Stay At Home Dads with the same structure, education, and dialogue that is present in every other PEPS group. And to me it made all the difference in the world.

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- Leo Novsky, PEPS dad

My name is Leo and my life irrevocably changed on August 21, 2012 when my wife Dawn left … to go back to work and I became a Stay at Home Dad, or as we, in the “stay-at-home-business” say SAHD; --a label though one of the most rewarding, has proven the hardest to wear, and would have drowned me in depression, resentment and anger… if it wasn’t for PEPS.

I never expected to be a stay at home dad. In fact, after ten years of marriage, I did not expect to be a dad, period. But as our son, Kai grew in my wife’s belly, so did the realization that we wanted one of us to stay home to help him grow and blossom. My wife was the obvious choice, since she was the one with the milk supply, but she also happened to be the one with a corporate job and a good health insurance.

And so, three months into the life of our son Kai, I found myself… alone with the baby… This is going to be easy I thought. The kid sleeps 16 hours a day! I can play with him and STILL get all my business done! RIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT… After being left in charge of a milk-eating, diaper-soiling, insomnia-inducing baby…

In the first three days I learned three important lessons. 1—You cannot multitask with a baby, and 2. Baby boys can aim! 3. that for the first few months of life the H in SAHD is mostly silent.

Being a Stay-At-Home-Dad is the HARDEST job I have ever had. It was not the diapers or the sleep deprivation, though, but the judgment that I as a male am somehow incapable of taking care of a child.

I remember the first time I went out on the town… to Target, with Kai hanging as a fancy fashion accessory in his baby carrier. It was 10 am and I was feeling good. One middle aged matron came up and exclamed “Ohhhhhhhh, your son is sooo cute!” then finally looking up to me:

“A day off of work?”

“No", I replied, “I am a SAHD”

“Really?!” she said “You know what you are doing? Where is your wife?”

The next hit came from Mike, one of my male friends who, hearing that I have decided to be a SAHD, asked me about MY milk supply.

Seeking help, I decided to go to a Parent Support Group at the Evergreen Hospital. Sitting in that room with twelve other mothers, I felt like an odd MAN out. Finally, as we were all leaving I heard the facilitator say: “OK ladies, I will see you all next week!”

“Oh no, you won’t see THIS LADY back!” I thought bitterly.

I felt so isolated and judged. I started to believe the negative stereotypes, and though Kai was flourishing, I fell into depression.

That is when my wife signed me up for the PEPS Group for Dads, an “experimental” group that PEPS has set up in 2012 at the Twirl Cafe. It brings together Stay At Home Dads with the same structure, education, and dialogue that is present in every other PEPS group. And to me it made all the difference in the world.

The first time I drove from Redmond to Queen Anne, I swore I would never go back. First I had to fight the 520 bridge and Mercer St construction. Second, I had to find parking in Queen Anne, and third, as I entered the Twirl Café (how many of you have been to the Twirl Café), I had to part the sea of mothers to get to the room in the back where the 7 other SAHDs were huddling together. When Chris, our facilitator, had us all go around and say why we signed up, two things became clear: One was that we all were signed up by our wives… and second that each of us were reeling from the same type prejudice and judgment.

For me, the PEPS experience was cathartic and I knew I have found my tribe. It was not role models I needed, but peer models! Men like me, who chose to be great dads but still burdened by the bias in our society that puts down mothers who work and fathers who take care of the kids.

So the next week came and I found myself in the car, paying the 520 toll and braving the one hour round trip with a back seat screaming machine just to share my experience with my tribe… and sing kids songs by Jonny Cash!

And when the twelve weeks were over, I have found a new pride in what I do. I have found that I was fortunate enough to be given me a chance to foster my son’s miraculous transformation from that milk-eating, diaper-soiling, insomnia-inducing baby…to a rapidly-growing, world-discovering, people-loving being whose toothless grin has the ability to melt my callused heart in an instant.

And I have found it through the group of caring and devoted Stay At Home Dads. All of which would not be possible without the power of PEPS! …

But PEPS cannot connect, educate and empower without those of us who have already benefited from its collective wisdom. Each of us needs to step up and volunteer our time, energy and money to make sure we pay forward the gift that was given to us, so that the Stay at home moms, stay at home dads and all those moms and dads who are working can find their peer group and be empowered to raise their children into men and women that we wish them to be.

DID YOU KNOW? PEPS for Dads is now a series of interactive talks and panels.

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