NEW YORK -- Hey, Mr. Mom. What’s up, Workaholic?
Whether they say it out loud or acknowledge it at all, that work-home divide traditionally reserved for the Mommy Wars can also rear between dads who go off to the office every day and the kind in the trenches with the kids.
There are bound to be rifts, given the growing league of dads staying home at least part-time. But do the paths of work dads and home dads intertwine enough to make them care quite so deeply as the ladies? How exactly are they perceived, not by researchers or journalists, but by each other?
"To be a stay-at-home dad requires a lot of confidence in who you are," said Paxton Helms, 41, in Wash ington, D.C.
He became one about four years ago, when his daughter was 3 months old. A son followed and he now takes part-time contracts as an international development consultant, with flexible hours. His wife also works part-time.
"The strangest thing that ever happened to me as a (stay-at-home dad) was riding on the Metro with both my kids and a guy asking me, ‘So where’s Mom?’ I couldn’t even think why in the world somebody would be asking me that question, so I couldn’t even muster an answer," he said.
Other at-home dads worry about jealousy from working brethren (What are they really thinking about all that time spent with the women?). Or suspicion that they’re out of work. And dads on both sides of the divide report the occasional cold shoulder.
"It seems that they try to avoid me or don’t want to talk about what life is like for them," said dad-of-one Don ald DeLong, 55, a Bloomfield Township, Mich., attorney who acknowledges a "deeply rooted need to work and ‘earn a living."’
"When I do talk to them, the topics stay guy-safe. That is, sports, cars. After all we’re both still guys. We don’t talk about that sensitive touchy-feely stuff."
Other at-home dads, those by choice or pushed out of the job market, said they’ve endured some snark, but they consider it more of a dad-on-dad discomfort than a serious divide.
In Boston, 32-year-old No lan Kido is no stereotype. He’s the exhausted at-home dad of an 11-week-old daughter as his wife completes her dental education.
"At the very beginning they were a little weirded out, like what do we talk about, what’s the common themes, but now the impression that I get more is actually jealousy," he said of his working dad friends.
The number of at-home dads who are primary caregivers for their children reached nearly 2 million in 2010, or one in 15 fathers, according to one estimate.
Al Watts, president of the National At-Home Dad Network, believes a more accurate count is about 7 million, using broader definitions that include part-time workers. That amounts to one-third of married fathers in the U.S.
Most, he said, want to be there, as opposed to the kind who never thought about it until the ax fell on their careers. And more often than women, they do earn a bit of income at the same time, he said.