Christopher Persley with his wife, Jenelle, and his daughter, Camilla. Persley is a stay-at-home father who wants to spend as much time with his daughter as he can.
Christopher Persley woke up around 7 a.m. He got breakfast and lunch for his five-year-old daughter, Camilla, before she left for school. For the rest of the afternoon, Persley did dishes, finished laundry, cleaned the house, and squeezed in some reading and writing. Once his daughter got back from school they played, ate a home cooked meal, and started getting ready for bed.
It was a typical day for Persley, a stay-at-home father.
“I have a truly wonderful relationship with my daughter,” said Persley, 42, of the Upper West Side. “There is nothing more fulfilling than that. I get to be the one who picks her up from school, who helps her maturation, who supports her identity development.”
Since 1989, the number of fathers who stay at home with their children has nearly doubled, reaching its highest point at 2.2 million in 2010. The number of stay-at-home fathers who say the main reason for staying home is caring for their family has also grown significantly since 1989, increasing from 5 to 21 percent.
Dr. Caryn Medved, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Baruch College, did an in-depth study on stay-at-home fathers. Her inspiration for this study actually came up when her own brother became an at-home father.
Medved believed that one of the most important takeaways from her project was the establishment of parenting roles with at-home dads and breadwinning mothers was not just a result of economic issues.
“You read a lot in newspapers and things like that, that often times this arrangement is brought about because of economics,” she said. “But I was surprised at the number of couples who were there for all sorts of other reasons.”
Many couples also felt more comfortable with a parent staying at home with their children instead of using daycare facilities or hiring a nanny.
For the Persley family, Christopher and his wife, Jenelle, knew that they wanted someone within the family watching their daughter.
“I think our biggest fear was how much of an influence would someone else be on our child,” said Persley. “Would they stifle who she is and lead her to become someone who she’s not?”
Because his wife had stricter hours at the lab she worked at, it made more sense for Persley, who worked at an independent school, to transition into being the at-home parent. He had worked with kids for a long time at his school and was excited about filling that role
“Jenelle loved the idea of it being me,” he said. “She always felt that I was the parent better suited for that sort of extended time with our child.”
Once the couple officially made this decision, Persley told his supervisor that he was going to be leaving work to be a full-time dad. He was surprised to see that some of his co-workers weren’t as supportive of his decision as he thought they would be.
“There were some other people in the community that really didn’t get it, who thought that I was being fired saying, ‘There’s no way this guy is walking away from this job to be home with his kid,’” he said.
Persley also had trouble finding other stay-at-home fathers he could connect with.
Eventually, he found NYC Dads Group, a community of fathers who get together for playdates, classes and other social events
Medved discovered through interviewing her participants that these societal perceptions of the traditional male role does affect how stay-at-home fathers define themselves. Some of them own their title, but others get more insecure in certain social situations, like at a wife’s work party or an outing at the park.
“They might be at a party and someone asks, ‘So what do you do?’ And there certainly were plenty of men that I talked to that said, ‘Oh it depends on the day. Sometimes I’m a photographer,’ which is maybe a part time job or a hobby they do,” she said. “And sometimes they own it. But those kinds of situations are the most challenging for them.”
For breadwinning mothers, similar social situations can be challenging for them as well.
Cherry Vasquez, is a working mother of two. She currently lives with her husband, Jim, in Dallas, Texas.
When Vasquez first became pregnant at 21, she was making more money as a federal government worker than her husband, and that’s when they decided that he should be the at-home parent. Both Vasquez and her husband immigrated to the United States from the Philippines at a young age, and because of cultural differences, not all of the couple’s friends and family understand their household dynamic. Vasquez said that in traditional Philippine culture, the father is supposed to work and the mother is supposed to stay at home with the family.
That is why Vasquez’s mother envisioned a different life for her daughter.
“My dad always stayed home too,” said Vasquez. “My dad took care of me, so that’s not something new to me. But my mom would have preferred for that not to be my family situation as well, because she was the one working. I’m sure she was hoping that I would change things.”
But she knew that having her husband stay at home was the best decision for their children.
“They actually really appreciate having one of us stay home,” said Vasquez. “So like when dad asks, ‘Oh can I go back to work now? You guys are older.’ They say no.”
And Vasquez doesn’t mind coming home to a cooked meal and a clean house either, since it gives her more time to spend with her family.
“He takes care of cooking and takes the kids wherever they need to be and that way, when I’m off of work, I don’t have to worry about all of that,” she said. “I can just spend time with the kids once I get home.”
Although stay-at-home fathering is still viewed as ‘non-traditional,’ the increase of this family dynamic over the past decade indicates that it is becoming more socially accepted in society. Even big companies like Lego, have introduced a stay-at-home dad figure as part of the brand’s new Lego City line. And many stay-at-home fathers, like Persley just want people to realize that dads are parents too.
“Most of us want to be just as involved as moms in the raising of our children,” he said. “And a man can be an at-home parent just as easily as a woman.”
After grueling one month long journeys that span over 1,000 miles, undocumented immigrants from Central America reach the United States physically and emotionally damaged from their experiences. Close to 70,000 children made the trek north last spring in order to escape violence and poverty, with the hopes of reuniting with their family and starting a new life. Terra Firma, a pediatric clinic headquartered in the Bronx, helps serve their many needs.
Eddie Coker and Andrew Holzschuh share their message on the 9/11 anniversary. Photo credit: Megan Jamerson
by Megan Jamerson
Days after the twin towers fell on 9/11 Eddie Coker wrote a song. The essence of that song became both the message of a youth organization and the reason he stood in Lower Manhattan on the 13th anniversary of 9/11 yesterday, with a sign that read “Forgive Others.”
“It was 9/11 that prompted the very first line [of the song] ‘each and everyone of us will fall’” said Corker.
Coker a resident of Manitou Springs, Colo., was once an opera singer in New York. After ac-cepting an invitation to perform with a friend in a children’s opera, he realized he had found his new calling. He became a singer songwriter for children composing not only music for his own albums but also for “Barney and Friends” and Borders Books.
When the tragedy of 9/11 happened, Coker had two small children of his own. His youngests daughter, was barely walking. In an attempt to process the pain and suffering of that day, he did what he knew best and wrote a song for his daughter. The song was a message of coming to-gether as a community and unconditional love one.
“We need to love each other, care for each other and be good to each other,” said Corker.
Coker’s need to explain the importance of compassionate treatment of others blossomed into a greater mission. A mission to provide youth with a formula for leading a happy and healthy life.
“Thirty years of working with children led me to realize we gotta help them deal with their heads,” Corker said.
After years of research he finally started an organization called Wezmore to fulfill this purpose. The Wezmore website is full of inspirational videos, songs and blog posts centered around their values. “It’s all about trying to spread goodwill towards human kind” said Coker.
Coker and his Wezmore Creative Director, Andrew Holzschuh of Dallas, Texas, came to One World Trade Center to work on one of their many video projects. They envision it as a letter to everyone.
They set up their camera in the middle of the chaos in Zuccotti Park. Steps from ground zero, they were surrounded by tourists clicking photos, families and first responders passing through to pay respects and church choirs singing the gospel. The crowds lingered and observed Coker’s performance.
Coker used handwritten cardboard signs of varying sizes to display his positive messages. Be Kind. Be Generous. Be Good. Happiness is something you choose. Holzschuh,24, plans to use the footage he captures of Coker to create a stop action video for their website and hopes it will have a big impact.
“This is a significant day. The best day to send a message to the world of positive things” said Holzschuh. “What happened, 13 years ago, it happened from a lot of hate and it formed a lot of hate”.
Hate is what these men say they want to help children deal with.
“If we can at least forgive someone in our lives I think that makes a small difference” said Hol-zschuh.
Lori Crotty, 53, from Summit, NJ visited the 9/11 Memorial to commemorate the death of her husband on the attack. Photo by Virginia Gunawan
by Virginia Gunawan
As the nation mourned the 13th anniversary of September 11, a 9/11 widow still struggles to explain the loss to her three children.
“It has become a great event in the family and our lives definitely revolve around it but it is a difficult subject to talk about,” said Lori Crotty, 53, of Summit, N.J. “At first, it was really hard for them to understand because they were so young.”
Crotty lost her husband, Kevin Crotty, who worked on the 104th of the 2 World Trade Center on 9/11. She was left to raise three young children at that time, Megan, 7, Kyle, 5 and Sean, 2.
She encouraged them to be open about their feelings and tried to answer their questions but knows it may never be enough.
“I hope I taught them about good and bad,” she said. “Not in the sense of, who’s the bad person and who’s the good person, but to be able to understand in the higher level of the worldly perspective.”
Her youngest son, Sean, now 15, was with her yesterday to visit the newly opened 9/11 Museum, but he cannot talk about his father or the attack.
Other parents who visited Ground Zero yesterday had to face difficult conversations about the attack.
Robby Badruddin, 42, of Bandung, Indonesia, sat next to his son, Zoya, 12, and explained the memorial site. This is their first visit to the United States.
“I think we need to know where it is and what is left from the World Trade Center,” he said. “Although I never really told Zoya anything about it, but it is still a part of the world history that will be remembered forever.”
Zoya has heard briefly about 9/11 attacks from his friends and teachers. Coming from a Muslim majority country, the issue is less discussed with the same discourse as it has been in the States. Regardless, Zoya said, “I feel sorry for everyone who died. People should not die like this.”
Badruddin did not think that it was his obligation to talk to Zoya about the attacks, he said he could get the information from other sources.
“Besides, I want him to be able to find the truth,” he said. “If he always come to me for the answer, I might only give him my truth.”
A more formal educational program has been prepared by the 9/11 Tribute Center called Teaching 9/11. They have a toolkit with a lesson plans and personal stories of people who were affected by the event to be used by any school in the world. The toolkit is available on their website.
Director of Education and Exhibits at The Tribute WTC, Wendy Aibel-Weiss highlighted the problem.
“At that time, most students have not been born yet or they were too young to remember and parents have avoided the topic,” she said.
“The toolkit could provide educators a comprehensive way of introducing the sensitive subject,” she said.
A grandmother herself, the Park Slope, Brooklyn resident wanted to teach the younger generations about “great heroism when a city, a nation, and the world came together and recovered from it.”