Almost 4 years ago, Carlos Mari made the choice to stay home as a full-time father to take care of his newborn daughter, Carla. Since then, he has created AMIGO Dads, an all-inclusive playgroup and a platform for stay-at-home dads. Curious about this part-time superhero and full-time dad? We were! So we went down to an AMIGO Dads play-date and had our questions answered…
What prompted you to set up AMIGO Dads?
As a stay-at-home dad, I couldn’t find playgroups and parent communities where I felt completely welcome. I wanted to create my own space that’s comfortable for stay-at-home dads, where there is no judgement. There are cultural barriers, gender roles, and a general social attitude towards stay-at-home dads — and AMIGO Dads is a group that is very inclusive and it gives stay-at-home parents, dads especially, a place to connect with each other.
As a stay-at-home dad, what are your greatest challenges?
My greatest challenge is ensuring that my children have access to all of the care and educational tools and outlets that a child requires. I also try my best to provide love, care, and affection just like Mom would.
Parenting is a process of learning. I’ve had to learn to live with children over time. Parents need to learn to be in tune with their babies’ needs. We need to learn to read the signs that our children display.
Another challenge is trying to stay productive while staying home to care for my children. I would suggest to stay-at-home parents that they find part-time employment, or run a blog, or find other productive use of their time to stay active and keep one foot in the working world. The trade-off of being a stay-at-home parent is that finances will be tight — being dependent on one major source of income. While part time jobs do help you to stay productive, they do not pay lavishly. Sometimes full time parenting simply isn’t an option due to the financial stress it places on the family.
In your opinion, what are the common misconceptions that people have of stay-at-home dads?
I’ve heard everything from ‘lazy and don’t want to work’, to ‘not good husbands’. In this sense, AMIGO dads is an interesting outlet for guys to share and exchange parenting tips, jokes, experience, etc. I’ve met fathers who have liked the idea of AMIGO Dads but were not inclined to join us because them being income-dependent is seen as a failure in their families or communities.
The current discourse is that dads are spending time with their children at the expense of work. Very few working dads I know would take the afternoon off to spend time with their children. But the reality is that your children grow up very fast. I understand that taking time off work is a luxury some may not have but making time for your kids is an investment that will pay off in the long run.
What do you think needs to change about the perception of stay-at-home dads?
In media, the figure of parenting is overwhelmingly portrayed by women. This creates the impression that dads are less concerned about their children’s development, which is obviously untrue. And the figure of the stay-at-home dad in popular media is essentially non-existent. The very concept of the stay-at-home dad is relatively new. It surfaced only in the last 20 to 30 years. So there needs to be cultural sensitivity when portraying stay-at-home dads in the media.
Do you feel that parenting style is affected by the gender of the parent?
Yes, definitely. Dads are more aware of actions and physical play. They are more likely to engage in rough play with the kids. Mothers are more gentle and nurturing. But the love and care are exactly the same.
In three words, describe the 21st century father?
Much more fun.
Carlos is a scuba rescue diver, traveler, writer, creator, husband, and AMIGO Dad. On a typical morning, he’s busy with getting his family up and running. For the remainder of the day, he works on projects on the side and keeps himself active. When Carlos sets up playdates, he tries his best to ensure that they are free or low cost. AMIGO playdates are easygoing with children of various ages.