Meet The Dads Who Talk Like Mums (We Found Them At The PTA)

As the daughters of fathers, let us say a thing about dads: We love them even though they sometimes make us want to rip our hair out. That goes for our own partners who statistically don’t do enough laundry, enough dishes, enough permission-slip management, enough sunscreen-slathering, enough snack-packing, or enough birthday-present shopping. And yet they are glorified for everything, from dad bods to ugly dad pants, for cleaning up poo-covered rooms to remaining calm when their kids crash a live TV appearance.
But seriously, it’s Father’s Day so we don’t really want say they don’t deserve a little recognition. Because the fact is, while most dads still think women are better at all things related to child-rearing, there are a growing number of men who give us hope for the future. These are the guys who tote diaper bags, schlep strollers to play groups, and spend their Saturday morning social hour at the playground. These are also the guys who join the PTA and school groups, and encourage others dads to buck gender stereotypes and start volunteering.
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Just like us, these dads want it all. Let’s celebrate it!
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Jeff Kosseff, 39, law professor and father to a 4-year-old daughter
Arlington, VA

What kinds of kids activities or organisations are you involved in?
My daughter just finished her third year in an amazing morning preschool, and has one more year left before kindergarten. It is a cooperative school, so each child's parent or caregiver rotates as the teacher's assistant. Each family has co-op duties a few times a month. My wife and I both work full-time, so Julia's excellent nanny takes her to and from school, and cares for her in the afternoons. My wife and I, along with our nanny, have shared our co-op duties since Julia started school. I love the opportunity to watch Julia in class, meet her great teachers, and get to know her classmates. The parents also share in the governance of the school, so my wife and I help to set up for annual school events.

Do you find it's mostly mums who volunteer?
When Julia first started at the school, I rarely saw other fathers co-oping. On my first day in the classroom, one of the mothers said to me, "I think it's great that you're co-oping." I wasn't quite sure why she said that, so I responded, "I think it's great that you're co-oping too." It was only when I received a weird look from her that I realised she meant that it's great that I'm co-oping because I'm a dad. (Sometimes I'm not too quick with these things.) In the past year or so, I've noticed a lot more dads co-oping and volunteering at the school, and that has been a great development.

How do you juggle it all and manage to balance work and family?
Triage. We're fortunate to have the resources to hire an incredibly reliable nanny, but even with that help, it's hard to balance two full-time careers and parenthood. My wife is much more organised than I am, so she prepares monthly schedules that are essential to keeping everything running smoothly. But it still is tough to juggle. For example, last fall we had a mandatory parent meeting in the evening. My wife stayed home to get Julia to bed, and I went to the meeting. I was scheduled to testify in Congress the next morning, so my mind wasn't focused on the meeting, and I bolted as soon as it ended rather than sticking around to socialise. But being fully involved in Julia's school is part of parenthood, and it's a lot of fun.
2 of 8
Damon Colquhoun, 44, stay-at-home dad, emerging writer-director, and father to a 6-year-old son
Harlem, NY

Why did you decide to become a stay-at-home dad?
I left my job as a commercial VFX assistant to find my passion. We were young and could get by — though barely — on one income. My wife granted me that gift. During that time, her career took off. Then we had Milo. At the time, my filmmaking career was finally starting to show promise as well (I'd won that Ron Howard/Canon Project Imagination photo contest and was a finalist in their film contest). My income as an assistant wasn't so great, so it made more sense for me to stay home with Milo, loving and educating him (he learned to read at age 2), than it did to pay for a nanny. On top of that, we didn't like the idea of leaving him in a daycare — a good one would have cost a lot of money as well. The bonus was that it would allow me time to pursue my dream as a writer-director — which I'd already invested most of my 20s learning and doing. I produced two short films while juggling being a stay-at-home dad. It was hell, but it made me a more efficient creator.

How do you and your wife split your household chores?
Because I obsess over my writing, my wife often ends up doing more than her fair share of chores. But then I eventually get back into the swing of things. We've been together for 20 years, so we've found groove. It's based on tolerance levels. She handles a lot more cleaning — she hates a mess. I do a lot of cooking, grocery shopping, fixing things — I'm more about functionality. I guess it's all based on our personalities.

What kinds of kids activities or organisations you're involved in?
My son, Milo, attends The Dalton School. I’m a member of their Parents of Children of Color (POCOC) affinity group, and I volunteered to join the group’s steering committee in the fall. I joined POCOC as an effort to support Milo’s Dalton journey. I wanted to make sure that as a Black male from a non-wealthy family, he would have the necessary support in an environment like Dalton. Dalton’s parent groups usually provide childcare for their events, so the POCOC meeting is the time that Milo gets to bond with a large number of other Black and brown children. He cherishes that time.

I also participate in the Community Life and Diversity Committee where we learn a number of skills from invited experts. Most talk are about bettering the Dalton community and maximising our kids’ education and life during these vital years.

In general, I make time to volunteer at Dalton. This includes events like the school’s Centennial celebration, book fair, reading to the class, class trips, etc.

I love learning, so I also make it a point to engage Milo’s regular school and after-school instructors. For instance, the librarians at Dalton LOVE books, so I spend time with them talking about Milo’s interests and what books might feed or expand those interests. I do the same with his art instructors, science instructors, music instructors, etc. Over the course of Milo’s kindergarten year, I’ve developed the reputation of being a rare dad who shows a deep interest in the details of what the kids are doing at school. I would say my interest comes from being a writer.

Do you find it's mostly mums who volunteer?
Though there are a number of dads who volunteer, I do find that it’s mostly moms.

How do you juggle it all and manage to balance work and family?
I write like a madman during the day, then, when I pick up Milo from school, I tend to make that “our time.” We explore Central Park, or sometimes we go to West Side Kids or Barnes & Noble to read books and look at toys. On most nights (until I burn out and my wife takes over for a while), I cook dinner for the family (Milo, my wife, and I). After getting in some quality time of their own, my wife puts Milo to bed. After that, we finally get to engage in some grown-up conversation. Once that’s down, it’s back to writing for me.

I'm OCD (clinically diagnosed), so I obsess and often hyperfocus on my writing. After all, it is my passion. It was initially hard to turn my writing time into Milo time. Lucky for me he's a very interesting person, so that made it much easier to change my habits.
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3 of 8
Sal Garro, 33, stay-at-home dad to a 2.5-year-old son and 9-month-old daughter
Brooklyn, NY

Why did you decide to become a stay-at-home dad?
Knowing the realities of childcare — in particular the financial burden — it made more sense for me to stay home with our children rather than paying exorbitant amounts of money for someone else to care for them. While it certainly can be demanding at times, I've never felt a greater pleasure than being with my kids through all of their first experiences and discoveries.

How do you and your wife split your household chores?
I have an incredibly supportive and loving wife. She's up early to walk the dog and prepare for her workday, and she’s home as quickly as possible to spend time with the kids while I prep dinner. We do the kids’ nighttime routine together — bath and story time before lights out. And once the kids are down for the night, we wash dishes together and tidy up the kitchen before decompressing for the night. Some nights, just before or right after the kids go to sleep, I go rehearse with my band or attend a community meeting, and my wife will always support me and help tie up any loose ends while I'm gone. Over the weekend, we do any household chores that need to get done, but they don't often feel like work since we are doing them together.

How do you connect with other stay-at-home parents?
I love my neighbourhood and make sure to stay connected in every way I can. I subscribe to neighbourhood list serves and Facebook parent groups, both of which foster strong and supportive communities. I've met lots of local stay-at-home parents, both moms and dads, who I see throughout the week. It's great for the kids to socialise, as well as the parents to talk and share our day-to-day trials and tribulations and support each other through the tough times.

How do people react (especially outside of Brooklyn!) when you tell them you're a stay-at-home dad?
Overwhelmingly, I've found people to be supportive of the role I play in my family. Our parents have been nothing but supportive and appreciative of our decision. My friends with kids recognise the difficulty of parenting full-time and applaud my willingness to do it. One even said that it has inspired him to consider becoming a stay-at-home dad, too.

I recognise there is a stigma about fathers being the primary caretakers of their children. I get lots of smiles from strangers as well as the occasional stares at the playground. Lots of comments about it being "Dad's day with the kids" or praise for having my kids in tow when I'm out and about. Ultimately, I don't think what I'm doing warrants any extra attention. I'm not doing anything that my mom didn't do for me, and there are stay-at-home parents all over the world working themselves to the bone for the good of their families.

Do you worry your career will suffer because you took time off to raise your kids?
My focus is on my family, first and foremost, but I also stay engaged and active in community affairs and organisations that are important to me. I would hope when the time comes for me to return to the workforce, I find an organisation that is understanding of my decision to stay at home and raise my children from birth, one that recognises the challenges of the job I do now and the benefits of what I have learned through this experience, regardless of how unorthodox it may seem.
4 of 8
Dan Janzen, 50, freelance copywriter and father to a 15-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter
Brooklyn, NY

What kinds of kids activities or organisations are you involved in?
I got increasingly involved in my kids' elementary school (PS 295 in Brooklyn) during their time there. It started with the School Leadership Team (where I ended up serving for five years), which seemed like a fairly simple way to get involved, as well as helping in the library, and then expanded into helping to start and run a farmer's market at the school, photographing school events, writing grant applications, editing the weekly bulletin, running the website and social media accounts, and eventually serving for two years as PTA president. By the time my daughter graduated I was ready for a break, but after a couple of years off I find myself gearing up to serve on the SLT of my son's high school (Millennium Brooklyn).

Do you find it's mostly moms who volunteer?
In my experience it's been about 90% mums. There might be another dad or two in the room, but rarely more than that. I kept trying to get more dads involved — for one thing, it's a big enough challenge without having half your potential volunteers rule it out —but it was an uphill battle to say the least. In all fairness, many of the more involved mums were stay-at-home or worked part-time, while the dads tended to work full-time, but still — there were plenty of highly involved mums with full-time jobs, and plenty of uninterested dads with time on their hands. I think a lot of it comes down to the influence of traditional gender roles and stereotypes. Most dads think of PTA as something for their wives to do while they stick to coaching and such.

How do you juggle it all and manage to balance work and family?
Being freelance made a huge difference. That gave me the flexibility to spend two or three mornings a week in meetings at school or working on school stuff at home, and also made it easier to respond to things and keep projects moving throughout the day. It would have been pretty hard in a more traditional work setting. It also helps to be working with people you like — and who do good work — to help keep you focused and motivated. Being organised is crucial — never leave home without your notebook. It eats up a lot of your free time, but the social aspect can compensate for that at times. Ultimately, it can be a lot of fun, and it's satisfying to see the difference you can make, but you do kind of have to let yourself go crazy with it a little. It's only a few years, and then it's over forever, so why not get into it while you can? Your kids are always thrilled to see you in the hallway (when they're young, anyway) and god knows our public schools need all the support they can get.
5 of 8
Shawn Tucker, 49, college professor, and parent to two daughters ages 24 and 22, and two sons, 19 and 15
North Carolina

What kinds of kids activities or organisations are you involved in?
I’m bilingual with Spanish, so I helped my son’s Spanish immersion class with some summer art workshops. I also helped tutor my other son and some of his friends in Spanish. I attended some Spanish classes at the local high school to give the students a chance to practice with some outsiders. I coached soccer for many, many years. I’ve also been very active with the Boy Scouts and the children’s church youth groups and activities.

Do you find it's mostly mums who volunteer?
Moms seem to be free during the day to help a bit more often than dads, but it is a mix.

How do you juggle it all and manage to balance work and family?
I only have one left at home, so it is much, much easier. I liked being busy. I also remember that even being only a fair dad meant a huge mountain of undeserved praise. I used to take my kids grocery shopping with me. I could generally rely on someone saying something nice about me shopping with my kids. It is crap, of course, and just about completely undeserved. I was just a dad being a descent dad, nothing more. My wife would not get praise — perhaps some pity and some “does she have to take those things everywhere?!” Underserved, but hey, I still liked it!
6 of 8
Fred Neurohr, 51, research and strategy professional and father to a 15-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son
Cincinnati, OH

What kinds of kids activities or organisations are you involved in?
My son still cares to be around me now and then, so every other year I like to try to do a presentation to his class about what it was like to grow up in New York City. When they were younger, I presented on how to take the subway, how to say that magical NYC phrase “FUHGETTABOUTIT,” and we finished with black and white cookies.

We’re also big supporters of Happen, Inc – educational programs that encourage my son to excel in STEM areas, including producing informative, interactive, and fun entries into the school’s science fairs.

I sit on the Northside Education Committee, where we help all three neighbourhood schools fundraise, share best practices, and bring their needs to City Hall.

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Community Vision Care. I’m the OneSight Captain for my son's school, and I recruit, train, and lead a crew of volunteers (with the help of the school nurse and other admins) to screen all our kids’ vision and referring out those who don’t pass the screening so they can get a proper exam and eyeglasses (at no charge if they qualify). After all, 80% of what our kids learn come in through their eyes.

Do you find it's mostly moms who volunteer?
Women certainly over-represent as volunteers for kids and education, but we have a core of dedicated dads who show up to help. I find that when something is specifically geared to dads — especially if it involves sports — the dads “get permission” to get involved and show up in significant numbers.

How do you juggle it all and manage to balance work and family?
As far as juggling it, you picked a perfect day to ask: I’m not the best with time-management when it comes to my personal needs. I am super-low on sleep, and arrived later than normal to work today. I didn’t pack my lunch, so I spent needlessly on a tuna sandwich from the cafeteria that I threw away.

The time I used to spend in bars and nightclubs in NYC listening to live music (my true passion) is now (in my advanced age, in a smaller city) spent volunteering, working on committees, and the like. I knew Cincinnati needed me before I got here, and I feel it’s the same now. Not that I personally have tremendous impact on my own kids, but if I can influence, steer, challenge ideas, and tell a young person I’m proud of them or that they’re doing a great job, I think my time is well-spent.

My wife and I default into “divide and conquer” mode to accommodate our work and outside lives, and only recently have we reprioritised doing stuff together. It’s definitely important.
7 of 8
Elie Reiss, 37, real estate broker, father to two sons, ages 5 and 6 months, and a daughter, 3
Brooklyn, NY

What kinds of kids activities or organisations you're involved in?
I’m the class dad for the 2-3 year-old class. I call myself “class mom,” and the school always corrects me and reminds me that it’s class parent and that we always have to use gender neutral terms. I think that my teasing them a bit on this issue is probably a pretty "dad" thing to do. The kids are adorable. I organise class-wide playdates a few times a year, and write out cards to the teachers at the end of the year. I pretty much just try and form a little community among the parents of the class

Do you find it's mostly moms who volunteer?
The other class parents are all other mums, except for one other dad. He’s really cool and has a nose ring. The night before all the class parents got together for an informational at the beginning of the year, we were totally texting each other making sure the other would be there.

How do you juggle it all and manage to balance work and family?
I just power through. The fact is: I’m probably not a great class parent. The stay-at-home-moms make more creative collages than I do and schedule more coffee dates after drop off. But I always try to make the emails to the class witty, and I think other parents appreciate that I have a sense of humour about the whole thing. I think a lot of the working parents – which is by far the majority of parents in general in my class – relate to me because I also forget to sign the sunscreen waivers and pack water shoes for next Tuesday’s walk to the park. Some dads like to coach baseball, but I’ve been really liking putting a male spin on a role that’s traditionally been female. When we meet for our class picnic, there’s not lemonade; the kids have their water bottles, and I bring cans of cold Miller Lite to pass out to the other parents.
8 of 8
Christopher Diamond, 51, engineer and father of two sons, ages 7 and 9
Brooklyn, NY

What kinds of kids activities or organisations are you involved in?
When my oldest was in kindergarten, I started serving as the co-president of fundraising of the Parent-Teacher Organization at PS9 Teunis G Bergen. As co-president, I also served on the School Leadership Team and then served an additional two years on the SLT after that.

Being that I also work full time, I wasn't able to spend as much time at the school as other officers, but I managed. One of my main goals was to bring a sense of professionalism to the organisation so that it would appeal to parents to be generous.

When I took over, the school had just lost Title I status and lost a huge amount of budget — even though the number of "free-lunch" students remained more or less the same. The school was growing as the neighbourhood gentrified. The principal, to her credit, was able to let the school grow to accommodate the new students and keep serving some of the poorer students who were pushed out of zone, making it very racially and economically diverse (albeit lacking non-mixed-race East Asians).

Being half black, but one of the newer families to the neighbourhood, I tried to bridge the divide a bit and launch fundraising targeting families that could afford to contribute. It was always a very fine line to not offend the families that couldn't afford to write a big check while asking others to fork over a thousand dollars or more.

I'm also on the advisory board for the organisation Park Slope Parents, but this doesn't involve much work. Mostly when they're looking for a balanced opinion on something, they bring us dads in.

Do you find it's mostly moms who volunteer?
When I started with the PTO, the father of my son's best friend was the treasurer. He also had an older son in the school and so he got involved earlier than I did. The financial secretary was also a father (and his son is also friends with my boys). The second year, another father took over the treasurer role and then when I stepped down, yet another father took on the co-president role. I don't know how many men are involved right now but I get emails from men who are at least doing some of the communications. There are definitely more women involved, but the men tend to take on big tasks like fundraising. There are also some active committees (mostly ad hoc but quite effective) that also have male involvement.

How do you juggle it all and manage to balance work and family?
It takes practice and at first you drop a lot. I'm not a fundraiser (although my wife works in development for an international NGO). As an engineer, there was a steep learning curve to understand all the different issues and acronyms.

Getting this involved with the schools system is a bit like learning how sausage is made. However, I do still send my kids to the school (and I also eat sausage). I'm amazed at how good our schools are in spite of the DOE!

I felt it was important to get involved and that I had a lot to offer so I did it. It wasn't easy, and it took a lot of my free time, but I don't regret it. I'm glad I got to have some influence. Part of me wishes that I took on a role that was more hands on with the kids, but that just wasn't feasible with my schedule.
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