Welcome to Meet a Dad! Here is where we like to feature an at home dad from within our community, through interviews conducted by Mike Andrews
Today, we are featuring Kevin ‘Spike’ Zelenka from Double Trouble Daddy. He has been an at home dad since his twin sons were born 16 months ago and lives in Las Vegas where he helps bring other local dads together with playgroups in his area.
If you are a dad in the Las Vegas area check out Kevin’s Meet-up group.
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have twin sons. They just turned 16 months and already they are a handful!
Why did you become a stay at home dad?
My wife and I discussed it, and with her being the major bread winner, it seemed like the logical choice. As expensive as childcare is, we couldn’t see me working to do nothing but pay for someone else to raise our children. I know some families do that, and I’m not questioning their judgment, but it wouldn’t work for us. I mean, who’s going to raise my sons better than me, right?
Other than spending time with your kids, what do you like about being an at home parent?
I like that I’m able to tackle errands during the day when businesses aren’t as busy instead of waiting until after “work hours” or on a Saturday when everyone else has the same idea you do. Granted, it’s not very often I get to do these things alone without my two little “helpers”.
What do you like least?
There is no ‘time-clock’. When you’re a stay-at-home parent, you can’t just shut it off at 5:00.
What is your normal daily routine like?
My wife and I take turns with breakfast at 7:00 am. On the mornings when it’s her turn, I’m still up by 7:30. After breakfast we watch cartoons, and Dad cleans up the kitchen, and decides if there’s an outing planned. These consist of; Sam’s Club, Trader Joe’s, or Target shopping, a trip to the park, nature preserve or library for a meet-up with other SAHDs, or a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house who live close by. After lunch it’s nap-time for the twins, and Dad either does laundry, makes food for them to freeze, or catches up on other household chores. 3:30 is snack time and afterward it’s time to start figuring out dinner. My wife and I eat dinner about 5:30 and they follow suit at around 6:00, followed by bottles and quiet time while watching Jeopardy. Baths, story time as a prelim to bedtime at 7:30.
If you were to change one thing about yourself as a dad, what would it be?
Tough question, but I guess the biggest thing I work on is my patience. I have to remind myself that their only job at this point in their lives is to test their boundaries, and it’s up to me to establish those parameters, but in a calm assertive manner.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I try and get out and play golf at least once per month. I enjoy dates with my beautiful wife when it’s possible. Being somewhat of a foodie, I also enjoy entertaining. When all else fails, a glass of scotch and a cigar on the back patio is a nice release valve after a long day in the trenches.
Why did you become a stay at home dad?
I think it’s very important that Dads have a role in their children’s life, no matter how significant it is. I’m lucky enough to be able to spend a great deal of time with mine and for that, I’m grateful!
Smile. Children watch every move you make, and every expression you put forth. No matter how tired, frustrated, or frazzled you get, always smile. There’s nothing more comforting to them as to look towards you in a situation and see that you have it all under control…even when you don’t. The saying “Never let them see you sweat” was coined by a Stay at Home dad.
What does your spouse/partner do?
I am not only lucky enough to be a Stay at Home Dad; I also hit the jackpot in that my wife gets to work at home. My wife is a manager for a global company that runs and monitors clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies. They make sure that policies, procedures, and guidelines are followed so that drugs can be approved by the FDA. She used to have to travel to hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices that were involved with the trials, but now she manages the people who do that, and she does it from home.
What is your best memory of your father?
I have a lot of good memories of my father growing up, but none jump out at me as the best. A turning point in our relationship growing up was when he found out I smoked. I was 17 and in order to discourage me from doing it, he told me that he would not allow me to smoke in his house, or on his property. That doesn’t sound very harsh unless you saw the length of our driveway. Every night after dinner dishes were cleaned up, we would walk down that driveway together. He of course could smoke then, and I had to wait until we reached the gravel county road. I would then light up, and we’d walk. Sometimes we would talk about our day. Some nights the conversation was about the weather, or crops and farms around us. Other times we wouldn’t talk at all. It became our time.
The worst? How did this effect the way you parent your kids?
My parents used to fight quite a bit growing up. Sometimes it was over money, sometimes it was because my father drank, and sometimes it was for no reason at all. They were actually quite good at it. They finally got a divorce, which I celebrated. When I was probably 8 or 9, my parents were in war mode that had been building all day long, and when the volcano finally erupted, my mother decided it was time to take us kids and leave. She was up by the house, my father was down by the barn, and she told me to come to her as she was loading my brother in the car. My father told me to stay there with him. They went back and forth, both almost telling me to choose a side. It hurt knowing that whatever I did, I could hurt the other. I ended up getting in the car and don’t remember where we went. We were back the next day. Although their divorce was a Godsend, they both used to slander the other and I became a pro at playing both sides against the middle. When I was at my mother’s, I would agree how much of an asshole my father was, and when I was at my father’s I would shake my head in concurrence that my mother topped the list of bitches. I didn’t want either one of them to love me any less. My wife and I are best friends, and I can’t imagine us ever being like my parents were, but no matter what ever happens between my wife and I, I never want my children to worry about hurting their mother or I and I will never talk bad about their mother or force them to choose sides.
What has your experience been as far as how others see your role as an At Home Dad?
It has actually been quite positive. People seem genuinely happy for me that I am afforded the ability to stay home with them. I think the role of ‘stay at home father’ is becoming more and more accepted and although it’s far from the norm, it’s not looked upon as strange as it once was. I still don’t believe men are accepted equally by their female counterparts. In some eyes, we will never be as qualified to be a major caregiver until we actually give birth. It’s sad that this is the case, and hurts me, as I know that I am a much better parent than some woman out there but because they are filled with estrogen, and were given the “motherly instinct” we’ll somehow always be looked at as a minority.
What cartoon character are you and why?
This is a tough question, but right now because I have twins, and at the age they are at, are naturally inquisitive and mischievous, I would say I am the “Man in the Yellow Hat” trying to downplay the antics of two little monkeys!
Who is the better cook in your home? What is your best meal to cook?
I know my wife would agree that I am the cook of the household. There are times that I think that’s why she married me or at least one of the points that won her over. I enjoy cooking everything from normal ‘Dad fare’ (anything cooked on a grill) to every once in a while “top chef’ing” it up. I’ve made my own sausage, pastas, mixes and sauces, and for not being culinary trained, I think I can hold my own. I have even made baby food since the boys were old enough to be fed from a spoon. My wife’s favorites would be my truffle mac & cheese, or any of my appetizers. My boys, on the other hand, are suckers for dad’s alfredo, and love sweet potatoes and peas.
Are there any “Dad Groups” in your area that you participate in? If not, what do you do to connect with other parents?
There were no Dad’s groups in our area that I knew of, and after searching and only finding “Mommy and Me” groups, started my own meet-up group. We currently have 18 members and it has been a great way to meet other dads that are helping in the upbringing of their children. I am a strong advocate of Stay at Home Dad organizations.
Favorite kid’s book growing up?
I have always been a big fan of Winnie the Pooh, the Dr. Seuss works and the ‘Little Golden Books’. My Mom just sent the boys an Uncle Wiggly story book which is also something that we had growing up.
What is your least favorite kid’s show?
I don’t really have a least favorite, I just have shows that I try to avoid my sons from watching. They tend to lean towards the Disney Channel and PBS, and I stay away from Dora and Calilou.
What was your best moment as a father?
Every “best moment” I have is replaced when they do something new. From eating, and talking to crawling, and now both on the verge of walking. Every moment they share a new experience with me becomes the best moment as a father to me.
What was your scariest?
The scariest moment as a father would have to be when they were first born. They were 5 weeks early and my youngest had heart and lung issues. To see the amount of machines he was hooked up to, and listen to the course of action that the medical staff was going to be taking to help him really tests your capacity psychologically. Men are good at one thing, and that’s fixing things. I’ve always said that you shouldn’t tell a male your problems unless you want him to fix them. To be a man, and a father, and not be able to fix what’s wrong with your little boy really exposes your weaknesses and tests your faith. Both of my boys are growing wonderfully and are strong and for that I am thankful.
What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want you kids to remember you?
I want them to be able to look back and be able to say that their father loved them more than any father ever could. I want them to be smart and independent yet compassionate and willing to ask for help when they need it. Most of all, If they become fathers of their own children, I hope they want to be a father like me, and not use their experiences as what not to do.