Being a stay at home dad means dealing with things you may not encounter in everyday life. It may mean that you are called “Mr. Mom,” or someone might ask if you are babysitting your kids to help mom out. What it means to me is being the best father I can be to my children. But changing society’s perception of what it means to be a great dad doesn’t happen overnight. We know that the number of stay at home dads is on the rise, but also that men are taking more active roles in raising their children these days.
In the media and sometimes in TV, men are portrayed negatively; the bumbling dad, the clueless and incompetent father just getting by. We’ve laughed along with shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons with dads that clearly fit these stereotypes. The difference is when real people are portrayed as the hapless fathers with no clue. So who would want to watch a show about guys who raise their children to the best of their ability? Who would want to watch a show that takes a glimpse of what it is like to be a new dad, a stay at home dad, a single dad, and a step-dad? Fortunately for us, A&E has taken that leap.
Like a brand new baby in a family, A&E is proudly showing off their latest addition August 21st, at 10:30pm. I had a chance to interview Rick Lucas, a cast member who is in the new show about his experiences as a stay at home dad and how reality TV is going to portray these dads.
Rick, like most of us at home dads, is clearly no bumbling stereotype. He worked in educational publishing before staying at home and then continued to freelance in that field until 2008. Then he worked at Brookhollow Elementary with autistic children at his school where he is also the PTO President before staying at home full time. As a husband to his wife, Meghan, a father of two boys, Zach and JT, ages 8 and 11, and 19 month old twin girls Katherine and Elizabeth, he prefers FTD (Full Time Dad) to SAHD because it demonstrates just how dedicated a primary caregiver can be.
When I asked him if he was worried about how dads have been portrayed on reality shows he told me that he told A&E producers “I may have a different way of doing things but I am not an idiot”. He said that when A&E approached him about the show that Duck Dynasty had just come out and that he was impressed with how they handled the show which has cast members that can easily be stereotyped.
Reality shows are a tricky area because they are about entertainment. Shows need to be interesting and engaging in some way to hook viewers so why should people watch ‘Modern Dads’? Rick tells me that A&E did a great job of getting to know the families and that the show is character driven and not plot driven like some reality shows are. “The stories grew out of who we are as real people, doing what we do everyday.”
As a full time dad of four kids and stay at home veteran of 10 years, I asked Rick if he had any advice for guys who were staying at home or just starting out. He said that sometimes you will just be maintaining and that you don’t want to set your expectations too high. “If you measure yourself by someone else’s yardstick you are always going to come up short. So you have to throw the yardstick away and do what is right for you and your family” He stressed how important staying at home with his kids was and to celebrate the fact that you get to do it and have fun with it.
Rick wasn’t aware of the National At Home Dad Network or that there was a convention every year. He was excited to know that there was such a thing to support stay at home dads. I asked him how it was to have such a great support group around him. “You couldn’t do it any other way. We are redefining what it is to be dads.” He looks forward to the time when he can attend the convention himself and passed the information on to his Austin group.
Being a SAHP is a tough job. There is no paycheck, there are no bonuses, no 401K to show for your work. No one is going to give you an award or prize. From those tough days where Rick faces his girls removing their diapers and him cleaning it like a crime scene to his son standing out in his care for an autistic girl at his school, it is all about caring. Rick’s family has a motto “It’s not about you. It’s about us” and we hope that A&E captures that sentiment about dads.
Disclosure: I was given an early peek of the pilot episode of Modern Dads, and given the opportunity to talk to Rick Lucas, for the purpose of this article. Opinions are my own, and this article is not an endorsement of ‘Modern Dads’ by the National At-Home Dad Network.