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Only Fun For Stay-At-Home Dad

In this week's My New Life segment, National Correspondent Tracy Smith went to Bethesda, Md., to meet a dad who made the decision to quit his job and raise his children, even though he was making more money than his wife. This Mr. Mom has very specific ideas on how it's done.
Mike Paranzino used to wear a tie. But he's traded his high-powered job on Capitol Hill for racing cars with 4-year-old son Cameron and changing the diapers of the lovely Emily, who is 4 months old.

"I had a happy childhood," Paranzino says, "I had a wonderful childhood. Close to my parents and close to my brothers. And I wanted to try and recreate that for my children."

Paranzino, who prefers the title "full-time father," says he is never home. While wife Heather goes off to her job as a scientist, he heads outdoors to playgrounds and parks, making friends with both moms and kids.

He says, "I stashed enough diapers, enough water, enough formula, enough snack. We've done six, we've done eight hours out straight."

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His biggest stress, he says, is keeping it fresh till mommy gets home.

"You have ten hours a day you have to fill," he notes, "You have to keep it interesting. And original. So that can be stressful."

But Mike Paranzino's definition of full-time fatherhood doesn't include cooking or cleaning. His entire day is spent with the kids.

He notes, "There's a Yellow Pages filled with companies that want to clean your house, cut your grass. They want to cook your food. I signed on to raise the kids, not to clean the house."

No sweeping? No laundry?

"Where can I sign up?" asks Jen Singer and her crew of stay-at-home moms. They applaud Mike Paranzino's choice. But isn't housework part of the gig?

"If I didn't have to think about the housework, this would be like a big vacation," Singer says.

Paranzino says, "Maybe it's a giant ruse or hoax that the men over the centuries have foisted upon woman. But I don't buy it. I don't see any inherent reason, any natural reason why, because you're focused on raising the children during the day that also means you have to clean the toilets."

Laughing, stay-at-home mom Marybeth Vazquez says, "It would be wonderful. I would probably have more children."

At 39, Mike Paranzino has saved enough money to hire a maid service, and he says they are sacrificing fancy cars and vacations. But the group of stay-at-home moms says even if they had the money, they could never get away with it.

"When I see the mess, I will just naturally clean it up," Eisha Locascio says. "I notice when my husband comes home, and he sees the mess, he'll ask me to clean it up."

But Mike Paranzino says the mess is not important.

He advises, "Show him where the detergent is and say, 'You do it, because I'm focused on the kids. I'm going to go read the children a book instead of doing the laundry.' "

Singer says, "He's a trail blazer; but he's a trail blazer with a staff."

Trail blazer or not, Paranzino has had some uphill battles, especially early on.

"It took me about 14 months to really get comfortable in my skin," he says. "I did feel isolated for the first year, and I used to sort of feel a need to tell people: 'Well, I do some consulting.' I think it was a macho thing."

As for his friends that are not full-time dads, Paranzino says, "They think it is amusing: the play dates with all the moms. Even though I spend my days with beautiful moms and nannies, I mean, there are kids around. Let's just keep it clear."

So joking about the play date only goes so far.

He says, "There's more sexual tension on the metro than there is at playgrounds."

Paranzino does try to make time for his advocacy work, which he says keeps him sane. Otherwise it's 100 percent all kids all the time.

"Dads can do this," he says. "It doesn't have to be mom home with the kids. Dads can do it."

And as long as the kids like take-out food, life is good.

Before you send your e-mails, Smith notes that many stay-at-home dads do housework.

The census says that 98,000 dads make a deliberate decision to stay home, but there could be up to a million fathers home with the kids because they are unemployed or disabled, so there are more out there than you'd think.

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