Episode 21 –
Stay-At-Home Dad

with Judd and Nicky Fonger

Episode 21

It is hard for a lot of stay-at-home moms because they feel that they can’t ask for help because they’re supposed to be doing it all. But you can’t possibly do it all… and it’s really important to recognize when you need that help and seek it out, otherwise you burn out.”

With the many different types of family structures today, it’s interesting to hear how each family manages their own work-life balance!

In this episode of the Raiseology podcast, Sharon speaks with Nicky and Judd Fonger about being a stay-at-home dad and working mom!

Share with us your unique family structure over in the Raiseology Parenting Facebook group! If you’re interested in booking Sharon, email her at sharon@raiseology.com! Thanks for listening!

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Intro: Welcome to the Raiseology podcast with your host, pediatrician and parenting mentor, Sharon Somekh, here to empower parents to raise resilient and independent children. Grab your coffee or your margarita and let’s get started. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should be used to supplement rather than substitute the care provided by your physician.


Sharon: Hi everyone, I wanted to let you guys know about some new stuff that I’ve been doing before we get into this episode, so I’ve been doing a lot of parenting courses and speeches in the live form and another really exciting thing that I’ve been doing is small group evenings, like sort of like mom night evenings in people’s homes, which have been really awesome and allowed me to get to know people in a much more intimate way and answer questions in a more intimate way. If you’re interested in contacting me about any public speaking engagements or would like to find out about how you can set up an intimate gathering in your home, please email me at Sharon@raiseology.com . I look forward to hearing from you. We’re joined today with Nicky and Judd Fonger. I’m really excited about this interview today we are interviewing them because I really wanted to learn about an, have you guys learned about just a different family structure and I’m going to let them introduce themselves in a minute, but the main reason I wanted to do this interview is to learn about Nicky and Judd’s family life and Judd is a stay at home dad by choice and I think it’s inspiring to hear about different ways that families do things. So can you guys tell us a little bit about your family life and just about yourselves in general?


Nicky: Sure. Thank you for having us. I’m so, my name is Nicky and I’m a mom of two boys. Um, Everett is six and Marshall is two and I’m also an academic Mama, so I’m on a tenure track position at Syracuse University where I’m a mathematics educator and I’m really involved and invested in my career and also in my family. So I’m also a Yogi and you know, I really love being in nature. So there are lots of facets to what makes me me, but those are the big, hose are the big pieces.


Judd: My name is Judson, and I’m a dad! So I hang out with the boys and we go places. And it’s fun.


Sharon: Okay, that’s great. And this is sort of a new family structure for you guys to right. How long have you been working at Syracuse University? Were you working as an academic professor before then? And what was your family life like before this happened and when did this all change?


Nicky: Yeah, so I’m new to a tenure track position. I’m just beginning my second year, so we moved to Syracuse last fall, which was a really big transition for us. We had moved from Madison, Wisconsin where I was a postdoc. We were still in the same kind of family structure in that, um, Judson was a stay at home dad, but in Madison that’s where our second child was born. And so that always, anytime you add a kid to the mix, it really changes everything.


Sharon: Totally.


Nicky: But maybe you can speak to like when we were in Grad school, that’s when like Judson and I were both in Grad school. I was earning my phd, he was earning his master’s degree in statistics and that’s when our first son was born. I was working on my dissertation pregnant with my first born and once Everett was born, that’s when we made some big decisions about how are we going to move forward as a family.


Sharon: Yeah. And what were those discussions like?


Judd: Well, it seemed more logical seeing as how she graduated with her phd that we would pursue her career first. And so, um, it was important for her to, so the first position she got was a research position, so was working on becoming a better writer and a better researcher. So it was just more important for her to pursue that. Then it was for me to say either continue my education, um, for, for me to get a job right away. It was important for us to have to start a family and then we didn’t really want to, like both go in and we thought that it was a discussion that we had to make regarding childcare. We were Kalamazoo, Michigan. That’s where my parents were and they were able to help out childcare while we finished.


Sharon: And then what prompted the decision that you would stay home rather than, um, have Everett go to a daycare or have a nanny, which is something that many families do. I know actually we lived in Syracuse and my husband and I chose that for our situation at the time. That’s what worked best. So I’d be curious to hear your story.


Judd: Well, we knew we were going to be in transition, so when we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, we decided not to put him in a daycare right away, he was a year and a half. And we were interested and we just, we were just going to make it work. We didn’t know. We knew that she was really close. She worked, we lived really close to campus so we were able to. She was able to commute back and forth easily. I did eventually get a job and we did have a little bit or childcare during the day a few days a week or something like that. And I’ve done that throughout both children’s lives. But I haven’t pursued anything full-time something mainly because everything was kind of in transition.


Nicky: So when I graduated with my phd there wasn’t. I had been on the tenure track job market since 2011. I wasn’t offered a tenure track position until 2017, so every year I was on the job market position. That was more so because we’re in this transition moving every year or every other year for us to maintain our family balance and structure and cohesiveness as a family, it was really important to have that really close grounding so we’re still a strong family unit and Judd being able to stay home with Everette, really allowed for them to develop a close relationship in a healthy place so that eventually when we finally got to Madison for three years, I think it’s been like a decision for like health and like being close as a family. We really value that.


Judd: Definitely, and especially following the academic schedule is important. If I were to get a job, it’s probably not going to be as flexible as it would have just been in some sort of a disconnect there as far as that concern.


Sharon: Yeah, it’s probably that. That’s a really good point and it seems like you guys have moved a lot in that six years, so it’s probably been helpful to have that stability for him, um, and for Marshall, but at least they sort of have one thing that they know is going to be stable for them in that time. I mean, now you guys are somewhere permanent and you’ve, you’ve really enjoyed your time being with them to the point where this is sort of where you have decided you want to be, at least right now. Can you take us through what a typical day for you is like?


Judd: Yeah. Well it’s changed a lot. Um, Marshall is early riser, so Marshall wakes up after 6, before 7. So it’s always breakfast and then everybody gets up with every school. We’ve been taking our bikes recently, so he sits on the back and then everyone rides his bike to school. He’s a first grader and then we come home and there’s always snacks, we’ve been organizing going to play group. So we go to play groups, we going to the library or that’s a good thing as setting them up for music, for signing him up for basketball.


Nicky: He’s a very active kid and physically has been an important goal for us to be like, okay, what can we sign up for during the day that Judd can also participate in.


Sharon: How do you feel, I imagine that most of these playgroups are either attended by moms or by female caregivers. That’s been my experience when I’ve attended these playgroups. So how do you feel you fit in the mix? Like do you feel that other parents are judging you? Do you feel like they’re very welcoming? Um, I mean I know where you guys live because I actually happen to have lived there, so I know the community there is very welcoming and really pretty nice and easy going, but I would be really curious to hear what your experience is.


Judd: Yeah, it is very difficult to make strong connections and I don’t know if that’s because I am a man. I mean it’s just hard to make friends period, it does seem to be a barrier sometimes being a stay at home dad and even with fathers that I see it’s very easy to be dismissive in terms of like this is something temporary and you kind of like, there’s no, it doesn’t seem to be an easy thing to connect on. To say that I’m, I’m a stay at home father or the, you know, the fathers that I meet are pursuing that or are comfortable with saying that their on with their child for a reason, it’s always usually something like temporary or it seems to be, seems to be a barrier.


Sharon: Yeah, that’s unfortunate. And I guess how do you get past that?


Nicky: Well, it is about like really you have to like diversify the different types of activity and there are some groups are like some people it seems to not affect them as much, like women.  but it’s probably doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that it’s just the fact that I be individual person. I would think that it has the, you know, the ability to like just see past it.


Sharon: And what would you say have been some of your most challenging moments?


Judd: Well, lately the most challenging moment is right around the time when Everette has to get home from school, that’s Marshall’s nap time. So there’s an issue where we either have to, Nicky either has to give up her time or I have to like ask for help.


Sharon: And so does that feel to have to ask for help?


Judd: Yeah, it’s not easy. It’s really hard, especially when I one home all the time, right. Like I’m the one that’s doing the job of the caregiving and like I, I do it does sometimes makes me feel like inadequate or something like that. Whereas I can juggle a lot of times it has been difficult because he would wake up at two. So it’s harder to when everything is going smoothly.


Sharon: Yeah, I mean, but it’s important to recognize when you need help and you know, I mean help can come in so many different forms. Right. I, I know yesterday I was in a position where I had to be in three places at once and it’s just not possible. Right. So, um, you know, I sent my littlest one to a play date and my oldest one had a badminton game and then my other two are supposed to be in gymnastics at two different places more or less at the same time. So you know, I tend to rely on a lot of moms in my local community to help. And that’s something that I would say would be a good suggestion for you too if Nicky is not able to come home and you know, you can schedule a play date for Everett where he goes to somewhere else after school and it’s sort of a win, win, win. Everybody’s happy because he’s having a play date, he’s enjoying his time with a friend after school and you’re able to sort of figure out that hour or two while Marshall naps and then, you know, you pick them up and you can all have a great evening together. So it’s important to think about those other, um, those other aspects of health that might not be as obvious. You know?


Judd: We have progressed over the past year, when we moved here we didn’t know anybody. Our next door neighbor, who was also works at Syracuse so she was very helpful in that regard sometimes, but I still felt guilty, but now we’ve actually met some friends so we have outlets for Everett to actually go.


Nicky: Yeah our neighbor has been great, sometimes she’ll come over for 20 minutes and stay at the house while Marshall’s napping and that’s actually huge, but it’s still feel like we’re asking for favors all the time. What’s the reciprocity? We just have this like, oh, we need to be giving back because we’re asking so much.


Sharon: Right? I mean the other, um, the other option. I mean, I guess the timing might be a little bit like seeing if there’s a college student around that might want to come for an hour and just sit while Marshall naps and you can, you know, or even a little longer than an hour and you can take Everett for ice cream or do something one on one with him. Um, and there’s someone responsible there for Marshall and you don’t have to do it every day, but you can say, you know, I need someone a couple of days a week and um, you guys are so close to the school that that would probably be an easy thing to find.


Judd: Yeah, I have thought of that!


Sharon: But it’s not, you know, I, I hear you because I totally am surrounded by lots of different kinds of, you know, families, some have stay at home moms and some have, um, you know, working moms, some moms work at home like me and it is hard to, for a lot of stay home moms because they feel that they can’t ask for help because they’re supposed to be doing it all. But you can’t possibly do it all, you know, I mean, and you’re learning that now because as they get older it does get a little bit more challenging. Um, which is different than I think most people think conceptually they think their kids get older. It’s gonna get easier. But as kids get a little bit older, that afternoon becomes a very challenging time. Um, and it, it’s really important to recognize when you need that help and seek it out, otherwise you burn out, right?


Judd: Yeah.


Sharon: And you want to be your best for them. So what do you think, I guess I would love to hear Nicky from you, sort of how it’s been for you knowing that, you know, you’re working on your career and um, and I think it’s wonderful, but I’m sure that there you have heard lots of opinions, whether solicited or unsolicited and um, what’s your been your experience about it?


Nicky: Um, in terms of building on my career? I have some strong role models in my life. Mentors, previous mentors. Working with them makes it, makes me have the perception and the idea and the belief that I’m really doing what I need to be doing and that’s okay. And it’s a good thing.


Sharon: Yeah, it’s important!


Nicky: Yeah, really important. So that’s, that’s been really important to have other women and in my life who are also academic mamas who are really like, if this is really what you’re passionate about pursuing and if this is what’s right for you, that that’s, that’s what you need to be doing. I really love my work and I would be doing my work, like I would find a way to do my work. So for me it’s kind of just leaning in some word. I know that every contribution and you know when it does get challenging and get those, whether like you said, solicited or unsolicited advice about what to do next. I don’t know, I think just being confident that where we are right now on the path that we’re taking is the right path for us right now. And I’m totally open to change. So, for me it’s like, oh maybe I won’t get tenure or you know, maybe get a job or maybe I’ll start a new career. Like I try to be as flexible as possible while still aiming for the goals that are in front of me right now for next career step.


Sharon: That’s great. Yeah. And do you feel, I mean do you have mean your teaching classes at a specific time. So I imagine you have some flexibility but probably not as much as others might have. Um, and how do you feel sort of when things come up and it’s not possible for you to change your schedule around?


Nicky: Yeah, that’s been really challenging. That’s been really challenging. Yes, I am teaching a lot this semester so it really gives that structure set in place, but I have shifted it so that it’s teaching or Monday, Wednesday, Friday. So I know that on my Tuesday, Thursday I have a lot more flexibility so that at least gives me some balance where I’m like, okay, I’m going to do these three days that are pretty highly structured with a lot of meetings. I also don’t take meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I just won’t, I’ll set up my schedule, like where I’m just taking a skype call or something, but I won’t commit to being anywhere besides being able to be at home so that it gives me that, a little more sanity or balance.


Sharon: Yeah. And I’m sure that’s great for Judd to that. It gives him a little sort of piece of mind knowing that you’re there if he has stuff he might need to do or um, and then what does the future hold for you guys or do you, are you, what do you think it holds? I guess you probably don’t know for sure, but um, what are your future plans, Judd?


Judd: I’m going to get a job eventually, when both boys are in school. We’ve talked about sending Marshall to preschool. Yeah but he’s still taking a nap so it’s a slow process.


Sharon: Yeah!


Judd: So I could teach. Eventually. I Dunno.


Sharon: What’s your career in again?


Judd: My degree is in Statistics, you know, and then I have a master’s degree. So I could, I’ve taught at community college level. I could be an instructor at the university and teach intro to Statistics. I haven’t actually worked in the field itself.


Sharon: You’ve been a little busy.


Judd: So yeah we don’t know.


Nicky: I could foresee Judd leaning into her career around sports statistics, like the sports analytics and like combining his interest in fashion.

Sharon: Yeah. My husband did that. He combined his interest as a musician with his career as an ear, nose and throat doctor and settled on a career on voice, caring for people who use their voice professionally. And it’s been really nice to see him be able to connect with his patients in a different way for that reason. And I think that if you have something that you love to do that connects with your passion for statistics, that’s awesome. It just makes it so much more fun.

Nicky: For sure.

Sharon: Yeah. That’s awesome. Well, thanks again for being here. I really enjoyed hearing about your family and talking to you guys and I wish you the best of luck in everything you choose to do, um, and continued enjoyment from your kids and your wonderful family.

Nicky: Thank you so much.

Judd: Thank you. It was fun.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the Raiseology podcast head over to www.Raiseology.com, where you’ll find plenty of, you’ve got this resources for parents and any links or tools mentioned in today’s show. Be sure to hit subscribe on your podcatcher so that you can listen to the next episode, the minute it’s out. Until next time, have an empowered week!

Meet Your Mentor

Sharon is a general pediatrician, loving wife and mother to 4 daughters.

 After a decade of practicing general pediatrics and working with families, she realized there often wasn’t enough time while tending to children’s medical needs to help parents in the way that would be most helpful in shaping their children’s futures.

 The Raiseology Program was developed to teach parents how to raise their children with the love and authority necessary to promote resilience and responsibility.

Sharon’s experience with hundreds of families as well as her own help her meet you where you are on your parenting journey to help you make it what you want it to be.

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