Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, June 24, 1995, Image 38

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    82-Lancaster Farming, Saturday, June 24, 1995
Lancaster Farming Staff
MACUNGIE (Berks Co.)
“What women have been doing for
thousands of years. I’ve just dis
covered,” Jeff Patton said as he
juggled 15-month-old Christiane
on his hip while pausing to admire
a stone found by S-year-old Lee.
Patton recently resigned from
his job as multicounty extension
agent to become a full-time “Mr.
Better make that dad, although
what Patton does is traditionally
considered full-time mommy duty.
Patton did not quit his career so
he could get some remodeling pro
jects finished around the house.
He said, “My reason was to
devote time to the children.”
Before the switch, Patton and his
wife Carol, a physician, felt the
suffocating vise of tight
“We were always rushing
always tired,” Carol said of the
couple’s previous hassle with try
ing to be both perfect parents and
career professionals.
Before parenthood, the Pattons
had every intention of combining
full-time careers with parenting.
After the birth of their first child,
they had little difficulty settling
into a routine of dropping off Lee
for child care and working full
time. Also, Carol’s parents were
available for babysitting several
days weekly.
But when Chrissy was bom, the
workload increased and now it was
double the things that could go
“It was too stressful with both of
us working full-time,” Carol said.
“I no longer felt, ’yes I can do
Instead, reality kept reminding
her, “No, I can’t do it all. I am not
“Men,” Pa
women take for granted.” After he became a stay-at-home father and the primary care
provider for the children, It took him three weeks to finish washing this window in
between child-care responsibilities. He conned his wife into pinning a medal on him
for, what he considers, a notable accomplishment.
Patton Leaves Extension To Become
super mom.”
The parents felt guilty awaken
ing the children and rushing them
through breakfast, then dropping
them off at daycare so they could
get to work in time.
“Our children arc not morning
people. It seems unfair to rush
them through breakfast and dress
ing before they are schoolage.”
Breakfast for the parents often
turned out to be a bagel or pop tart
eaten in the car.”
Another taxing problem was
that Chrissy would often awaken
three times during the night and
take only a one hour nap during the
At work, the demands of sychro
nizing childcare, household duties,
and day-to-day responsibilities
were always on their mind. “Who
was able to pick up the children
that day? What needed to be picked
up at the grocery store?”
The parents recalled their own
relatively free childhood when a
different era was in effect. Carol's
mother, a secretary, was required
to stop working as soon as her pre
gnancy showed.
They remembered carefree sum
mertime schedules, with no set
time for getting up and rushing off
to baby sitters, no set schedules
just time to enjoy being a child.
Patton said, “With both of us
working, we thought that our child
ren would never know summer as a
time free to be a child. And, yet, we
wanted to let our kids be kids with
out a lot of early structure in learn
Patton, who grew up in Ohio,
described himself as a suburban
kid who wanted to get into agricul
ture. He worked on farms, for the
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the Pa.
Dept of Ag in market develop
ment, and as an agricultural rep
Full-Time ‘Mr. Mom ’
Without the panic of rushing from one place to another, the Pattons have discov
ered how much fun family togetherness can be. Carol works as a doctor while Jeff res
igned from his Job as Penn State extension agent to provide full-time care for Lee, 5,
and Christiane, 15 months.
resentative for PP&L before
becoming the multicounty market
ing agent for Northampton,
Lehigh, Berks, Montgomery, and
Bucks counties.
“l loved my job—it wasn’t that
I was dissatisfied with it that
influenced my decision to give it
up,” Patton said. “I told my boss
that my top three reasons for leav
ing were Carol, Lee, and Chrissy.
“My pivotal point (in deciding to
become a stay-at-home parent)
was when I was at a meeting with
K * /
colleagues Penn State.” Patton
said. The discussion centered on
families and each one agreed that it
was best for children to have a full
time parent at home.”
It struck Patton as ironic he and
Carol believed that a stay-at-home
parent provided a more positive
environment for a child, but didn’t
provide that.
“Parents and children deserve
each other (time together),” he
Carol and he agreed that “child
ren are more important than a
career.” Nonetheless, a breadwin
ner is also needed in the family.
After months of deliberation, the
Pattons decided that it would work
best if he were the one to quit his
job to concentrate on full-time
‘There is no longer this constant
panic of hurry, hurry, hurry.” Carol
said. “No more mad dashes to pick
up something for supper at the
And, most important of all, is the
atmosphere created that allows
parents and children to enjoy each
other. Lots of laughing, touching,
and joy permeates throughout the
Both husband and wife emphati
cally agree that it’s the best deci
sion they made.
Although Patton is shocked to
discover how hard he can work all
day with very little tangible evi
dence to show for it, he said, “I
wouldn’t trade my situation.”
Carol doesn’t put pressure on
him to do chores around the house
or to have dinner made. She said,
“It has taken tremendous pressure
off of me by knowing Jeff is with
the children. I know it’s in the
children’s best interest. Some days
if Jeff gets one load of laundry
done, it is an accomplishment. I
consider getting anything done
around the house is an extra
On his first day home, Patton
was quite pleased with his accom
He said, “By 9:15 a.ip„ I had
ironed two shirts and one pair of
But his industrious pace was
interrupted when, one hour later, a
bee stung Chrissy and her arm was
He called his doctor-wife for
advice and dropped all work
related projects to concentrate on
Chrissy’s care. Four weeks later,
Patton admitted, “I haven’t ironed
The weeks have been a training
ground in learning to become more
efficent in parenting skills.
“I learned to start the day with
Kleenex in my pocket,” Patton said
as he made a quick swipe for Chris
sy, who foresaw the dreaded white
hankie and made a squirmy
Patton has also learned to do
housework in snatches. “Some
times I’m only to sweep under half
the bed before dropping it for
childcare,” he said.
The Pattons are grateful to have
the choice of having a parent be
able to stay at home.
“I’m sure that nine out of 10
fathers love their children as much
as I do, but only one in 10 have a
situation that allows them to stay at
home,” Patton said.
According to a recent Knight
Ridder Newspaper article, stay-at
home fathers are declining as the
economy picks up. In 1991, about
20 percent considered themselves
stay-at-home fathers. That figure
dropped to 16 percent in 1993.
Some of those figures reflect
dads being stay-at-home fathers
because they were laid off their
jobs and were unable to get another
For Patton, it is a choice not
something he is doing because he
doesn’t have other options.
Nonetheless, the change hasn’t
been without sacrifice. After a
long-term leave of absence, will he
be able to re-enter the career field
or will his skills be obsolete?
Also, he was eligible to take a
sabbatical to earn a master’s degree
and have the opportunity for exten
sion work in a foreign settings,
something he had always wanted.
“Of course, one hears so much
about the importance of saving for
the future, of starting a child’s col
lege fund now,” Patton said.
But the Pattons decided it was
(Turn to Pago B 3)