After Doug and his wife adopted their first daughter, becoming a stay-at-home parent was a no-brainer
All his life, Doug knew he would be a dad someday. He yearned for the days when his imagination ran wild with no limits or fears; to go back to a time when being goofy and rambunctious was socially acceptable. Part of him loves being a father because in some ways it lets him be a kid again. “Seeing their imaginations, I ask, ‘Why do we lose that as adults?’ I get some of that back with the kids,” he says.
Doug and his family live in a neighborhood similar to most neighborhoods in Central Plano: modest older houses with plenty of charm, beautiful old trees and perfectly manicured lawns. I knock on the door and almost immediately see a small smushed face peering out through textured glass. After asking permission, she opens the door with a Cheshire cat grin. “Hello! My name is Liliana,” she proclaims as she grabs my hand to pull me inside. “I spell it like L-I-L-I-A-N-A. And I’m five years old!” Doug’s laugh is filled with pride while acknowledging that I must be completely bewildered by this fierce little girl.
Doug and I are on a ride-along together, of sorts. With Liliana in tow, we’re driving his typical route to pick up his six-year-old daughter, Gracie, from her charter school in Carrollton. “My wife, Karin, and I always had our moms around us, and that’s what we wanted to do,” he explains right off the bat. “She makes more money at her job, so me staying home was the clear choice.”
Doug’s situation isn’t unique. Over the last 20 years, the number of stay-at-home dads in the United States has doubled to over two million, according to Pew Research Center. With rising costs of child care, more mothers staying in the workforce and technology allowing more people to work remotely, dads staying at home is an increasing trend.
Before meeting his wife, Doug worked full time and dedicated many hours volunteering at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, spending his vacation days as a counselor at various camps for kids with diseases and disabilities. “We met later in life, volunteering together. One day, I finally got the nerve to ask her out.” Fast forward less than two years, and they get married. Fast forward again, and after struggling to get pregnant, they decide to start the adoption process.
“We always talked about…adopting. Karin works at Plano Senior High School, and one day a former student shows up at her desk and says, ‘Do you want my baby?’ Which led us to Gracie.”
Shortly after, Aurora, another former student of Karin’s and a foster kid, began babysitting Gracie. She quickly became nicknamed the “kid whisperer”. “We had a spare bedroom and asked if she wanted to come live with us. Four months later, she asked if she could call us Mom and Dad, and we were so happy.” A few years later, after Aurora finished college, Doug and Karin officially adopted her.
While the adoption process was as smooth as it could be for Gracie and Aurora, getting Liliana was not as easy. Gracie’s biological mom became pregnant again, so she went back to Doug and Karin for help. “[After Liliana was born] the birth mom told us to go home,” Doug reminisces while peeking back at her as she sleeps through the car ride. “We spent two days crying. Then at 1 a.m. on the third night [the birth mom called] and said she was making a huge mistake, to come in the morning, and the lawyers will take care of it. It was surreal. On the way there, [Karin and I] kept looking at each other asking ‘Are we sharing the same dream? You pinch me and I’ll pinch you.’
“I cannot fathom one minute of them not being together. It would have been a crime for them to not have grown up together…” he trails off.
With their girls and two teenaged foster kids who moved in about a year ago, Doug has his hands full. Sometimes full of hair. After picking up Gracie, we get back to the house to take some photos. Doug takes a quick glance at Liliana and decides he needs to fix her hair first. While patience and love came naturally to him, styling beautiful corkscrew curls did not.
“My wife’s students had to help us learn to properly care for their hair and recommend the best products,” he says. “One time at Chick-fil-a I sat with another dad while our girls played together, and we talked about hair the entire time! ‘What do you use, what products, what brushes work best?’ No sports talk—at all. It was just about our girls.”
After snapping some pictures, the girls want to ride bikes. They run out to the front yard with their helmets and try to wait patiently as Dad snaps them on. He has them switch because Liliana’s is too big, even with all those curls. In a blink, they’re racing down the sidewalk together erupting in playful screams and giggles.
As we watch them, I ask Doug what’s the hardest part of being a stay-at-home dad. “Taking time for yourself, even stuff like going to the doctor or going on date night with the wife. But I just enjoy being a dad so much. I’d rather be going to the park with them than the bar with my buddies.”