The scene is a daily event — moms and dads dropping off children at the Corsicana YMCA Child Watch room, a convenience for parents while they are working out at the Y. Increasingly, it’s dads who are very capably balancing a child, backpack and diaper bag, while opening doors and holding an older child’s hand. Many of these fathers are full-time dads or share parenting duties with moms. Eric Singleton and Travis Updegraff are two such dads. They enjoy working out together at the Y, while using the Child Watch service and bonding together in an informal dads’ network. Eric co-parents 3-year-old, Paislee, with his wife, Kasey. “It’s fun spending time with Paislee. I don’t miss seeing her grow up. Every week there are changes,” Eric remarked.
As a firefighter/paramedic with Grand Prairie Fire Department, Eric is on the job for days at a time, but is also off for days in a row. Kasey is a dental hygienist with Restore Dental in Corsicana. Raising their child without daily child care presents challenges, but this couple’s work schedules allow them to coordinate Paislee’s care. “Communication is the biggest factor in making this arrangement successful. We failed at that a couple of times, and it didn’t work out well,” Kasey said. “It’s hard being a working mom, so having Eric taking care of Paislee makes me feel better.” Communication is essential for delivering doses of medicine and scheduling naptimes. “Naptimes and bedtimes are the hardest to keep on schedule,” Kasey admitted. Weather and traffic conditions can delay Eric’s arrival to take over his dad duties. “Occasionally, Paislee has had to go to work with me, and she just sits there quietly,” Kasey said proudly. Travis is a full-time dad and co-parent of Caden, age 11; Adalee, age 8; and Isla, age 4.
On the days he spends working as a fireman with Corsicana Fire Department, the kids are supervised at home by Travis’ mom who lives in Rice or by their mother, Amber, who is taking classes at Texas A&M University in College Station or Amber’s parents who live in Corsicana. “I don’t have a lot of personal time, since I put the kids first. I coach their sports teams and like to fish and hunt with the kids.
This year, Caden got his first deer,” Travis remembered proudly. Both Eric and Travis admit their professional training helps in perfecting their full-time dad duties. They are in their element when changing diapers, providing day-to-day care and handling first-aid issues. “What I do on the job does away with empathy. Everything is a Band-Aid,” Travis said laughingly. Eric admitted, “I am able to handle stress better because of my training.” Paislee gave her dad an opportunity to prove his statement one night when she was sick and her fever spiked, causing a seizure. “Eric knew we needed to call an ambulance and knew everything that the paramedics needed to know when they arrived,” Kasey remembered. “It’s difficult when Paislee is sick and wants daddy instead of me, but I know I can trust Eric and focus on work. I know she is in good hands, and it’s great to see their father-daughter bond growing.” The couple cherishes learning moments with Paislee. They are teaching her the ABCs and numbers, how to ride a bike and most importantly, the same values. Eric and Kasey spend time in Paislee’s pastel, dollhouse-themed room playing and tucking her in for naps and at bedtime. “This is the best of all worlds!” Kasey exclaimed.
Some chores are done individually, however. Kasey packs Paislee’s bag and picks out her outfits for the day “so they will match.” She also does all house cleaning, and the couple shares laundry duties. “I love that Eric does the cooking, all the outside stuff and picks up the house before I get home,” Kasey shared. One day, she came home and found Eric painting Paislee’s toenails. “You have to lower your macho standing, but I haven’t let her paint my nails,” Eric explained. “I’ve also had to learn to say, ‘No.’”
Kasey admits Eric is now the firmer disciplinarian. Often it’s “the look” that works best when Eric tells Paislee, “No.” “It works for a while, and then it doesn’t. But its effectiveness returns,” Eric said. “Paislee will even put herself into time-out.” As most parents find out, keeping a child busy solves discipline problems. “We go out to I.O.O.F. Park and ride bikes and feed the ducks and ride four-wheelers in the country,” Eric said. Bad weather day activities include playing with games, puzzles and reading books. “She stays in her pj’s and watches movies, and we play chase in the house. She goes around and around the dining room table. I get dizzy, but Paislee doesn’t,” Eric said. Paislee also enjoys Sunday school at Trinity Assembly of God.
Paislee is blessed with grandparents who live nearby, so they are available and ready when needed, but there is no real road map for co-parenting. “We just picked up on the idea and ran with it. We are big on wanting to raise our kids rather than someone else doing the job. In our families, moms either stay at home or use day care,” Eric explained.
Networking with families and other full-time dads at his family’s church, Calvary Worship Center, gives Travis additional support, beyond family, that he sometimes needs. “The church has a men’s fellowship where I network. The kids and I attend church, Sunday school and children’s church. I have great kids,” Travis said. Like Eric, he has learned to take care of a little girl’s needs. “I can braid hair,” he admitted. Having attended different high schools — Eric at Mildred High School and Kasey at Corsicana High School — they were “set up” on a blind date by cousins and have now been married for eight years. Both graduated Navarro College and Kasey graduated from the Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas. Both Eric and Travis are working on their emergency management degrees online from West Texas A&M University. “I hang out, work out and study with Travis,” Eric said. Travis summed up his full-time dad role. “I can’t stop learning, because the kids are all different. I’m already gone 10 days a month, so I feel like I need to step up and be a full-time dad.” With their children thriving, Eric and Kasey and Travis have created a balance between home and work through their parenting choices.
Written by Virginia Riddle.