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Is there a Dad Divide to go with the Mommy Wars?

Whether they say it out loud or acknowledge it at all, that work-home divide traditionally reserved for the Mommy Wars can also rear between dads who go off to the office every day and the kind in the trenches with the kids.

By Leanne ItalieAssociated Press / June 17, 2012

Chris Rock, left, and Tom Lennon with children in a scene from the movie "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

Melissa Moseley/Lionsgate/AP

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NEW YORK

Hey, Mr. Mom.

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What's up, Workaholic?

Whether they say it out loud or acknowledge it at all, that work-home divide traditionally reserved for the Mommy Wars can also rear between dads who go off to the office every day and the kind in the trenches with the kids.

There are bound to be rifts, given the growing league of dads staying home at least part-time. But do the paths of work dads and home dads intertwine enough to make them care quite so deeply as the ladies? How exactly are they perceived, not by researchers or journalists, but by each other?

"To be a stay-at-home dad requires a lot of confidence in who you are," said Paxton Helms, 41, in Washington, D.C.

He became one about four years ago, when his daughter was 3 months old. A son followed and he now takes part-time contracts as an international development consultant, with flexible hours. His wife also works part-time.

"The strangest thing that ever happened to me as a [stay-at-home dad] was riding on the Metro with both my kids and a guy asking me, 'So where's Mom?' I couldn't even think why in the world somebody would be asking me that question, so I couldn't even muster an answer," he said.

SUSPICION OVER WIVES, LAYOFFS

Other at-home dads worry about jealousy from working brethren (What are they really thinking about all that time spent with the women?). Or suspicion that they're out of work. And dads on both sides of the divide report the occasional cold shoulder.

"It seems that they try to avoid me or don't want to talk about what life is like for them," said dad-of-one Donald DeLong, 55, a Bloomfield Township, Mich., attorney who acknowledges a "deeply rooted need to work and 'earn a living.'"

"When I do talk to them, the topics stay guy-safe. That is, sports, cars. After all we're both still guys. We don't talk about that sensitive touchy-feely stuff."

Other at-home dads, those by choice or pushed out of the job market, said they've endured some snark, but they consider it more of a dad-on-dad discomfort than a serious divide.

Martin Weckerlein, 33, is among them. He simply doesn't have the time to care. He was a tank commander in the Germany military, then a bank worker for six years before he gave it up to be an at-home for his three kids, ages 8, 3 and 9 months. The family lives in suburban Washington, D.C., where his wife has a government job.

"When I'm with other dads who are my age, whether they work or stay at home, they tend to be pretty accepting and even curious as to how that works that we can afford me staying home, what I do during the day with the kids, and they say it must be nice to have that time," he said.

"When I am talking with men who aren't fathers or who are older, their questions usually focus on what my career goals are after I am done being home with my kids. They seem to assume this is only a temporary thing for our family, a pause in my career for a few years, instead of an investment in our family," Weckerlein explained.

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