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'Captain Dad' Finds The Funny In Parenting

Pat Byrnes lives in Illinois with his daughters, Rebecca and Lucy, and his wife, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Courtesy of Pat Byrnes
Pat Byrnes lives in Illinois with his daughters, Rebecca and Lucy, and his wife, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

When moms see cartoonist Pat Byrnes on the playground with his daughters, he says they often check the sex offender registries on their cellphones. Byrnes is a stay-at-home dad and creator of a "manly blog of stay-at-home parenting" where he writes not as Mr. Mom, but as Captain Dad.

Byrnes tells NPR's Neal Conan that his challenges are "pretty familiar to anyone that spends a significant amount of time around their kids ... the little things become big things, and it can be frustrating and maddening, and then you laugh at how ridiculous it is."

And then, he turns some of those moments into cartoons.

According to the 2010 Census, the U.S. has more than 150,000 stay-at-home dads, but Byrnes says there's more to it than that.

"There are a lot of dads that kind of share the responsibility," he says. Byrnes says he knows at least two firemen who work 24-hour shifts in order to take full days off to help care for their children, trading off with their partners.

"That's becoming more and more common, where dads are manning up and taking care of the kids," he says.

Interview Highlights

On finding the perfect dolphin costume for his daughter, Rebecca

"There are a lot of shark costumes out there. And so a lot of people were saying, 'Ooh, look at the shark.' And, of course, Rebecca had to correct them all the time ...

"She just fell in love with dolphins. So she reads dolphin books. She has ... two dolphin pillow pets. We went to the dolphin show at the Brookfield Zoo. She's just always been crazy about dolphins. She speaks in the language 'dolphinito' ... I wouldn't even try to imitate that. It'll kind of blow apart all your electronics."

On his respect for moms

"Women have been saying for generations that it is the toughest job in the world, and I think can speak with the authority of a man on this subject. They were right. Girls, you are right."

On how he transitioned from at-work to at-home dad

"I started out as an aerospace engineer, so I worked with a bunch of crazy, nerdy men. And then I was in advertising after that, so I worked with a bunch of crazy people. And then for, oh, probably about 13 years before the kids came, I was working freelance, so I was kind of reclusive already and prepared for that part.

"Being a cartoonist ... you know, the fact that I have flexible hours and I kind of work in the interstices of life anyway, it made sense that I'd be the guy, and there was really no arguing it."

On how others treat his stay-at-home dad status

"I've ... only been razzed by one other cartoonist for being too busy changing diapers to draw cartoons. But, you know, it's a cartoonist. It's probably a joke to begin with. Other than that, I mean, I heard one comment ... about what I was doing, saying, 'Ooh, that's not really accepted.' And occasionally, you know, people write online about how evil it is in destroying the fabric of our society for men who stay home and take care of the kids."

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