Dad turns staying home into an adventure

News-DemocratJune 16, 2013 

The Gunyon boys were abuzz about a swarm of bees.

Gregory Gunyon and dark-haired sons Nate, 6, and Alex, 4, happened upon the swarm the day before while riding in the family golf cart on a neighbor's 20 acres.

It was time to go back.

"Dad, I want to see the bees," said Nate, as Gregory fastened their seatbelts. "We saw bees attack."

Gregory guided the cart down the street, through their neighbor's yard, near a dragonfly that reminded Alex of Mom Nicole's new tattoo, past a clear lake where they sometimes fish and boat, and past and a stagnant pond where they startled a turtle. They stopped near a large dead branch, hoping for a glimpse of the volleyball-size swarm.

All was quiet.

"Where did they go?"

"Maybe they went home."

"They were 30 to 40 feet away," said Gregory. "I threw it in reverse. The boys were right on back. I let them watch as we drove away."

It's all part of the adventure of being a stay-at-home dad. Before children, Gregory was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (Bomb Squad) in the Air Force.

"When we decided to start a family, we decided that the deployment tempo and risk associated with bomb disposal meant it was time for a career change," said Gregory, 32, of Shiloh."I didn't want to have kids and both be in the military. I saw how rough it was on other families. I remember being in Iraq and donating minutes to friends so they could talk to their wife and kids longer. I'm sure my parents would have liked to be talking to me."

Nicole had good skills that translated to a good salary.

"My wife was doing construction inspection when she was serving on active duty and the switch to civilian life was fairly smooth."

So was his job switch.

"Today's been a lazy day," Gregory said. "I'll get the laundry done. We're going to visit their grandparents tomorrow. My brother is getting married."

They also planned a stop at Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park in the Wisconsin Dells, just two hours from Grandma and Grandpa's. Staying on a Monday would be a savings, something the thrifty family keeps tabs on.

Gregory grew up in Elkhorn, Wis. Nicole is from Ava, Mo.

"My parents both worked," he said. "Dad was at work during the day. Mom was a paralegal who got to work in the evening. Eventually, Dad got promoted to insurance adjustor, and could work from home, allowing Mom to go back to a daytime job."

He and Nicole met at Scott Air Force Base, married in 2005 and both got out of the military in 2006 when Nate was born.

"I liked the idea of one parent being home," said Gregory. "I never thought it would be me. I brought it up with my wife as a joke one day."

Nicole took it seriously.

"I sat and thought about it," she said. "I thought, why not? It's not normal, but it fit what we needed."

Gregory's world revolves around the boys. Their interests are his.

"Look, Dad, a little tiny bug," said Nate. "Why is he curling up?"

"He's scared, Nate. Don't squeeze him too hard."

Gregory will tell you that Alex is more of a dress-up kid, wearing button-down shirts with collars. That Nate likes character shirts of superheroes. How their kittens happened to join the family --"a mama stray left a batch of four under the porch," and their names: Tiger Lily, Toodles, Blackberry and Felix the Cat.

How the boys' toy room came to be overflowing with Legos, pirate ships, trucks and books.

"The toy room is funded by Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle," he said as the boys started a game of freeze tag around him.

"They don't play together as much as they play in the same area. Nicole and I joke, if we had a house that was a hundred square feet, it would be enough. We are always in the same area."

Gregory doesn't miss being employed outside the home, although his grandpa still asks about him getting back into the work force.

"Every once in a while, I get an email from Grandpa, 'There's a management position open over here.'"

Gregory already has a management position, even if it does involve rolypolies, video games and preparing macaroni and cheese.

He's involved at the boys' school, Shiloh Elementary, where he serves as PTO treasurer and accompanies the boys on field trips. He's around if one of the boys gets sick

After Nicole gets home from work, Gregory takes a break, going outside to mow the lawn, fish or go out in the boat.

That's fine with Nicole.

"I don't have to worry about what's for dinner or groceries. My reward for going to work all day is I get to come home and play with the kids."

Staying home is not an easy job, but it's a rewarding one, said Gregory.

"With each hour of work that I put in to raising the boys, I am rewarded with seeing them grow. I may not make as much money, but money isn't the only thing of value."

Gregory on Father's Day: "Father's Day at my house means sleeping in an extra few hours, handmade Father's Day cards and spending the day together as a family."

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