Standing in the kitchen of his Lakewood home, Andrew Rosulek is making dinner.
As savory smells fill the house, the windows fog over with steam on the unseasonably chilly day.
Rosulek is chopping onions, sauteing garlic and steaming spinach as his wife, Wendi, is watching their son, 1-year-old Allagash, who’s playing nearby.
Andrew’s grandparents once owned the house where the young couple now are raising their first child. With his feet planted between the stove and the sink, Andrew recalls Grandma Rosulek, whom he called a “domestic goddess.”
“I think about her a lot when I’m doing many of the things she might have done,” he said.
Andrew Rosulek joins the growing ranks of men who take on the lion’s share of responsibilities once conventionally held by women, while Wendi is the family’s breadwinner.
A study by Pew Research Center found that fathers now are more engaged in housework and child care, as mothers are spending more time on paid work.
The center found the number of working moms has spiked dramatically.
In 1975, only 39 percent of women with young children were in the labor force, compared with 65 percent in 2000.
The decision for Andrew Rosulek to stay at home with Allagash was not only a financial one but the couple also prefer a hands-on, family approach to child care.
When Allagash was born, Wendi Rosulek was established and advancing through her career at Dundee Middle School as a library media specialist – a position so reliant on technology that a break for even a year would have put her light-years behind, she said.
“There is a chance [that if she stayed at home], she could fall back,” Andrew Rosulek added. “That’s a fear a lot of working moms have about staying home.”
So while Wendi Rosulek is at work, Andrew takes on much of the child care and household chores. He works three days a week for his father’s accounting firm, a job that provides him with a flexible schedule, and he also is taking classes to learn and someday operate the family-owned business. Allagash’s grandmother watches the boy on the days both Rosuleks are working.
“I feel like he has more responsibilities, he’s going to school, taking care of the baby and the house,” Wendi Rosulek said. “Yeah, I have a full-time job, and my baby, but he’s got more [pieces] to take care of.”
Fathers today, the Pew Research Center study found, spend more than twice as much time doing housework as they did in the 1960s, from four hours to 10 hours a week. During the same period, mothers have cut their time almost in half, to 18 hours from 32.
Andrew Rosulek found that staying at home with the baby was isolating. He regularly attends story time at the library or other enrichment activities with Allagash, which also allows Andrew a social outlet, but it was hard not to notice he was the only man at these groups.
“I thought, there’s got to be other dads out there like me,” he said.
So he started a group for male caregivers to meet up and talk about child care in a way in which they can relate.
“It’s essentially a moms group for dads,” Andrew explained about GFLAK, which stands for Grandfathers and Fathers Looking After Kids. “We go to the coffee shop, we feed them lunch, we go to story time, we hang out at the library.”
Andrew says GFLAK is a one-of-a-kind group in McHenry County, one that in six weeks has added six new members.
Although women are making great strides in the working world, the Pew study found, men still have not overtaken the women’s “traditional” duties.
But the Rosuleks believe that now is the time to shatter those gender roles.
“Wendi and I strongly believe that no one’s time is more or less valuable than the other’s when it comes to contributing to the success of one’s family, at work or at home,” Andrew Rosulek said.
How to join
For information on GFLAK, or Grandfathers and Fathers Looking After Kids, a group targeting male caregivers.