More and more we are seeing Australians relocating their families to New York and other major U.S. cities, where the wife is the E-3 visa holder. As a result, The Australian Community has observed a growing demographic:The E-3Dad.
Many E-3D visa holders are Dads who suddenly find themselves as the primary caregiver to young children and infants. Whether it is a temporary, part-time or more permanent arrangement, the E-3Dad faces a unique set of challenges.
The challenges for the E-3Dad such as finding time for the job hunt are less if the children are in school. However, for those with children under four years of age, there are some short to medium term challenges that need to be understood.
The Economic Reality:
What seems to be the catalyst in this equation, are the career opportunities for female Australian executives. The lure of $US six figure salaries (boosted by a weak $AU) is often the incentive for Australian families to make the decision to uproot the family and transplant to a major U.S. city.
What comes as a shock to many Australian families, in New York especially, is the cost of child care. A Nanny can cost on average US$20 to US$25 per hour, and a Nanny (or Manny) working 8:00AM to 6:00PM, Monday to Friday is upwards of $1,200 per week.
Additional considerations include, ensuring the legal work status of the Nanny, liability Insurance, tax withholding and other paperwork that needs to be in place before you effectively hand over your child to a stranger. Day Care centers simplify much of the paperwork, but can cost upwards of $10,000 to $20,000 per child for just the school year!
Therefore the decision is often made that Dad has to at least initially for economic reasons, become the primary care giver. Even if employment is found, it still may be economically prohibitive if Dad’s after tax wages are about the same as the cost of child care.
Notwithstanding the economic considerations, it is currently taking up to six months wait time for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to be processed. Therefore, the E-3Dad is going to find a considerable amount of time at home looking after the kids while Mum is working.
Isolation is Real:
It will become obvious to any Australian parent that organizing a Play Date often has little to do with children, especially new mothers. The Play Date is often an opportunity for mothers to get together socially with someone who understands the challenges of being a mother. Unfortunately E-3Dads do not possess the credentials to gain admission to this club.
Albeit Australians have a reputation for being friendly, approaching a female in a public place and staring up a friendly conversation is often misinterpreted – even if both your children are playing together just a few feet away. The E-3Dad will often find himself on the outside at the local playground for no other reason than being male.
The rookie mistake is thinking that you have a better shot striking up a conversation with a third party: The Nanny. Often you will see groups of these caregivers at public playgrounds, but don’t think that you can just walk up and start a conversation. The Nanny Club is more exclusive than you think, and they literally circle the wagons (strollers), to keep others at bay.
Even if you were able to be accepted by your local playground mothers after weeks of showing up and being a perfect parent, do not expect a Play Date invitation.
For members of our private Yammer Network, you can always find a sympathetic Australian parent in our Family Friendly group. You may not immediately find an invitation for a champagne Play Date, but you are guaranteed to connect with others who understand your situation.
Be Prepared to be Judged:
Aside from the risk being viewed as a philanderer should you attempt a casual conversation with another parent who just happens to be female, be prepared to have your parenting skills under constant scrutiny.
Unless your child is impeccably dressed, face free of any organic material, and your child has perfected his or her social skills as soon as they can walk, be prepared to be judged. In a society that prides itself on tolerance and equality, the simple reality is that men are not considered equal when it comes to parenting.
The prejudging is not limited to males’ parenting skills, the assumption is often that if you are male, you do not need assistance. If you find yourself on a subway holding a screaming child, there is little chance of a passenger offering a seat to a woman, let alone a man. Similarly, if you are staring at a set of stairs on the subway, do not expect that someone is going to offer help with your stroller.
For any parent living in New York who has experienced the luxury of an Australian shopping center change room, be prepared to be disappointed. Finding a fold down table in the Ladies bathroom can be hit and miss at best, and you can forget finding a change table in the men’s room.
Dads, you are going to need a strategy to gain access to the Ladies bathroom, or at least be proficient at changing a daiper in a stroller if you are goint to venture any distance outside of your apartment.
Texting while strolling is going to have you judged in a New York minute – and is dangerous. There is always a rabid Citi Bike rider running late for an appointment, or a skate board rider doing a Crazy Ivan directly in front of you that will test your reflexes, so be constantly aware of your surroundings.
A Safe Zone for Socialization
The news is not all bad for the Dads who are looing to socialize their children. The Manhattan Youth centers have great programs and facilities, such as art rooms and heated pools, where Dads are equally welcome. You can even start up a conversation with other parents without feeling you are being judged.
There are daily and monthly memberships so story time, swimming lessons, cooking and dance can be integrated into your daily routine. Search the internet for locations or similar centers in your area, it will be well worth the investment.
Remain Disciplined when Looking for Work:
They say that finding work can be a full time job in itself. Adding baby to the mix and your organizational skill are going to be tested. Children are not the only ones who need to be on a strict routine. It is often a cliché, but caring for a baby may be the most challenging role of your life. Not only do you have to help get your spouse out the door, but once junior wakes, your day is completely absorbed until nap time.
Hopefully nap time runs somewhere between 11:00am and 1:00pm, because this short window must be spent on the job hunt. Having a check list is essential. Time needs to be spent sending off resumes, following up with recruiters and making coffee appointments with sponsors who can assist with introductions to key company personnel.
Being outside on a walk can be a productive time for follow up calls. Armed with the latest earbud technology, you can be an effective multitasker, speaking on a phone “while walking to your next appointment”. That meeting may be at the local playground, but the sounds of New York in the background are not going to raise suspicion, even the sounds of a baby!
Many executives go online or log into their LinkedIn accounts after dinner. So, after children are asleep, or your spouse has taken over parenting duties, rather than relax, spend the hours between 7:30pm and 9:30pm being productive with follow up emails and messaging.
In your new role as an E-3Dad, you can be so focussed on looking after the health of others and finding work, that you can forget your own health. Food, Exercise and Sleep are essential to a healthy lifestyle. Strolling baby twenty blocks to your favorite fast food restaurant may be a compromise, but sleep deparavation is going to be a roadblock in the interview process. Be sure to get as much sleep as possible.
Also focus on the health of your relationship. Finding the time to let you spouse know that they are loved is going to relieve many of the pressures of living in a large U.S. city, especially for a family in New York.
So the next time you are strolling past your local Bodega selling a dozen roses for $10, make the investment. It will surely pay dividends in what can be an uncertain market for the E-3Dad.
About The Australian Community
The Australian Community is a 501(c)(3) Public Charity and its Mission is to connect Australian living in the United States through social, professional and charitable initiatives.
All contributions are fully tax deductible under Section 170 of the IRS Code. The Australian Community is also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of the Code.