Eight-year-old Paige Adelsberger couldn't wait to tell her teacher the good news: Her father had just lost his job.
Her teacher replied that losing one's job is usually bad news. But not to Paige. The way she saw it, her father would be able to spend more time around the house, even fill in for her mother, Lauren, as Room Mom. Make that Room Dad.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in Thursday's editions about Constellation Energy Group's lawsuit misspelled a Baltimore Circuit Court judge's name. It is Stuart R. Berger. The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.
This Father's Day, John Adelsberger, a former senior engineer at Constellation Energy, is among scores of laid-off dads who have gone from primary breadwinner to primary housekeeper amid the nation's economic recession. And while many modern-day fathers have chosen to be more involved with the day-to-day routine in the home for years, these dads have had little choice.
Being laid off has meant forgoing an office setting for getting kids ready for school, helping a teacher stuff activity folders, preparing dinner - all while finding time to revise resumes and prepare for job interviews.
Some have occasionally grappled with the notion that they're not fulfilling societal expectations of men as financial providers. Still, they've shouldered the responsibility of home well enough to ensure that family regimens and schedules haven't faltered.
"I've become the classic Mr. Mom," said Adelsberger, 38, who was let go when his company downsized just before Christmas. It marks the second time he's been laid off; the first time was during the dot.com bust a few years back.
Having been through it before, the father of two knew what to expect financially. But this time, dealing with a layoff also meant breaking the news to Paige and her 5-year-old sister, Audrey, and assuring them that everything would be fine. Then he had to show them by taking on roles that had been performed by his wife Lauren, an occupational therapist now spending more time at work.
"It's been a role reversal," said Adelsberger. "We are fortunate that my wife has the ability to work more hours; she usually worked Tuesdays and Thursdays, and now she's picked up additional days when possible. And the things that she was doing, I'm now doing: getting the kids up, getting them dressed and fed and off to school."
Some men have handled these changes well, drawing on the same dedication that they once gave to their paying jobs.
"The interesting thing is that some of these guys are starting to like it," said D. Charles Williams, and Atlanta-based psychologist and author of the book Forever a Father, Always a Son: Discovering the Difference a Dad Can Make. Many of the out-of-work men he's counseled have said that they enjoy taking care of home so much that their next jobs will allow for more family time.
"They're saying, 'If I don't have any more value to my company than this, then I'm not going to miss out on my kids growing up,' " Williams added.
After being laid off from a marketing director job, Jeff Schad of Columbia has taken over at home while returning to a career as a freelance writer.
Between making breakfast, getting his 8-year-old stepdaughter to school and watching Sesame Street with his 2-year-old daughter, he finds time to cultivate clients and sources.
"What is most challenging is the day-to-day management," Schad said. "I have to have time to get so many things done for myself and my career, and then be with the kids and try to engage with them."
Fathers employ their own parenting approach once they take the lead at home, Williams said. They tend to be less permissive of wrongdoing and less patient with their child's excuses than moms, he said, but their ways of setting boundaries while still finding time to be buddies can be very effective.
That is, if the father is willing to accept the new role.
"You're so ingrained in making the most of your career and doing what you can do to better yourself," said Schad. "To stop doing that, and for my wife to be the breadwinner, is a radical change, and I haven't fully embraced it yet."
Some men never embrace it, said Geoffrey Greif, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work who has studied fathers in transitions such as marriage breakups and job loss.
"For a lot of men, it goes so much against their notion of masculinity that it can be difficult to take on that kind of full-time househusband role," said Greif. "The fact that there are now so many men out of work makes it more acceptable now than when the economy flourished.
"But men and women are still largely socialized to believe that men are supposed to make more money and work outside the home and women are to work inside the home."
Adelsberger said that initially he adjusted well to being let go, in part because it had happened before. But once the new year began, he began to worry about how long he would be out of work and says, "I guess mentally something in me was saying that I still have to provide."
Yet his wife assured him that he was doing just that by taking care of their home. The two evaluated their finances and concluded that they could survive finanancially for a few months more.
"As a society, we believe we're trained" to provide financially, says Adelsberger. "Mentally, I still had some concept of 'This is what I have to do; this is what I need to do.' I felt that way until I had a chance to step back and look at the big picture. But I do know that at some time I'll need to get back to my gig."
Until then, he's making the best of the time, helping out coaching his elder daughter's lacrosse team, working out at the gym to relieve stress (he's made a few job contacts there) and doing the share of the cooking, which he did when he and Lauren first married.
Plus, he's conjured up a few memorable family moments. Adelsberger said that initially, Audrey understood that he had lost his job. As time wore on, however, it didn't make sense that he was still out of work.
"Daddy, I don't understand," Audrey said. "If you lost your job, just go find it. It's not that hard. I lose stuff all the time."