“I’m fastidious about keeping things on a schedule. I’m a firm believer that children need no surprises. At 6:15 Abigail gets up; 6:30, Asher’s up. I make them breakfast, then Asher leaves for the bus at 7:00, and Abigail’s off to school by 7:15. After that, I get the dishes squared away, make sure all the clothes are washed, do whatever cleaning needs to be done, do the grocery shopping. I could be June Cleaver.”

Look again, Beaver. Those are the words of Robert Frierson, a former Navy technician and one-time bar bouncer who stands 6 foot, 5 inches and weighs in at 340. Many of us knew June Cleaver, and Mr. Frierson, you are no June Cleaver.

But June and Ward — a half-century ago when “parent” wasn’t a verb — raised Wally and the Beav with many of the same values that guide Robert and his wife, Sabrina Frierson, MD, in parenting their kids Abigail and Asher. The four Friersons — who live in El Paso, Texas — exemplify a new kind of modern family, with Dad as the stay-at-home parent and Mom in the workplace.

Beyond the verbification of “parent,” child-rearing isn’t what it used to be. More women are in college, many majoring in business, engineering, medicine and other formerly male-dominated fields; more women are in the workplace, many making more money than their husbands; and couples are waiting longer to get married and have kids. Economic forces have shifted family life, too, with recent recessions, bankruptcies and layoffs disproportionately impacting working men and leading to financial insecurity among families. So when it comes time for today’s couples to talk about starting a family, tradition may take on a distinctly 21st-century tone, which is where stay-at-home dads enter the conversation.

“How are we going to deal with discipline? What kinds of schools do we want our children to attend? There was quite a bit of discussion about our philosophies toward rearing children,” Robert said, recalling conversations he had with Sabrina. It was after they met — when she was a first-year resident in Memphis and he was working the door at a bar she walked into in 1995 — and married in 2001, but before they had Abigail. They also talked about the reality that surgeons make a lot more money than bouncers and work a lot more hours, which made housekeeper and cook the sensible role for Robert to assume. “When it was time to have children, it was like, ‘Hey, this is how we’re going to do it,’” he said.

Their decision made sense. “We’re of a generation in which the traditional male-female roles have morphed,” Robert said. “Now it’s a matter of who can fill the roles the best in the household. Growing up, my mother made sure we all knew how to cook and take care of the house. It was paying attention to what our natural strengths were and going from there.”

One aspect of raising a family that hasn’t changed is the need for budgeting and careful financial planning, enabling Robert to make his move. “We did a sit-down with Wes, our financial advisor, so we knew we were on sound financial footing. We’re not financial people, so we rely on him and put a lot of trust in him.”

Planning helped to take all the stress away. It’s 106 degrees in El Paso in the summer, but I’ll tell you what — we weren’t sweating, even in this desert heat. We were relaxed knowing that we were set.

A LAYOFF CALLS FOR NEW LIFE PLANS

Beyond college savings strategies for both children, Robert, Sabrina and the kids all have life insurance policies. Those policies became critical assets when Sabrina lost her job.

“Last year, the hospital system my wife worked for changed its business model. They closed or downgraded services at rural hospitals — and that left my wife out of work,” Robert said. “We huddled with Wes and outlined a new plan because we wanted to make sure it was a good fit.”

A move from Longview, Texas, to El Paso was Sabrina’s best opportunity to find a new career opportunity and keep the family afloat financially, but it was no sure thing. So, the Friersons wanted to divide and conquer. Sabrina would move to El Paso, renting a small home, so she could network and search for jobs, while Robert would stay in Longview — providing consistency and care for the kids. The Friersons borrowed from their cash value life insurance to fund their expenses and hopes for tomorrow. Before too long, Sabrina found a new job, and the family made the big move to El Paso.

“Planning helped to take all the stress away,” Robert said. “It’s 106 degrees in El Paso in the summer, but I’ll tell you what — we weren’t sweating, even in this desert heat. We were relaxed knowing that we were set.”

Please take note: Loans taken against a life insurance policy can have adverse effects if not managed properly. Policy loans and automatic premium loans, including any accrued interest, must be repaid in cash or from policy values upon surrender, lapse or the death of the insured. Repayment of loans from policy values upon surrender or lapse can trigger a potentially significant tax liability and there may be little or no cash value remaining in the policy to pay the tax. The policy will lapse if loans become equal to the cash value while the policy is in force and additional cash payments are not made.

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