Jeff Seabaugh :: From Corporate Suit to ’Crazy’ Gay Dad
What was the biggest change for Jeff Seabaugh when he decided to become a stay- at-home dad?
"I guess the biggest thing that’s changed is that our circle of friends has gotten smaller," said Seabaugh about his experiences that he’s turned into his one-person show "We Crazy, Right" that is part of this year’s New York International Fringe Festival. "We don’t have time to do some of the things we used to do, and we miss that. As a parent, for a few years you have to say goodbye to a previous life. And you have to be okay with that."
Seabaugh could be any former wild child talking about life in the suburban slow lane-except, of course, he’s not. That nice male elementary school principal he’s married to, and those three adoptive siblings he’s going into Ward Cleaver mode for, put a contemporary queer spin on the age-old tale of parenthood as a gateway to personal growth and spiritual bliss.
The backstory leading up to that seismic shift in lifestyle and purpose has already been told, in a Seabaugh-performed-and-penned solo show. He considers 2009’s "How to Make an American Family" (which had a critically acclaimed run as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival) to be "like the first part of this story...what prepared me to be a father. At the time, I was the caretaker of my mother, and in the show, I tell about that and the adoption process. This new show is about what it’s like now that I decided to quit my job and be a stay-at-home dad."
The right moment
Asked to pinpoint the moment when he and his husband knew they wanted to settle down and raise a family, Seabaugh admits, "I say in the play that I don’t even remember how we started this process. We just did, and we were remarkably on the same page all along the way."
His memory is sharper, though, when it comes to recalling how he went from corporate commuter to Mr. Mom. "I had been having a lot of health problems," says Seabaugh of his inspiration for the transition. "I was fainting unexplainably. I went to all these doctors to figure out what was wrong. There was a moment when I turned to Randy and said, ’I hate getting up in the morning. I feel sick all the time.’ I remember we were in a bookstore upstate and I saw this book."
Although "Stay-At-Home Dads: The Essential Guide to Creating the New Family" was written with heterosexual fathers in mind, it nevertheless triggered a switch in Seabaugh’s queer brain.
"It just unlocked the possibilities," he says of what happened as he devoured the book. "I knew that some dads stayed at home, but I never really thought it could be real for us. I worked up all these spreadsheets and figured out we could do it...and suddenly, it was like the weight of the world was lifted up off my shoulders."
’Oh my gosh, teenagers’
That was 2010-the point at which Seabaugh walked away from his 11 years spent as general manager of the Manhattan-based Broadway.com.
"When we decided to adopt," recalls Seabaugh, "we chose to buy a house in the burbs. The commute was killing me, and I never saw the kids. I realized that I had become one of those people who lives for Saturday and Sunday. I knew something had to change."
By that point, the couple’s adopted children had been with them since 2006 (at which point the two girls were four and seven, and the boy was 10). Today, the Westchester-based family has expanded to include a poodle, three adopted cats, a gerbil, two parakeets and a beta fish.
"Oh my gosh, teenagers," says Seabaugh of what’s changed the most since he quit the corporate rat race. "Especially my middle daughter. It’s like, the moment she turned 13, she became a different person. There’s a myth out there that kids need you the most when they’re young. But our kids, because they had such a chaotic early life, there are some delays with the life experiences they’re going through. Finally, they’re getting to play sports for the first time, getting involved in school activities. Our son...when he came to live with us, he was illiterate; and he’s just blossomed."
That poignant observation should give you some sense of the way gay parenting and adoption is handled in "We Crazy, Right?" Yes, we’re assured, wackiness does indeed ensue when two gay white guys adopt three Dominican kids-but it’s also worth noting that Seabaugh, at least in our conversation with him, approaches the subject matter with more introspective sincerity than sitcom snark.
Shortly after he cracks wise about his hubby’s lack of skill in the kitchen (noting he’s better off as the one with the day job because his culinary efforts begin and end with chicken nuggets), Seabaugh turns his knack for observation inward: "What I had to work though in my own life," he says of the changing dynamic with his partner, "is that for the first time in my life, I didn’t earn a paycheck...and that freaked me out. I felt like I was dependent on someone else, and that’s been the biggest adjustment in our relationship. But he’s been incredible."
Although they weren’t gripped by the same grand tizzy as their newly omnipresent dad, Seabaugh says the kids didn’t quite understand why he wasn’t leaving for work in the mornings anymore. "One of them asked me if I’d been fired," he recalls. "They were just a little skeptical, wondering what this meant...because change is difficult for them. But now that they see I’ve got snacks ready when they come home and they’re able to do things they weren’t while we were both working full time, they understand this is a pretty good thing."
As for his own conclusions, Seabaugh prefaces his gushing with an apology. "I hate to sound all new agey," he cautions, "but there’s a wonderful predictability that family brings. In my corporate life, I was working to put money in shareholder’s pockets. Now I am raising these three children who had a pretty horrible start in life. To see them have friends, simple little things like that. It brings so much more joy to my life than what I was doing before."
"We Crazy, Right" will be performed Fri., Aug. 10 at 7pm; Sun., Aug. 12 at 4:45pm; Sat., Aug. 18 at 12pm; Sun., Aug. 19 at 7:15pm; Fri., Aug. 24 at 2:30pm; and Sat., Aug. 25 at 8:45pm. At Jimmy’s No. 43 (43 E. 7 St., btw. First & Second Aves.). For tickets ($15 in advance), visit fringenyc.org or purchase $18 tickets at the box office.