TODAY | September 26, 2012
>>> 8:20 now. we're back with a new series called "the new normal." the name of a new nbc comedy that got us thinking about what defines an american family these days. it turns out the definition is rapidly changing. for these men it's another day in the park. football, check. sunglasses, check. pacifiers and bubbles, check and check. behold the stay-at-home dad.
>> i think as a community we honestly believe that dads can be just as capable, confident and nurturing as moms can.
>> some 2 million men are the primary care-givers in their families, and in this economy that number is on the rise.
>> welcome to happy hour.
>> lance summerfeld made a decision to take a leave from his job as a teacher and stay at home to raise his son jake. his wife works full time.
>> we knew one of the two of us had to be home. it was a non-negotiable. my wife's career was on a great track.
>> lance founded the support network nyc dads group. they are 600 daddies strong from all walks of life, and though their diaper bags might be gender neutral, their tools of the trade are the same.
>> always wipes, hanadi wipes.
>> extra wipes.
>> have a bag to wear like this so it doesn't look that much like a purse.
>> raising kids has never been costlier. it's estimated 4 million babies will be born in the u.s. this year. from their first breath to their 18th birthday parents will spend on average a whopping their 235,000, and oh, your newborn's future college tuition , try $81,000 a year. those numbers have many families rethinking their day-to-day living situation.
>> we decided to move in together about a year and a half ago.
>> recently alison bonds' family took in two roommates to help ease their financial burden, her mom and dad .
>> the economic impact of sharing a home is one of the main reasons that it works very well.
>> and the vaughns aren't alone. about 4.4 million homes have three generations or more living under one roof. that's the largest number of americans living in multi-generational households in modern history . call them the modern family, from at-home dads to shared households, it's a new day and a new normal.
>> katherine perlman is a social worker and family coach. good morning, good to see you.
>> good morning.
>> we say the new normal. when we talk about stay-at-home dads, do you think they are feeling from other people that it's normal, or do they face a stigma?
>> i think there's still a stigma. the norm is the moms go to the playground and the pashs and play groups and do pickups. i think men are looked at is why is this dad here?
>> what do they need to consider, things that will impact their lives for the better?
>> i think that dads have to find their social group . i think some dads feel great are going to pick up and are with the moms and are comfortable with that. like the dad in the piece, some dads need to find their groove.
>> the economy is clearly forcing a lot of generations under one roof. we talked about multi-generational families. it sounds like you could say oh, it's great, it's togetherness. the family is back together, but it does put strains on a family, doesn't it?
>> that's right. it can be very stressful, and i think the dads have to be doing it for the right reasons so that they can feel comfortable about it.
>> when we talk about multi-generational families, what -- what do they need to be prepared for.
>> multi-generational families have multi-interests, different age groups, some are fast, some are slower so they have to compromise and have to communicate.
>> a lot of these families are experiencing -- we deal on the show a lot with boomerang kids. kids have come back home, and one of the big topics we hear over and over again in this new normal is you've got to define boundaries.
>> that's right.
>> how do you do that?
>> there has to be open communication . parents have to speak with their kids. how long is this situation going to be? what are the curfews? are you allowed to have people over, so that they can come to some expectation.
>> let's talk about a new group in the new normal. these are the multi-cultural families. i think the fastest youth group in the country, multi-racial children.
>> that's right.
>> and while we all applaud this, i think there are hidden struggles, and parents need to know about it going in.
>> i think parents have to be afraid not to talk about race with their kids and be able to be open about their background and value difference.
>> how do they help children? i mean, when a child comes home and says, look, i'm getting some issues. i'm hearing some things at school i don't like hearing, a parent has to be direct.
>> right. parent has to be direct, and they can practice with their kids. here's what you can say. when someone asks you, who are you, where do you come, from and here are your parents, here's how you practice.
>> gay couples, kids then that have either two moms or two dads. what are the issues? are they the new normal, or are they still facing issues?
>> i think it depends on where you live, but there's still a lot of people who don't understand two moms and two dads have a lot of questions and parents can help prepare their kids to deal with those.
>> when it comes to dealing with kids, is the message you need to send your kids, it's about love, not about what the family looks like or is made up of?
>> i think the truth of the matter is nowadays families are so diverse there isn't the typical mom, dad, two kids so there's room for everyone.
>> katherine perlman, appreciate it.
>> thanks for having me.