Skeet Couper found a niche in a market he’s willing to fill.
He doesn’t aim to make money, only charging $1 per head.
What the stay-at-home dad faces is that after he drops his oldest two children off at school, his three little tykes need to blow off some steam.
They are up, dressed, fed, loaded in the car and ready to roll.
Summertime activities abound, what with parks and playgrounds, but what to do with youngsters in bad weather?
Couper drives the toddler crew to his church basement where there are pictures of Peter Rabbit on the walls and toys galore.
Other children, with their parent or caregiver, are welcome to join in for a bit of sliding, brick house building, reading and climbing.
This age group may also need diaper changes and clutch sippy cups. They may spend the morning peering cautiously off a lap at the action.
At least they got to go “Bye Bye” before heading for lunch and perhaps a nap.
The play group is for children up to 4 years old and is offered from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.
Couper is married to Rebekah Couper-Noles, a director with Providence Physician Group in Everett. They didn’t aim for him to be the stay-at-home parent, but the economy forced their hand.
Couper, from Olympia, met his future wife in New York. He attended college on the East Coast. They both worked for a retailer in Brooklyn.
In 2000, they moved to Seattle. He went to business school and she got a nursing degree. Couper-Noles also earned a master’s degree in midwifery.
They both like to kayak and enjoy the outdoors, thus the move to Everett. Their family includes Laili, 9, River, 6, Teal, 4, and 2-year-old twins Ames and Otto.
Five years ago, Couper lost his job in project management.
“I fell into staying at home,” he said. “Rebekah really enjoyed her work. We always wanted someone to stay at home.”
After he drops Laili and River at school, the backseat, buckled-up gang is ready for an adventure. They spend lots of time at Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, but wanted alternatives for Teal, Ames and Otto.
Couper longed to find an open gym where the children could run to their heart’s content. He created the play group in a church nursery and basement where they could spend carefree hours.
“He’s started an open gathering here,” said the Rev. Bruce Davis, with Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. “It’s quite informal. Parents can spend time with other parents and the kids play with other kids.”
The play group isn’t church-oriented, not a daycare, isn’t Montessori, it’s just for fun, Davis said.
“He is somebody who shows that creativity to step forward and be the at-home parent for several young children,” Davis said. “Even though we consider ourselves to be enlightened in terms of gender roles, we aren’t altogether enlightened.”
Couper asks for a dollar per visit to raise money to paint the room, he said.
Some days, the musician takes his guitar to play group so he can sing with the children.
Last spring, a grandmother joined him with her grandchildren. Sometimes the adults chatted or the grandmother read. As I visited with Couper, he attended to several bathroom breaks with the kids.
They are potty training the twins. The bathroom is right in the nursery.
“I’m looking for those who are in the same boat as me,” he said, cuddling Otto. “Those who are out and about in the mornings looking for something to do in inclement weather.”
It took Couper a couple of years as a stay-at-home dad to adjust to his role.
“You have to be secure about yourself,” he said. “The first year or two I was a little less comfortable. Then you think about your values.”
Couper does the housework and cooking, as well as care for the children. This winter, he’ll take his older children skiing. The family loves to camp.
His wife is studying for her second master’s degree.
Couper said when the children are tucked into bed by 7 p.m., he starts to fade.
He said he knows the responsibilities of parenting don’t lessen when all five of their children are in school. He’ll be there for everyone, but may take time to study nursing in a few years.
“I’m so impressed with how he is with the kids,” Davis said. “He is doing a great job.”
One parent stays at home when the children are small, the minister said.
“They made a philosophical commitment.”
Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bring the kids
A play group for children up to 4 years old is offered from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1607 Fourth St. in Marysville.
There is a $1 fee per child, maximum $3 per family, for each visit. For more information, call Skeet Couper, 206-792-6881 or e-mail email@example.com.