Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Domestic Enemies of the At Home Dad

In a nod to Father's Day, we're thrilled to present a long overdue addition to our list of Domestic Enemies.  We are so grateful to the dads and step-dads and dad-ish type people who are our partners in parenthood.  You are amazing and we thank you.  We'd like to take this moment to tip our hats to all these fine men, and let them know we are sorry for all those times we got our B on.  We promise to try harder to be for you what you've always been for us - a loving, supportive, best friend who gets it. Who's there in spite of what they know about us.  And is occasionally a pain in the hindparts.

A special salute to those dads who are running the show day to day.  You are welcome here, friends. This is a safe place. And we think you are full grown nasty ass NINJAS of awesomeness.  Like the dude who wrote today's post.  Here's a little blurbitty-blurb about him:

Blogger Will Morton, also known as author of The B-More Dad Blog, once imagined a straight-line trajectory from small-town newspaper reporter to Pulitzer-winning New York Times fat-cat. But somewhere along the way, his Lovely Bride found a job that paid triple his, and he stayed home to change diapers and tend the hearth. Seven years in, he's kicking up his heels at the thought of his youngest starting kindergarten this fall. And at all the beer he'll drink as he lies on the couch all day, after doing the laundry, fixing the lunches, and finishing picking up. Right.


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Rants From Mommyland is one of my daily must-reads. Laugh-out-loud funny always eases the pain of living. For just a bit. But the Domestic Enemies series has blatantly ignored a critical segment of the blogosphere: the At-Home Dad. All 10 of us.


First of all, it’s not Stay-At-Home Dad, because much as we nurturing menfolk like to drink beer in our ManCaves, we’re usually too busy changing diapers, feeding our young 37 times a day, cleaning the house, doing the laundry and schlepping kids to and from school. Oh, right. Just like at-home moms.

So without delay, the Domestic Enemies of the At-Home Dad:

At-Home Moms and The Men Who Love Them
What guy would ever call up another man’s wife and say, “Hey, you wanna hang out at my house for a couple hours while your husband’s not around?” As an at-home dad, though, that’s what you’ve got to do. It’s easy at times, with surface chit-chat about how long you’ve lived in town and how to turn Working Spouse Guilt into time off for you. Or you trade notes about sibling battles, your kids’ napping and pooping habits, and whether it’s okay to have a drink at 4 p.m.

But at some point, you realize: you have the love of some other guy’s life in your house. And you’ve run out of things to talk about. And you’re alone.

Time for snack!

Oh.... Right.
Co-Deciding
Weekdays, I am King Of My Realm and Ultimate Arbiter of All things Parental, a process that’s daunting but efficient. Which playdate to line up when, whether to bring the kids when lunching at Hooters with other at-home dads, and how much time to spend loafing on Facebook – I rarely worry about what anybody else thinks.

Weekends are a different story. Because I’m so stinkin’ sensitive and modern, I actually care what my Lovely Bride might think or want. It takes a major shifting of gears on my part – and a whole set of diplomatic skills that are above my pay grade – to treat her like the woman I love and not just another body to program into the schedule. If I plan up the whole weekend – t-ball, ballet class, cookout, church nursery duty, strawberry picking, making jam, and should we go to the pool, too? – she’ll kill me, and then squeal tires to get to work early Monday morning for some peace and quiet.

Not the relaxing family weekend either of us has in mind.
In our 13 years of wedded bliss, however, I’ve learned not to cram too much into the weekend. And to carefully time weekend scheduling requests: after her evening shower but before she gets in bed with her new boyfriend, Mr. iPhone.

Working Dads
You know, I once had career aspirations, too. I started as a reporter at a small newspaper. Then I was going to move to a bigger paper, then The New York Times, win my Pulitzer and retire to the beach to write books. Then my wife got the better job offer when we wanted to move closer to family, and I stayed home with the kiddos. Seven years later, I’m utterly unable to relate to the working dad.

One guy across the street works as a top exec for a big local company inventing cool, innovative products. He even wears hip rectangular glasses and wears trendy Italian shoes. But he’s off to work by 7:30 and never home before dark, so I never see him. I struggle for what to talk about -- except when I need to borrow power tools. I don’t understand why he wouldn’t rather invent that killer new product tomorrow so he can come home to play with his kids. While they’re awake.

Hair
Okay, so maybe this next one isn’t an enemy to all at-home dads. But allow me this personal challenge: my hair.  Once upon a time, I realized that the length of my hair is inversely proportional to my parenting-related stress. When my son Eddie was born in 2003, my dark, curly hair was down past my shoulders. It was awesome. And a pain to take care of. But awesome. I was the long-haired guy I always wanted to be. I even owned a motorcycle.

But as the baby grew, my hair shrank. When we moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Baltimore a year later, I sold the motorcycle and became an at-home dad to a kid too young to talk or walk. He needed a diaper, nap or food and cleanup every 19 minutes. Many days passed with no shower for Daddy, so I cut my hair shorter and shorter until I ended up with a head that felt like sandpaper.

It was liberating.

It hid the grey.

It was the new awesome.

It also made me look like a victim of mono, food poisoning and the flu. I saw a picture of myself and said goodbye to self-haircuts.

Nice Ladies At The Post Office

When I show up at the park with my kids, I grind my teeth at the people who say, “Oh, is daddy babysitting today?” I’ve learned to smile at these unintentionally thoughtless morons, but the comments are cutting nonetheless. “No, Daddy does this every day,” I grin back, wanting to add, “and has for seven years, ya idiot!”

One time in the post office, with my 3-year-old daughter on my shoulders (Would someone please open the door for a man with a stroller?) some elderly woman said with a big grin, “Somebody has her shoes on the wrong feet!”

“But she got them on by herself, you harpy!” I quipped, except I didn’t really say the harpy part.


At-Home Dad Guilt
My Lovely Bride and I used to joke that once a year I would “renew my contract” and continue staying home with the kids. Ninety percent of the time, I’m happy with that, especially on mornings when my youngest is in preschool and I can use the bathroom alone or sit at the computer long enough to gather an actual thought.

We agreed that it’s my job to fix the supper, scrub the toilets and boss the children around. And I actually like weeding the garden and painting the trim. Yet I’m so jealous of other grownups who meet for coffee – when I ought to be home tending my hearth. Or trying to earn some actual money for our family by writing for pay, which I do a couple times a year. I used to feel guilty for forcing my kids to stay for “lunch bunch” at preschool – knowing it would wreck the afternoon nap – while I tried to chase down a source or meet a deadline.

Actually getting back on a motorcycle and going for a leisurely, meandering ride seems almost unimaginable these days. Who has time? Also, who has a motorcycle? I'd love to borrow it. While we're at it, can I borrow your hair too?

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If you want to read more of Will's great stuff, check out his blog right here.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

24 comments:

  1. I live in Baltimore, too! So..cool on that. Also, it's nice to hear the male perspective on being the at-home parent.

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  2. Love it. I could not do it without my husband, and we are both working. He is in the Army, I am a teacher - we have a relationship via post-it notes on the counter sometimes! But, he also does the dishes and cleans the kitchen if he has a night flight or throws in a load of laundry. I know I'm very spoiled. He's said more than once though, if I ever do pen a best-selling novel that he'll be more than happy to retire to a stay-at-home dad!

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  3. Thank you for posting, you are awesome! Neither DH nor I are at-home parents, mostly because we realize we are not strong enough for it. Those pesky domestic enemies seem to strike us all, though, so more power to you for finding a way to maneuver.

    And PS-my daughter almost always has her shoes on the wrong feet. At least they're on her feet, though.

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  4. I'm wife to an at-home dad, who is often an actor by night. As his roles sometimes call for odd haircuts or less-than-fashionable facial hair, he frequently finds he can't go to the park with the kids, because he is looked upon by the nannies as a potential predator, rather than daddy with his kiddos. How sad is that?

    And, maybe you don't have this particular enemy, but what about In-Laws? If my mother says one more time "but when will he go back to work?" my husband's head is going to explode. He didn't get laid off. He quit his job. To watch our kids. We made a choice. Our kids get a parent at home and I get a career. And he gets poopy diapers.

    Did I mention I love him?

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  5. My hubbs was a stat at home Dad through his chemo and recovery, almost 2 1/2 years! Lets just say when he went back to his job for his first day yesterday he RAN to the car!

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  6. It never ceases to amaze me how callous people can be. I'd love to think that sometimes people just don't think before they speak but I think most of the time, people are righteous chits. Sad.
    But more power to you, Will! My husband & I are still just *trying* to have kids but he keeps telling me he'd be willing to stay at home. I'm not sure he understands how tough a job it is... he keeps mentioning golf. I'll send him to your blog to get him straightened out. Thanks for sharing!!

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  7. What a sweet post. :) Everyone forgets about the at-home dad!!!

    Also, what about domstic enimies of the Step-mom-with-no-kids-of-her-own? Cuz let me tell ya!! I got me some domestic enimies! :)

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  8. Wow..he writes like you guys do..Lydia and Kate- with testosterone!

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  9. There is an at home dad at my son's preschool, and he is awesome. His wife is also awesome. I never see him get his "B" on with his daughter, and he's always so laid back. So maybe now there are 11 of you!

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  10. My husband and I both work(typically), but occasionally he hangs out with the kids on his own, and I HATE hearing; "Daddy is babysitting". No, he is PARENTING, spending wonderful one on one time with his kids! No one ever says that I am babysitting when I have the kids on my own, I just don't get it!

    My husband was laid off for a couple of months last year, and despite the lack of funds, we loved having him home because there was times he was gone weeks at a time. We have since had another baby, and I am lucky to be able to stay with the kids for one full year, and Daddy took a new (lower paying) job so that he could be home with us at every.single.evening....and weekend! Love it!

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  11. I'm another wife to at-home dad! He's home with four kids under 7 and runs into a lot of these domestic enemies. Enjoyed the article - thanks for bringing these issues to light!

    We contributed to another blog on the topic that I think you will all enjoy:

    http://www.themompetition.com/2011/01/dadversaries-stay-at-home-dad.html

    All of her videos are hilarious :-)

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  12. this is awesome... although something this working mommy will have just enjoy by herself as traveling daddy is probably too busy/harried to focus on it at all! your Lovely Bride is very lucky!

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  13. Great Post! My hat's off to the daddys who do what I do, and quite possibly do it better. Happy Father's Day!

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  14. Stay at home dads are awesome. my husband is one. he sucks at it. but my greatest appreciation to the ones who rock it--come tell mine his job includes cleaning without whining, cooking, errands and kids drs appointments--all that stuff he'd expect ME to do if I was the one home.

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  15. I ( man) have experienced many of the different facets..been a working co-parent, a SAHP, and then on to a working single parent (full-time)...

    My favorite way to shut down the Enemies was to tell them the truth. I'd look them square in the eye and say that 'His mother / my wife died *x period of time* ago'. (Snarky level was dependent upon my mood)

    And even THEN, I would STILL get some of them giving me accolades for 'stepping up'. WTF?

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  16. Hey Will, just saying hi from the wrong side of Northern Parkway.

    Cool stuff, and I agree with almost everything. I do get people to hold the door for me all the time, though. I think I just perfected the "Pity me" look.

    Every time my girl cries, one of my hairs turns gray. Luckily, no one knows because it quickly falls off.

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  17. Haha, what a great post! I love the part about the "Daddy must be babysitting" - I had a grocery store clerk literally yell at me in the checkout line because I mentioned my husband was babysitting our kids so I could get out of the house for a bit. Yeah, won't do that again - but it did give me a good story to share!

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  18. Love this post but the section "Working Dads" rubbed me the wrong way. Imagine a SAHM tsk-tsking a working mom for never seeing her kids while they are awake. Not my ideal choice, but hey, it sounds like exactly the kind of judgy comment that a Domestic Enemy would let slip. If a woman had said it, we would say "Howla armyl!" But a man scorns another guy who works long hours and maybe we think "Awww, look how nurturing he is that he notices the absentee father across the street." Does it get a pass because a man said it??

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  19. Thanks for this and kudos to you! My husband has looked me square in the face and thanked me for being the SAHP because, in his words, "if I had to do what you do every day I would jump off a bridge". I have never felt so appreciated in my life :) Sorry for the ignorance you've encountered, but what an amazing experience for your family!

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  20. I'd like to throw in "most public restrooms" as another domestic enemy. My hubby has encountered so many of the men's rooms lacking a changing station of any sort. Do they really want dads to change those diapers in the middle of the restaurant? Really, how much is it to just buy one more of those stations that you so nicely put in the women's room?
    The fam went with me last year while I was at training for work, so it was daddy/daughter vacation. Nearly every day he'd have similar comments from unthinking people. One women actually asked him if he knew what he was doing and then offered to take our daughter in the restroom herself for him. !!! Thanks for being helpful and all, but the child is 15 months old. I think he knows how to change a diaper by now. and, no, we won't be letting a complete stranger take her anywhere. ever.

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  21. Thought you might enjoy this little comic floating around the interwebs....

    http://i.imgur.com/Pm6FT.jpg

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  22. Thought you might enjoy this little comic floating around the interwebs....

    http://i.imgur.com/Pm6FT.jpg

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  23. Thanks for the Post. My stay at home husband is awesome! I am a mostly work at home mom, although, I do technical computer work which does not allow me to multitask work and taking care of the house. Even though I am here all day, my husband handles everything as I am usually chained to the computers and phone in my office. We can go days with only seeing our children and each other. I feel blessed to be here for our children's milestones. We are such a misunderstood family by others, but we absolutely love every part of this family life.

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  24. You totally nailed it when you wrote that the little guys need a diaper, nap, or food and clean up every 19 minutes! Great to hear about staying at home from a dad's perspective! Looking forward to checking out your blog!

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