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