The Life of A Stay At Home Dad
I found myself engulfed in a hilarious conversation one morning with a stay-at-home dad at school drop off about the frustrations that come when your toddler wants to start wearing makeup. “Let’s face it, my house is already trashed,” he said. “But these plastic makeup kits fall apart and guess who has to clean it up? Me!” He also hated stickers and didn’t like it when his daughter posed in front of the mirror because he worried she would be focusing too much on how she looked. I couldn’t understand why we hadn’t already been friends. He’s occasionally late for drop off, always wears running clothes, (but in his case he does not run), and gets wound up about the paperwork they stuff in our kid’s cubbyholes. We’re practically the same person.
He’s a dude just trying to figure out how to pull it together.
The more I have gotten to know him, the more he has opened my eyes to the reality of being a hands-on father in a world dominated by mothers.
So How Do You Really Feel?
It’s interesting how people react to a father with his children at the park or shopping at the store. “So you have the kids today,” some impolitely ask. “Is today your day off?” I have my kids everyday, he has to explain. “It must be so hard for you,” some will say. “My husband would be terrible. Good for you.”
He and his wife made a joint decision for him to take time off of work so that one parent could be home with their young children. It had been difficult, he explained, because the transition from a working professional to the primary caretaker was impacting his self-esteem and created strife within his marriage. At one point they sought therapy to help them work through the adjustment. “As you know, this is a thankless job. At least when I was working in an office my client or boss would acknowledge my hard work. What I would do to enjoy a lunch by myself. I miss the quiet rides in the car.”
It can often be isolating, he explained. There is a genetic difference between mothers and fathers. Women are collaborators, whereas men shy away from asking for help. Women bond while discussing their feelings, while men bond by suppressing them. A man without a career is a man without a country. Take away his career, and you take away his ability to bond with other men. All that’s left is his children. And at naptime, he stands alone in a desert of loneliness. He is stranded with his thoughts, and paralyzed by his seclusion with them. Perched in his Ivory Tower, he quietly reflects on how he arrived there, and if he will ever escape the solitude. Then, he wonders what should he serve for dinner, and laughs to himself about his rambunctious children’s inability to “behave.”
The nannies enjoyed him most. He has wondered if it was because they found him less threatening.
His wife convinced to him to attend the preschool mother’s breakfast. He regretted it when upon his arrival a mother turned to him and addressed him as “mom” in a condescending tone. What happened to equality? Better yet, what happened to his children’s mother? Certainly, she is still their mother, right? Even if she does work. If you want women to be accepted in the workplace then why can’t you welcome a man in the home? His wife has to arrange play dates and they are never held in someone’s home. Otherwise he would be worried that an opportunity for two friends to play together would seem inappropriate.
What he has learned in the past four years is that he loves children. In fact he would probably love taking care of your children. He has enjoyed every moment spent snuggling with his kids in the morning. He posts pictures of quinoa, salmon, and Peruvian chicken with a chimichurri sauce recipes. He makes his kids pancakes from scratch.
Most parents microwave pancakes and he has developed his own batter.
He figured out a way to get toys from underneath the couch by using a hockey stick. He can tell you the name of all the Disney princesses. He still warms their milk even though it takes extra time because it comforts them.
He’s used a shop-vac to clean up dog hair and on occasion the baby. He’s styled his daughter’s hair, even if it meant her hair was pulled back with the aide of a chip clip or the weights you get when you buy a balloon at the grocery store. His children know all the words to Tenacious D’s Wonderboy, and often wonder if it really is possible to kill a yak with mind bullets.
Now that he prepares to go back to work he is grateful for the last few years because he’s been able to get to know three of the greatest people he has ever known. One day they will look back and say they remember when dad took care of them. Dad was there. We had fun, they will say, even if sometimes they showed up to to school with clothes that didn’t match. And when his son looks at him and says he hopes to be like him one day, it’s not because he wants to be a fireman, or a doctor or a lawyer. It is because he wants to be a dad. And he will make a great father, just like his old man.
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