I had a completely different article for my debut on the site, but then our own Deane shared a comic strip on Facebook by the wondrous Bill Watterson and Gavin Aung Than and it got me to thinking about the molds we try to fit people in.
I am a Stay At Home Father.
Yes, I know, scoff and laugh all you like, trust me I hear it all the time. I’ve heard all the jokes, been referred to as a house husband and ridiculed by several of my friends and family for somehow being lazy or being a poor excuse for a man because of the choice I had made.
If I am honest with myself, I can freely admit that I shared some of the feelings about what I was doing. Many a time I considered myself worthless, I considered what I was doing a waste and that I wasn’t providing in the ways that I should. It made me depressed quite a bit as I rolled through the day. It wasn’t until I tried to take part in things at my kids preschool that I just got mad.
That’s when my kids started to get punished for having a stay at home dad. The other parents didn’t want their kids to have my kids over for playdates, they didn’t want their kids to come over to our house for playdates. When I would try to volunteer to help in the classroom the other moms would make a big stink about it, the other fathers would give me a hard time when I would bring one of my kids to a birthday party they were invited to. Why didn’t I work, why wasn’t out doing something else, what kind of a bum was I?
But then I went to a Dad Breakfast at the preschool and realized how much better off I really was. The kids had all drawn pictures of their fathers and made paper ties for the dads. On the ties the children had written all the things their fathers loved to do. Most of the ties had very little written on them, and each and every one had “work” on it, my tie, was covered. Giovanni had written numerous things, the tie spilled out my love for the Chicago Bears, my love of music, of cooking, my favorite foods, my favorite book and comics, but the big one was “PLAYING WITH ME!” That was one of my favorite past times, and no other parent had it on their tie, at least not in Giovanni’s class, and I know because each kid read the tie out to us.
After the breakfast the teachers took the time to point out how important fathers were in their kids lives, how we can not be absentee parents, how the children need to know we love them, we care for them and we want to spend time with them. The whole time they were talking all I could think of was how incredibly lucky I was, my son knew me. He really knew me, I had spent so much time being depressed and angry over the fact that I wasn’t doing what all these other dads were doing, I wasn’t out there earning my keep, when I should have been incredibly grateful for the time I was having with my children, getting to know them, and them getting to know me.
Children generally flock to their mothers, my wife and kids are the same, they get hurt they mainly want mommy, the don’t feel good they want mommy, but when they want to talk about something, when they are scared, they want me. I am not a stranger to them, they know who I am and are as comfortable with me as they are with my wife. I am their constant, their security blanket, I have been there their entire lives and they know if they see me there, everything is going to be alright, because it always has been.
I think back on my life growing up and I think of my grandmother, she never learned to drive, she raised 8 kids, many grandkids, and kept the house running. My grandfather would get up to go to work every day and she would follow behind with his lunch box and shoes. When he came home late at night she would be there with his slippers and dinner. During the day she made sure the house was in working order, paid the bills, washed the clothes, got the groceries, it was what she did, and my grandfather worked hard to provide the money that paid for all that.
My depression and anger all went back to that, I thought that was what I had to be, I thought that was what my life I had resemble, I had to fit in that mold, I had to be that person, live that life or else I wasn’t doing it right, I was living life wrong.
I have come to discover that there is no set rule on life. My wife goes to work every morning and I stay behind at the house, I vacuum, I mop, I clean bathrooms and wash clothes, I prepare dinners, I help my kids with their homework and do all the things I thought my wife should do, and not only does it work, it works well. My kids are happy, they have no idea that we are not living in ways that society has deemed normal, they have no idea we do not fit the mold that has been carved out for us, all they know is that they get to come home to a house full of love and that they do not have anything to worry about, besides cleaning up their rooms.
Yesterday I was in line waiting to pick the kids up from school, we don’t live far from the school so I walk to pick the kids up most days. Mostly the walker line is used by moms who think they are beating the system, parking across the street from the school and picking their kids up from the walker line. They are very proud of how smart they are, and very proud of the fact that they think they are getting away with something. They all had a good chuckle when the school sent out a memo asking parents to not use the walker line if the kids were actually car riders, they weren’t going to change and no one was going to make them. One of these incredibly smart and entitled ladies noticed me in line yesterday and remarked how it must be nice to have a long lunch break to be able to pick up my kids, and asked if I had a nanny I was bringing them to. I simply stated I was not on my lunch break and the kids and I were going to the library to read some before going home. She asked me what I do to be able to get off early, do I make my own hours, she was quite enthralled with my answer, until I told her, quite proudly I was a stay at home dad. The disgust oozed from the “oh” that came from her lips as she quickly turned around, hoping I would not speak to her again.
A minute or two goes by and she turns around again, this time to inform me in full righteousness that I was wrong for what I was doing, I was causing gender confusion for my children. I was teaching them the wrong way to be. She thought she was on a crusade, she had to save my children from me and my backward ways. I simply thanked her for her concern and told her it has worked for us for eight years now, and everyone has their own way to raise their children. A few years ago I would have told the woman off, right there in the walker line at school, I would have probably insulted her in some way, and gotten angry over the fact that she insulted me. But now? How can I get angry for a sheep being a sheep? A fox being a fox? People don’t understand things that are different from their normal, it bothers them, they don’t like it when someone doesn’t fit the mold.
I love The Chicago Bears, I like to cook extravagant meals, I wear fedoras with almost every outfit and have more than most hat stores, I enjoy the works of Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Walt Whitman and Sheeley, I partake in wine, beer and spirits, I read comic books and have a great deal of affection for Chris Claremont’s time on the X-Men, I play disc golf, I fish, I enjoy the occasional video game, I watch pro wrestling, I can never turn down a piece of pizza or the chance to go to a Hibachi Restaurant, I make sauce every Sunday, I am obsessive with grilling so much so that I own three grills for direct cooking fuels, I am a die hard Chicago Bulls fan, I screamed and jumped around like an idiot when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, I have the greatest friends a person could ask for, a wife who loves me, a family we have built from friends, my day consists of vacuuming, mopping, cleaning bathrooms, paying bills, washing clothes, doing homework and playing with my kids.
I am incredibly happy and incredibly loved.
I do not fit a mold, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.