I’ve been a stay-at-home-dad since August, so it’s been just over six months now. When my family moved to Columbus, I did not expect to be a SAHD. The plan was for me to continue teaching high school English and for my wife to continue staying at home with our children. Things did not go as planned. But we’re a resilient, forward-moving family. So here I am, SAHD.
Some of the transition from working dad to SAHD was smooth. I already cooked, did dishes, cleaned and folded laundry, changed diapers, and all that. I had the “domestic engineer” stuff down.
It’s other stuff that’s left me feeling out of place as a SAHD. Most days it’s nothing specific, just a feeling or perceived judgment from someone else. Sometimes I think it’s all in my head. But other days I know I’m out of place. Other days I feel like a SAHD in a SAHM’s world.
Within the first week, I noticed a huge difference between me and the SAHMs: wardrobe. I don’t get to wear yoga pants. The whole athleisure thing doesn’t count with SAHDs. For one, my chubby man thighs do not belong in yoga pants. And now that we’re deep in the heart of winter, I have to wear jeans. I can’t wear workout pants, or I’d look like a reject from a Limp Bizkit music video. So jeans it is, and do you know how much it sucks to wear jeans while you sit on the floor for literally every toddler-based activity? When I finally get to stand up after a library story time, I have to practically iron out the creases that burrowed into the back of my knees.
Speaking of library story time, here’s where things go all mental for this SAHD. I try really hard to be better than the SAHMs at story time. I leave my phone in my pocket. I do voices with the puppets. I don’t let my kids use the tablets too much, but when they do, I always sit with them and play along. I feel like I have to try really hard not to suck as a parent when I’m with a big group because I don’t want a single person to think, “Go figure, SAHD is on his phone. Probably checking last night’s scores. Those kids should really be with their mother.”
Which then brings me to the thought that maybe some of these people think, “Who does he think he is? Did he and his wife think, ‘We’ll really push society forward and upend traditional gender roles.’ Their kids are probably named Rayne and Atticus. That hippie-hipster needs to get a job so that mom can raise those kids properly.” While I do want to raise my kids knowing that gender does not define who you are or what you do in life, my wife and I did not choose to have a boy do girl things.
I’ve gotten my fair share of “good for you’s” when I’ve told people that I stay home with my kids. I can never really tell if they’re belittling me, if they’re proud of me, if they’re sympathizing or judging. And when I tell a working dad that I stay home, I hold my breath for their reaction. Do they think I’m less of a man for not having a traditional job? Should I care if they think that?
Which brings me to writing for a Moms blog. When I meet the husband of a fellow CMB writer, my head really starts to spin. I imagine them thinking, “But you’re a guy. And you write for a Moms blog.” Most of the time they really don’t say anything about it. They just smile and say, “Oh, cool,” or something like that. But I do wonder what they’re thinking as they meet the only dad writing for the Columbus Moms Blog.
Now I will say that one thing I love about writing about parenting as a SAHD is that I feel like I can get away with a little more than SAHMs and other female writers. Whether on this blog or on social media, I feel like I can be edgier, more blunt. Many of the blog posts and social media feeds from female writers tend to be a little more cheerful, a little more gracious and tender. Even when many female writers talk about the hardships of parenting, it’s often with a wistfulness and a touch of nostalgia. Of course, I have read some hilariously brutal accounts of parenting from female writers. Before I began writing about parenting, my wife would forward me amazingly honest and wicked accounts of parenting. I know I’m over-simplifying things, but I do feel like being a dad writer gives me license to forgo the sugar coating.
One more thing about writing for a Moms blog: I think it’s a safe bet that there are friends and family of mine who would (or do?) judge me for writing about parenting for a Moms blog. I am not a mom. I might do “mom things,” but I am not a mom. So why am I writing for a Moms blog? A few people have made fun of me, underhandedly maybe, asking if I’ll be “Mommy of the Year” or how life is as “Mr. Mom.” (Is Mr. Mom an insult or a badge of honor?) Oh well. I love writing about parent life. Writing for a Moms blog doesn’t diminish the truth of what I write.
I have to finish by saying that my life is probably like any other stay-at-home parent. I leave the house just to see something besides our walls and Daniel Tiger. I go to libraries and nature centers and toddler cafes so that I don’t have to clean up all of the toys or worry about something breaking. I crave someone to talk to who isn’t three-years-old or speaking baby gobbledygook. I talk to every cashier who even gives a hint that we can have a conversation. I love the tender moments I get with my kids just as much as I loathe the irrational toddler meltdowns. And I really, really love naptime. Sweet, sacred naptime. They nap until college, right?