I’m part of a growing demographic: the stay-at-home dad. That’s right. I’m male, educated, and my job description includes grocery shopping, potty training, diaper changing, and meal making.
Technically, I’ve got that label other males of the species aren’t exactly fighting over – homemaker. I have done this willingly – and sometimes not – since August 2009 when my chaplain residency at MCV (it’s now known as VCU Health Systems) was complete and when maternity leave for my wife was over.
Am I an expert parent? Not by a long shot. Here I am, however, standing on the dining room chair, hands on my hips, chin up, chest puffed out, with a bath towel cape pinned to my shirt. I am a superhero complete with a soundtrack made from a giggling two-year-old pwincess, and I have something to say:
Men of Richmond – you who find yourselves the primary caregiver, and your wife the bread-winner – this is for you! Here are some things you should know and remember…
1. You are envied!
You’re frustrated that your career is on hold. You’ve already applied for a part-time job way beneath the position you had the last time you were working, and didn’t land it. The crazy thing is, you are envied by families who wish that one parent could willingly drop his or her job and raise their children. You may be exhausted from clocking back in at five in the morning, after finally getting asleep at one o’clock – if you’re lucky. Yet you should sip your grandé café latte one-handed and with confidence as you stroll through the neighborhood, because someone wishes they had your luxury. More crucial, though, is not the other person’s jealousy. It’s the envy of the person you forgot to kiss good-bye this morning as she dragged herself to work. The person who wishes she didn’t work late tonight so she could sit down to dinner with her family and get splattered with the spaghetti you are so tired of washing out of your hair. So while you are questioning how much she really wishes she had your job and wishing for the thousandth time this morning that you were stuck in commuter traffic, leave the toys on the floor. Do your best to pick out a cute outfit for the munchkin, and go surprise your beloved at work with a gourmet lunch of chicken nuggets. She’ll value those twenty minutes much more than you find yourself horrified by the hour-and-a-half it took to prepare for the outing. Your wife envies you, and you just solidified your status with her co-workers who want to share lunch with their family.
2. You are admired!
Now, this might be somewhat dicey, but you need to know this. Protect yourself. Protect your marriage. Protect your family. Those lunch buddies of your wife’s? Yes, those women who just watched you walk in holding the fussylupagus? They just developed a crush on you. That’s right. You inadvertently struck a subconscious chord. You, so badly in need of a haircut, in your yard work T-shirt, and feeling completely out or your league, just prompted the fantasy, “I wish my husband was like _______” thought of many women in that break room. And with no time to shower, you did it on a day you look like you just returned from a three-week camping trip. It has nothing to do with you, of course, and everything to do with your kids. And when you walked in, you became the manifestation of some secret quality they wish their spouse (or even their own fathers) exhibited at least once a month. And you, my friend, are admired for doing it every day.
3. You are an inspiration!
Remember last week when you braved a morning trip to Short Pump to get your iPod fixed? There was that other guy strolling around with a sleeping baby in the car seat. You nodded at him, remember? You didn’t make eye contact because you were worried about the forgotten diaper bag in the back of the car. He looked at you and a voice in his head screamed from an imaginary mountaintop, I am not the only one! He knew he was not alone. He knew that what he was doing could be done. You were doing it, and so could he. Not only that, but he saw that you didn’t have a diaper bag and thought, “That guy right there, he’s got it.” As a result, perhaps he went home, laundered his wife’s work clothes, and didn’t shrink a thing. And he did it, because of you!
4. You are loved!
This is by far, the best one I have. As you debate about whether to tell your wife that you think your little-bit ate half a crayon, she is sharing a horror story about lunch buddy number three’s childcare experience from yesterday. Let’s just say that it includes hundred-degree heat, a shadeless playground, and Miss What’s-Her-Face sneaking a text to her sister. Not only that, but now your Mrs. Stay-at-Home-Dad is creating fictional scenarios of what could happen if little-bit was in childcare, and not daddycare. It’s not pretty, but you just accidentally won a ton of brownie points. Of course, not only are you loved by her, but the little one loves you, too. The connection you are making with your child is unbelievable. It’s on a level that is unparalleled, and you didn’t carry anyone in your womb for nine months.
So stay-at-home-dads, join me on top of the chair with your bath towel cape. Let the world know that you are envied, you are admired, you are an inspiration, and that you are loved by those you love! Never forget though, that you need to get down from the chair – before the pwincess tries to get up there with you!