Friday, June 16, 2017

Dad are moms, too



Chris is a wonderful stay-at-home mom. He's also a man. So, when Luvs asked me to pick a dad I could honor for Father's Day, I choose Chris over my own husband or father, because, frankly, Chris has a swimming pool at his house and frequently invites my kids over.  

With the $200 Luvs gave me to celebrate a special father, I donated $150 in Chris's name to Little Wish Foundation, a local charity that serves "pediatric oncology patients by providing a little wish that brings hope, comfort." Luvs also gave me some of their top-quality diapers (always my favorite leak-stopping brand to use on my kids), which I donated to another local group, SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect)



The other $50 I spent on over one hundred snack packs. Now when my kids eat his stash of kid food, I will feel like a hero. Look how happy this made my friend. Why? Because in that giant bag (one of two) there are packs of mini Oreos. 


Another reason we all love Chris around here is that Chris is our block's primary bus stop monitor. My kids safely made it to school because Chris is a better, more concerned parent than I am. I should feel shame, but my always piping hot coffee that I enjoy at my kitchen table every morning while he ushers the neighborhood school kids onto the bus, drowns out my bad feelings. 

All of this is to say that Chris, a stay-at-home dad of three kids ages 5 to 10, is a better mother than I am. I mean "mother" in the way that when I say "the parent who stays home" most of us immediately bring to mind the image of a woman in yoga pants pushing a stroller through the grocery store. What makes Chris such a great stay-at-home-parent? Does he like yoga pants? Will he share his new stash of kid snacks with me? I wanted to find out, so I interviewed him. 

N: Did you decide to be a stay-at-home-dad or did you lose (whoops, I mean "win") a bet?

C:
My wife and I talked about it before we got married. Both of our values were that we thought it would be beneficial if one parent was home. We said, well, you’re a doctor [Chris's wife], I’m a restaurant manager. Actually, with our schedules, no one would be home. I like to be very involved, to be there all the time.

N: I found the whole staying home thing to be a big deal, all caps. MOTHER. Like, if I didn't choose to stay home I was choosing to be selfish. Would you have felt guilty if you had said, "Nah, I don’t want to stay home with them"?

C:
I guess I had a job, as opposed to a career that I really loved. So, if it were something else, if I had gone a different path occupationally, maybe I would have had a pull toward work and had felt guilty for not choosing to be home with the kids. But I’m pretty practical. I think I understand that it is probably better to have a little guilt for working than to have animosity over having to stay home.

N:
Did you also think about what kind of parent to be? I did. I think a lot of moms I know do. Like, will we only eat organic, pre-school or not, homeschool, rinse off dropped pacifiers, co-sleep, baby wear, formula? Well, I guess you didn't have to decide between breast of bottle.

C: Yeah, I never did lactate. But for the rest? I never really thought about that. My wife and I are both very laid back, low-key people. “Don’t eat this baby food because . . .” We never really went crazy about that. Love is probably—well, it is the more important thing.

N: All you need is love, roger that. Now let's talk sexism! Do people always ask you if your kids' mom is available instead of you, kind of like when the roving roofing guy rings my doorbell and asks to speak to my husband instead of me?

C: The biggest one I get, it’s usually women cashing me out at the store, who say, “That’s so nice, giving mom the day off.” I’m like, no, I am the mom.

N:
Well, you're almost the mom. You're just missing the yoga pants. Do those comments bother you?

C: It didn’t at first. I was a new parent. I didn’t know any better and my parents both worked. After a while it got annoying, like, “Oh, is it your day off?” No, it's my life.

N: Do they ever assume you're a single dad?

C: I think the people at church think so. [laughs] Because my wife is usually at work or sleeping after a night shift in the ER. It can be a little awkward at playgrounds and school meet ups and playdates—it can be a little uncomfortable.

N: I think I know what you're saying, but don’t want to guess.

C: Well, it’s being a male in a predominantly female community. It’s like that at the kids' swim practice and meets, for example, it’s more women. I'm pretty hypersensitive about projecting what I think somebody else is thinking about me. I’ll think, “Well, I didn’t say hi and they probably think I’m just a creep watching little kids swim.” But I’d say over the past year, it’s gotten better, finally. But I generally have a hard time introducing myself, actually, so that plays into it, too.

N: What do your family and friends think about your stay-at-home parenting?

C: Family-wise, I never got any inkling that they had a bad opinion of it. I knew they were not just okay with it, but in support. The only thing I will say, if there is any time I get any kind of crap about it it’s from other men. Most of the time it’s from complete strangers.

N: Yeah, men are the worst. (I'm kidding!) What do they say?

C: The one that I get the most is “Wow, you got the life.” And I’m like, yeah, I do, but not for the reason you think.

N: Do women give you trouble? Women are the worst (also kidding).

C: There are a lot of times I have felt excluded. It’s just weird. There are times when. Okay, it’s more difficult because of my wife's job. She’s home a lot, but on an irregular schedule. It’s kind of difficult because she’ll get invitations to do whatever, but then she’ll say she has to work and there it ends. They don't say to me, "Okay, how about you come, Chris?"

N: That would grate on me.

C: Well, I get it. I don’t think it’s intentional. Sometimes there are things that go on that, if my wife were home, my kids would participate in, but because it’s just me, it doesn’t happen.

N: Do you have stay-at-home-dad friends?

C: There was actually a dad’s group I went to a little. Now, here’s the anti-social part of me who's not that into it. It took me almost a year to go. It was okay. It was alright! [laughing] It was great, had a good time just meeting these guys, but it’s just me being me, I wasn’t into it. I’m not missing the social aspect for me. I’m more concerned about missing the social aspect for the kids.

N: I need parent friends. They help me feel like I'm not losing my mind, or that all the million things that need doing, that I worry about, they understand it. The mental load of raising kids is tough. "Who has to be registered for what sport, how much is the school trip, do we have any clean underwear?" Know what I mean?

C: I do, sometimes! The mental load is mostly around the schedule or when my wife's sleeping during the day. Trying to keep the house quiet. Or getting to all the events in a week. Making sure whatever has to be done gets done and trying not to forget things. But I think my wife and I are both pretty keyed in to what needs to be done. I have a tendency to try and do things and not ask for help, like, no, I got this.

N: Yessssss. This is the stay-at-home-parent mind. Why?

C: I think because I’m a stay-at-home dad I have a little guilt because I’m home and I don’t have a "real job." Along with that comes, "Well, I’m raising kids, but am I doing enough?" Like kids ask to play games with me and I’m like “this laundry’s not going to fold itself.” Or all the stuff a "normal" dad does, like mow the lawn and change lightbulbs and unclog drains.

N: But you do mow the lawns, I see you! And I have an outside-the-house job and buy the gorceries. There are no rules! Parenting anarchy! Subvert the system! Etc.!
Let's talk Father’s Day. Is it a no big deal holiday? Mother's Day feels like a Big Deal, even if I don't want it to be. What's your version of an ideal Father's Day?

C: Honestly, I don’t know. I don't want to go to lunch or dinner where everyone else is going and it's crowed and no fun, so why bother? I don't need a big celebration. It’s an identity thing. Maybe Father’s Day would be a bigger thing for dads who work outside the house and have to budget their time with their kids. Because they maybe they don’t have as much time with their kids. I think maybe moms feel this, too. Like, I’m with them all the time. I don’t need this special event.

N: Because when you're a stay-at-home dad, everyday is Father's Day! Right? Kind of? Well, Happy Father's Day, Chris. And thanks for letting me sit in your air-conditioned house while my kids swim with yours in the pool. This is the kind of parenting I signed up for.

***

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As the official diaper of experienced parents, Luvs is always committed to providing dads and moms with value. They recognize that parenting can be difficult, so diapering shouldn’t be.

ATTENTION: Luvs sponsored this post, but Chris is my real-life friend and these are my actual opinions. Now get out of here, I have a playdate at Chris's house and I want to get there before the good snacks are gone.