SAHDness 2006 - A Recap

It's very different when you're the dad and you're the one staying home, even if it's only for 3-4 months of the year.

Sometimes I think of those LooneyTunes cartoons where Wile E. Coyote and the sheepdog punch in and out of their assorted shifts.

To do the SAH thing when you're not really wired for it takes a certain adaptive, compensatory skill set. (I seem to have that--thank you God!) You have to compensate because the "I carried you and held you to my bosom and nursed you" chip is missing from your circuit board. Mothers, in my experience, are aware of the emotional investment they have in tehir children because they vividly remember every little payment they made over 9+ months. Every twinge, every worrisome ache, pain, motion, sensation.

For dads, at least for THIS dad, it wasn't like was a lump sum at the end of nine months. POW. Kid. As a dad, if you're smart, anyway, you spend the gestation and immediate postpartum period basically making offerings to appease or prevent the wrath of the Great Maternity Goddess. So I schlepped around like Igor bringing drums of Cherry Garcia and barrels of Fruit Flavored Tums and picking out the yellow ones. Making a large financial sacrifice to expiate for not going In The Room*.

All of which is cool, but none of which prepares you for doing the SAH thing.

In the usual brainless sitcom plots, when the Mr. Mom scenario takes hold, we see Hapless Dad going crazy trying to cope with new and unusual stresses and the episodes end with Mother walking in and the plumbing is spouting like a geyser, the house is on fire and teh children are caked with filth.

It ain't necessarily so.

The thing that DOES take getting used to is all the moms telling you how wonderful you are for doing this. Not that I mind, but it's like being admired for your refueling technique or your excellent wristwork in opening a jar. I always feel like answering like the sheriff in those Old West movies "Just doin' mah job, ma'am."

The other thing that takes getting used to, this time on the part of the offspring is the "I don't care how Mommy does it. This is how Daddy does it."

Example: Child has to take medicine. Said medicine tastes like Vegan Hemlock from Tim's of Vermont. Mommy's approach is to plead, ask and/or bribe Child into swallowing this bile. This is moderately successful, even if it takes three spoonfuls for Child to actually ingest one. Daddy, on the other hand, is a bit different. "Take it or wear it." For good effect. Child is seated from a high enough surface that escape is unlikely. Child's resolve tends to diminish quickly.

It's little things like that.

Just two days ago, NOS had an uncharacteristic moment when he lunged for something at a toy store. I have seen TFBIM engage in tugs-o-war in these situations. I just hoisted NOS on my shoulder and chugged along.

I ain't got time to bleed.

Which, I think, sums up the basic core difference betwen how I do things and how Mommy does things. I'm all about results and the quickest and easiest pathway to same. When I have to take one of the boys to the Dr., all I care about is:

The diagnosis.
The prognosis.
What, in excruciating no-room-for-mistake-or-misunderstanding detail, I have to do.

"He has lycanthropy, it's a mild case, give him Vitamin C and shave him every full moon and feed him raw steak. Got it."

I don't want to hear ANYTHING else. In fact, I am (inwardly) very angry to have to hear anything superfluous. Inside I'm thinking "Dude, I have to get out of here." My wife would be asking for brochures and looking up Yahoo Groups and wondering if flying to Boston when she was 2 months pregnant could have been the cause. I make it a policy to not think about things I am unable or unwilling to change. I stay sane that way.

In an email exchange with the lovely and gracious Badger, she wrote (I could practically see her face clouded over with exasperation) something to the effect of "Gah! You're such a MAN." But I can't help it, I only have one X chromosome.

This isn't something to be terribly proud of, but I am not (and I suspects this applies to most dads) particularly introspective or "hindsight-y" about my parenting. Yes, I sometimes beat myself up about getting the wrong warranty on the Audi or whatever possessed me to spend THAT kind of money on that useless surround sound processor. But it never descends to feelings of guilt. Just look at my cuticles.

I s'pose that being this shallow--I've stepped in deeper puddles--is something of a defense mechanism. It also helps to have an abnormally large number of complicated hobbies to soak up valuable cerebral real estate that might otherwise be employed to more self-examinative effect. To wit: I literally spent over 24 hours (not in a row...but close) looking for the ideal DVD player before deciding on a good-for-now Denon and building the HTPC. This doesn't take into account the search for the out-of-production weatherstripping for the red car, or pondering whether I ought get a wok burner or an indoor grill for when the kitchen gets remodeled. Or the reading.

Do you think I could be capable even the most cursory examination of my own skills as a father under those circumstances? Guilt and self-awareness stand not a chance in Hell. I can't even remember the names of my wife's friends.

For some reason, it also takes me less time to get the kids ready for the day. Part of it is my attitude that breakfast is an option. Only want half a bagel? Fine. I'm not here to wheedle and implore. Somehow the lunchbox comes back empty.

The only thing in which I think I am manifestly superior to my wife is in teaching my children a more expedient form of conflict resolution, that is, if someone hits you first, you have my blessing to go mediƦval on their arse. One day The Nun called because NOS had decked another boy who had said that NOS's friend P. would not be allowed to play for being "a fat blob." My wife was horrified. I was so happy I almost cried. It wasn't easy to explain why Mommy was upset that he stood up for someone who was getting picked on to the boy but I am convinced that he saw reason. "Tell the teacher" doesn't help much in the society of 3rd grade boys.

So here I am.

Looking to say buh-bye to my SAHD days for this year. Wondering how things will go when I am at the office at 9pm or 64 states away or in another hemisphere on business...and hoping and praying everything holds.

But today? I have a wife and a spring-breakin' 3rd grader stuck at home with the flu AND a dentist check up for a certain boy who doesn't care for having his teeth checked.

I ain't got time to bleed**.


* I will never go in the room, unless it's a HUGE room. With a bar at the other end.
** But, as long as everyone is medicated, I have time to blog, a little.


Gina said…
So it's only the Catholic WOMEN who get that guilt gene?
blackbird said…
so, I'm guessing that it will feel like Mercury going OUT of retrograde from here on?
MsCellania said…
Well, my first sentiment is I hope you're not planning on blogging less.

Second sentiment is yes of course that's how you parent. That's how I parent. I will say that their dad is even more amped on the My Way or The Highway scale.

I used to micromanage the husbunny until I figured out that was the biggest vote of non-confidence I could give him. Now, I still leave lists of what, when and where, but not how. You got the boys? That's your job.

I really enjoyed this post. Alot of my GFs have stay at home husbands. The only advice I offer is getting stains out of laundry advice.
Joke said…

Pretty much, yeah. Although I do worry about needing SPF9000000 when I die. That's the other guilt gene.


A little. Maybe. Definitely less of the day-to-day "I picked up the kids/I did laundry" stuff. More car stuff and HT stuff and Disney stuff and ViewMaster collectin' stuff. Less Mr. Mom and more DadGeek.


My rule is that results trump all, parentingwise.

Carolyn said…
You have my sympathy on the kid with the flu and the dentist visit. Not fun stuff!

The reason women compliment men on helping out with the kids is because it is still so darn rare.

My husband helps out a lot more now than he used to do and I am glad for it.
Carolyn said…
Oh and I loved the lycanthropy, full moon, steak comment!
Badger said…
I believe I called you "such a DAMN man", but close enough.

And while I stand in solidarity with TFBYM on many things, I am firmly in the "if they hit you first, you have my permission to make them regret it A LOT" camp with you. As you know.
Poppy Buxom said…
I've never met anyone use so many words to explain, in great detail, why he doesn't engage in self-analysis.

I am in awe.
It must have been the 1000 words or more essay topic of the day.

Words from the wise: It doesn't matter how you parent, the kids end up how they want to end up and no two of your own are the same.
Joke said…

YOU know how slow I type, and YOU know my fetish for editing and re-editing until I get the phrasing right. Think how much damned time I spent on this post.

Time that I could have spent self-analyzing but, because I wasted nearly a whole morning talking about my lack of self-analysis, I didn't.

Catch on?

-J., Mr. Method Madness
Kim said…
I think I'm a man. With the meanest set of manboobs in the world.
Lazy cow said…
And you *still* made a typo ;-)
The Reverend at my church is a SAHD, and runs the playgroup. No mess, no fuss. I can't stand it when women compliment/fawn all over SAHDs. We're all doing the same job (some better than others) regardless of gender.

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