I admit that calling myself, “Mr. Mom” is a blatant misnomer. First and foremost, I am nothing like the bumbling laid off auto worker trying to adapt to the role of stay-at-home dad Michael Keaton portrays in the 1983 movie “Mr. Mom”, nor is the growing number of men taking on this most difficult of careers.
Yes, I said it. Homemaking is a career. It is the most difficult career I have ever embarked upon, and I have had some tough ones. It may not be the most physically demanding, but the mental fatigue is a killer, and you cannot fire or replace your children when they do not follow direction.
I left a two-decade career in the food service industry to stay home with my young children and take on a new career in freelance writing. I was already apt in handling daily domestic duties thanks to growing up an only child raised by a single mother who worked hard to keep a roof over our head and food in our bellies. It did not take long for my two little girls and I to settle into a wonderful routine. Not long after taking on my new role as homemaker, I started to notice what I like to call, “The Daddy Double Standard”, which is a collection of misconceptions and stereotypes a stay-at-home father is often subjected to.
After six years and two more kids, I comprised a list of the top “Daddy Double Standards”. People I’ve conversed with about town would praise me for my bravery bringing my children to the grocery store, yet whisper criticism of the mother a checkout lane over trying to manage her children. Those same people, and even some friends, would laugh and joke when they learned that I was a stay-at-home dad. “It must be nice,” they would jest, “to stay home and do nothing all day.” Even my ex-wife held firm to this belief and continually threw in my face that, “I had it easy,” and “she had to do everything”, despite seeing the truth. My ex claimed that staying home to take care of the kids while I returned to school so I could fulfill a life long dream of becoming a writer was nothing more than an excuse to avoid my responsibility to my family. She still continues to use this weak argument for throwing away nine years of marriage.
Though there are many more myths surrounding the stay-at-home father, here are the ones that bother me most.
Dads lack domestic skills.
This is the one I find the most offensive. Dads are incapable of doing the laundry, washing the dishes, or turning on a vacuum, much less pick up after themselves or the children. They wait for the wife to get home after a long day at work, like super woman swooping in to rescue the hopeless husband and helpless children from the growing mess that is slowly devouring them. Dad is never rewarded for what he did achieve in the course of the day, just judged on what did not get done or the unsatisfactory way said tasks had been completed. Every day felt like a line from an old country song because the house was never clean enough and dinner never warm enough for her standards.
Dads are all about junk food and takeout.
Meals were another big cause for argument between my ex and I. Anyone who has ever had a child over the age of two knows how absolutely picky their little appetites will become. And those sophisticated palates vary from child to child right on through their teen years. In my former career, I had prepared meals for tens of thousands of people from all walks of life. Never in my life had I received so much criticism for my culinary skill that I have from my own children.
So it became part of the routine to prepare special meals based on each child’s preferred tastes, and we repeated a lot of the same meals throughout the week. It saved a ton of fussing from them and spared daily frustration for me. And I did my best to provide a balanced diet. However great my effort was in meal preparation, the wife always had something critical to say about it.
Dads are “No work and all play”.
Not only did I have to combat the sorely overstated lack of basic domestic skills from my ex and others, I had to live with the constant criticism of how I handled structure and discipline in the daily routine of our household. Sure, we had plenty of playtime, especially before the children started to attend school and during the summer months. As they got older, using technology like my iPad or playing videogames became part of the daily routine. But these were earned privileges, not just a means of occupying them. Homework and chores had to be done first.
We also spent time reading, playing traditional board games, doing art projects, taking nature walks, and participating in physical activities like sports. Our free time has always been used as a new opportunity for my children to learn. I have taken the time to subsidize their education whenever possible, that is why my children excel beyond public school standards for their grade levels.
Dads are not nurturers.
This one I always call total bullshit when I hear it. Sure, dads are not physically soft and cuddly like moms. Mothers have sweet, soothing voices while fathers have deep, gruff tones. Mothers say things like, “It will be okay”, and fathers say, “suck it up”.
Sure, I have those tough daddy moments now and again. I am coarse, brash and loud when the children are not following direction or listening to me. I can lose my cool like any human being when my little gargoyles get out of control. But I am here to testify that I have wiped away a river of tears, kissed away the pain of many skinned knees, calmed the screams of a plethora of bad dreams, and love to rock even my oldest child while singing lullabies.
There is no greater joy in my life than my children. From the day of their birth, after I held each one, my eyes would not leave their beautiful faces. My heart attached to them, and I never wanted to let them go. It broke my heart when my last and youngest didn’t need daddy to rock him to sleep anymore.
Some closing words of wisdom
So, to all the fathers, and mothers, who take on the immense and often thankless duty of a full time parent; don’t let judgmental pricks bring you down. People judge when they cannot do. Remember, you are awesome!