Stay At Home, Dad
Oh my, the neighbourhood is abuzz this morning. A new family just moved in and the waves of horror started almost immediately. Really there should be a central database to track these guys—yes, that’s right, I’m talking about that new threat to all caring mothers—the rare and much-maligned Stay at Home Dad, or SAHD. We just got one. He hangs out at the park. He’s at the Starbucks, the swimming pool, even (gasp) the school office. Let me explain for those of you who haven’t experienced this yet. Upon spotting a SAHD, most women assume that the specimen is a) out of work, b) lazy, c) working some sort of angle, or d) the owner of a low IQ. Ironically, this sort of filter is not used on the stay-at-home-mom crowd (okay, except by me a little bit—see my previous book, Journey to the Darkside, for a full explanation of my skewed reasoning). There is a paradox in this. In an ideal world, one might assume that the men could be doing something “better,” but they are selflessly choosing to take a secondary or “easy” road. Hahahahahaha. We so have not come a long way, baby.
Recent studies have shown that men are less likely to get engaged with the stay-at-home world—which is mostly made up of women— and see their time in the domestic realm as a temporary “leave” from the real world, rather than a valid career choice. Perhaps if they had some good job perks, they might find a reason to embrace this lifestyle and let go of their unfulfilled corporate dreams. In order to develop the perks, we first must look at what’s important to today’s modern man:
- Title: There’s nothing like flipping out that business card at a bar or meeting to pump up a sagging male ego. If SAHD’s were able to print their own cards, with a pimped-up title that included the words “strategy” or “development,” they’d like that. Now if they could only find a bar that allowed strollers, or a meeting where business cards might actually be exchanged (that emergency school council gathering on the future of Cupcake Day is just not going to cut it).
- Project list: It’s okay if the list includes items such as “remove gunky shit from stroller.” As long as there are columns labelled “Project Name,” “Milestones,” “Next Steps,” and “Responsibility,” it’s all good. Let him tape some large sheets of paper around the room with the headings “Parking Lot” and “New Ideas” as well.
- Weekly update meetings: Some coffee, an agenda, donut holes, and the opportunity to say, “I think I have the floor right now” (even if “the floor” is a small carpeted area at the indoor playground), can feel good. How’s that diaper rash coming along, Judy? Last week you said you’d have closure on it.
- Summer hours: Every second Friday, the SAHD is allowed to crack open a beer at 2 p.m., instead of at the usual 4 p.m. Yahoo! Live it up. As long as the vacuuming is done.
- Executive washroom: Oh, for God’s sake, they stink up that master-suite bathroom so badly that no one else would dare enter it anyway. Give them a big silver key on a horrible sports logoed keychain and they’ll be happy.
Tickets to special events: The “Tot ’n Toddler Fashion Show” at the mall, the “Toy Tea” at the hospital, and the “Holiday Tupperware Event” could substitute for sports events, gala dinners, and golf days, if you print nice tickets and provide giveaways and the chance to win a t-shirt with a bank logo on it. If there’s a VIP lounge, go for it. Men’s egos are different from women’s. Men often need to feel as though they are winning some sort of invisible competition.
The “score,” so to speak, is easy to keep if you work in the corporate world and can compare the size of your cubicle to the one of the next person, or gaze adoringly down on an organizational chart that shows an ultraimpressive box with your name in it at the top of the heap. It’s hard to manufacture this type of one-upmanship at home, however. So, in order to keep the SAHD satisfied and fulfilled in the kitchen and behind the grocery cart, you’ll have to get creative. Make them think they are forging new territory, opening exciting business ventures, and generally doing pretty well at what they’ve been seeing as an easy job for all these years. Don’t take it too far, however, or he’ll be planning a conference in Florida with his newly hired administrative assistant.
Excerpted from “The BlackBerry Diaries: Adventures in Modern Motherhood,” by Kathy Buckworth, Key Porter Books, April, 2009.