Monday, September 20, 2010

Mr. Mom Chronicles: Day One

This morning, my lovely wife woke shortly before 6 am. She eased her way into the day with some sort of apple juice concoction, then showered, blow-dried her hair (!), made lunch, then departed to catch a bus. It is her first day of work.

Tobias at the playground
this morning. His daddy was the
only daddy there.
Me? I drank some coffee, read the papers and waited for my son to wake up. This is also my first day on the job, this one as a full-time stay-at-home dad.

This is not where I expected to be. Oh, I've always said I was willing to be the at-home parent if it came to that, something easy to say to prove my feminist bona fides. But honestly, we moved to Philadelphia a month before Tobias was born -- not exactly prime job-hunting time for my wife, particularly as a recession was starting to bare its ugly fangs. The birth happened, she stayed home with our kid, I went off to the office every morning, and that was it. I never expected to actually have to back up my words with, you know, action.

When I lost my job six months ago, though, my wife drew a line: "It's my turn," she told me. Repeatedly. And then a few more times, for good measure, just in case I hadn't gotten the point: She was ready not to be home with the kid all day. It's not that she doesn't love Tobias; she adores him. She just wanted the chance to miss him now and again.

I suggested that we should probably both of us race to get a job -- that producing an income was the most important thing -- and we could figure out the way forward from there. And, well, she won the race.

Step back: She mostly won the race. I've been picking up some freelance work in recent months, and for us to survive on her full-time job, I'll have to basically make our rent money and she'll get all the other bills. But: Taking care of our two-year-old son is going to be a heavy, maybe the heaviest, part of my responsibilities during the day.

There will be getting him up. And feeding him. Making sure he gets play time. Making sure he gets enough of my attention. And feeding him. And changing his diaper. And feeding him. The reporting and writing I need to do to make my nut? That'll come in the in-between places. Parenting, in a way it's never been before, is my job now.

And that's great: The glory of losing my job when my son was 18 months old is that I've been around quite a lot while he really evolved from babyhood into being a real person with his own real personality. I've been grateful -- grateful as one can be for being unemployed and worried about the future -- to get to be around my son during this time.

However...

It didn't escape my notice this morning that I was the only dad in a sea of moms and nannies at the playground. A quarter-century has passed since Michael Keaton played "Mr. Mom," but gender roles and expectations and actions haven't changed that much. What we're doing -- what I'm doing -- is ... kind of weird. I get that. I'm OK with that. But it will probably involve negotiating my way through some unwritten protocols.

So I'll be writing about that. And I'll most likely be asking your help. I'm not sure how this is going to work, or frankly how long it can last. What I do know is this: We love Philadelphia and want to stay here. Right now, this is the best shot we've got.

3 comments:

BMG said...

Hooray!

Kendra said...

Joel, you will do great! And no one who has stayed home with kids for more than one day can say you aren't working!

KhabaLox said...

Good luck. It should be a lot of fun at times, a lot of pain at others, a lot of frustration in between, and a lot of work throughout. At least, if he's anything like our 2 year old.