Long before we had kids, my wife and I talked about our collective responsibilities when we did have kids. She was in the beginning stages of an accounting career, and I was doing the same in the hopes of a teaching/writing career. Her ambitions were in a field that we knew were going to require very long hours, and mine allowed me the freedom to be home more with the kids that we didn't have yet, so we agreed that if it was at all possible, I would stay home. Well, we did have kids, two beautiful little girls and when my first was born I was an adjunct english instructor at a local university so my limited hours allowed for part-time daycare and I had my first taste of being a stay at home dad. But then I became a full time instructor, and we had our second child and daycare expense grew. It got to the point where it felt like I was working to pay daycare, and you add in all the other little stresses like getting the up in the morning so I could drive forty-five minutes to an eight a.m. class. The straw came in the form of news that my wife's job was relocating to the city and neither of us liked the idea of me being forty-five minutes away and her being an hour away by train in case anything happened to the girls in daycare. So, four years after my first daughter was born, I became a full-time stay at home dad.
This blog will chronicle the mistakes I have made and will make along with the experiences I have had and will have with my girls, my wife, and all the people who have opinions on our choice and my parenting ability. Here is one example of the latter that was one of the reasons I have been wanting to write this blog for a long time.
My oldest was only six months old and I was still able to keep her in the car seat through a whole trip to Target. We walked around the store and I have to admit I enjoyed all the attention of the various women who would smile and coo at her, because of course she is as cute and wonderful as they all said she was. I felt like I was doing it right. I felt like a dad who had it together and all these moms were telling me "good job" and "way to go". So we get in line to check out and lady walks by and grabs my daughter's foot and says "Is daddy watching you today sweetie, is daddy a good babysitter".
Okay, I was slightly offended. When a woman walks her baby through a Target at 11 a.m. on a Friday, does anyone ask the baby if her mommy is "watching her", or call her mom a babysitter? No. But that is not all. I put my things on the belt and swipe my card and the cashier who happens to be a woman in her fifties grabs my daughter's foot again. The second uninvited touch to the most precious person in the world to me threw me a little so I almost didn't notice the offense in her question, which was directed at me. "What a cute baby, do you have a blanket in the car?"
Now I was more than slightly offended. Keep your opinions about how I dress my daughter and keep her warm on a seventy degree day to yourself. Okay it was closer to fifty-five that day and she was a little cold and, yes it was a rookie dad mistake, but still, keep your opinions to yourself and don't assume that I am a second rate parent because of my sex.
I realize that I may sound a little bit like some of the nimrods in the world who cry reverse racism or reverse sexism and believe me--I know that I will always have a lot to learn when it comes to parenting. But the reality is that stay at home parenting is the proud domain of women (rightfully so, I admit that there are many things that my wife still does better than me despite her full time job) I just would like to not feel so alien in all the places that stay at home parents take their kids when everyone else is working.