Report from Stay-at-Home Dad Headquarters

A few people have been asking me how my life as a stay-at-home father is progressing. For those of you who are in the midst of a particularly slow day, hereís my six month report:

    To begin with it isnít all that hard, or at least not any more difficult than one might expect baby care to be. Itís even easier once you get over the expectation of being able to do much else in the course of a day. Also, I promised my pal Shafer that I wouldnít ever complain, since thereís not much that comes with the territory that isnít foreseeable.

    My brother is a pediatric oncologist (he treats kids with cancer). The parents of his patients may have something to complain about, though they probably use their free time more for prayer. The rest of us should count our blessings.

    The challenge for me is finding people with whom to have adult conversation. I find myself trying to keep telemarketers and wrong numbers on the phone. Itís like that Dick Van Dyke show episode where Rob goes up to a secluded cabin to work on his writing and gets so lonely he wonít let even the most accidental visitor leave.

    If your UPS package seems delayed lately, itís probably because Iíve kept the driver buttonholed at my house.

    I know this is why parents have these things called playgroups, but you have to remember that Darien is not the easiest place to live a non-traditional life. Itís not like the moms in this town are taking numbers to have me join their cliques. For those of you unfamiliar with this place, letís just say itís more traditional than Mayfield, home of the Cleaver family, except that the women here drive much larger vehicles (did June even have a car?).

    I donít think people would accept Ward Cleaver doing the vacuuming, either.

    My pal Jay stayed home for a while with his two small boys said he figured the women around his town would seek him out to get his sagacious male counsel on the problems of baby-raising. It didnít happen to him and itís not happening to me. My distaff counterparts see me coming down the street behind a stroller and either avert their eyes or cross over to the other side.

    Of course, it could be they read this column and just donít like me. Or they donít like my humor. I got a horrified look when I mentioned to someone I liked the idea of one comedian, who said what he wanted to do was wheel his baby around in of those double strollers and when the kid was old enough heíd explain, "You used to have a brother, but he misbehaved."

     There is one exception, and that is the grandmothers in town. Theyíll stop me in the supermarket and make smiley faces at the baby. I had to learn their lexicon, however. For example, if they say the baby is "alert," that means he is awake.

    If they say heís "oh, isnít he vocalizing?" that means "does he ever shut up?"

    Readers of this space (well, okay, the reader Ė my Mom doesnít count) may notice that I havenít been around as much lately. Thatís because Iíve been trying to stick to my rule of not penning a column when I really donít have anything to say. And I certainly donít get out as much as I used to.

    And I try very hard to recognize that having a baby or toddler around completely distorts oneís perspective. This is a lesson lost on many of todayís parents. While it may be important to my wife Liz and me how many diapers the little guy is going through in a day, and what sort of products are being deposited therein, itís not exactly the kind of thing others want to hear about.

    My sister was telling me the other day how shocked they were when she and her husband were invited over to another coupleís house for dinner and the main attraction was their two-year-old. This pretty much vaporized any possibility that adult conversation would ensue. The idea of tag-teaming the baby up in his room so that at least one of the hosts could attend to their guests apparently didnít occur to them.

    My sister was somewhat surprised when I told her we run into that kind of behavior all the time Ė itís the same subset of parents who bring their toddlers to art museums and insist that it is an enriching experience for them.

    I have this old-fashioned Ė and possibly anachronistic Ė notion that children do not belong in adult settings.

    Even if you think (or know) that your child is particularly cute and endearing. Because there is no way to tellĖ all parents think their child is cute, even the ones with banshee wails and bizarrely-shaped heads who appear to be of extraterrestrial origin.

    Anyway, considering what I have to work with (me, not the baby) Iíd give myself a B+. Even my mother-in-law, a retired maternity floor nurse, says Iím doing a good job. Thatís my report. I better run now, I think I see the UPS truck coming down the street.


June 29, 2001