Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Some of the Things Not to Say to a Stay-At-Home Dad

Adventures in Parenting!
He turned 8 (months) on the 28th!
Since August of this year I have been a stay-at-home Dad, or as it is also known, a seahorse (a phrase based on how male seahorses help take care of the young). My wife, Samii, and I decided this was best for our son, Clarkson, as he was of course born prematurely. Due to the adjustments in care he needs as a preemie and his having a more sensitive immune system we mutually agreed after carefully studying our fiances and budgeting it out that someone should stay home with our son. I loved my job but as it did not offer insurance and had a long commute we came to the conclusion my wife would continue to work and I would be at home with our son, caring for him and making some small scratch here-and-there selling things on eBay or via other odd-jobs. It was an adjustment but I have loved being at home assisting Clarkson with eating, putting on a fresh diaper, playing, or reading aloud to him my drafts of my blog posts and getting his opinion on my writing. If a child goes into day-care it is basically a law they will get sick and premature babies don't just get sick, they get really, really sick and sometimes require hospitalization. Having Clarkson at home with me keeps him healthy, allows us to know he has good care (I like to think I'm a quality parent plus other folk have stated that as well) and otherwise just makes sense for our family--although there is really no wrong way to plan your household.

I never thought stay-at-home parents had it easy but I was shocked just how much work it is. Whether caring for the baby, trying to assist with daily things like dishes, or attempting to carve-out a bit of free time to read some comics or write a blog post (I am typing this now while he is having a snooze), you are often busy as a stay-at-home parent. As it is good to go out-and-about, Clarkson and I will often take excursions to visit story-times or parent groups, get groceries, pick-up needed household items, browse antique/thrift shops (for stuff to sell online) or swing by the comic shop to check-out what comics are hot. In the process of doing this I have received a number of comments as a Dad out with his infant son that could be described as, "Off-putting." Some come from a place of kindness and are just misunderstandings or casual ignorance. Other statements have hurt my heart to a surprising degree and really stung. Therefore, in the interest of educating people and sharing, I shall provide some of incidents and statements that have actually occurred so as to hopefully show people some of the things that aren't the best to say to a stay-at-home Dad.

Some Things Not to Say
Just tell me he's cute, no need for weird comments.
"I see it's  Daddy-day, today?"
This statement seems to assume that, "Daddy," doesn't usually care for the child, and that usually, "Mommy," does. It discounts that the other parent could be deceased or a man. It is grating but comes from a place of simply trying to make conversation, I've found.

"Your wife let you guys out alone?"
This came from an older woman shopping at Walgreens who saw me with my son and went on to share how her husband and children never were allowed out alone for long because he did a terrible job. She went on to describe how when her kids were three that her, "Hubby," took them out for the afternoon to run errands and when they got back she asked if they had eaten lunch and he said he hadn't fed them as, "They didn't say they were hungry," which she followed-up with a laugh. I wasn't sure how to respond to her shock that a man could be capable of taking care of a baby so I simply smiled and said that was quite the story. I fought the urge to ask why she had married a dumbass.

"So, you're Mr. Mom?"
I hear this from older folk a lot. I get it, there was that movie with that title, but when you say that you're horrendously genderizing child-care. I mean, does that mean my wife is Mrs. Dad? I am not Mr. Mom, I am his Dad and I care for our son while Mom is at work, then she comes home and we equally share in the responsibilities of his care--you know, like a healthy and functioning couple.

"You must have tons of free time!"
This one usually comes from Dads expressing jealousy as how easy it must be for me to, "Get to stay home and relax and play all day." I've never had a mother who stays home with her kids say this (or any other seahorse dads I have met) as anyone who had stayed home with a baby actually knows it takes up more time than can be imagined. If you work and your partner stays home with the children please be aware they are in fact working hard and you seem kind of dismissive when you act like they are living on easy-street and kicking-back all day.

"Don't you feel like you're wasting away your potential/time?"
It shocks me when I get this from people who have a spouse that stays home. I mean, I don't know, do you think all the people who take a break from the work-force to help care for their kids are wasting their potential? If you do in fact have a spouse who stays home you apparently think she or he is wasting time? I feel like my time is valuable and the amount I use to help care for our son is an investment rewarded every time he smiles, laughs, or lets out a joyful coo as I hold and rock him. If you think being a stay-at-home parent is such a waste of time why do you let your spouse do it?

"Wouldn't you rather have Mommy at home than Daddy?"
A mutual friend of my wife and I was talking at Clarkson when this slipped out. I wanted to get angry, yell, "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" and otherwise throw a fit, but that wouldn't have helped anyone. Instead my wife and I simply smiled and commented that Clarkson loves having me at home and my wife loves having her awesome job and getting to come home to Clarkson and Daddy at the end of the day. It was an older woman (you may notice the theme that older folk tend to be more thrown by a stay-at-home Dad) so it was probably her just finding our family setup against what she considers the norm. Still though, why would you say that in front of both of us, considering you are a friend to us each? It felt as if they were insinuating I suck at being a parent because there goes Dumbass David, the man barely competent enough to care for his own son! I of course know that wasn't the idea, but yeah.

It Isn't All Hurtful
He kept spitting-up so he was just chilling in his diaper when we took this.
His smile indicates that was his plan all along.
I've shared some of the off-color comments I've received, but I don't want people to think it is just all bad and hurtful stuff. Another time when I was at Walgreens (yes, I got to a variety of Walgreens often because they usually have lots of exclusive Funko Pops) the cashier was an older man who asked how old my son was. He complimented how cute Clarkson looked and said he missed when his kids were babies and looked forward to when they hopefully give him grandchildren soon to play with. After I checked-out and as I was leaving the store I heard him comment to another customer who had been waiting behind me how it was nice to see a Dad out with his child as he loved spending time with his kids when they were growing up and felt more people should treasure that time.

Those warm thoughts really made my day and illustrated someone who, "Gets it." Namely, that whether you choose to work or stay at home, the key is to love your children and provide them what your family feels is the best care. That could mean both parents working and the baby going to day-care or having a relative care for him/her, it could mean someone stays home, the result could be anything and as long as your son or daughter is fed, diapered, and happy, you're doing what is the optimal choice for your household. At the end of the day it's about what is best for your child after all, right?

1 comment:

  1. Love the article David. Very well written and thanks for sharing, I think its awesome you and Sammi have Clarksons best interests in mind and figured out what works for you guys.