I play pick up basketball a bunch and I recently had an interesting exchange with another guy that got me thinking about being a stay at home dad. Although I’ve played with these guys three times a week for two years I realize we don’t know much about each other and what we do outside of basketball. I have seen some of these guys off the court and I can hardly recognize them in street clothes. Anyhow, we were in the locker room after playing and another guy asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a stay at home dad and he immediately exclaimed, “Oh, that must be nice!” It was a pretty unique reaction in the history of my telling people about my day job. Most men say, “Oh, OK,” in a kind of thoughtful tone as it seems they need time to absorb this. Most women say, “Oh, that’s great,” and make some allusion as to how they wish they or their husband could do the same thing, or they tell me, that they, too, are a stay at home parent. Most men go on to tell me that they don’t think they could do it. They don’t think they have the patience for it. I don’t have the greatest amount of patience either and sometimes I definitely lose it. One guy told me he didn’t think he was creative enough to know what to do with his kids all day. He was afraid everybody would just get bored. I told him that happens. Most of the time kids will give you something to do, but occasionally the routines do get maddening as if the same day is happening over and over. But isn’t this true in most workplaces?
He asked me whether I was jealous of my wife’s income because he knew some men didn’t like their wives making more money than them, much less having a job when they didn’t. I said I had never had a problem with that. To be honest , I’ve never really considered it because I don’t have an adversarial relationship with my wife and she has never held that over my head in any way. I told him I know that my wife is jealous of the time I spend with the kids. Isn’t that how it should be?
He said he thought it would be pretty easy to be a stay at home dad and most people don’t say that although I wonder how many men might think that and not say it. Part of me thought I should take offense to that comment but I didn’t and I appreciated his honesty. Not that homemaking is always easy, but the truth is, for my personality, it is a pretty easy job compared to other jobs I’ve had, especially my job as a teacher for seven years. Now that was a hard job! That’s not to say that being a house daddy is an easy job because there is always that infinite amount of cleaning and parenting to be done, but I do feel so grateful to be doing this instead of any other job I can think of. Why do I feel like I should keep that a secret, like somehow there is some fault in doing something I like and feeling like it’s pretty easy? Why do I entertain this notion that a real job has to be some kind of hell I slog to everyday? Those are the weird misgivings I have as a stay at home parent. I project these thoughts onto others and wonder if other people think I’m lazy because I don’t have “real” job. It doesn’t take me long to discard these doubts though because I know that I do have a real job and all I have to do is start a load of laundry to prove it to myself. Although I do wish I made a little bit of “real” money from this gig, then I’d really be living on Easy Street!