A Survivors Guide to Being Mr. Mom®

As a former Wall Street trader, I found myself completely unprepared for my new role as a “Mr. Mom.”  After the 2008 credit crisis decimated my trading gig, my wife went back to work full-time.  The primary responsibility for everything household fell squarely on my narrow shoulders.  My new routine involved cooking, cleaning, laundry, helping with homework, grocery shopping, arranging ‘play dates,’ organizing activities, etc.

I was both overwhelmed and bizarrely amused by my current situation as a ‘fully engaged’ parent.  I had to put all of my work-honed negotiating and organizational skills to the test.

I had been one of those dads who left for work at 6am, got home by 7pm (on a good night), and never fully comprehended what happened around the house while I was gone.  On the weekends, I would go to my kids’ soccer and softball games, busy myself with some outdoor chores, and then call it a day around 4pm.  I was off to the couch to watch TV while all the ‘other’ household stuff somehow got done.

Now, it was role-reversal time…

I became a Stay-At-Home-Dad, or SAHD for short.  I felt the acronym was appropriate for the way I felt (note: dad caregivers have lost the ‘s,’ so now it’s just AHD – At-Home Dad – much better).  At the time, I felt like a bum, a chauffeur, a really bad short-order cook, and a janitor.  I would add tutor, but I had to google Pythagorean Theorem and sentence conjugation because I had forgotten that stuff long ago.

After surfing many at-home dad websites/blogs (and at least as many mommy blog sites), it seems to me that the majority are written by really enthusiastic dads (and moms) who chose their current occupation.

These sites seem to fall into one of two categories:

In the first category, at-home dads have very young kids (ranging in age from two months to two years-old).  So, these are new parents, and the novelty has not yet worn thin.  I saw posts with pictures of two-year olds wearing sailor outfits and lederhosen (I know!), detailed entries about baking projects “gone wrong,” and a wide range of observations on potty training.

dorky kid

The second category of sites are run by the veteran AHD’s.  There are lots of guys who are proud of their at-home status.  And, there are a lot of pissed off dads, too.  They often take offense to the moniker of “Mr. Mom,” an admittedly negative stereotype shaped by our societal norms.  I don’t blame them.  I get the looks all the time from friends, family, and (yikes) the cleaning people…

These at-home dads really hate when other at-home dads goof on themselves and mention how they now admire the many competent moms out there who make the job look easy.  I don’t totally get where the angry at-home dads (SaHDs) are coming from, because there’s a need for humor, self-effacing and anectdotal, when talking about a responsibility done by women for ages while men took the remote…

lazy dad

In most societies, the role of caregiver or “home-maker” has traditionally been the mother.  The father is, for the most part, out of the picture (to varying degrees) and making the money.  No doubt, there is a stigma attached to being a at-home dad in our culture.  After all, who wants to be the only guy at the play date or dog park?

chris-ware-the-new-yorker-cover-may-7-2012Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself…

 

There is a third category, however; the reluctant at-home dad.  I’m going to use the acronym “R-AHD” to refer to this category.  AHD will be reserved for the veteran dads and the new dads voluntarily taking on the role.

We are at pivotal period in corporate America, and Wall Street in particular, where middle-aged men increasingly find themselves in the role of the R-AHD.  I would like to believe this segment of R-AHD’s take themselves a bit less seriously.

This site attempts to explore the multi-faceted experiences and challenges of being the caregiver under duress; a victim of circumstance and necessity.  R-AHD’s are not to be pitied, but to be understood and appreciated for their unique contribution to child-raising.

This situation may just be a temporary journey.  A career pit-stop or a bump in the road.  However, R-AHD’s don’t know when this journey will come to an end.  During this time, R-AHD’s are living with financial angst and job search frustrations in addition to the day-to-day routine involved in child-raising and household ‘management.’

So, it’s time to roll up the sleeves, figure out how the washing machine works, and perfect your laundry folding skills.  You are going to need all the help you can get…

15 thoughts on “A Survivors Guide to Being Mr. Mom®

    • No. It’s a blast with the kids most of the time. Most of the time. As Nixon said, “What does not kill you makes you stronger.” (I think he ripped it off from Nietzsche)

  1. Glad you found the website. Since doing household chores, feeding the kids, and looking for a job back on Wall St. only take up 90% of my time, figured why not try to do something creative here…

    Well, ‘creative’ might be overdoing it, but there’s too much about dad’s choosing to stay home with their cute newborns. Not enough about cranky, clueless middle-aged professionals who are now playing ‘Mrs. Cleaver’ to a couple of tweens/teens.

    Hope all is well!

  2. You know, I think in your later years, your kids will thank you, and you may be glad you actually had the opportunity to really get to KNOW your kids this way. Too many boys, especially, barely have any time with their fathers, and even weekends call too many dads back to the office, or into conference calls, etc. Too many daughters deeply desire a closeness with their fathers that just never seems to be able to quite develop. You will be the person who helps to shape your children exactly at a time when they most need your wisdom and guidance, but might not want to admit it. Don’t under-value what you are doing; you are WORKING, it is just taking the form of guiding young minds and souls on their way to young adult-hood. If remuneration were possible, you’d make more than any other job out there! Your kids are learning a great deal about being a true parent. Enjoy the time, because it does go by too quickly!

    • Well said. I completely agree. They thank me now, actually. I don’t undervalue the job. I just find managing people in the business place, where you have control over stuff like pay and promotion, is easier than managing your kids. It is a lot more rewarding working with the kids, and it is certainly less dysfunctional, but it is truly a full-time job. Like I’ve said before, I am and continue to be impressed by the dedication and efficiency I see in many stay-at-home parents.

      But, you have to admit, the the kids’ New Year’s wish-list would be awesome…

      Happy New Year!

  3. How about SAHD who does nothing but play? Maybe makes lunch here and there but would prefer the work from home full time on call mom to do the following:
    Cook all meals
    Do all laundry
    Change poopies
    Breastfeed on demand
    Clean house – he only does half of the dishes from dinner – then leaves the kitchen – guess what? I get the rest because otherwise I get to wake up to nasty kitchen and BUGS
    Take care of all booboos
    Do homework time in the middle of her work or better yet after a full day’s work and cooking a five freaking star dinner?
    Do all the projects, thank you cards, birthday cards, arrangements, etc
    Grow organic veggie garden to perfection
    Tell me what deal that is? RAW I tell you.
    So while you may be reluctant, pick up that vacuum, mop and broom, do the laundry, dishes and play with your kids lovingly at the same time because that’s one lucky woman you have if you are actually doing all she did while you were working.

    • I like it! Very spirited. Of course, you are right on all of the above (except breast-feeding on demand – my kids are too old and I just don’t have it in me…).

      You are making some assumptions that reinforce my concept of societal views on dads, stay-at-home dads, and moms in general. By the way, I’m the clean-freak in the family, so the vacuum and mop have almost always been my domain.

      I do all of the above, as well as booboos. Maybe you don’t have the same experience with your spouse? I worship my wife for doing this during the really tough/high-maintenance years. And, for going back to work full-time to keep us afloat. Now that my kids are older, everything is a bit less ‘mission-critical’ though still plenty of work… ;)

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