Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Got This

“I’m tired of living under the inadequacies of my peers,” I told WonderWife™ over the phone the first night she was away.

WonderWife™ had been suddenly called out of town for a family emergency, leaving me as temporary stay-at-home-dad for three days. In the brief time between WW™ making her plans and leaving, there was a huge outpouring of support and encouragement for me. A few of WW™’s friends even promised to drop their own families in order to help me if I needed. While everyone meant well, I was annoyed by the implication.

I’m a competent dad. When it comes to taking care of my kids by myself, I got it. Under my watch, my kids always get fed well, get bathed and get to bed on time.  But based on everyone’s reaction, you would’ve thought me a total parenting noob. I’m not exactly sure where the perception comes from. Maybe years of watching inept sit-com dads on TV have influenced the collective consciousness. Or perhaps the husbands of WW™’s friends are a bit lacking and it’s being projected onto me? I’m not here to judge. I’m just trying to get to the bottom of why it becomes a much bigger deal than it should that I’m left alone my offspring for a few days.  

The reality is, I needed very few instructions. Aside from a list of a few errands and some overly complicated instructions for the preparation of school snack, to work around various allergies of classmates, WW™ didn’t need to school me on anything. Sure I asked for a complete run down of what to pack in the kids’ school lunches, but that’s because they are creatures of habit and I wanted to replicate what they’re used to. Left to my own devices, I’m confident I would have worked it out myself.   

The only thing I could have used a little help with was preschool pick up. My fatal flaw was relying on Sprout to guide me. I figured since she’d accompanied WonderWife™ to every single pick up she’d know a thing or two. However, the little monkey led me to the wrong room. The teacher inside politely guided me to another room, where my presence interrupted the class. The Bean noticed me right away and became unable to pay attention to the most hectic game of Simon Says I’ve ever seen. (Note to self: be extra good to the Bean’s teachers at the end of the year.) Not wanting to disrupt the game, I stood in the corner trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. After a while, I noticed some other parents loitering outside. Then it hit me. Nobody told me this is where we were supposed to wait until the kids are released.

With head hung low, I slunk outside to join the adults. Of course when I looked up whom should I see but the moms who offered to help me. They were wearing sly, sympathetic smiles—images of Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom running through their heads. “You’re doing it wrong.” This was not helping my case for independence.

The women reiterated their offer and I politely thanked them, gathered up the kids and headed home, where later I would cook a full dinner (with veggies…from scratch). I know that their hearts were in the right place, but aside from my ignorance about school pick up policy, when it comes to being a parent, I got this.


SciFi Dad said...

I completely understand where you're coming from, but I think the offers may have been (at least partially) based on friends or neighbours offering to come together in a time of crisis or need. I don't know what the emergency was, but is it possible they thought it might have impacted you emotionally, albeit less severely than your wife? Or perhaps they thought that by pitching in you might not have to miss work (i.e. some sort of financial aspect)?

Again, I totally agree that dads are portrayed poorly in media, and that there are more than enough half-assed fathers out there. It's possible that their offers were solely based on these facts, but personally I think it was unlikely.

ChopperPapa said...

Dude you have no idea, try being a single dad and having to deal with that crap daily!

If want to be made to feel like a complete moron be a divorced father at a school function..

Diplo_Daddy said...

I can understand your point of view, too. It's tough, not knowing where to go, or even who to ask for help. But hey, you managed and pulled through. Great job!

Daddy Geek Boy said...

SciFi...Interesting theory about if they thought the emergency was going to impact me emotionally. However, I don't think that was the case. I think the reaction was simply, "oh he's on his own for 3 days, he's going to be in trouble."

Chopper...Hoisting a drink to you, cause stay-at-home parenting is grueling, hard work. Do you think the "moron" factor at school functions comes from ignorance of the system, or other's perceptions of you?

Diplo...Thanks. At school none of the administrators bothered to walk me through it the first time. But in every aspect outside of that, I didn't need to ask for help.

ZenMom said...

Most of the women I work with - all mothers - are constantly *stunned* by the fact that my husband cooks (WAY more than I do!), shops for groceries, washes laundry, and (most days) does the drop-off and pick-up for our first-grader.

Seriously: They are like deer-in-headlights over these "talents" that I take totally for granted in my husband.

Personally, *I* am stunned at how useless *their* husbands must be, domestically speaking.

Sure, we all have our strengths and our specific experiences, but, it's terribly old-fashioned to assume a level of capability for *any* task based on gender.

Reminds of the time my girlfriend rented a piece of heavy equipment and the sales guy asked her if her husband would be home soon to operate it for her. She looked at him, looked at the machine, looked at him again and said, "I'm sorry, I just don't see it: Where do you have to insert the penis?"

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Zen...Shut up, she did not!

WonderWife™ and I like to play on gender expectations in the rare instances when we're buying a car. I will ask all of the questions and inspect the car. She will check out the mirrors and cupholders and stuff. But when it comes to negotiating, I sit back and the bulldog that is WonderWife™ is let loose. Those car salesmen never see it coming.

Andrea said...

I made the joke if you'd survive...not from the perspective of IF you could do it all (obviously you can). Even as the primary 85% caretaker of my kids, they eat me alive soemdays. I can cook, and clean, and read them books, but sometimes at the end of the day I'm beat.

I think every parent (the person, mom or dad, who isn't the primary caregiver) should get a few days to have a turn. It makes you appreciate all that goes on in a day and how much there is to remember.

Surfer Jay said...

Ditto to that Andrea.

Geek, you said it, "the husbands of WW™’s friends are a bit lacking and it’s being projected onto me". That's definately it right there. (And now you know which guys in the neighborhood are the incompetant ones too. :) )

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Andrea...I think the every parent getting a few days thing is a great idea. I've always known that the SAH thing is hard, but I now have an even greater appreciation for it.

Jay...Like I said, I'm not here to judge, but it's a plausible explanation. Right?