After having children, the only thing my wife and I argued about was our financial situation. When we were both working, we were so tired that we never paid attention to what we were spending. This changed when I started staying home with the kids. With just one income, we had to prioritize our “life-style needs” to make ends meet. (I call it that because, “Every last enjoyable thing that we still falsely believe we can do and buy, even though we have two children,” sounds desperate.) No longer could we crash exhaustedly into bed each night oblivious of spending habits. We had to wake up and tighten our belts. And when I say “we” I meant “me.” Financial aspects of our family fell to me as one of my many other duties of being the at-home parent.
For us, the decision for me to stay at home was all about “what was best” for our kids. They did not need an iPad for every room, but we did want them to have actual chicken tenders instead of pink slime pressed into nuggets. As a result, things had to get tight around our house. Not the good “tight” like a Kid ‘N’ Play haircut, but the sad “eating cranberry sauce in July from last Thanksgiving because it’s the only thing I have besides my children’s food” kind. Groceries, lawn services, and wherever else I could find savings I did to keep our credit cards from overheating. One area I thought I could cut was our children’s hair. Literally.
I informed my wife of my intentions and was understandably met with some resistance. I argued that I had learned to wire up lights in our home so cutting hair could not be that difficult. My wife countered that my comparison was terrible and said “affections” would be put on hiatus if I messed up her children’s hair. A compelling argument and one I could not win.
Still, it nagged at me every time I took my boys to those “arcade” haircut places. Sure, their little faces glazed over when they sat perfectly still in the little metal cars staring at the TV, but my wife spent less at the salon than I did at those places… and they got bad haircuts! I figured I could save a lot of money if I took them to the cheapest place I could find. How could their haircuts get any worse? Murphy’s Law loves to hear that.
We entered the strip mall hair cut factory and signed in. A kind older woman waved us over to her chair. She proceeded to hack at my children’s hair only, in this instance, without the benefit of coma inducing cartoons. When she finished with my second son’s hair, she thanked me for being so patient on her first day. Her first day?! That would have been nice to know twenty minutes prior. Tufts of hair sprouted from my children’s heads where they shouldn’t. Empty patches resided everywhere like lunar craters. The entire decade of the 80’s called to give their regards on what horrifying haircuts my children had. It reminded me of my fourth grade school picture where I decided to get a buzz cut and ended up being called “weed-wacker” (as in got my hair cut by a…) for a year. I think fourth grade me would have felt things were not so bad after seeing my children’s hair.
As we left the strip mall, a grim thought hit me: these haircuts were so bad my wife would never believe I had not done them. I don’t know about you, but I like “affections”. I’m one of the last married men I know who gets to participate in “affections”.
I panicked. I had nothing to lose.
I rushed home. There were tears, promises made, and bribes given. I got out my clippers and cut their violated hair. I completed the task, texted pictures to my wife, and received a “thumbs up” emoticon in reply. After she arrived home, I felt safe enough to tell her about the hair debacle and how I fixed it. She promptly alerted me that there was no hiatus on the horizon.
Later that evening, as I was getting ready for bed in front of the bathroom mirror, I had time to reflect on the day. “What a relief. There is something to be said about a job well done,” I said to myself. It’s nice to be able to provide a useful service to your family. I always feel proud when I learn a new skill that can ease our financial burden. It made me so proud in fact that, as I continued to look in the mirror, I thought, “I bet I could cut my own hair…”
Sometimes it’s good to stop while you are ahead. I was playing with house money after my children’s precision haircuts. Then I blew it all by butchering my own hair and ended up on “affections” hiatus until it grew out enough to fix.
I learned another valuable lesson that day. Some places you can cut, other places you may want to compromise.
As seen in the book Dads Behaving Dadly: 67 Truths, Tears and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood from Motivational Press.