Mondays and Fridays are the days I spend with my 3-year-old son. Last week, I encountered a situation in which the modern-day family construct was lost in the mind of a proverbial “soccer mom”.
It was 11 a.m. on Monday and the Trader Joe’s in my town was relatively quiet. I strolled the aisles pushing the cart while my son nibbled on a biscuit. As I tossed a box of “Joe-Joes” into my cart a mother and her little one came down the aisle in the other direction. She stopped next to us and smiled.
“How sweet. You took the day off to be with your son.”
Deep breath …
“I didn’t take the day off.”
She threw a puzzled look.
“Oh. So you’re unemployed. I’m so sorry. Times are tough I know.”
A thousand witty snide retorts formulated in my brain ranging from making fun of her fake Uggs to her kid’s nose which seemed to resemble a faucet of snot at this point.
“No, I’m a stay-at-home dad.”
She looked as if someone had just asked her to solve a quadratic equation with a gun to her head and a stopwatch ticking down from 30 seconds.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Good luck to you.”
It was time to take a stand. Right here. Right now. With the gluten-free Mac and Cheese as my witness, I spoke with great fervor in my voice.
“Don’t be sorry. Frankly, it’s an incredible experience to be able to spend the formative years of my son’s life with him like this. I mean I’m sure your husband can relate to that, right?”
I just chopped off her earlobe with my samurai sword.
“Actually my husband runs a hedge fund and spends most of the weeknights in the city, so no… he can’t relate.”
I couldn’t help but smirk, yet felt bad at the same time.
“Oh, I’m sorry…”
I pushed our cart past her and as if to add insult to injury my son tossed his half-eaten biscuit in her shopping cart and said, “Daddy, that girl had a lot of boogies in her nose”.
It still baffles me why the concept of a stay-at-home dad is so unreal. I would really like for this lady to take a look at the Metro-North train station in our town during rush hour. There are as many men dropping off commuting women as there is vice versa. Perhaps she should stop in our Monday morning library class where there are more dads than moms singing songs with their kids.
I think this Monday I may have a meetup at Trader Joe’s with some of my dad friends in hopes of encountering that lady again.
I’ll also bring extra Boogie Wipes for her child to show how awesome & thoughtful I am as well.
Great post! I think the most recent data shows that dads make up just 8% of the stay at home parent population. While that percentage is growing, it’s still such a new concept to many.
I’m making a career switch to be a SAHD and very much looking forward to it. I’m sure I’ll run into situations like you just wrote about. In the meantime, my mother in law is giving us much grief about it… http://goo.gl/kssmV
Wow, I think this is my life! Seth I am a full time stay at home dad, special education teacher, and Air Guitar Championship wanna be!! Plus I have been stopped in Trader Joe’s. Could this be the Matrix?
I believed Seth’s story till the part about the woman’s husband being a hedge fund manager and the kid saying the girl had boogies in her nose. That seems fake and made up. Sorry, I don’t believe Seth.
Working father of non boogerfied child
Well Anonymous, perhaps if your child had boogers you would find this story more believable. Why do you find this fake? So many mothers/wives with working husbands are so caught up in this fantasy world that their views are so narrow.
I can think of one reason a dad might feel the need to overcompensate with a large hedge fund.
I’m not saying he didn’t encounter a woman who questioned why he was home during the day and not at work. The part I don’t believe is how she admitted her husband was an absentee dad who was more interesting in working. That seems like he embellished the story a bit. A little too convenient. Plus how can anyone who proclaims themselves as an air guitar champion be taken seriously? Seriously. Only Judah Freilander can get away with that. And if she’s the typical wife of a hedge fund manager, they have “people” who do their grocery shopping. She would be at home abusing prescription drugs, drinking wine and organizing a sex toy party or some sort of fund raiser to stop the senseless slaughter of garden squirrels.
And shame on Seth for being so pretentious and shopping at Trader Joes. Why didn’t he offer to wipe the booger ridden child’s nose with an organic, aloe infused tissue that comes from a tissue box made of 100% recycled paper. That’s what any decent stay at home, air guitar champion, super dad would do.
And can someone tell me what the F Joe Joe’s are?
Working father, who is only a semi professional air guitarist.
Nice to see that questioning the validity of the internet has become so trendy. All you would be sociologists should know that although air guitar is fake, air guitarists are real!
Your Stay At Home Dad says
Wow, what is it about Trader Joe’s? I, too, had a similar experience there. You can read about it here: http://yourstayathomedad.com/neurosis/self-loathing-in-trader-joes/ I’ve been a stay at home dad for a year and a half now and it’s tough dealing with people who look down their nose at you. I love the way you turned it around on her. It probably really made her think. Kudos to you, sir. You make me proud to be a stay at home dad (even if the story is fake or embellished, Anonymous) I’ve been subject to similar remarks and I’d wished I could’ve handled it with the class and panache that Seth exhibited with “Mrs. Hedgefund.” (Raising my glass) I say, here, here.
@Your Stay At Home Dad…It’s me, Anonymous
I read the post you referenced, and I think you hit the nail on the head. As a stay at home dad, you feel self conscious and like all eyes are on you. Chances are, if you are going about your business in a “normal” way, no one even takes notice. They just want to push their carts up and down the aisle and go home like everyone else. Now if you’re kids are screaming, throwing a tantrum or running down the aisles slinging poo, that may grab shoppers attention :-). As men, we feel like we have to be the “bread winner” and justify why we’re home on a weekday afternoon with our kids. Oh and BTW, I find your story much more believable than Seth’s.
If anything when I do something together with my son in a public place like a park or super market, I usually get smiles from other people. I think they are happy to see a father spending time with his son.