My wife had her college reunion this past Father’s Day weekend, so we packed up the car (well, “a” car – as proper city folk, we don’t own one) and headed to New Hampshire for three days: her, me and our children, ages 4 and 7 months.
Going anywhere for more than three hours with two small kids is like moving an army. And, while I love my family, I hate travelling with them. It’s laborious, expensive and you’re always “on,” especially me this particular weekend as my wife caught up with all her old friends. You’ll be happy to know she had a blast. Me? While I was happy to work overtime caring for the kids so she could relive her college years, I was a little uncomfortable in my own skin.
Here’s the thing: I’m a stay-at-home dad, or as the acronym goes, a SAHD. (Good luck not saying that in a Trump voice: “He takes care of the kids all day. SAHD!”) Culturally, it’s still not something seen as a “manly” thing to do. Just ask my parents!
I’m kidding, of course. You don’t have to ask. They’ll simply tell you along with how much money they spent on my education.
Yet, being a stay-at-home father has been by far the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done with my life. The only thing I don’t like about it is telling other people that’s what I am.
Whenever I’m at a dinner or a cocktail party, I live in dread of the question, “So what do you do?” and then seeing the people’s reactions after I tell them. The clipped “hmm”s. The too quick and slightly over the top “Oh, that’s greaaat” like they’re talking to a preschooler showing them his or her latest crayon scribbles. The realization on their faces that there is no shop to talk, no professional connections to make, that they have no further use for you. And that’s on a good day.
Now imagine doing that for an entire weekend with a bunch of Type A Ivy Leaguers (she went to Dartmouth). I’d rather have been at a cockfight. And been the losing rooster.
Weird side note: You know who DID really want to be there? Alex Azar. He’s President Trump’s secretary of health and human services. He managed to get a few days off from work just for this. Probably did it like this: “Sorry, boss, you know how I love serving the health of humans, and I know we’re currently in the midst of this country’s greatest humanitarian crisis in a decade, and arguably it’s biggest ethical crisis in generations — but all the guys from Delta House are gonna be there. And I got a feeling this is the year I win the Best Polo Shirt Tucked Into Shorts Contest. See ya Monday!” I wish I wanted anything as much as he wanted to go to that reunion.
But the hang ups are mine. This wasn’t exactly how I drew it up when I planned out my life. I imagine many a stay-at-home father feels this way. I wanted a career. For heads to turn when I walked into a room. Something to brag about. And I still may have that someday. My story isn’t over.
For now though, I’ll just have to settle for raising the two most precious things in my existence. Not a bad trade. And if Tad the High Powered Banker has no use for me, there’s always someone else he can schmooze with. Hey, have you met Alex? Yeah, with the tucked in Polo shirt.
I don’t mean to make it sound like the reunion weekend was a terrible time. Folks there were all very nice. It was heartwarming to see how many of them were thrilled to see my wife, and that her awesomeness is not lost on other people. And any time spent with my kids is time well spent, despite my occasional complaints about being an at-home father. The highlight was sitting on campus with my daughter, who stood up and announced that she wanted to take a walk. When I asked where we were going, she said, “Nah, that’s OK. I’ll just go by myself.” Her independence and confidence filled me with such joy pride that I couldn’t help but laugh. We’ll see if I still feel that way in 14 years.
One last thing. Father’s Day wasn’t a complete bust. I got a very unique gift on the drive home – my first-ever speeding ticket.