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I’ll ask myself, “Well, what should I make today?” The high-pressure decisions will be weighing hard on my tired shoulders. “Should I replace the mayonnaise in the kids’ tuna salad with avocado? Do I use a toasted seed bread in place of this whole grain? These kiwis aren’t certified organic — am I monster if I slide these GMO-unfriendly fruits in their hemp lunch bags? My wife has been at work for three hours already and she’ll have no idea.”
I can hear everyone now: “Aren’t you bored? Don’t you want a career? Why are you always so tired?” It’s like they think college punter scholarships grow on trees and left-handed relief pitchers appear out of thin air. You saw how fucked up Charlie Conway was growing up without a father figure before Bombay came along. These kids will need me.
The stigma around being a stay at home dad is awful. “You’re lazy,” they’ll say. “Ugh, get a real job,” the other kids’ babysitters will snicker when I’m dropping my little guys off at judo. I’m not oblivious to the criticisms. I’m self-aware enough to know what’ll be said at the book clubs that I’m not invited to because I’m the odd man out in a social scene dominated by moms.
Sure, I won’t be “wearing the pants” in the relationship, but I don’t think it’s all that crazy that the idea of a career-driven and powerful woman who’s flush with cash is sexy as hell to me. Claire Underwood from House of Cards — ever heard of her? We need to be honest with ourselves and agree that none of us would find her to be as attractive if she wasn’t one half of the braintrust that is the Underwood regime. Find me a smart blonde five off the street and if we get her a Norwegian passport and hit her bank account with a couple commas, she’s all of the sudden a hard ten in everyone’s eyes. Being a stay at home dad to that doesn’t sound so bad anymore, does it?
I’ll look at all my friends in investment banking, advertising, and insurance, and be reassured that those jobs just aren’t for me. Expense reports and quarterly retreats? Nah. I’m more a Little League coach and “Rice or couscous?” kind of dude. I don’t want the hustle and bustle of the corporate world; I want to be buttoning my kids up reverse-style in my old button down shirts so they can watercolor pictures where the sky is just a singular blue stripe across the top of the craft paper. I want to be hand-stitching modifications to their Halloween costumes because it’s harder than you think to find toddler-sized Bernie Lomax ensembles. I want to be scrubbing white grape juice out of my organic cotton slipcovers because I didn’t get them custom made to be used as a napkin.
I can see my daily routine now: I’ll wake up before the kids and bust out the French press I got for Christmas the year prior. Once I toss some Cafe Du Monde French Roast up in that bitch, I’ll get my oatmeal and fresh fruit game going for the kids before I make their (mostly) organic lunch that they’ll probably throw just away in favor of the cafeteria’s rectangular pizza. I’ll pause Morning Drive for when I drop them off at school so I don’t miss any insights, and then I’ll get home and take an extra long shower because I deserve it. Cobb salad for daddy’s lunch? Yeah, happening. 2pm Whole Foods run for some essentials and babe watching? Put money on it. Get the kids and ship ’em off to one of their several after-school activities? Yep, that’s on me and I’ll flourish in that role. Then I’ll throw on my lululemon workout clothes and do some awkward dad stretches at the gym for a while.
Come 5 o’clock, I’ll be exhausted. You try vacuuming around toys and folding tiny pairs of pants all day. You tell me what it feels like to make four beds only to see them terrorized that night. Those prosciutto-topped filets my wife and I will have for dinner while the kids eat some overpriced mac & cheese from the local co-op won’t just appear on the dining room table. The only thing that’ll be keeping me sane at that point will be the John Mayer Paradise Valley-inspired playlist I’ll have playing at min-volume on the speakers that got installed in the kitchen the week prior. But serving others is the path I’ve chosen, so I’ll deal.
During the hard times, yeah, maybe I’ll pick up some bad habits while the ol’ ball and chain is at the office. Will my afternoon scotches creep earlier and earlier into the afternoon? Fuck it, the kids can carpool with the Griffins that day anyway. Sneaking a cig on our screen-enclosed back patio before I start dinner? Nothing a quick steam shower and some bergamot body lotion can’t erase. Watching Frasier into Golden Girls on Lifetime in that dead time between dropping the kids off and lunch? Don’t mind if I do. We all have our vices and that Niles is hilarious.
Being a stay at home dad isn’t all just drawstring linen pants and chambray shirts. Everyone thinks it’s an easy path to choose. But imagine how much harder it’ll be for me to see those little tikes grow up and move on from their dad as opposed to if I happened to be an absent father who only partially invested in his kids’ emotional future. I’m going to take that right in the chin, guys. I’ll be a blubbering mess who buries himself facedown on his greyscale European-depth Crate & Barrel sofa in that den that no one ever uses. All the Lyle Lovett and triple-wick scented candles in the world won’t be able to cure those blues.
When they move out, I’m sure I’ll pick up some hobbies to distract myself. I’ll work on getting my handicap down to single digits and I’ll get overly-excited about lawn maintenance products. I’ll quietly page through my architecture-centric coffee table books that I’ve accumulated Father’s Day after Father’s Day while sorrowfully sipping a tall glass of full-bodied red wine. Being an empty nester will be the most tortuous form of early retirement that anyone’s ever experienced. Stay at home dads don’t get pensions and 401Ks. It’ll be a grind.
But I’m not choosing the free range chicken fingers and carpool life — it’s choosing me. And I’m perfectly fine with that..
Image via YouTube