Just One of the Dads

So there we were: the usual group at the usual time at the usual place. I waved to the dad whose daughter is a year younger than mine. I waved to the dad with twin boys a few months older. As the toddler tore off to attack some sand with her shovel I unsnapped the baby from the stroller. It is the afternoon and the moms are home resting from a day of chasing the little ones around the house and the dads are now chasing said little ones around the park. And then my boobs start leaking milk.

The secret is out, this dad has no y chromosome. This dad comes home from work to a stay at home parent, tired herself like all the other dads, and whisks the kids off to the park each day with all the guys. What is so awesome about guy time at the park is that I work in a male-dominated field anyway so all day long is spent in boy-land. And in this modern age of civil suits for sexual harassment where an unsuspecting sap can be fired in half a minute and have his stuff boxed up before he makes it back to his desk I understand why a group of men I don’t know immediately shut up when I approach. Still. It’s isolating. My companion in this match understands. For when he comes to the park in the mornings, with all the other stay at home moms, well, his boobs don’t go off when they should.

It is 2010 and one would think no one would bat an eye anymore at a woman who works (they don’t) or at a man who stays home (they do.) For me there is a sense of still having some women to relate to, for many choose to continue their careers and put their children in daycare or acquire a nanny. Very few are lucky enough to have a husband who is willing to stay home with the kids. We are told that there are more stay at home dads than ever but it is sort of like hearing there are more vegetarians in Texas now too. That’s fine and all but I’m still hard-pressed to find a good restaurant to eat in and about once a week some cowboy eyes me like I shot his mom because I have the audacity to not eat what God put on the Earth for us to eat.

The truth is more men are accepting of my husband and I’s arrangement then women are. I tell my guy co-workers my husband is a stay at home dad and 80% of them get jealous. The other twenty percent just shrug. Or scratch themselves, which I’ve come to learn is about the same thing. Women on the other hand get this uncomfortable look like I just passed gas. “Oh really? Well isn’t that nice?”

I think this casual acceptance is one of the strongest qualities men bring to parenting. I say casual because most of the dads I’ve seen each afternoon will say hello to just about anyone. Except of course the group of women huddled together wearing hemp skirts and baby slings and muttering darkly to each other about the necessity of sacrificing a man to balance out the universe. They take more risks then most of us gals do and the more you watch someone else risking it, and not always biting the dust, it makes you want to step out too. Sometimes I wish I could be at the park when the moms are and bond with girls and giggle for no reason. But hanging out with the dads has helped me relax a bit, not freak out when my kid bites it on the pavement, or laugh at my silly baby boy when he shoves a handful of sand in his mouth. Again.

The truth is parenting is hard no matter how you slice it. Two parents working, one parent working or even worse no parents working can all be challenging. In the past thirty years I have learned that while men and women can be so incredibly different at times those differences often fit together quite beautifully. When we’re not screaming at each other or begging the other one to take the kids for twenty minutes so we can have a break. Maybe some day we can all learn from each other and just be parents hanging out at the park.

Image credit: Lee J. Haywood

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