Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Stay-At-Home-Dads: You’re a hero for sure, but don’t be like Christopher Columbus...

Comedian Brian Regan has a hilarious bit about U.S. Airlines Captain “Sully” Sullenberger and how a true hero is unable to call oneself a hero because that is simply not what heroes do.  

As you recall - just in case you lived amongst the Amish back in January 2009 - Capt. Sully was the nerves-of-steel airline pilot who ‘landed’ his disabled aircraft and its 155 passengers and crew safely in the Hudson River with no one getting seriously hurt.  With such a feat and by anyone’s book, including Regan’s (to listen to his comedic bit, click here and cue to 2:29), Capt. Sully is a textbook hero.  He landed a broken plane... barely flinching... in a river... with no one dying.  That’s hero status!  Period.

Somehow true heroes already know to avoid calling themselves as such.  They inexplicably know that it is just not what heroes do.  They avoid bringing attention to themselves and just do the job at hand.  They rise to the occasion because the occasion needs them to.  How this is the known ’to-do’ behavior still remains uncertain to me, but I really do think some rare ‘Hero Code of Conduct Manual’ exists out there and only the true heroes have a personal copy.

From my vantage point, I think it is high time for more full-time stay-at-home dads to dust off their own hero manuals and refresh their own Capt. Sully training.

Being the SAHD for our five children for more than a dozen years, I'll admit that it used to be easy to toot my own horn about having to survive the trials and tribulations of being the primary care caregiver for a basketball team-sized family.  I could wax poetic on being a “Mr. Mom” for long enough to remember and before it was even ‘cool' to be one.  

I could share how I remember leisurely looking at my own grocery list in hand while being asked mid-aisle by a mom and her magnanimous offer to help me find an item that I didn’t even know I needed help finding.  I can also remember my snarky reply back at her too, “Nope I’m good, why do YOU need help finding something?”

I can recall a time when male restrooms didn’t have changing tables in them and working dads were envious that they too didn’t get to watch ESPN all day.  Yeah, right!  I could reminisce of when moms acted shocked (and oddly envious) when they learned that I cooked... as in all the meals... and did the laundry AND even cleaned the dishes!  Shocking.  Yep, I too have had my fair share of ignorant elderly ladies call me out publicly when I was out with my kids sans wifey only to say, “Oh is daddy babysitting today?”  I also remember how I would throat-kick each one of them too... in my mind.

I remember being viewed as some sort of ‘pioneer parent’ that, unbeknownst to me, sought to break the gender mold... as if somehow my role as being a stay-at-home-father lumped me into some social agenda.  I recall the looks and comments at the playground where the veteran female stay-at-homies would gather together, Starbucks coffee in hand, for their latest neighborhood gossip... all the while being sure to be all fleek with their latest chic baby gear.  Oh please!

I can still remember summoning the strength to approach the all-knowing-and-all-powerful female PTA board for a simple question, only then to be “recommended" to 'pass along’ their all-important school information to my wife... as if doing so greatly improved the ‘vital' bake sale info to be properly received.  (Thankfully this occurs far less now!)

Yes, I could go on to explain how even pastors of my past have said that I was not properly providing for my family (ouch!) and that I have been publicly called such terms as “lazy”, “unemployed”, and presumably “uneducated.”  More so, I could say that I have been ‘victimized’ by doctors and their staff who implied that a dad couldn’t be as nurturing as a mom.  And, don’t forget to add how I have been ‘shamed' by friends and family who wondered when I was ‘gonna get a real job.’  Yes, the list can go on and on as could my reasons to stir the social whiney pot.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t worth it then and it still isn’t now.  Why?  Because public affirmation was never the goal of why we wanted one parent to stay at home.

Just like most stay-at-home parents, I have never regretted OUR family’s decision for me to be the parent at home... or as I like to call it... the head ref, the life goalie, and the literal glue that holds our crazy schedules together.  I truly have loved every minute of it and it’s very difficult to imagine ever hanging up the proverbial diaper bag.  The relationship I have with each of my kiddos is beyond priceless to me AND them... as I am sure most SAHPs would agree.

Nonetheless, there seems to be a growing trend for stay-at-home fathers to promote themselves as heroes.... a vocal trend to be seen for what we do versus why we do it.  These Captain Keyboarders seem to be charging some castle of social expectation with videos and blogs that shout, “Hey, look what I am doing everybody!  Pay attention to me!”  They demand credit as they create a voice.  They wear their emotions on their sleeves and they aren't afraid to admit it.  They see a show or an advertisement, get offended, and then get all keyboard courageous to tell the world... and for sure the product’s company homepage... that their feelings are hurt.  And when the real world won’t affirm their needs, they and their teammates seek the cyber world to stake some flag of some already discovered country.

Have I done this?  Sadly yes... so I speak from experience.  But it was weak then and it is still weak now.  Wisdom comes from experience and as such I have learned that those misguided actions are simply a battle not worth fighting.  

Relax stay-at-home-dads.  Heroes don’t draw attention to what they do, they just do it.  Proper parenting doesn’t allow Facebook touchdown dances or some quasi-Vine press conferences, so step away from the mic and just do the job.  There really is no need to write the company whose ad just depicted you as ‘less-than-a-real-dad.’  Doing so (as Regan adeptly explains) only gives them ammo against your own argument.  So put down the pitch fork and put out the torch and instead let your actions (and your wallet) speak louder than your words ever could.

Heroes are unique, but being a full-time stay at home dad isn’t.  Yeah, I have been doing it for a while, but I am hardly the first.  If you really want to be unique, why not instead be the best dad you can be to your kid(s) and as a result, you’ll end up being the hero that your family truly needs.

So step away from the keyboards guys, nobody likes a self-promoting hero... it is just not what good dads do.


p.s.  And, as a reminder to those vocal SAHD newbies, women are and have been doing this gig in far greater numbers than us and for eons longer than we have... and you don’t see them bragging about it now do you?

When we self-promote ourselves, we look like a Christopher Columbus shouting that we have just discovered some new world of parenting.  We haven’t.  The ’natives’ have already been here long before us.  They too have a crying baby in tow, a way-too-long ’to-do list,’ and a lack of a good night’s sleep to get it all done.  They are not impressed... we shouldn’t be either.