Writer Mike Steere moved with his family from LA to Montclair last year when his wife accepted a postion in NYC. The move to the suburbs wasn’t so easy, but he keeps reminding himself Montclair is so close to NYC. Being a stay-at-home dad ain’t so easy either. They don’t get invited into the mommy cliques and they don’t hang together. But he dearly loves what he does and writes about it in Pater-Familias, a blog about the challenges and joys of parenting the school-age child, surviving suburb-shock, and being a dad in “Momland.”:
Why Don’t SAH Fathers Hang Together Like Moms?
A Man Must Do His Chick Stuff Alone.
When I was just out of grad school and pornography was still analog old media, I ran into a guy I knew in a porn shop. A good friend, actually, who lived in the same apartment complex and knew my wife and hung out with us.
Awkward moment, right? Shameful, guilty, embarrassing …
Nah. We laughed, and everything was cool.
This replays now because of a laughless, uncool, skull-crusher weird encounter I just had with a friend, neighbor, and fellow SAH dad.
School-day afternoon at the A&P. I push a cart with a light cargo of milk, eggs, random mark-downs, and Fantastik with bleach. And here’s my friend scoping laundry detergent.
This should be just great. I like this guy and admire his extreme high-risk stay-at-homing – seven year-old triplets! We should be all, “Hey, man” and “You like the Tide? I do unscented Cheer and Clorox II Colorsafe …” If not dirt-obliterating chemicals, which I happen to love, we could talk Red Tag specials or what’s up after school. Or dinner, weekend plans, possible playdate slots, wives in or out of town, basement seepage. Or just a laugh. Two men facing a wall of soap. Got to be some entertainment here, right?
No. After “hello” things go black-and-white, like bad vampire entertainment. We cannot speak full sentences or look each other in the face.
Gotta run. No, more like flee for my life.
So what happened?
Shame, that’s what happened. We do what we do — A&P runs, laundry, tasks requiring Fantastik — but we are ashamed to do it around other males, even when they do it, too.
A man must do his chick stuff alone.
Yeah, yeah, narrow culturally defined gender roles we should step out of like old and orange Crocs. Forget it. The lizard man-brain will not die. It sleeps, for sure, but not in the presence of its own kind.
And this, I think, is how come stay-at-homing is a lonely road, and why dads don’t hang together like the moms. Especially in this town, the full-time moms are screwed-up about their own deals — suburb shock, mourning lost careers and formerly exciting New York City selves, nonsurgical lobotomizing caused by too much time with kids — but they’ve got each other.
Just check out the chicks at the A&P, who are totally cool with bumping into each other. They don’t shut up, for gods sake, and forget they’re blocking the aisles.
Must be nice.
Really, bro, how come this is so lonely?
Illustration by Peter Arkle.