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I’m a stay-at-home dad. People say all kinds of dumb things to stay-at-home dads. This blog began as a way for me to record these comments and criticize the people who said them. However, it's evolved, and I now use it to express other random thoughts on parenting, children, gender, and society. Thanks for checking it out.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

“Don’t Tell Mom”

This is the one that inspired my blog, so it’s the one I’ll begin with. It certainly wasn’t the first dumb response I’d gotten after telling someone I’m a stay-at-home dad—indeed I had lost count by the time this one was uttered. Its significance is that it was the last straw. The clincher. The remark that made me take to bloggin’.
It happened at the dentist. I was settling into the chair the other day, and the hygienist was making the usual small talk. I’m not sure what my hygienist’s name is, so I’ll call her Miss Hasenfuss. That was the name of Kevin Arnold’s hygienist on the TV show The Wonder Years. My hygienist doesn’t trigger the same hormone-pounding desire in me that Miss Hasenfuss did for young Kevin, but no matter. I have to assign her a fictional name, so Miss Hasenfuss it is.
Miss Hasenfuss
As I say in the introduction to my blog, there was a time when I didn’t particularly like telling people I’m a stay-at-home dad. But Miss Hasenfuss dragged it out of me.
“So did ya work today?” she asked.
“Uh, no, not today.”
“Oh! That’s nice. So whadya do?”
“Uh...well...I...uh...I stay home with my kids during the day.”
“Oh!” she said, clearly taken aback. “Well that’s so nice. That’s really great that you can do that.”
She could have just stopped there. And she should have. But she continued:
“Then the kids get to do all that fun daddy stuff.” And, with a wink and a nudge, she chuckled, “Don’t tell Mom, right?”
“Yeah, sure,” I replied. Actually, it was more like, “Ah hargh” because my mouth was now wide open.
Several thoughts ran through my head at that point, and many comebacks were forming. I didn’t say any of them. In fact, I couldn’t say any of them, as Miss Hasenfuss’s gloved fingers were in the way.
It didn’t really matter, because the moment soon passed, and we moved on to discussing my brushing technique and receding gum-line. I’m sure Miss Hasenfuss quickly forgot the whole thing. But I couldn’t forget, because I hate comments like that. Call me oversensitive or over-analytical, but I hate them.
“Fun daddy stuff.”
“Don’t tell mom, right?”
What exactly does she think I do all day? Is she envisioning my kids and me building elaborate, unreliable go-carts that are good for a few minutes of intense thrills but ultimately result in a covert trip to the ER? Does she think we buy cheap microwaves at thrift shops just so we can stuff them with scrap metal, turn them on, and watch them blow up? Or maybe she figures I pack up the kids once a week and take them to the neighborhood nudie bar for the lunch buffet special.
Some photo I found online. I don’t know these fools.
You want to know what I did that day, Miss Hasenfuss? I drove my son to and from school. I made breakfast and lunch for both kids. I went grocery shopping, did four loads of laundry, and ironed a big pile of shirts. In between all that, I exchanged emails with several clients and potential clients on behalf of the freelance editing business I run from home.
Wink, wink! Nudge, nudge! Don’t tell Mom, right?
I know, I know. Miss Hasenfuss didn’t mean to anger me with her comment. And really, what difference does it make if she thinks I spend my days tossing my kids around the backyard like a couple of volleyballs? Who cares?
Well, I care. First of all, nobody likes to be told their job is easy, and that’s one of the things her comment implied. “Fun daddy stuff” is just another way of saying “goofing off all day.” I would never suggest her job is easy (“You just brush people’s teeth all day, right? How hard can that be?”), because I’ve never done her job. Second, if I would dare suggest a woman would perform a job differently or inadequately simply because of her gender, I’d be labeled a sexist asshole. There’s a double standard at work here that’s always frustrated me.
So hear this, Miss Hasenfuss: While I always make playing with my kids a priority, I also have work to do. This is a job. The kids need to be fed and taken to appointments on time. The fridge needs to be stocked, the laundry needs to be washed, and meals need to be cooked. Yes, there’s time to build snowmen and play hide-and-seek, but at some point the work needs to be done.
And one more thing: My kids are never in danger. We don’t do whatever it is Miss Hasenfuss had in her head when the words “Don’t tell Mom” came out of her mouth. I’m a responsible adult who wouldn’t like to see his children injured or traumatized.
Yes, Miss Hasenfuss, there was a lot packed into your casual comment. I know it wasn’t intended as an insult, but that’s kind of what it was. So, the next time you’re telling a stay-at-home dad to open wide, try to see him not as a dad, but as a parent. Not as a man, but as a person. If you can’t do that, then (wink wink, nudge nudge) maybe you should keep your own mouth shut.


  1. My husband is a stay-at-home dad. When he had to have surgery recently, our good friend (another stay-at-home dad) watched her before and after school to help us out. When I told someone at work, you would not believe the shock. "You let a MAN watch her? I don't know about that..."

  2. The nudie bar part is completely true. Don't think I don't see scarfing down those free tacos.

  3. You gotta get shit done. Period.
    I expect when Im out of town that the kids will be late to school, have a "cough" and miss it all together, no bath for two days.
    This is the "fun" parent. Someone has to be the responsible one.
    well done Dave.
    Ill order you some business cards with "It is my job to keep them alive" on them

  4. Okay, so Mark and I are starting to read your blog aloud and are enjoying it immensely=:) I too am not "working" right now...working on a documentary project and cooking and cleaning=:) And funny you should write, when I was with the dental hygienist she looked at me and said, "That must be nice." As if I am watching TV all day and lounging on the lanai, if we had one that is. In fact, I am starting to feel more and more that one person staying home irregardless of the kid factor (since we don't have any), is healthy for the relationship and family=:) When I was teaching, we were both working 12 hour days and all weekend. Now, all the "weekend" stuff is accomplished during the week and we enjoy our time together and who would've thunk it...NOT stressed! I shouldn't really talk though b/c you have kids and we only have kits=:)

  5. I would Just like to say, I experience every topic you have blogged about on a daily basis. I mean like all this crap in the SAME DAY. It gets old fast. I get the silent treatment every day dropping our kids off for school. There is this 5-10 minute time while we wait. Nobody really says anything to me but get super chatty when all the other moms show up. AS if I have nothing to contribute to there Child rearing conversations. Its kind of rude.

    1. Amen, man. I get "the look" from so many moms before and after school. And everywhere else, for that matter. I live on a pretty working-class side of town, but yesterday I went grocery shopping in a ritzier suburb with my 1-year-old daughter. That's always the worst. I was the only male customer under the age of 60 in the store...I got "the look" in every aisle I went down. Some people will try to tell me I imagine it. You and I know that's BS.