Chandler, Arizona, United States

There's an old saying. If you don't want someone to join a crowd, you ask them, "If everyone were jumping off of a cliff, would you?" Well, I have. So my answer would be "Yes". True story.
Profile continued . . .

Thoughts on Being a Father

Monday, June 30, 2014

this entry brought to you by against me, "osama bin laden as the crucified christ"

this entry was written on father's day

It's Father's Day, and initially I wasn't planning on writing anything mentioning it. I didn't have a Father so even though I am one, the day itself isn't something I think about. Even though Michelle and I don't do anything for Valentine's Day, its not a thing that slips my mind, because Valentine's Day was a big deal growing up, for good reasons or bad. But Father's Day sneaks up on me. It's a thing I forget about.

But Michelle and I were discussing the trope in movies and tv but especially commercials of the Clueless Father. The commercial where the dad is feeding his baby a pile of wet coffee grounds and the mom comes in and does a comically exasperated sigh, then goes into the fridge and pulls out Gerber baby food and passes it to the dad, who looks at it as if he's never heard of it before. Or the dad who is out dirt biking with his son, then comes home, both of them covered in mud, and they just track mud throughout the house completely oblivious, because there's no difference between a grown man and a child, but its a good thing mom has new 409 Tough On Mud formula, and she can clean that away with just a wipe.

The stereotype is weird and insulting, but I know why it exists.

I have a friend who is a stay at home mom. I've known her for a long time, and I know that she doesn't come from money. And yet over conversations I've learned that she doesn't know how much the electricity bill is during any month. We had an argument once where she said she spent about 60 dollars a week on groceries, and I told her it was impossible to feed a family of four on 60 dollars a week. Then it came out that she goes to Costco once a month for the big things, and has no idea how much she spends when she does. Yes, if you're just picking up vegetables, bread, milk, and whatever other things you happen to run out of during the week, its super easy to spend just 60 dollars.

I think the most important conversation we had concerning this had to do with earrings. She'd bought two pairs of earrings that were both the same, and said that her husband was mad at her for it. Being friends with her and not necessarily with him, I usually take her side, just because I only hear one side of what's wrong. But this time, I was totally on his side. There was no reason to buy two pairs of the same earring. Yes, that is a waste of money.

But on the flip side, I hear that she despises when he "babysits" the kids. He'll have a weekend off, so that means a trip to the park. He'll have an evening off and she'll have a night out, and will come home to find that its 10, the kids are still up, and they had Burger King for dinner despite that there was plenty of food in the fridge. She feels like he has no idea how to discipline the kids, makes no effort to do anything, and she always has to feel like the responsible one.

I have another friend who has said that she is exhausted all the time with her four kids, and complains that she's tired all the time. When I ask her if she can ever get a nap in and let dad take care of the kids, she said "I don't want that man babysitting my kids." Again with the word babysitting, and in this case the phrase "that man", as if her were an ex-con or a sex offender. She complains that he doesn't really know the kids, behaves as if they're strangers who live in the house.

And being friends with them, I don't necessarily blame any of them because of course this is how these relationships will end up. He makes all the money and pays every bill, so of course she has no idea how much things cost or why, even if they can afford it, two pairs of earrings is worth being mad at. Even when she grew up on much tighter means, even though she doesn't think of herself as spoiled, even if she really is down to earth, these things are going to happen when you remove that element from people's lives. Of course.

And the flip side is, of course dad doesn't know how to be responsible with his kids, because he was never around and didn't learn through experience. Of course he feels like his kids are strangers-- if the dynamic is that he goes off and makes money and she stays home and does everything else, how in the world is he ever expected to know the kids?

As I get older and I my kids grow up, this trope has long since stopped being funny and has even stopped being frustrating, and has settled into just being profoundly sad. Its sad to me that there are families who didn't do it on purpose, but have found themselves playing out these roles, resenting everyone around them, and, worse, think this is just how it is. When they see the dad in the Tide commercial baffled that New Tide can actually remove stains, or inexplicably have no idea how to cook basic food elements, or frown at his wife when she comes home with a hilarious amount of shopping bags, they laugh. Because isn't that just the way it is?

I'm not sure what the answer is to this dynamic, or if circumstances weren't different in my life that I would be any different. I'd like to think that having a good relationship with my wife and spending so much time with my kids and cooking and cleaning and being a parent is intrinsic in my DNA, that every variation of myself throughout the multiverse is exactly the same in that way, but maybe if i'd somehow lucked into a million dollar job and my wife thought she should stay home and raise the kids because that's what mothers do, maybe we'd all resent one another too.

with love from CRS @ 10:49 AM 


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