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Mr. Mom? Whatever...

by Mark Phillips    --show me more like this

Proudly stating that other people’s opinions have no bearing on your decision to become a Stay-At-Home-Dad is one thing. Living outside the vacuum of self-importance is quite another. Yes, what other people think about your family arrangements should not influence your decisions. However, you will interact with other people darn near every day. Those people will have opinions. You may be introduced to those opinions. When that happens, you will have to deal with them—either the opinions or the people who share them with you.

A very good case in point is the title that many people label us with: “Mr. Mom.” Some SAHDs feel this is a slam against us because Jack Butler, the character played by Michael Keaton, was comically incompetent and was forced to be the home guard because he was fired. Real SAHDs choose to stay home because it is better for our kids (and our wives usually make more money than we do). We are as good or better than most Stay-At-Home-Moms, thank you very much. Any comparison between us and the bungling Butler is nothing less than an insult.

If you want to take it that way, I suppose. I have found that the archaic attitudes that don’t allow for men to stay home are not as common as I had expected. Maybe I live in a particularly enlightened part of the country, but I doubt it. No offense to the middle of Michigan, but the last really great thing that was produced here was the Mackinac Bridge in 1957. We live too far north to take any credit for the Red Wings.

My take on the Mr. Mom comment is that the people who call me that simply have nothing more clever to say. When they find out I am a Stay-At-Home-Dad, they are either so surprised or confused that the first thing that pops into their head is a movie made in 1983. They might be thinking what a womanly wuss I am, but chances are better that they are distracted by trying to remember if “Breakfast Club” came out before or after “Mr. Mom.” (“Breakfast Club” came out in 1985. Both were written by John Hughes, who also wrote “Weird Science”, one of the best movies of all time!)

Why do I think this? My two youngest daughters are identical twins. They have the same genetic makeup. They look exactly alike. We dress them in clothes that are the same design but different colors. When they wear the wrong colors, even my wife and I get them confused.

“Oh, your daughters are beautiful!” passersby tell me nearly every single day. “Are they twins?”

“Of course they are twins!” I think loudly, “They are the same size, they have the same hair color, eye color, face shape. They look exactly alike!”

When I tell them that, yes, the two girls who have no visible differences at all are in fact twins, they almost always say, “My (BLANK) was a twin.” The (BLANK) would be filled in by anything from “mother” to “hairdresser’s uncle”.

We would discuss the advantage of twins or how cute mine were or something like that, then go on our merry ways, never to speak to each other again. It all seemed rather pointless. First of all, if you have to ask if my girls are twins, you are an idiot. Secondly, why would I be interested in the twin-ness of your distant relatives?

Then I realized what was happening. Small talk. I’ve never been good at it, so I started listening carefully to what people were really saying:

“Hello. Your daughters caught my attention. It would be rude of me to just stare at them as we pass each other with our shopping carts so I should say something. I think I will comment on their cuteness and obvious identicalness. I would feel very foolish if, by some weird chance, they are NOT twins, so I will ask if they are twins instead stating the obvious. Besides, you already know they are twins, so my telling you would not be a good way to open a conversation. It was nice to see your daughters. Thank you for pushing them into my view today.”

Personally, I’m glad people just skip that long monologue and ask if the two mirror images are twins.

And so it goes when I tell people I am a Stay-At-Home-Dad. People don’t know what to say. The conversation will be brief, so there isn’t a lot of time to think of something clever. Their brains reach back into their memories for some connection, some way of relating to me. “Let’s see. I’m not related to any Stay-At-Home-Dads. I don’t even know any. In fact, I don’t really know what a Stay-At-Home-Dad is. It would be rude to ask that, and to be honest, I’ve got other things to think about today. Maybe some other time. There has to be something I have in common with this man. His daughters sure are cute. I wonder if they are twins.”

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