“So what do you do, man?”
Fairly common question this fine fellow posed to me between squash games. No reason it should cause me such anxiety or even make me think so hard.
“Well, I, uh…”
But there it was, again. The Stutter.
I don’t know if it’s ego or just straight up insecurity that causes it. I don’t think (hope) I’m the only one. That’s why I’m writing this. To know that I’m not alone.
Part of it is nomenclature. I don’t like labels in general, and am especially repulsed by handles like “house-husband” and “stay-at-home dad.” I don’t know why; that might be on me. The only one I’m relatively comfortable with is Primary Care Giver. Relatively.
But it goes much far below that titular surface. Men are the breadwinners. We hunt and gather and provide and stuff. I’m certainly not traditionalized enough to actually believe that crap, but I’m not immune to its fallout, either.
I remember when we first made the decision to go with me at home. I would tell people what I did, but I would always qualify it with “well, we talked about it, and with the price of childcare, blah blah blah.” Why did I do that? Why did I feel like I HAD to do that? I didn’t know it then, but that was the unsavory breeding grounds of The Stutter.
The thing is, it’s mostly in my head. It’s my own insecurities on display. No dude has ever voiced a condescending “Ohhh” when I’ve told them. Quite the contrary, they are generally very receptive and encouraging, sympathetic even. Ironically, it’s only ever been women that have raised eyebrows.
What’s not in my head is that, despite working my butt off, I feel the urge to scour the want-ads for work. A JOB, I’m looking for, not a second job. I’ve never heard a “housewife” questioned about a second job. She has plenty to do; that IS her job. Yet I feel like for men, it’s not enough to be just an at-home parent or whatever we call ourselves. There has to be more to it. More purpose, more providing, more money.
I wrote recently about my son choosing a bunny instead of a tiger in class (it’s HERE). I feel like the bunny again in my own world of tigers. Am I just creating a double standard here? Do all you moms out there feel the same pull to do more? Are you satisfied? How about the dads? How do you solve The Stutter?
“I mostly take care of my kids now,” is how I finally answered the guy.
“Oh, man. Good for you,” he said. “Hardest job there is. I couldn’t do it.”
Thanks, squash guy, for the unintentional speech therapy. I’m getting there, one syllable at a time.