Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Shit My Kids Ruined

The latest Tumblr in my reader: Shit My Kids Ruined.

A sneak peak:

Monday, June 28, 2010

One year later

Quick note:This is being cross-posted on the NYC Dads Group blog, http://www.nycdadsgroup.com/, the official blog of the New York City Dads Group. The group, founded by Lance Somerfield, has been one of the primary reasons I have been successful at my new role. Check them out.

As of last week, I’ve been home with the kids for a year.

For an entire year, my only customers have been my kids and my wife.

For an entire year, I’ve never had to eat lunch at my desk. (This is not completely true, but only because I was watching a movie during a naptime).

For an entire year, the only “organic growth” I had to worry about was on the inside of a size three Pampers.

For an entire year, I’ve finally felt like I had an impact at the end of the day.

Rewind a little. I have a master’s degree. I have worked 100-hour 7-day weeks for months before. I am not someone trying to shirk work. At some point, however, it becomes clear that the type of work matters a lot less than the type of life you have.

Living in NYC, this decision was not just about lifestyle, but finances. Childcare is expensive, and we could have chosen for me to find a new job working 50-60 hour a week and pay for childcare to break even. It didn’t make any sense though. I’d much rather spend 100 hours a week, 7-days a week, making sure my kids get the attention, education, and fun they deserve.

As Father’s day recently approached, there were countless articles about dads, filled with comment after comment about the feminization and “de-cavemanning” of the modern father. In particular, this is aimed at Stay-at-Home-Dads. While there is a societal shift coming, potentially (fingers-crossed) making the single-income households more common, there are certainly some people, mostly men, who find this an opportunity to mock a lifestyle that has worked fantastically for us, and many others.

If sitting at your desk looking at Excel all day is what defines a man for you, so be it. If knowing that tomorrow you might get fired, or might have to fire someone gets your blood going, have fun. If you need to put on dress shoes and leave early in the morning to put hair on your chest, have at it. If that’s what makes you feel manly, I’m good with that.

For an entire year, at home with my kids, I’ve never felt more like a man.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Would you say that if I was a woman? #2

While walking down upper Broadway today, I saw from a distance what looked like an elderly couple scolding a man standing on the sidewalk. Once I approached, I realized that the couple was reproaching him because his children, two girls about ages 3 and 4 give or take, had tripped over each other and fallen down, or something to that effect.

We passed him as the couple moved away and the girls were picking themselves off the ground while the father was saying to the couple "they'll be fine."

The guy was sort of standing there flabbergasted at the "attack", while waiting for the kids to get back to him. I said "no way they did that if you were mom." He laughed and said "Definitely."

Not too big a deal, but this was the first time I directly saw this happen out in public to another guy, which is why I was so taken aback by it. Say what you want about doing it for the kids, but it's none of your damn business.

Other dads, when has this happened to you? I have a feeling that this could become a recurring them on the blog. If you have any similar stories, please pass them along.

Michael Chabon on Fresh Air

This interview with Michael Chabon (several good novels) is a rerun from late '09, but still a great listen about being a dad and caretaker. If you haven't heard it, give the whole show a listen.:

Michael Chabon: On What 'Manhood' Means

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Be a Responsible SaHD

When you are a stay-at-home dad, you have a responsibility that goes beyond your kids and family. Like any group that makes up a small minority of the whole, everyone looks at any one of us as the example of all of us. It’s particularly strange to be stereotyped in an entirely new way.

There are several things I’ve seen SaHDs do, including myself, that probably should be avoided, in order to further our cause. It looks like I’m going to make a lot of lists on this blog, here’s a list of things SaHDs should avoid.
  1. Don’t accept being called a Mr. Mom. You can’t do this job if you are a bungling boob. If you’ve already been doing it a year, no matter what your wife, friends, parents, or anyone else says. You obviously know how to dress your kids, feed them, change them, and so on. If you let your wife think you are incompetent about something, she’s not going to trust you with anything. You’ve got this, and even self-deprecating humor about not having it together hurts us all.
  2. Do it like you mean it. If you are doing this full time, it’s not about hanging home and watching TV. It’s not about killing time until you find another job. It’s not about for now. You are doing it, and show yourself, your wife, and everyone else that you mean it. If you are going to half-ass it, just hire a nanny already and go back to work. Of course, the few dads I’ve seen like this disappear (back to work perhaps?) pretty quick.
  3. Don’t take any crap from anyone about your kids. Within reason of course. If you need to use a restroom to change them, do it. If people give you strange looks at the playground, in stores, or elsewhere, smile and say hi. Embarrass them. This article here from Daddy’s Home is a perfect example. Don’t accept any kind of discrimination or bias that no other group would accept. 
  4. Just because you’re not leaving the home to work doesn’t mean you’re not working. Don’t let anyone try to tell you that this is easy. Yes, it’s a lot more pleasant hanging with your kid(s) thank lunching with Bob from accounting, but very little, short of running a busy restaurant compares to trying to feed, bathe, and bed 3 kids of different ages and schedules at once. I’d venture to say that most people can’t handle it.
  5. Don’t just nod and smile when you’re asked “Babysitting today?” by a random stranger. Every time someone says this, reinforce that it’s not today, it is EVERY day. Tell them that this is your job. You shouldn’t proselytize, but break the image that it’s just a day off.
  6. Don't take leading or rude questions. I've seen a lot of dads get interviewed. I've even seen one Dad get asked how his sex life is. If a reporter or a stranger's question is rude, or if they are trying to get you to say something you don't agree with, call them on it. Don't just deflect, tell them they are wrong. Tell the woman who says "oh come on, when I was married, my husband didn't change any diapers" (true story) that perhaps that's why she isn't married anymore. Don't stand for bullshit.
  7. Be a Man, damn it. Whatever it means to you, be a man. You are not doing “women’s work” and you need to parent as a man. You still talk sports, cars, or whatever interested you before, and you didn’t put on a dress (not that mom’s can really parent in a skirt either). Don’t change who you are just because you have your kids. And don’t stand for anyone else who would suggest that you’ve done otherwise.
  8. George Lopez is an unfunny douche. Click here.

The new face of diaper changing.

Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees.

Hell yes.

Click here for more: From Super Bowl to Master Diaper Changer

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Screw you and your Mr. Mom Bull. (Happy Father's day)

So of course it's Father's Day, which means a bunch of fluff pieces about Dads and even stay-at-home-dads. Of course, thanks to Michael Frikking Keaton, 86.7% of these will roughly contain the phrase "Mr. Mom."

Case in point from today

I am not a Mr. Mom. I am not a manny. I am not some schmuck in an apron who doesn't know how to vacuum and feeds the kids chili. I am not going to blow up the house, or any of that crap.

The phrase intimates that I am TRYING to be mom. I am doing nothing of the sort and anyone who is needs a talking to.

I tell my kids to walk it off. I laugh at a little blood. I do not panic unless stitches or a cast will be necessary.

A face full of dirt is fine until you are done playing football. Even if you are a girl. My mouth is sufficient to sanitize a pacifier (well maybe not, but in a pinch what are you going to do?).

If my child shoves your child because your child was nasty to her, I will tell you she deserved it, even while I scold my child for getting physical. If our children are rolling around on the grass (or mud, or asphalt, or dog poo) rough-housing and they are laughing, I will not intervene, unless one is on the brink of bone-damage. If one cries, I will help them up, and get them to laugh it off.

I am a Dad and proud of it. I am not a mom. And if you call me one, I'm liable to punch you in the face.

Thank you.

Tips for flying with other people’s children

I recently returned from an extremely long international flight and I was constantly reminded, in both directions, of the battle between the breeders and the childless. I’ve been on both sides of the battle.

Kids can be annoying as hell, especially when unruly on a flight. Flip side being, sometimes (usually) parents just need a little bit of consideration from other travelers and perhaps we’ll all just get along.

Let me preface this list of tips with the following caveat: there are clearly two types of parents on the plane.

The first are those who will actively and constantly try to pacify and calm their children, for the benefit of the kids, themselves, and their fellow passengers. Well-supplied with entertainment and well-planned for naps, these are the parents that nine times out of ten are thanked at the end of the flight by other people. Their kids, being kids after all, are not always calm and quiet, but the parents are always trying to keep them that way.

The other type are the inconsiderate a-holes who make the rest of us look bad, letting their kids scream, kick and so on. You guys suck.

Now on to the list.

  1. On takeoff and landing, cut us some slack. Kids don’t understand ear pressure. If you see a parent actively trying to get a bottle, pacifier, thumb, or Thomas the Tank Engine in a kids mouth, you know we are trying to get them to get their ears to pop. Nasty looks won’t pop their ears any faster.
  2. If a child has been crying less than five minutes, assume we’re working on it. On this recent flight, my youngest, who only cries when hungry or full of poo, was crying for a bottle. My wife immediately started making one. At tops two minutes into this, during a day flight mind you, what I can only assume was an old childless hag said to my wife, “Can you quiet her, some of us are trying to sleep?” This is not helpful, and stupid, and often as in this case, was met a response of “You can sleep when you die.” The counter-corollary to this rule is that if it’s the 30th time the child is crying for 4 minutes, you can say something.
    1. If a child has been crying more than thirty minutes, assume we’re working on it. I’m not just walking around with them or bouncing them for my health. The last thing I want to do is upset and disturb everyone on the plane. I’m doing whatever I can in my power to stop it. Know that I am more frustrated than you.

  3. If you are sitting in front of a child that is complaining, consider how much space we have to work with. If the lap child behind you is crying and kicking and you are reclined so far they could do your dental work, don’t complain when the kid kicks your chair. You are welcome to recline, but if you sit up, their little paws can’t reach. This goes double during mealtimes, and triple if you already have the extra legroom of the bulkhead, jerk. If you want full recline, buy a business ticket. I certainly can’t do that for the entire family.
  4. Seriously, if you recline on my kids during mealtimes, you’re going to get it. There’s little I can do while they try and eat. Do yourself a favor and sit up while they eat. Much easier that way. It’s only 15 minutes.
  5. Kids get up a lot. If you are sitting with a child and parent and they have the window and middle, and you have the aisle, recognize that even if the parent doesn’t want to, they are going to need to get up a lot. Changes, wiggles, fussiness, they all require getting up a lot. If you intend to sleep on a flight, consider changing for the window, as it will make your life easier. If you need to be in the aisle, while we will do our best to minimize the number of times we get up, it’s going to happen.
  6. Sometimes kids need to move around. These are the corollaries to tip 5.
    1. Before the flight: When you see parents with their children and they are running all over the place while waiting for the flight, this serves two purposes. First, it wears them the hell out so they pass out in their seats. Second, it keeps them occupied. If I force them to sit while waiting, as soon as they sit down, they are already bored. Which leads to crazy.
    2. During the flight: If I’m walking up and down the aisle with a five-year-old, or carrying the two-year-old, this is to keep them calm, and more importantly, quiet. I’m not doing it for shits and giggles. The dirty looks only mean that when they scream, I’m coming near you.

  7. If they are standing on their seats and they wave at you, wave back. Same goes for talking, smiling, or making funny faces. If they are happy, you will continue that vibe, making them much more pleasant for the flight. I’m still doing my best, but it costs you nothing but a few calories.
  8. Don’t push past us to board, or complain that we get a head start (on some airlines). By letting me and my snot machines board first, we get settled calmly with less rush, making a stressful situation much calmer. If my kid is already sitting down and reading, coloring, or watching a movie by the time you get on, you’re less likely to notice her on the flight.
  9. If my kid is crying and I’m standing outside the bathroom with a diaper, let me go first. Listen, I understand you had 3 pre-flight martinis at the sports bar, but if the child is screaming and I’m at the bathroom with pampers in hand, it probably means the screaming stops immediately after I change the diaper. The sooner I finish, the sooner the noise goes away.
  10. Noise Cancellation – Seriously. In this day and age, there’s really really no excuse not to have a pair of either noise cancelling headphones, isolating headphones, or even ear plugs. A little in-ear foam goes a long way to blocking out my kids. And the engines. And the obnoxious guy next to you who wants to talk about plastics. If you don’t like stuff in your ears, the active cancellation ones work great. You don’t even have to spend $300 on the Bose, you can find them for $40.
  11. Remember, you were a kid once, even if you never flew. Call your mom and dad. Ask them about how many times you pissed off strangers in restaurants, planes, trains, busses, stores, or parks. You were not a perfect child. Neither was I. Thank them for defending you. And thank them for me too.
  12. If you absolutely cannot and will not tolerate children on your flight, you have a few options.
    1. Fly business or First class. Does it mean that much to you? Most parents have a harder time paying for premium seats than you do. I have to buy 4 tickets plus a lap ticket at 10%. Plus, those mesh curtains are hi-tech voodoo sound barriers. Try it.
    2. Don’t fly. Don’t want to be near other people and their kids? Stick to transportation where you can get away. Need to cross the Atlantic or Pacific? Take a boat.
    3. Don’t travel. If you can’t handle people and annoyances, perhaps you shouldn’t go out in public. If you are this anti-social, the people you are visiting would probably prefer you don’t come.

  13. I am trying, so try cutting me some damn slack. We, like most parents, really want nothing more than our children to sit quietly and disturb no one, including us. Having them scream, pull your hair, and jump on you is not fun. So I am directly incentivized that they behave. Additionally, as a decent human being, I want them to leave you the hell alone. While there are exceptions to this rule and parents that don’t care, they are just about as common as the snoring mothball smelling old lady or the halitosis salesman.

If with all this being considered, you still can't handle kids on your flight, you're just a jerk and we'll both have to learn to live with that.

If anyone has additional tips, feel free to email them to me or post them in the comments. I'm sure I forgot something.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Would you say that if I was a woman?

The other morning, as the sun was shining and it was already pushing about 80 degrees when wife left for work with #1, I got the girls (kids 2 and 3) together, tossed them in the double-decker stroller (affectionately called the school bus), and sidled over to the local playground.  This playground is relatively new, (<2 years) and has a crazy water feature that shoots streams of water randomly 20 feet in the air.

#3 was passed out hard in the stroller in an Enfamil-induced haze, so I let #2 run around through the sprinklers.  She normally heads right for the swings, or maybe a slide, but she knows a hot day when she sees one, so she makes a bee-line for the jets of municipal H20.  Like most modern playgrounds, most of the ground is covered in these mildly squishy rubbery tiles of various colors that are just soft enough that a 2-year-old will almost bounce back up when they fall over backwards

The water area is not covered with these tiles, due to mildew and other various kinds of water-born nastiness that would accumulate between the grooves.  The water area is blacktop (tarmac for you Brits).  I imagine you can see where this is going. 

Seeing as how it’s 8:30 am, the playground is mostly empty.  Just a mom or two, and a grandma.  Their kids of various ages are meandering about.  #2 is going hog wild in the sprinklers.  Until she face-plants. 

She looks up at me, with a sort of puzzled dog look, and half smiles as the blood starts coming out of her nose.  I holler “You’re cool.  You’ll be ok.”  I casually get up, clean off her nose and scraped knees, pat her on the butt and tell her to get back in there.  Now mind you, this girl is a tank.  She doesn’t take garbage from anyone twice her size.  Just ask the 3 year olds who told her she had to stay off of a jungle gym.  She wasn’t the one who left in tears.  She’s daddy’s girl. 

As soon as she goes back to playing, I have this strange burning sensation on the back of my head, and I spin around to see a mother and a grandmother looking at me in absolute shock.  It’s all a blur, but their comments were along the lines of, “You know, you really ought to be more careful.  She could really get hurt.” And so on.  I shrugged, plugged my headphones in, pulled down my sunglasses and went back to watching my daughter. 

When I left later, the lecture that I got from them really started to irk me.  The entire stigma of men being incompetent parents needs to fade away a bit already.  This wasn’t the first time a woman has tried to intervene in my parenting, nor will it be the last.  That said, I really want to know what they would do if I were female.  Is it because I’m not a traditional caregiver that they have the cojones to assume I’m not a competent parent?   Or would they give the same lecture out to the mother sitting next to me, when she doesn’t bother with sunblock for the kids, and lets them run barefoot?

In my experience, it’s really only the guys they have the nerve to lecture.  Butt out. 

Welcome to The Angry SaHD

Who am I?

I am a father of 3 kids, roughly aged 5, 2, and 0.5.  I have been home with #2 and #3 for a little more than a year, while #1 has been in preschool full time.  In the fall he heads of to Kindergarten.   I have a Master’s degree and a professional history in finance, IT, and operations management.  I love my kids (and wife, of course) but I probably don’t like you.  And this is my blog where I tell you why. 

Why do you care?

You probably don’t.  Most people don’t know any stay at home dads, or as one commentor on a recent article said, “we’re not that far from cavemen, and cave men went and hunted, while the women stayed home.”  If that’s you, you probably don’t want to read my blog.  If you are curious about the comical happenings when I run into people that I find obnoxious, rude, stupid, or crazy, then maybe you want to read my blog.  If you don’t like the occasional curse word, you don’t want to read my blog.  If you want some insight on what it’s like to be a parent in modern times, and even more so a full-time dad in 2010, I might have some of that. 

Or I just might be an asshole.