Although I love my family dearly and do appreciate the opportunity to be at home, it has created awkward and confusing situations. After 14 years of being the Stay-at-home Dad/primary caregiver/Mister Mom/whatever, I can now officially declare myself a writer. If nothing else, it’s certainly easier than any of the other titles in the past.
Women can identify themselves in any number of ways: mother/wife/careerist/hobbyist/whatever. Unfortunately, men identify themselves by what they do. A guy could introduce himself as a circus carnie and other men would nod approvingly, thinking man, all the fries he wants and he doesn’t have to shave. Suh-weet. There have been points in the past 14 years when I’ve truly wondered what an appropriate title would someone in my position would be, acceptable to both society and me. Unfortunately, the two haven’t routinely intersected.
Shortly after starting this experience, I went to the hospital for a routine pre-operative visit. The clerk taking the necessary background information was a blue-haired older woman who resembled Mary Worth and the interview proceeded apace until she asked my occupation. When I replied "homemaker", she refused to enter the answer and stated "oh, we can’t do that." She refused to acknowledge that answer and we ended up compromising on student since I’d also gone back to school for a teaching certificate. After that, I ran into any number of other situations in which the title of my occupation was debatable. So what other titles have gone past?
- A pastor once introduced as my wife’s wife, for which he immediately apologized.
- A housefather, to which I immediately thought: great, and my children are members of a group home.
- A Superdad, which just made me uncomfortable.
- Mister Mom, which I resent since I look lousy in make-up and sweats.
What about just plain Dad? I’m uncomfortable with that sole word as occupation since every guy with a child is a Dad. The fact that I’m home with the kids a lot more doesn’t give me the right to use that word, as though I’m somehow more qualified than all of the other guys. So I adopted the socially acceptable Stay-at-home Dad and stayed with it.
And now, I’m like the other guys who have a title to go with the occupation. And I’ve also formalized the title PracticalDad. It by no means makes me a better father, but one who’s a lot more experienced with the daily stuff than most.