There are a variety of factors that inspire men to stay home, take care of the kids, and write. Many times these factors are economic. After a job loss, for instance, it can be a concession for survival. In other situations it ‘s an opportunity to chart a new voyage into a full-time writing career with the added benefit of more time with the kids.
When I tell someone that I stay home with my child and write people will sometimes respond with, “Dude, you are so lucky, I wish I could do that.” Mostly, this is because they hate their current job. Occasionally it’s because they wish they were spending more time with their kids.
Often though, regardless of motivations, men are woefully unprepared for their new role as keeper-of-the-grounds and chief child wrangler. Because the phenomenon of the stay at home Dad is still fairly new, most men come across decisions ad hoc. They haven’t had years of baby sitting or social molding to teach them how this stuff is supposed to be done. No man has ever told me, “All I ever wanted since I was a little boy was to stay home with my kid while my spouse went off to work.”
Apocalypse Right Freaking Now
Turning stereotypical gender roles upside down can also lead to unforeseen friction in the house. Who cleans stuff? Who cooks stuff? Who decides how junior should spend his day? She wants little Mozart eating kale and broccoli at every meal. You only know how to grill a steak. She wants time to decompress after work. You want your writing career to be treated as a real profession instead of a hobby. If these expectations are left unsaid you have the potential for a mini-Chernobyl of frustration and miscommunication. A tornado of tears. A tsunami of suspicion. Pick your natural disaster metaphor and it probably fits.
What to do?
Erm… communicate. Sit down with your spouse and set forth your mutual expectations together. For my wife and I it works out that we each do the chores that we hate the least. Just talk about it. I fold clothes like a congress of baboons on LSD. No two shirts conform to the same size or shape in my pile. Call it expressionism. Whatever. I’m no good at it. I do other stuff instead.
You especially need to talk about how you view writing. If you have decided to take writing seriously as a career, you will need to set up some boundaries around your writing time. Make it clear that when it’s writing time you’re at work. No kids. No chatting. Hold my calls. I’m in surgery right now.
When Disaster Strikes
Vomit. Poop. Spillage. Seepage. Streaking. Emotional distress. The sacred blankey is missing. Crying. CRYING. CRYING! Something stuck in her eye, ear, nose, and throat. Simultaneously. Disaster is coming for you. And not necessarily in that order.
Take a child and infant CPR class. After that, use your best judgment. Remember, you are a parent too. It helps if you can reach your spouse on speed dial, but it also helps if you can keep your head attached to your neck and make a rational decision when the unexpected occurs. Don’t panic. Dispassionate compartmentalization is a male stereotype. Now you can use it to your advantage.
To Sum Up
Men start this race a little behind when it comes to staying home. Talk about what everyone wants. Carve out writing time. Stay cool when chaos descends. You’ve got this.
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