Friday, June 13, 2008

GUEST BLOG: A "LATER" DAD'S PERSPECTIVE (in time for Father's Day)

By Grigoriy Lerman
(husband to Amy Wall Lerman, Northern NJ Motherhood Later Chapter Head)

“Would you write a little something about being a stay-at-home dad?”

I was loading baby bottles into the dishwasher at the time and looked up in confusion for a few seconds and asked her to repeat the question.

“Would you write a little something about being a stay-at-home dad?”

My wife was clearly talking to me.

A stay-at-home dad? But I never thought that term applied to me. Am I a stay-at-home dad? Wait! I'm 40 years old. I've already had one career and am working on another.

I guess I thought I was at home studying for my CPA exams and running a small (very small) business on the side. And oh yes, there’s this baby boy I take care of as well. I do all that from home and she commutes to New York City every day. I guess the term does apply to me. It was not a conscious decision for me to stay home with our 6 months old son; it just kind of worked out that way.

What can I write about? What about the frustration I feel when I’m desperately trying to finish something before Evan starts crying and I have to drop everything and go feed him? Or the pain I feel when he is crying and no matter what I do I just cannot seem to make him feel better? Every parent has had those moments so what’s so unique about my situation?

I was thinking about this as I strapped Evan into his car seat one sweltering afternoon. He was cranky and refusing to take his afternoon nap and I had a home project to complete. We had just bought a home theater system and I wanted to find some small wooden shelves to place the speakers on in order to get that full surround sound effect. Nothing like a little father-and-son adventure as a means of distraction.

Before she ran out for her bus to work that morning, my wife suggested I check out Michael’s, “they have shelves there – I’ve seen them.”

The dreaded Michael’s: with its racks of Styrofoam balls, reams of ribbon and aisles of plastic orchids. She’d dragged me in there before. This does not sound like quite the adventure I had in mind. Oh, but if you are a man with a “Baby Bjorn” strapped to your chest, venturing into this kind of place very much can be. As soon as I walked into the store I noticed that we were not only adventurers - we were pioneers. My 6 month old son and I were the only 2 “men” in the place. Women of all ages were browsing through aisles of “stuff” - but there was not a man in sight.

Move forth and conquer, I thought, and a few minutes later I was engrossed with some small pieces of wood I found in the paint-it-yourself bird house section. That’s when I saw him. Another man had just walked into the store, but he was not alone and was clearly not there by his own will. He was trailing two women who had become quite involved with a selection of buttons and the guy was clearly bored. For a brief moment our eyes met and then he turned away. I could swear I saw a smirk. “What kind of a self-respecting man goes into Michael’s by his own choice?” he seemed to be asking. A wave of self-consciousness hit me like a truck.

In the next aisle Evan cooed and reached for a jar of bright red paint and I regained my self-control. So what if I am at home during the day with my son and shopping at Michaels? If I am a stay-at-home dad I will be the best stay-at-home dad I can be and I will be proud of it. By the time I found exactly what I needed, I had completely regained my confidence. After paying the store clerk I asked for a copy of their latest promotional flyer she had lying by her register. I will be back.

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