Tag Archives: Job

The Most Important Job

I still haven’t figured out how to answer the question.

When we meet someone for the first time, one of the initial questions of the getting-to-know-you phase is this: What do you do?

By that, we’re asking what the other person does for a living. What is their job? Strangely, we, as a society, tend to define people by what they do, rather than what they enjoy, or who they are. While I’m sure there’s another whole post in this somewhere, I’m more focused this time around on what the answer to that question really is when it’s directed at me or people like me.

See, as might have been obvious sometime in the last six years, I’m a stay-at-home dad. For the past 14 years, I stayed home being the principal caregiver to our three boys while my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Bringing Home The Bacon Etc., worked outside the house.

For us, it wasn’t even a question what would be happening when we had kids. We both believed that kids would benefit from having a parent at home. She’s a doctor, which meant her first paycheck as the lowliest of doctors (an intern) was far more than what I was making at the top of my pay grade as an information specialist for the state of Florida. Yeah, no question I was staying home.

Now, I’m pretty cool with the idea of a woman making more money than I do. Just like it doesn’t matter that she beats me at H.O.R.S.E. every time we play. (Of course, in a real one-on-one game, I thrash her without hesitation.) She’s just a better set shooter than I am. I’ve been beaten by girls in races and never worried but for one thing: A person was faster than me. The gender of the victor didn’t matter. Same thing here.

But, apparently, it does matter to some people.

When I’m meeting people for the first time and I tell them that I’m a stay-at-home dad, I get responses that vary in the specifics, but all contain the same condescension.

“Oh, that’s so wonderful.”

“You’re so lucky to stay at home.”

“That’s such a hard job and so important.”

“I don’t know how you do it.”

And, worst of all, “Good for you. You should be proud of that.”

It’s a good thing none of these people are playing poker for a living, or are actors, because, dudes, they just can’t pull it off. In their eyes, in the tone of their voice, in the way they subtly lean back away from me as if they’re afraid stay-at-home-itis is catching. . .

In their eyes, there’s something deeply wrong with what I’ve done for the past 14 years. In their eyes, it’s easy to read what they’re thinking: “Thank God it’s not me.”

I realize that moms in my position also are getting something similar from other women. Staying at home, either for a man or a woman, can be a controversial choice to some people.

Men, I think, might get it a bit worse. Because we’re supposed to be the breadwinners, the ones who work outside the house. I’ve even been asked, “Doesn’t it bother you being the woman?” and “Does she let you wear shoes and leave the kitchen?”

Okay, yes, those were extreme examples and they might have said they were kidding, but there is that old saying about there being more truth in jest.

Over the years, just to avoid arguments in a pleasant setting, I’ve begun telling people I work from home instead of stay home. And, yes, that won’t be a problem much longer as I’m moving back into the outside work force as Hyper Lad grows older.

But, still, shouldn’t staying at home — whether because of a money issue or that you’re just more at ease taking care of kids — be a valid choice for any person, male or female?

There were a (very) few times in the beginning when I felt resentful that I wasn’t working every day at a newspaper, which had been my dream. But then I would look on my napping sons, or hear them laugh, and realize it’s possible to have more than one dream, to find and follow a new dream.

A man or woman choosing to stay at home to rear a child is a valid choice, dudes and dudettes. Respect that.

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School’s Out. . . For Summer!

Yeah, dudes. Today is the last day of school for students and teachers who are part of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system.

Which means that Hyper Lad and I are free for the next couple of months.

Well, really, Hyper Lad is free. I’m just sad.

As you might remember, I’ve been working as a Title I Tutor at Awesome Elementary here in Charlotte for the past almost complete school year. And, honestly, I don’t remember when I’ve had a more fun work year.

It was a treat, a joy, an appallingly wonderful experience to interact with these little dudes and dudettes, their teachers and the school in general during this school year. I really had a hard time holding it together over the last week or so as I considered that this might be the last time I see some of them.

The deal is that the funding for my job is from a federal source, which means it’s not the most stable source around. It could have been offset by the state, but it’s cutting more than 400 teacher assistant and tutor positions around the state in the coming school year. Personally, I think that’s extremely short-sighted. They’re exchanging a happier future for a slightly more solvent present, all so they can avoid making the hard choices like antagonizing their major campaign contributors by making the rich pay their fair share.

I’ll get down off my soapbox now. Sorry.

Anyway.

With the funding for my position gone, so am I. Which means I won’t be around to watch as the younger kids keep growing and learning and turning into young men and young women. I won’t get to watch the fourth-graders prepare themselves to become middle schoolers.

I enjoyed working with all of these students, but there are a few that will remain my favorite. These are kids who really worked hard, who had a spark in their eyes, who loved to learn, or learned to love it. These are the kids who had to overcome even more obstacles than did most of the kids at this mostly-poor school.

I watched them overcome so much, and helped as much as I could. And now I’ll not get to see them as they keep working and keep growing.

Oh, I will be back at least a little bit. I mean, I just can’t go cold turkey. But I’ll only be there as a volunteer and not there as a worker or someone who sees them everyday.

Still, I can’t thank the teachers, students and administrators from Awesome Elementary (known in it’s more everyday guise as Huntingtowne Farms Elementary School). I really feel like I should have been paying them over the course of the year. I’ve come to care about them more than I ever thought possible. Come to depend on seeing their smiles and hearing their voices.

And, for me, as of today, they’ll all be gone.

I don’t pretend that any of them will really miss me, or wonder all that much about me come next year, but they will be on my mind. Dwelling in the small space they dug for themselves deep in my heart.

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Howard Stern Is Sti– You Know What? Never Mind. That Joke Is Far Too Stale.

So we hit the airwaves yet again on Monday. Barry and I shared the microphone with a local parenting expert, Dr. Tara Egan and host Mike Collins.

Charlotte Talks is a public affairs talk show on WFAE 90.7 FM, which is NPR’s Charlotte affiliate. Yep, we were on NPR. And, dudes, it was a lot of fun. Not sure if everyone in Charlotte was talking to us, but we did get a bunch of calls and e-mails and not all of them were blisteringly, savagely upset with us for having done something appalling.

Not all of them.Richard miked

Dr. Egan is the founder of Charlotte Parent Coaching, which is an organization dedicated to helping moms and dads become the best parents they can. Sounds like a worthy goal to us. Not only is she a pretty knowledgeable parenting coach, she also blogs over at Do These Kids Make Me Look Crazy, which sounds like just our sort of thing. And, after checking it out, I found it really is.

She’s definitely got the funny bone.

Because Barry is off in Florida this week, he had to call into the show on the phone, which made it a little bit more difficult as we couldn’t see each other to know who’s turn it was to make a fool of himself at that moment. Fortunately, Dr. Egan and Mike Collins did a great job answering and asking questions.

I managed to sound like I knew what I was talking about, which, oddly, is my super power. Actually knowing? Not so much, but I do sound like I know. It’s a subtle, but distinct difference.

That’s me, over there on the right, trying to take a picture of myself behind the mic, simultaneously not looking too stupid to be allowed to drive away when the interview is over. I think I managed to succeed. Barely. Although I noticed neither the host nor the other guest took any pictures. I guess I’m much more easily impressed. Well, either that or I like to take pictures because I’m not going to remember it.

So, anyway, it was definitely a good time. And Mike Collins was kind enough to mention A Dude’s Guide to Babies numerous times and often in a complimentary fashion.

He asked some difficult questions, but I think Barry and I rose to the challenge.

As soon as I find out where I can get my digital hands on a copy of the audio from Monday, I’ll make sure to let you know so the four of you out there who really want to hear our voices can go ahead and do so.

Until then. . .

We’ll see you tomorrow.

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