Friday, May 30, 2008

Househusbands, Part 2

My paper from May 1995, continued...

Changes in the Men

A househusband is defined as a married man who does the bulk of the domestic chores and is in the case of families with children, the primary caregiver of the children. He does the cooking and the cleaning, as well as the feeding, playing, and disciplining of the kids. This does not preclude him from working, either inside or outside the home, but in most cases he has left a career, temporarily or not, and fulfills the domestic chores while his wife provides the resources.

The husband changes as a result. The socialization of gender roles is so strong, that “there is a contradiction between the status of being male and the status of someone performing child-care tasks.”6 The change of roles can create changes in personality, restructuring of priorities, and redevelopment of ideals. The men can find new insights into their relationships with their wives, creating a more egalitarian bond. Men’s attitudes about work outside of the home change, too.

In Beer’s study of fifty-five househusbands in New York, men reported both positive and negative affects to the change of gender roles. Many reported a loss of status, or even a loss of respect from their children, from leaving a good-paying job to taking care of the household. Some expressed a feeling of awkwardness as the only father publicly displaying traditionally motherly roles; as one father says, “I felt strange taking her [his daughter] to the park or the Botanical Gardens and being the only father there.”7 Because of their recollections of certain tasks as always done by women, some men report feeling “twinges of , ‘this is not my place.’”8

More telling, however, are the positive responses men gave to the question, “In what ways do you feel different about yourself since you started doing housework?” Many men reported new feelings of competence, self-sufficiency, responsibility, and closer relationships with the members of their families. As one respondent put it, he felt “more complete, more self-sufficient. I find that sometimes it helps my thinking, by doing something like washing dishes; you have some time and space.”9 Their new sense of independence affects their relationships with their wives: “I just feel that I’m sharing, that’s all. The family is a matter of taking part, of participating together. It’s alleviating some of the burden from the wife.”10 They also feel closer to the family, more intimately involved with it: “I feel that I am now a bigger part of my home,”...”I am in much more intimate and daily contact with the kids. I understand them better, I understand women better.”11 Approaching their families with new attitudes about what the appropriate roles for men and women, househusbands inevitably change their relationships with their wives and children. They have a new appreciation for what the traditional female role involves, though it is an unpaid position. They learn firsthand what wives and mothers must do, and what they must sacrifice, in order to fulfill their roles. More egalitarian relationships, though perhaps complicated in many cases by tensions over how tasks should be divided, are the result. A rise in the acceptance of equality by men and women begins with a rise in egalitarian marriages.

Changes in the Marital Relationship

In households where the gender roles had been traditional, with the husband working outside the home and the wife doing the domestic labor, and later were reversed with the husband at home, men face changes in the relationships with their wives. Men may be balancing a new sense of respect for their wives accomplishments with a feeling of ambivalence to the housework itself. Some couples may experience difficulties in dividing labor equally, in finding a balance between different standards for housework.

Although there may be tensions, househusbands are able to see their marriage as a partnership in all respects; the lines between exclusively male and exclusively female roles are blurred. As a result, when the gender roles, which may carry inherent value judgments for many men regarding the inequality of the worth of the work assigned to those roles, become interchangeable, the sense of inequality for the person performing the domestic tasks is diminished, and the marriage operates in a more egalitarian manner.

Traditionally, marriage has followed three patterns: the owner-property pattern, the head-complement pattern, and the senior partner-junior partner pattern.12 The liberation of women through the nineteenth century was essentially to move the relationship closer to equality by stressing the importance of the female sphere; with men cooperating in fulfilling the obligations of the domestic sphere and women cooperating in fulfilling the role of the breadwinner, a new equality in the decision-making power is achievable, even inevitable. A more open and sharing marriage can become a marriage of greater intimacy.

Changes in the Children

As the primary agents of socialization in a young child’s life, the parents and their attitudes about gender roles affects how that child will perceive his or her own obligations as a man or a woman. If a female child grows up with parents who share domestic tasks or with a father who is the primary caretaker of the children, she is less likely to grow up believing that she is limited to a domestic life, or that men are excluded from domesticity. Similarly, a young boy living with a househusband father may grow up accepting that the domestic realm is the responsibility not of the woman, but of the man as well. With the increase in the number of working women, the opportunity for men to take on a domestic role grows, and the culture itself and its socialized norms begin to change.

There is some evidence that children with fathers involved in their lives to the degree that a househusband must be have advantages to children who spend less time with their fathers. For boys, the process of socialization to male roles is heavily dependent on the behavior of all the males that a child perceives. With a father present, a child is less dependent on outside sources, such as television, movies, and peers, for learning the social norms for male behavior. Such a father’s opportunity for influencing his child is enormous, far greater than the father who is most often at work.

Girls, too, depend on role models for socialization when they begin to learn how to form relationships with men. A father in an egalitarian relationship with his wife provides a model for how relationships should be constructed, and the child of such a relationship may be more likely to seek such an equal pairing for herself, as well. Girls can be socialized to believe that wife-battering is acceptable, that the domestic sphere is the woman’s sphere, and that men are the accepted wielders of power in relationships. If the models of relationships in her life are contrary to that kind of imbalance, then she is more likely to assert her own equality in relationships.


The househusband role, though accounting for only a small portion of husbands and fathers, is a role that has tremendous potential for altering the structure of the family, the relationships of the members of the family, and the ways in which both men and women are socialized into an understanding of proper gender roles. A househusband is a father who is deeply involved in the lives of his children and husband who is understanding of the tensions of the female role and able to accept his wife on a more egalitarian level. In both of these roles, husband and father, a househusband has tremendous potential for deepening the intimacy of his familial relationships and opening up new opportunities and perspectives for his wife and his children.


Beer, William R., Househusbands: Men and Housework in American Families.
South Hadley, Massachusetts, Bergin & Carvey Publishers, Inc. 1983.

Lindsey, Linda L., Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, Inc. 1994.

Rotundo, Anthony E., American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era. New York, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. 1993.

Scanzoni, John and Letha D., Men, Women, and Change: A Sociology of Marriage and Family. New York, McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1988.

6Beer, Househusbands, p.73.
7Ibid. p. 77.
9Ibid. p. 78.
10Ibid. p. 79.
12Scanzoni, p. 263.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Househusbands, Part 1

We have a stack of 3.5" floppies, but no longer had a floppy drive. So today, I bought a USB floppy drive. Going through the old school papers that make up a good portion of those disks, I found the following. I wrote it in May of 1995, for a class called HON290B. I don't recall what this class was, and I don't recall writing it. Interesting. Here's the first half:

Househusbands: Repercussions for the American Family

The growth of the domestic roles of the husband in middle class American nuclear families is a trend that can have profound effects on all family members. Statistically, few men enter into the role of househusband completely voluntarily1; however, the role can be liberating for the man, and deeply emotionally satisfying. He begins to discover a new appreciation for his wife, and a more egalitarian relationship may develop between them. For the wife of a househusband, the restructuring of the family can give her the sense of freedom to find fulfillment in a career. For the children, the redefinition of gender roles within their own families can lead to a revolution in the way they are socialized into gender roles themselves.

Taking on gender roles opposite to those he was socialized to accept can lead to difficulties for the man, especially in his relations with other men. He may begin to feel that his manliness, or even his heterosexuality, is doubtful. He may also feel that he is avoiding his real responsibilities to his family because he is not providing for them in the manner he should.

To examine the change of gender roles and implications for the future of the American family, the effects on the individual members of the family must be understood. The most profound effects of househusbandry are most likely on the man himself.

The Socialization of Gender Roles for Men

The greatest hindrance to the growth of the phenomenon of househusbandry is the traditional socialization of American men. A man who takes on the tasks and roles customarily allocated to the feminine sphere risks feeling that he has abandoned the male sphere, and hence has given up his own manhood. It is important, then, to explore what male gender roles are in American society, and what they mean to the men who are socialized to accept them.

The development of gender roles in children has been well-documented as depending more on a child’s upbringing than his or her genetically-determined gender. These roles can be passed on to children according to several theories of gender-role socialization: through imitation, when a child associates with a same-sex parent and imitates the behaviors of that parent; through self-socialization, when a child associates with the concept of “boy” or “girl” and pursues the behaviors associated with that concept; or through reinforcement, when other members of society offer a child positive and negative sanctions for appropriate or inappropriate gender-related behaviors2.

These gender roles are the blueprints for a child’s emotional development and his or her understanding of task allocation, that is, what sort of work is appropriate to his or her gender. Though the messages Americans give their children about what gender roles are normal or appropriate may be beginning to change, traditionally, the sexes are separated into different emotional and role-playing spheres. Women and men, or the female gender role and the male one, play complementary roles in society:

When the husband-father takes on the instrumental role, he helps to maintain the basic social and physical integrity of the family, by providing food and shelter and linking the family to the world outside the home. When the wife-mother takes on the expressive role, she helps cement relationships, provides the emotional support and nurturing qualities which sustain the family unit, and ensure that the household runs smoothly.3

These are the roles that parents, teachers, friends, television, music, and all forms of human communication pass on to children every day, in thousands of ways, from dolls and toy cars, to gender-specific language, and differences in the way that love is shown to children of different sexes. From the time children are born, they begin to learn, simply by watching the images of gender roles that they see around them. In most cases, the children take on the roles they learn are most appropriate for them. Thus, a boy child learns what it means to be a man, and a girl child learns what it means to be a woman. These ideas of manhood and womanhood become part of the personality of each individual person, and it affects their behaviors and emotions on every level.

Manhood, in the American culture, has grown through two centuries of American individualism to embody strength, both physical and emotional; self-reliance; and responsibility for the physical needs of the family. The man is the provider, the solver-of-problems, and the public face of the family. Boys are considered wilder and more aggressive than girls4, less intuitive and emotionally sensitive, more physically strong and athletic. It is the man’s role to go out into the world and bring back to his family the resources it needs to survive; in contrast, it is the woman’s role to organize and dispense those resources for the stability of the family. She also provides the emotional support for the other members of the family, supporting the children in their academic or athletic pursuits and providing a sort of haven from the public, business world for the man.

In practical terms for a marriage, then, it is the husband’s role to work for the support of the wife and children, and it is the wife’s role to rear the children and operate the household and complete the domestic chores. In many cases, the roles are not so clearly defined, especially when both parents work; the roles as cultural norms, however, still affect the allocation of domestic tasks in two-income families: the wife still is more likely to be the primary caregiver of children and do more household tasks.

In cases where the traditional gender roles are reversed and the man takes on the domestic role and the woman provides the bulk of the financial support, all members of the family will be affected, especially the man. His abandonment of the traditionally male role to take on the traditionally female role can make him feel that he is abandoning his sense of masculinity. This may mean anxiety over how he is perceived by his peers, especially whether his heterosexuality is questioned. A man may fear he is perceived as homosexual because of his move away from the traditional roles of his gender. Such homophobia is perhaps overreaction, but homosexuality as a cultural taboo is certainly an ignominious reputation to gain:

The effeminate homosexual provided a negative referent for ... masculinity.... The homosexual male and the man who was insufficiently manly were understood in the same figures of speech... The longer the association lasted between the homosexual and the unmanly man, the greater the power of the homosexual label to stigmatize any man.5

Of course, the female who takes on the tasks associated with the male role in society faces stigmatization as well. She is sometimes thought of as manly, as too aggressive, perhaps a butch lesbian. For both sexes, going against the gender roles defined through American socialization can be a difficult and stigmatizing process. It unmistakably provides some emotional and relational hurdles, but in many ways, it can help to improve marital relations, change the socialization process of the children, and affect a positive move toward sexual egalitarianism in American culture.

(To be continued...)

Beer, William R., Househusbands: Men and Housework in American Families. South Hadley, Massachusetts, Bergin & Carvey Publishers, Inc. 1983.

Lindsey, Linda L., Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, Inc. 1994.

Rotundo, Anthony E., American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era. New York, HarperCollins Publishers,
Inc. 1993.

Scanzoni, John and Letha D., Men, Women, and Change: A Sociology of
Marriage and Family.
New York, McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1988.

1"The majority of these men... left their jobs because of disability or being fired." Lindsey, Gender Roles, p.201
2Scanzoni. Men, Women, and Change, pp. 20-21.
3Lindsey, p.6.
4For a description of the “boy culture” as a “‘free nation’ of boys [as] a distinct cultural world” see Rotundo, American Manhood, pp. 31-55.
5Rotundo, p. 278.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Do Not Feel Like a Natural Woman

Mostly, the broader sociological implications of reversing traditional gender roles, the "should or shouldn't" aspects, don't interest me much. We're doing it. So are lots of other couples. And it's fine.

But what does pique my interest, particularly as someone who has always enjoyed people-watching, are the "how" aspects. Do men and women do it differently? Is it because of inherent biological differences, or individual personality differences?

I never thought I'd become a regular at the mall, but Thumper and I love the indoor playground there. It has a spongy rubber floor instead of gravel, which makes it infinitely more crawler-friendly. Yesterday, a holiday, there was a much higher percentage of men at the playground, presumably because they had the day off from work. As in all things, it's mostly meaningless to make broad generalizations because every individual case is shaped by so many more factors than just gender. But still, it does seem to be true that men generally do the playground differently than women.

Women are more comfortable, more natural. When Thumper crawled into the center of four mothers deep in conversation, the mother on whose knee he chose to pull up reached down and rubbed his back without even glancing down at him. When he fell, she picked him back up onto his feet, again with barely a downward glance or a pause in the conversation. She was clearly used to mothering in a group situation. It didn't matter whose kid he was; he was just a kid.

I've noticed this group mothering before, particularly at niece and nephew birthday parties, when the moms operate like a well-drilled unit. And they are well-drilled, because they've been doing it, and doing it together, for years. There doesn't seem to be any verbalization of labor assignments, like "I'll get the cake, you watch the kids, you clean up the piƱata..." They just do it, and seamlessly. Someone even writes down what gifts were given and by whom so that thank you cards can be sent. It's a machine, a mommy machine, and when the machine revs up, it's best just to stay out of the way.

But the men are different. At least, I think so. I haven't really been to enough SAHD playdates to see how much of a machine they are. But at the mall, the moms wade into the fray, enforcing sharing and turn-taking. The dads, grateful for the comfortable padded benches that surround the play area, linger around the periphery. They bellow no's at their children from across the playground, with cell phones pressed to their ears. I try to stay out of the middle, because I don't want to step on any children, but I also stay close to Thumper. I stay on the outside, but I circle, and I jump in when he yanks someone's hair or causes a backup at the slide when he decides the bottom is a perfect place to hang out.

A few weeks ago, a boy of about three or four tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, and he said, "Hey. What are you doing?" I told him I was watching my son. He stared at me for a few seconds, broke out in a huge grin, and ran away, yelling, "Mommy! Mommy! Look! It's a daddy! It's a daddy!" I periodically looked up to find him staring at me with that big grin. Then he'd run away again. At times like that, I feel like an anomaly, but I think to some degree, I make myself the anomaly by my self-consciousness. I talk to kids, but only if they talk to me first. I'll smile and wave if they stare at me (as often happens). But I never, never touch them. When they tumble off the equipment, I do not pick them up.

One little boy, around 18 months, confounded me. He'd run over to me, lay his head on my lap, and grin up at me. Then run off. Then come back. It made me very uncomfortable, and I didn't know what to do. After the third time, his mother said, "He has an obsession with facial hair. I don't know why. His dad doesn't have any." She didn't seem concerned. But if I'd laid my hand on his head or back, would she have leaped up?

So am I uncomfortable because I'm just a self-concious and socially handicapped dork? Do other men impose the same distance on themselves? Would women react negatively if I picked up a fallen child or casually touched the hair or rubbed the back of a passing cutie pie, or is that just what parents, not just mothers, do at a playground? Does the fact that I'm 6'3" and 265 lbs. have anything to do with it? Are women so comfortable because experience has taught them that cooperative action is acceptable or because it never occurs to them, the thought never enters their mind, that the word "pedophile" will be leaping into the minds of the mothers around them?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Oh Frabjous Day!

(Guest blog entry from Mrs. Rodius. The Man is working a late shift.)

Sometimes, Thumper gets bored. He likes his toys enough. He likes blocks. He likes balls. He really likes his Fisher Price learn to walk/ride basketball thingy-ma-bob and his recently acquired Leap Frog busy table. But, he still gets bored sometimes. And CRANKY. So, today when he was quite done with knocking down blocks and chasing after balls and had had enough of the music and lights of his fancier toys, Thumper got CRANKY. And nothing Mama did was very entertaining. We didn’t know what to do...and then it struck us. It was time to go back to simpler pleasures. Take every pillow in the house and make a pile to climb on! Break out some Tupperware and wooden spoons...

Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! He chortled in his joy.

Friday, May 23, 2008

New and Improved

Today Thumper enjoyed the New and Improved Water Playscape Experience! Now with Matching Knee Pads!

With a fresh coat of sunblock on him, water beads on him like he's a newly waxed car. This time he was calmer. He acted like he owned the place. He sat in the middle and waved at everyone. I think he felt like he was an old hat at this now, and everyone else must just be discovering the thrill of the water playscape: "Hi, how are ya. Glad you could make it. Welcome. Make yourself at home. Have fun. Good to see you. Thanks for coming." Obama should pick him for a running mate; he's a natural-born glad-hander.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Greatest Day of His Life So Far

After lunch today, we went to the Water Playscape at Brushy Creek Lake Park. Thumper had no idea such places existed. Though a better photographer would have captured the essence of his joy better than I did, he was thrilled. Elated. Overjoyed. Ecstatic. He crawled and crawled back and forth across the joint until his knees ached (I could tell they were bothering him because by the end, he was crawling a few paces on one knee and one foot, then switching feet, then switching back again. I should buy the kid knee pads just for this place until he learns to walk). He crawled, he splashed, he followed the other kids around. He swiped their toys. The boys swiped them back. The girls gave him other ones. He stopped periodically to lift his face to the sky to roar out his joy. I won't be surprised if he has laryngitis when he wakes up. I won't be surprised if he sleeps three hours. We will definitely be going back.

The Baby

Thumper finally encountered someone this weekend who was impervious to his charms, who did not, in fact, find him the least bit cute: his three-year-old Houston cousin. Let's call him Vroom. Vroom's six-year-old sister, Princess, giggled at Thumper's antics, offered him toys and books, and helped entertain him while I changed his diaper. Vroom, on the other hand, threw small objects at Thumper when he thought no one was watching. He pushed him over. He snatched toys from his hand, and really, who could blame him? They were Vroom's own toys, after all. He even had a little backsliding on the potty training front. Poor guy. He was clearly used to being the baby, and he didn't appreciate some young punk horning in on his territory.

When we accompanied his father and him on a walk to the park Saturday afternoon, he said, "No, just you and me, Da Da." Later Saturday night, he tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "You go bye-bye now?" I sadly told him no, we weren't going bye-bye now, but we'd definitely go bye-bye tomorrow. This seemed to satisfy him. And when at last the moment came and he knew for sure that he was about to see the back of that horrible baby, he even gave Thumper a hug and kiss goodbye. Then he gave me a high five.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Happy Blogiversary!

Oops. I missed my blog's birthday. No wonder it hasn't been speaking to me all week.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fast, Day Four

Fast, schmast. I ate lunch today. I just wasn't getting the same charge out of it. I was just getting tired. Of course, dragging 1,000 lbs. of garden stones through my yard yesterday probably didn't help. What kind of idiot does that when he hasn't eaten in three days?

Anyway, when I saw this, I decided my blahg needed a makeover. But then I decided if I was going to try to make it look all professional and whatnot, I ought to stick it on a custom domain name instead of the blogspot address. So I tried. And failed. And tried again. And I think I got it. If in 48 hours, doesn't redirect you to a custom domain, then uh, I guess I still failed.

In other news: Thanks, Pops! We had a great time the past couple of days. The fast may not have recharged me, but having you come into town and tell me that I'm doing a good job with the boy and a good job with his cousins meant a lot. I don't know if I will be able to parlay it into a renewed sense of purpose and a pumped up sense of motivation, but it's definitely something. Glad the tornadoes didn't get you!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fast, Day Two

Hey, moms (and dads; I don't care. I swing both ways), would you find it weird if, after chatting for awhile at the playground, I handed you this?

That is weird, right? What about this one? Maybe it's safer.

Man, I suck at this. Now I'm not just a dater, and a bisexual one, I'm a swinger.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fast, Day One

I've been thinking about saying something about Dave Egger's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius since I finished it a few days ago. I can't think of much to say, though. I think I should. I think this book should be important to me, should say something fundamental about me. I hope that it doesn't.

I found it on my bookshelf not long ago, and I was unable to recall how it got there. I had a suspicion that Big Brother had loaned it to me, probably several years ago, and that I had shelved and promptly forgotten it. The night that I went out with Biggest Brother and him, I asked him about it, and he confirmed that he had indeed passed the book into my hands. He also reminded me that he hadn't done so with a ringing endorsement, but more of an idea that "maybe you could get something out of it." He'd read it with ambivalence and shared it with a caveat.

As a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist, and of course as a heartbreaking work of staggering genius written by a white male only two years my senior who also grew up in the suburbs of a large American city, I thought this book would speak about me. Or at least to me. I came to adulthood through the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties. I left those suburbs for the Cosmopolitan Coastal City. I felt for a time that vague sense that We, the Youth of America, Were on the Cusp of Greatness, that We Were Going to Straighten All This Mess Right Out, Though the Details of How Were a Little Bit Hazy. Our music was new, our art was new. We had piercings and tattoos. This book should speak to me. But it didn't. I didn't passionately like or dislike it. I was surprised that I got through it as quickly as I did, because I never felt that burning need to pick it up and get in a few more chapters.

I could say more about it, but there's no need to. The author has already covered every avenue of criticism in the several preceding sections. He gives us "Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book," in which he more or less tells us not to read it, or at least not to read very much of it. In Acknowledgements, he covers all criticisms of himself that might be brought about by the title. He also provides his own analysis of 26 different aspects of the book. He criticizes the book. He criticizes himself. He criticizes himself for criticizing himself and the book. Before the reader has even reached the first chapter, he's already buried at least six layers deep in irony and has no hope of ever having an honest emotional or intellectual reaction to any of the characters or events to follow.

It made me sad. If this book says anything about me, or about My Generation (Generation X, or the Pepsi Generation), it says that we are painfully insecure and overly educated. Our grand idea of how to change the world was to ridicule it. Irony was the highest art. We made fun of everything and everyone, including ourselves. Especially ourselves. We made fun of everyone for making fun of everything. We accomplished nothing. We made fun of those who did. And we watched a lot of TV.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Playdating Is Just Like Real Dating

I almost had one! It was going great, then I blew it. I scared her off.

At the playground today, a promising pair showed up. Little Tessa was adorable, and seemed somewhere around the same age as Thumper. At first, we acted cool. We pretended we hadn't seen them. Then Thumper casually worked his way over in their direction. I followed a minute or so later, you know, to make sure he was OK. Once Tessa's mommy had seen Thumper's big eyes, he was in. He started working all his flirts. He even hit her with the new skill he picked up this week: the wave. He started with the full-arm wave until the mommy was gushing and trying to get Tessa to wave back. Then he hit her with the supercute hand wave, opening and closing his hand with the fingers straight. He even had it pointed in the right direction. She was hooked.

She asked me how old he was. I reciprocated. She told me how cute he was. I reciprocated. She said she had been looking for a place like this, baby friendly, and was hoping that there would be other babies like Thumper who were Tessa's age. I said we came there for the same reason, because Thumper doesn't get much interaction with other babies.

I waited. We chatted some more. The vibe seemed friendly. I made sure to mention my wife a few times so she'd know that I was safe. When the moment seemed right, I said, "So would Tessa be interested in some playdates? Sometime?" Oh! I blew it! I should have said "playdate," singular. She backed off. She was wary. "Oh, I, uh... I'm just so busy right now, it's hard for me to commit to anything." The kids played a little more. Tessa's mommy was a little more subdued. Soon, they got up to leave. I was friendly, but didn't mention playdates again. She asked me if we come there often, and around what time. I told her usually we go there right after lunch, around 12 or 12:30. Maybe she was asking so she could be sure to avoid us in the future. Maybe not. She said she hoped she'd see us there again sometime.

Sorry, buddy. With me in charge of your playdating life, you're on shaky ground. I haven't been in a position to date for sixteen years, and I never really did it when I was in the position. If it wasn't for your Mama getting the job done, I'd still be mumbling and fumbling and waiting for the right moment to ask her out. Maybe next time I'll let you work the mommy a little longer. You've got far more charm than I do.

In a Slump

You don't want to read this one, either. Additional details about me will be revealed that you will be unable to unlearn.

I'm in a slump. I can't get motivated. I don't feel like cleaning the house again because I swear I just did it. I'm bored with playing with the baby because we do the same things over and over. I don't want to go babysit because the talking and the talking and the talking, ugh, it's exhausting. I sort of worked out yesterday, but I half-assed it. And I quit early.

I'm loathe to say anything like this these days. One, I don't want this blog to be a place to bitch about my life. I've read some of those blogs, and they get kind of old. Two, as a SAHD, it seems like it's my job to put up a happy front. I feel like if I complain, the answer is simple: "you chose this, jackass." So whenever anyone asks me about it, it's wonderful! It's fantastic! We're having a fabulous time! My old full-time position was recently vacated by my replacement. My former supervisor jokingly asked me if I wanted my job back, and I said, "Ha! No thanks." A former co-worker, too, asked me if I was going to take my old job back. He thought this stay-at-home dad thing was just an arrangement for a few months, until the kid was old enough for day care, like any normal baby; he was flabbergasted when I said it was for years, not months. "Really?" he said. "Of course!" I replied. "It's so much fun!"

And it is, and I do love it. But man, I'm in a slump.

I know the answer I'll probably get, at least from my mother, is "get out there and connect with other parents! Go to the SAHD playdates! Go to their Dads' Nights Out!" And yes, I should. But who can be bothered? And Thumper's still napping through the playdates, and the Dads' Nights Out are during babysitting. I have been chatting with mothers at playgrounds more, but I haven't managed to wrangle the boy a girlfriend yet.

No, really I'm thinking it's time for a fast. There was a time when I tried to live by the principles of BFF's bible. It's largely about how to combine foods properly in healthy ways, like meat and bread don't go together because they require different enzymes from your stomach to digest. And melon is the perfect food for humans, but it shouldn't be eaten with anything else. That kind of stuff. I followed it very closely for a good six months, and didn't feel like it really changed my life. So I dropped most of it. But I did keep one aspect for several years after. Ready for it? This is the part you don't want to know: colonics.

Yep. Self-administered colonics. Twice a year. In combination with a week-long fast. Since cheapness counts, I couldn't imagine spending hundreds of dollars on a Colema board (you don't want to click on that), so I made one myself. With $60 worth of wood and a wastebasket from Target. And yes, I thought it was crazy, too. I thought BFF was crazy. But the craziness appealed to me, in a way. "Hey, won't this be wacky? I'll be one of those nuts who hoses out his insides! Hee hee!"

But strangely enough, the fasting and colonics made me feel incredible. I fasted by eating nothing and drinking sometimes carrot juice, sometimes grape juice, or carrot-grape juice. Sometimes just water. Sometimes I used solutions for the colonic other than plain water, like coffee and water, or garlic and water. The first day or two of the week-long fast, with nightly colonic sessions, I would be exhausted and hungry. By the third or fourth day, though, I started to feel recharged. Energized. And that gut-gnawing sensation of hunger was gone. By the end of the week, I was refreshed, renewed, ready to start again. I'd ease back into eating with light and healthy meals. It was like pushing a reset button.

But after a few years, I'd stopped smoking. I was working out more, losing weight, feeling good. I didn't feel like I needed a cleansing, a restarting. And the tedium part of the colonics, the preparation, the cleanup, started to get to me. Not to mention having to clean the juicer daily from all those grapes and carrots. So I decided I was done with it and threw out my board. I haven't fasted since, and it's been probably two or three years.

So now, in a slump and feeling like I really need a good renewal ritual, I'm thinking about fasting again. And since I've been eating a lot lately, snacking when I don't really need it, I want to re-learn that feeling of hunger as a positive thing, to remember that being hungry isn't so bad. I don't think I can get behind building a new board, and I certainly can't get behind buying one, so I'll just skip the colonics this time around.

Maybe I shouldn't use the words "get behind" and "colonics" in the same sentence, huh?

Anyway, does anybody else out there fast? I've never done it without the colonics, and I wonder if it will be the same jolt of power and energy that I remember.

So who's with me? Who's up for a week of emptying the vessel and starting over? Come on! I promise I'll stop saying the word "colonic" now.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

You Don't Want to Read This

Seriously. Just stop right now. If you keep reading this, you will regret it. You will learn things about me that you just don't want to know. There are much better ways out there for you to spend your time.

So have you ever had dry skin on your, uh, equipment... Your tool... Ah, I'm a responsible parent-type adult now, I should be able to use the correct terms without embarrassment. Have you ever had dry skin on your penis so bad that it split open when you got an erection? I mean like blood and everything. Wait, most of you are women. I'm talking to the wrong target audience here. OK, so has your husband or boyfriend ever had...? Well, he probably wouldn't appreciate you discussing it publicly. I think I'm probably on my own here. I'm going to have to start putting lotion on it. I'm not saying that I haven't put lotion on it before, I'm just saying it wasn't really part of a skin care regimen, per se.

See, now don't you wish you'd done like I told you in the first place and just stopped reading?

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Weekend Reviewed in a Series of Unrelated Sentences

Little old ladies watching their grandkids' commencement are sweet. Mostly.

It's endearing how bad Mrs. Rodius is with directions. She called me four times for help driving 9 1/2 miles on Saturday. God love her.

Biggest Brother, Big Brother, and I spent the best night out that I can recall in recent history. It was deeply satisfying to get to know Biggest Brother a little better, and all three of us discovered some common ground we didn't know we had. And we stayed out talking so long, we actually got kicked out of a bar when it closed. Crazy! That's way past my bedtime!

Thanks, Mrs. Rodius, for getting up with the baby at 7 a.m. on Sunday. You are way nicer to me than I deserve.

This is only our second summer in this house, and already my yardwork standards have gone waaaaay down. At least I'm still edging! I wish I hadn't recently watched Kinison's first appearance on Letterman. All I can think about now while I mow and trim and edge and weed is, "My life was so boring, I actually worried about my yard. The rest of my friends had goals, careers, visions, doing things with life. I was out there looking for crabgrass, weeds and stuff, going, 'I have a responsibility to the neighborhood....'"

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I got this in an email from the Austin Stay-at-Home Dads today. I briefly considered writing a post about it, but then I realized I really just didn't care. I read a lot about perceptions and misperceptions and judgments about SAHD's, but I haven't encountered any myself. And what if I did? Mrs. Rodius and I do what works for us. What else really matters? But anyway, here it is for your consideration. Maybe some of you can work up a good righteous indignation. But I do wonder, why does she tie this to SAHD-ism when the guy identifies himself as a stay-at-home husband and never once mentions children?

Reflections on Nine Months

Oh, I'm tired. I think we may have over-scheduled ourselves yesterday. We had a pediatrician appointment, a blood donation appointment, lunch with the Mrs., and babysitting, which involved trying to fit baby nap and baby bottle and baby changes and baby snacks and baby dinner into the gaps between school pick up, kid snacks, homework, volleyball, and baseball. For the month of April, we babysat twice a week instead of once, and since both cousins schedules are now chock full o' sports activities, it makes for a lot of running around. And yesterday, I did it a pint low. Oh, I'm tired. That's why I'm blogging instead of treadmilling this morning. It's a low-energy activity.

A mother at Robert McGee's baseball game yesterday told me that she was the seventh of eight kids and said that she figured I probably want to "fill the house with little [Thumpers]." I resisted the temptation to make some kind of Star Trek joke about 7 of 8 and told her that a little sister might be fun, but I didn't really want to "fill the house" with anything. Two would be more than enough. One seems like more than enough most days. And babysitting two elementary school kids a couple days a week confirms the obvious: more kids = more work.

I've always wanted two kids. I think I still want two kids. Despite Dutch's assertion that while one kid was fun, two kids is more like work. I worry about the additional expense. The additional work. What if a second pregnancy's worse than the first? What if the fetus is unhealthy? The baby's unhealthy? The wife's unhealthy? What if the second baby's not as happy as Thumper? Or smart? Or adorable? There are days when I think I can't stand one baby another minute and can't wait for Mrs. Rodius to get home. What if I lose it with a second?

But time is flying, flying. Thumper's world is rapidly expanding. His personality is coming ever clearer. He's asserting himself more and more, and while it's aggravating when our wills clash, it's thrilling and astounding to watch the person slowly and too quickly emerging from that tiny little ball of a baby.

Watching Thumper play at the indoor playground at the mall, I was proud, and a little relieved, to see him crawl away from me with barely a backward glance. It sometimes seems like he's a little too stuck to me when we're alone together at the house. I was glad to see him crawl out into a new world without demanding that I come with him. He not only watched other kids play, but played with them. He gently touched the face of a nine-month-old girl and pondered her hair clip. He emulated the way older kids played with some of the equipment. He crawled up; he crawled down. He pulled up; he fell down. He blocked up tunnels and made other kids go around while their mothers reminded them to "be careful of the baby." He laughed, he yelled, and he made the small mouth he makes when he's thinking, thinking. I think a sibling would be good for him.

And of course, I think I can do better. I want the chance to do better, to be more confident through those first few months when everything seemed so uncertain. But mostly I want another baby because I don't want it to be over. It's not over, in some ways it will never really be over, yet it feels like the end is coming. I want to keep it going with another one. I never want this magical time to end.
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