Arrive Magazine, May-June 2004

    Final Stop:
    Dispatch from Daddyville
    All’s well on the home front with this at-home fatherthanks to you-know-who.

    By Bruce Kluger

    This year I celebrate my fifth anniversary as
    a full-time, card-carrying, work-at-home dad.
    While this new lifestyle has required that I
    coordinate nearly all of my daily routines
    from brewing the coffee to answering email
    to knowing when to puspush back from the
    computer and call it a day (usually when it’s
    time to pick my girls up from school)—it also
    gives me time to reflect on the role mothers
    play in the modern home, primarily because
    I find myself among them so much of my time.

    So in honor of Mother’s Day, permit me to blow
    the lid off Mommydom for the unenlightened.

    Despite the bellyaching we’ve heard all our lives about the sweat and tears our
    moms spilled on our behalf, the truth is, they’re letting us off easy. After half a
    decade of working out of my living room—attempting to combine the careers of
    writer and father—I can safely say that arranging playdates, boiling peas and
    folding small socks don’t begin to scratch the surface of what the American mom
    does on a daily basis.

    For example, until I joined the juice-cup set, I never realized just how macho
    mothers are. To wit: have you ever tried to enter a bank (or drugstore or dry
    cleaner’s) pushing a child in a stroller, at the precise moment a mom is attempting
    the same maneuver? Not pretty. Her shoulder drops, her eyes fix, and suddenly you’
    re no longer looking at June Cleaver—it’s Evander Holyfield in culottes. I quickly
    learned two magic words to use at moments like this: “After you.”

    And forget the sitcom stereotype of the fiscally befuddled housewife—as a group,
    Moms are savvier at the checkout counter than any guy I know. Imagine my
    embarrassment, for instance, when I took Bridgette (eight) and Audrey (four) to the
    park recently, beaming with pride as they skipped about in the new sandals I’d just
    bought them—for $26.00 a pair.

    “Oh, you found those at Payless, too?” said an anonymous Mom, hoisting her child
    onto a swing. “Can you believe they’re now ten bucks? I mean, how annoying -- just
    last week they were five.”

    Yet for all their good, hard work, mothers, I am learning, are not a very self-
    possessed lot—and my wife is no exception. When Alene returns home from work,
    she slips out of her business suit and into mommy mode more gracefully than a
    caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. More importantly, she does this without the
    kind of self-congratulatory fanfare you customarily hear from a guy. Witnessing
    Alene put down her briefcase and pick up Ferdinand the Bull to read aloud to
    Audrey for the umpteenth time, I feel like a Little Leaguer watching Sosa swing a
    bat—partly envious, partly curious, but mostly in awe. Everything I’ve learned about
    at-home fatherhood, I owe to my in-house mentor.

    America is experiencing a wonderful domestic transformation at this moment in
    history, with fathers marching through supermarkets for groceries, and mothers
    marching on Washington in support of things like gun control. It’s an interesting
    time in our lives and the lives of our children, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

    I could go on forever here, of course, but Bridgette is hollering that she needs me
    to reboot her Rugrats disk, and Audrey just colored on the rabbit.

    See you in the produce aisle.