Arrive Magazine, May-June 2004
Dispatch from Daddyville
All’s well on the home front with this at-home father—thanks 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.