10 Reasons Being A Stay-At-Home Dad Has Made My Wife A Man

Currently I've been reading Jeremy Adam Smith's new book, The Daddy Shift: How Stay-at-Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms, and Shared Parenting Are Transforming the American Family. As you can probably already guess from the title, the general thrust of the book deals with the shifting roles between fathers and mothers as parents. I'll probably deal with the subject matter more in depth at a later date, but for now I would like to comment on the matter of a parent's reversal in tendencies that can occur when dad takes care of the kids and mom takes care of business.

Having been a stay-at-home dad (SAHD) for just over a year, I can certainly attest to changes in the behaviors exhibited by Ashley and me. In fact, after giving it more thought, I was able to jot down a list of specifics to share with others. And here they are.

10. She leaves the toilet seat up

9. Regularly uses quotes from All in the Family and anything with Will Ferrell in it (just noticed that she used the credit card to buy Season 1 of The Man Show).

8. Would rather pop open a beer and watch Sportcenter than talk to me about her day

7. Drinks from the carton then leaves the empty container in the fridge

6. Has to be reminded to take out the trash

5. She wants to buy a motorcycle (she hasn't said anything, but I've found the brochures in her nightstand)

4. Her subscription to Playboy (also discovered in the nightstand)

3. She's started playing golf (Saturday mornings are now "her time")

2. She's not embarrassed to purchase condoms, but gets red-faced in front of the checkout clerk when she has to get feminine hygiene products

And the number one reason...

1. You can't see it, but that black eye I'm sporting - I've been telling people I ran into a door, but really it's because I burnt dinner... again.


This Father's Day, Make Sure To Degrade Your Dad

First off I'd like to wish all the dads out there Happy Father's Day. I hope you are enjoying a wonderful time with your families. This might sound weird, but in previous years I never gave this day much thought. "Oh thanks kids. These are great cards; love what you did with macaroni and glitter." Don't get me wrong; it's not that I was ungrateful, far from it. But now as a stay-at-home-dad to two stepdaughters and an involved parent to my sons living away from home, I've gained something new: self-respect.

From the time I became a father up until a little over a year ago, my attitude concerning how I viewed myself in this role bordered on apathetic. This is not to say I approached my fatherly duties with apathy, but rather that I under appreciated the my importance as a father. What I failed to really sit up and take notice of were the potential consequences for my children should they grow up without a dad. And the studies tracing any number of adverse risk factors and behaviors found in fatherless boys and girls further make my point.

Given the seriousness involved why then did I underestimate myself? I blame Hallmark. Hallmark? Yes, Hallmark, the makers of greeting cards, the creators of consumer-driven holiday's, the harbingers of the Apocalypse. Hallmark, where my agitation over the portrayal of dads grew with every Father's Day card I picked up. One showed a fat-so's in his underwear holding a beer and watching TV, "Enjoy you're day, Dad... not that it's any different from the rest," it read. Another showed a goofy kid on the front; inside were the heart-felt words, "Sorry I'm such a screw-up, Pop. Guess your son really is a chip off the old block."

I don't know about you, but I'm welling up with emotion (Not!). Others were just as despicable: Dorks in plaid shirts, dress socks and sandals, guys itching their butts, golf clubs, fishing poles, grills, lawn mowers - the list goes on of every conceivable stereotype out there for dads. Thanks Hallmark for setting the expectation of fatherhood so high for us to not live up to, and then getting us to shell out five bucks to keep you in business for another year. They're not alone in sharing the blame.

Stop for a second and count the number of television shows where the father is a fat buffoon with a hot wife, and kids that outsmart him in every episode. Hey, I love The Simpsons more than anyone; it helps me to laugh at myself, but at the same time, I'm no Homer.

The geniuses up on Fifth Avenue could use a good slapping around too. Walking through Sears, I noticed a big display with a card-board cutout of some bald schmuck holding a gift. "Get dad what he really wants this year - a garage door opener!" A garage door opener? Right. I could just see some guy getting one of these and thinking, "Five years of hugs, kisses and homemade cards - five years, and the whole damn time all I really wanted was this here garage door opener."

I know I'm not the first person to use these examples, but in opening yet another insulting card, it occurred to me how little I thought of my efforts, how I had been subconsciously tainted by our consumeristic society into devaluing my own importance as a father. What happened to the dads from shows like Father Know's Best, or Little House on The Prairie? Hokey as they may have been, these images of fatherhood still set the bar high. Some would argue impossibly so. But if we stand on our tippy toes reaching for perfection, it's true we will never attain it, but we will at least be able to say we pushed ourselves to do our best trying.

Deep inside, no one wants to think of themselves as a looser. Ask any father (or man) to name their favorite movies, and the majority will mention somewhere in their list, titles like Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, Remember the Titans, Braveheart and others where the male leads triumph against the odds by relying on their moral character, intelligence and courage. These portrayals, real or fictional, evoke an innate desire in men to identify with those characters. Why? Because we are inspired by excellence. And that inspiration compels us to act in the belief we are capable of excellence. So when a 5 x 8 piece of cardboard tells me that, as a father I'll never amount to being anything more than a beer-guzzling, burger-grilling, TV-watching, putz with no fashion sense, I am anything but inspired.


A Face For Radio

My mother always said I had a face for radio, and now I'm doing her proud. Today I'm reading an essay written for KUHF's This I Believe segment.

This I Believe was a five-minute CBS Radio Network program hosted by journalist Edward R. Murrow from 1951 to 1955. The show encouraged both famous and everyday people to write short essays about their own personal motivation in life and then read them on the air. This I Believe became a cultural phenomenon that stressed individual belief rather than religious dogma. Its popularity both developed and waned within the era of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the Cold War.

The show was revived on NPR in 2005, and then locally by Paul Pendergraft, Houston Public Radio's Senior Producer for News and Public Affairs. Having my essay I Believe in Humor (what else?) accepted was a great honor, and I would like to thank Mr. Pendergraft for having me as a part of this program. (To hear the segment CLICK HERE)

One note: In the introduction, it makes mention of my being a stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) to two girls, which is true. They are my stepdaughters, but I am also father to three sons, Noah, Harrison and Sawyer who live away from me. My boys are my pride and joy. I miss them more than I could ever put into words, and hope to move near them the first chance I get. Of all my passions, my role as a father outweighs them all.

Speaking of SAHDs, there's more for me to announce on that front...
In today's economy where nearly 80% of those currently unemployed are men, the role of SAHD has earned even greater attention since many fathers have been forced to become the primary caregiver while looking for work. Even though SAHDs have been around well before now, because of the economy this issue has gained increasing momentum in the media including the article in the Globe and Mail I was lucky enough to be mentioned in along with the daddy social network Dad-blogs. My upcoming book Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can't Afford Vodka (due out later this summer though iUniverse) is collection of essays about my personal and often hilarious moments in becoming a SAHD.

As a result, this Sunday I have been invited to take part in an interview about the issues surrounding SAHDs on CKNW News-Talk/980. I'm not sure if it's a live segment or not (the interview is at 4:30 PM PST this Sunday), but will pass the info along when it becomes available if readers have any interest. Thanks again for patronizing me and my shameless self-promotion.

And to all the dads out there, especially my own, I wish you a Happy Father's Day!

If you are new to Clark Kent's Lunchbox, I invite you to snoop around and join my network. If you have questions or would like to receive updates on the release of my book, email me at clarksdoubleATgmailDOTcom. Thanks for stopping by.


A Friend In Need

Some of you may know my blogging friend Joanie of Joanie's Random Ramblings. Right now she and her family are going through a rough spot. Her husband John is in the hospital for chemo. With things already tough economically speaking, the added expenses involved with her husbands treatment combined with the time away from his job have put them in pinch. So the blogging community (See here) is coming together to help Joanie and her family out.

In the upper left-hand column is a button for PayPal. What we're asking is for people to donate a few dollars for Joanie's family. $5, $10, $15, whatever you can swing. One of the great benefits of blogging is the opportunity to build a global community with people you wouldn't have met otherwise. Along with this comes a chance to reach out and help others in need.

As a Superman fan, I might not be able to fly or bend steel, but like the Big Blue Boyscout, we all can assist those in need using the powers afforded through blogging and social networking. Be super too. Joanie would be grateful.


"Humoirs" Of A Divorced Dad

My therapist once told me that the two most traumatizing events in a person’s life are death and divorce. Death I could understand. Divorce I could not - that was until I lived through mine. I remember telling my therapist how right he was on the matter just before firing him for not doing a better job in helping me avoid it. Maybe that wasn’t such a great idea since it left me with no one to talk to about the resulting emotional maelstrom I was enduring. As if I wasn’t already struggling enough in the parenting arena, the divorce just upped the level of difficulty without my ever mastering the beginner setting. And there was no player two helping me out anymore. I was on my own.

It never occurred to me that a divorced-dad equivalent of the hair club for men existed, not until years later anyway. For whatever reason I viewed my feelings as unique and difficult for others to understand, so I tucked them away like an old quilt on the top shelf of the hallway closet. After reading The 40 Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad by award-winning writer and columnist Joel Schwartzberg, I pulled that quilt out again.

Through his collection of short essays, Joel recreates the exhilaration, confusion, awkwardness, satisfaction, insight, and quirk in being a divorced father. Stories like “Lazy Dadurday” offer a glimpse into those special moments and new routines with dad after a split, while others (“Beige Food” and “Sponge Bob Wins”) are humorous commentary on the world in which his children live.

Though the main theme of the book centers around fatherhood, there are several chapters that would make anyone smile, not just parents. I mean who hasn’t taken their mother to the Oscars, blown off law school or been on the Wheel of Fortune? And Joel’s tongue-in-cheek rants against things like the greeting card industry and parking lot etiquette are the stuff of an endearing curmudgeon in the making.

But for all the fun, Humoirs is not just a bowl for sugary cereal for readers to smile over after every bite-sized chapter. Joel balances sweetness with seriousness opening up about male post-partum depression and his son’s Chiari malformation diagnosis. His honesty on such weighty topics gives the book a depth that readers can sympathize with without having to give into pity.

Flipping through the pages brought on an eerie familiarity, like Joel had actually been chronicling my own experiences as a newly divorced father. “It took a divorce to make me a better father,” Joel states in describing how he found his “inner parent.” This is the exact thought I have when spending time with my children, and it gives me a sense of comfort knowing I am well beyond the beginner level of parenting. Humoirs is not just a great read; it also gives a voice to divorced dads working without fanfare to stay involved in their children’s lives.

Joel Schwartzberg is an award-winning essayist and screenwriter, national champion public speaker and speech coach, and currently works as the Director of New Media for a PBS broadcast news magazine.

Joel's essays on parenting and other spontaneous phenomena have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, The Star Ledger, New Jersey Monthly, Babble.com, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Huffington Post, and regional parenting magazines scattered on small tables in pediatricians' offices. (From the author’s website)

You can purchase a copy of Joel’s book at Amazon.com or through his website. Become a fan of Humoirs on Facebook.


My 15 Minutes Of Fame

Last week I was interviewed by Sarah Boesveld, a reporter with the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail. She was doing a story on dads who were laid off, fell into the roll of primary care-giver and then started Daddy-blogs to connect and cope with the change in there life.

It was cool being a "a celebrity" if only for a short while. You can read the full article here.

The article is well-written and I thank Sarah for her interest. However, based on the comments, I feel the need to say to one thing. I'm not bitching about being a laid-off-stay-at-home dad. This has been the most rewarding challenge in my life allowing me the opportunity to be closer to my sons as well as get to know my new step-daughters. Yes, it's hard, but I never had any illusions that it wouldn't be. Trust me, I don't sit around watching Sport Center in my undies (sorry, could've spared you that image) all day, popping the tops off a couple brewskies before noon. It's just different is all (and certainly better than office politics).

I would stay at home in a heartbeat given the choice, but finances are an issue (unless there's a big-time publisher out there willing to talk to me about an advance? No? Okay fine.), and because I have the work experience likely to earn the higher income, I need to keep searching for work. In the mean time, it's laundry as usual.

Yes, there are no promotions, no big deals, and no W.E.N.U.S. Reports tracking you tangible success, but what being at home forces you to do as a man is to draw upon your confidence and the comfort you have in your own self-image. That's what is tough. But you realize that building your image off all the "work stuff" is like building your house on the sand. One day it will all wash away and then who are you? Dad, who got the lunches packed and helped us with homework, or the guy that made some company $2 million dollars.


Once Upon A Time...A Year Ago Today

A year ago today I became the happiest man ever. A year ago today Ashley and I were married. That she has managed to endure me through sickness and in health, for richer and for (definitely) poorer, through rants about your not pre-washing the dishes, in my whiny moments of self-pity, despite my never using a turn signal on the freeway, when I make comments about your having too much junk in storage, during lectures about over-spending your lunch budget, knowing I have a secret comic book collection, conscious of my assortment of many other minor flaws, till death do us part, is a testament of your love. A love I will never take for granted. You have made me a better and more complete person, and your faith in me has sustained me when I've wanted to quit.

I love you, Ashley and will for eternity.

Below is the story of how we met through a collection of excerpts from out blogs and emails that we included in our wedding program.

How did Ron & Ashley’s story begin? Well, it all started with a boy, a girl and a three-day trial on Match.com…

Ron’s headline & profile

…and the description of himself and his “Ideal Match”
I’m thirty-five. I live at home with my mom. My hair is thinning and my beer gut isn’t getting any smaller. I have a 1972 pinto that I painted to look like the General Lee on The Dukes of Hazard. I joined match cause this was an easy way to find hot girls without all the work of talking to them first. So basically what I’m looking for is a girl who’s totally hot, has a good job, buys me stuff, lets me hang at her place and drink beer, lends me her car, gives me money, doesn’t nag me and really digs strip clubs. If I turned up in your search then the computer thinks we’re a match and we should totally hook up.

The ’72 Pinto caught the eye of Ashley who was on the last day of free trial to the internet dating site. When Ashley & Ron did “totally hook up” for a first date, they were anxious to meet for the first time.
Ashley: I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic and failing miserably. I’m all out excited. We're going to have the cutest story if we end up together. And isn't that how all the best relationships start? With a cute story?

Of course, Ashley did her best to suppress her neurotic tendencies.
Ashley: As I got closer to restaurant, I got more nervous and was alternately practicing my smile in the rearview mirror, and talking to myself. Then telling myself to stop talking to myself. Then telling myself that telling myself to stop talking to myself was still, technically, talking to myself. It's complicated being me.

And it was the first of a great many dates for the both of them.
Ashley: We went and saw "Stardust", which was an awesome movie. We both laughed at same stuff. He smells yummy. He has good ADD drugs. So I guess this is all working out well so far. Le sigh, le swoon, le float.

Ron: It was another great date night with Ashley and we left the theater acting like a couple of goof-balls knowing we don't have to resent all those happy couples that used to make us gag. Now they can now resent us.

Ashley: Fourth date sounds just ridiculous because surely we have known each other longer. Surely we've been hanging out for years sharing stories, creating inside jokes, listening, laughing, commiserating. This cannot be the fourth date.

Ron (first Dinner with Ashley’s girls): It was the first dinner Ashley ever cooked and it was delicious. Without warning, her adorable girls opened their mouths uttering an apocalyptic noise described only the book of Revelations Being that it was very early in our dating relationship, I felt it inappropriate to curb the girls charming behavior. I quietly picked another piece of broccoli from my hair and placed it back on my plate. To my relief Ashley acted as I would’ve expected a parent to. "Here we go," I thought as her mouth opened to deliver a gentle rebuff given that company was present. Instead, Ashley unleashed the sound of Hell itself, launching a fresh round of broccoli and mashed potatoes into my hair. High fives all around.

"So this condition,” I asked, untangling my hair from rapidly drying gravy. “Is it genetic?"

And through all the time together they started to fall in love.
Ashley: I'm sorry if I'm still somewhat mute. Partly I just feel comfortable enough with you to just be quiet. Partly I don't want to start a verbal waterfall that I can't stop. Part of me is really scared, but a bigger part of me is telling that part to shut up. So yeah, there's a little mini-war in my head that I'm trying to silence. Meanwhile I can't think of anything I've enjoyed more than just being with you.

Ron: In all seriousness, Ashley's been great and I love her. She's made me feel very special even though she's baked a life-size birthday cake that she plans to jump out of while wearing the Princess Lea bikini costume from Return of the Jedi. What a swell gal!

Ashley (using quotes from Ron): The immediacy and intensity of this is just completely serendipitous. I hesitate to use his words without his consent, but he has a skill to describe things better than I can. I've never met anyone who can do this, who can read my mind and speak it more eloquently to the point where all I want to say is "Um, yeah that" every time he speaks. But here is my very favorite thing he's ever written, and that I've ever read. It perfectly describes how I feel.
"...It's like a knocking over a bucket of red paint and watching with unconscious helplessness as it runs all over the floor and under the doors into the other rooms..."

Then it finally happened...
Ron: Well, it's finally happened. Ashley asked me to marry her. After months of anticipation and many sleepless nights my worries of losing such a wonderful woman are over. I'm such a lucky guy! When she got down on one knee, I was stunned.

"No, no, no, you are not doing this... Are you doing this? Please oh please I hope you are doing this!" My head was spinning. She pulled out the black velvet box and opened the lid!

"Ron, you have made me the happiest woman in the world and I don't think I could ever live the rest of my life without you." Her eyes were sparkling from the reflection caused by the moon's light on the ring. "Will you marry me?"

The facts may be a little backwards, but in any case, one of them said yes. Of course, the relationship only got deeper from there…
Ashley: Even when everything in my life feels like its swirling around and upside down... even when nothing make sense and all the answers just bring about more questions... I know that he will love me and remind me of everything that is right with the world, and right with me. I never thought I could, but I now believe in love and its power to make me maybe not a better person, but certainly a more complete one.

…even when they were apart.
Ashley: And of course, I'll miss him. I look forward to missing him. I told him about a week ago "I can't wait to miss you," and I truly meant it. I've never had that long absence with joy at the end. Dread, disappointment, frustration yes. But never joy. Having someone to miss is a great luxury to me and I wouldn't trade it for all the solitary eyebrow plucking in the world

Ron: Passengers from the plane jockeyed for position around the baggage carousel, but my mind was too preoccupied with what Noah, Harrison and Sawyer were doing, how my parents were feeling, and about making money to pay bills. But in any case, I was home. Not because I returned to my daily dose of regular issues to contend with, but because, unlike the previous returns from seeing my boys, there was someone wonderful waiting to hug me when I walked in the door. As much as I missed my sons, I was equally happy to be missed while I was away.

Today the two of them will pledge their love before family and friends.
Ashley: Now I've got someone who loves me so completely, who knows me so well, who makes me laugh and makes me think and makes me 83% happier than I ever thought possible. I know that as long as he's by my side, I won't care what path I'm on. As long as he lets me love him as well as he's loved me, then the next 30 years will without a doubt be the best and I hope for at least another 30 after that.

Ron: What she said, except I’m closer to 92% happier…

…and they lived happily ever after. I guess internet dating really does work.

This was the song we danced to during the reception, and it tells the rest of the story - a story that will continue for the rest of our lives.


The Muppets Just Got Cool Again

Being a huge Ocean's franchise fan and a Muppets fan I thought this too cool.

Enjoy a weekend edition of Clark Kent's Squwak Box

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