Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mr. Mom 2.0

Mr. Mom was a household favorite growing up. The movie had some favorite one-liners to which guys gravitate. My Dad's favorites:

"You want some chili?"
"Kenny, don't paint your sister!"

My favorite (regarding re-wiring the house):
"Are you going to do it in 220?"
"220. 221. Whatever it takes."

Making any Dad out to be the lovable loser is big in the entertainment business. Everybody Loves Raymond, According to Jim, Yes Dear (you can probably name others). Mr. Mom was on the cutting edge of this father image trend. Interesting, there's no such thing as the lovable loser mother, although they have their own set of lousy images, like the controlling shrew in Desparate Housewives.

I don't think the father image is served well by more serious images of fathers either in Leave It To Beaver or in Seventh Heaven. These fathers don't seem real. They're always right and wise. Today I faced a day at home where it seems like my biggest accomplishment was taking a nap. I did a little laundry (didn't "finish" it), filled out some medical forms for my oldest daughter (didn't finish those, either), created a blog post (sure I finished that, but is this worthwhile writing?), cleaned the kitchen, talked with the 2 year old, made lunch, paid bills, read the Bible. Now that I write all of these things out, it doesn't appear so bad. I remember days working outside the home when it seemed like I didn't accomplish anything--so staying at home does not have its own category of a low sense of accomplishment.

My self-esteem bubble functions well without entertainment affirmation, but I am interested in the experiences of other fathers who stay at home. Though I am still an idealist, being a stay-at-home father has eliminated my notion of the idealized self. This view of myself is not a negative, in fact, maybe I have grown in a way similar to pruning. I have been cared for in a way that I will grown in the future. When I do serve in a congregation again full-time (I'm not sure when that will happen), how will my experience dealing with poop, talking a lot with a two-year old, serving as a full-time home economist, creating a good environment for child development, and supporting my dear wife in her employment affect my next chapter of service?

I don't know if I will ever learn more about the other experiences of stay-at-home dads. The role was far from being insitutionalized in South Dakota, and my current transportation situation in the Seattle-Tacoma metro doesn't lend itself to easy day dad connections. Most days I feel good about what I have been doing for the health of my family. Our children needed the stability of a parent at home. This role application was for the health of our family. The days where it doesn't feel like I accomplish much take on a different weight. If I have a bad day at church, maybe I can leave that at church. If I have a not so good day at home, my children are more directly affected.

My former spritual director told me that stay-at-home parenting was a lot like living a cloistered life. The activities of the day may be mundane, but they are also prayerful--they uphold the health, well-being and growth of children. I will not wax romantic about the stay-at-home mothers or parent's roll. My dear wife and I discerned at length the best path for our family. We assess the gifts and resources of our household, pray that God will give us wisdom, and chart a path. We hope to teach our daughters the value of shared family discernment, and I believe we have modeled that in these days. I will never forget these two years of Mr. Mom 2.0.

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