Thursday, March 29, 2012

We Are Still Our Father's Sons

Before I get started, I want to be clear that there was nothing scientific (not even a little shred) about this post.  I didn't confer with any of my fellow SAHDs.  I didn't do any internet research.  I didn't check out books on the topic either (does anyone use the library anymore?  My local post office closed but yet the library is open and there is always a line out there at 8 AM on Saturdays).  This is simply my view of things, no more and no less (okay...maybe a little less).  Now that I have finished my little disclaimer I feel that I can hear you eagerly chattering "what's this all about?  Tell us!  Tell us!  Tell us!"  Since you asked so nicely, I will oblige you.  Today's topic is...drumroll please...seriously, drumroll...thank you...SAHD Groups and more specifically why they are the red headed step child to their counterpart, SAHM Groups (I think you're smart enough to figure that acronym out).

Two years ago, when the Mrs and I decided that having me stay at home with the Big Guy was the way to go, I knew that I had to find some sort of group.  Some fellow parents to share stories, tips and simply some adult time.  I began my internet search and not surprisingly I found tons of SAHM groups.  They were meeting for lunch, meeting for play groups, meeting for movie night and of course the juggernaut of them all, they were meeting for exercise (the infamous Stroller Striders, like the Navy Seals of the SAHM hierarchy).  However, I didn't want to join a SAHM group.  In case you haven't read my quick bio, I'm a guy and I like guy stuff.  I realize that SAHM groups are not all frilly lace and tea parties, so keep the sexist card in your pocket.

I wanted to hang out with other dads.  I wanted to feel the camaraderie that only men can offer: the kick in your pants honesty when you're whining too much, the below the belt jokes that roll off the tongue just as easily as they roll off your back, the sports chatter and of course the banter about what a pain in the ass our wives and kids can be.  However, the wonderful inter web left little to be desired.  I found a couple of groups, sent in emails and heard nothing back.  I assumed that I must have come off as a miscreant and was not to be allowed into the SAHD pride (as in herd, not the gay variety - though I'm cool with the gay pride too, just don't approach me about it when I am leaving Target with a full cart and my two kids).  So I sort of gave up.  A year later, I would become part of a SAHD group by way of a random chat I had with another SAHD at a local eatery.

I was ecstatic, to say the least, to be a part of a group own wolf pack if you will.  And while we met up a few times and the guys I met up with were good guys, I noticed that the email list was about 30 names long and only about five or so of the same guys ever showed up.  At my first meet up, I was told that these guys were the "core", but I just assumed that they had started the group or something to that affect.  Nope, "core" meant the only guys who ever show up or ever respond.  And since then, emails for meet ups have been sparse and the number of core members has been cut in half.  I think the main reason is that a couple of the guys had side jobs which have since graduated into near full time gigs, but they're gone nonetheless.

One of the common issues for the lack of communication was that invites were sent out and there were either no responses or all of the responses were saying they had other things going on.  So the emails stopped, yet I would run into some of these guys while I was out and about with the boys.  Some of the guys were out by themselves and some were actually out with moms.  What was everyone up to?  And I don't dismiss myself from the problem.  There were certainly plenty of times that the meet ups just didn't work with my schedule, I simply didn't want to take the boys to that place or maybe I had been there the day before.  But it was clear to me that there were really only one or two people tossing in meet up suggestions and even if you got a response that people were coming, the chance that they actually showed were slim to none.  And believe me, I get that kids can eff up your day and cause things to not happen or cause things to change.  What I didn't get was why did I never hear about this with the mom groups?  Maybe it was just numbers.  You have a hundred moms on the email list and about ten show up every time.  Or maybe there was some sort of sense of community in the moms groups and the need for that interaction that kept the women religiously coming back.  I'm betting on the latter.  As for the dads, maybe we are too "tough" or dismissive to bond like that.  If we meet up, we meet up.  If we don't, we don't.

The SAHD group is something that is wrapped in bacon (everything is better wrapped in bacon...problems, prawns, get the idea) and a bit shrouded in mystery.  Anytime I tell people that I am a SAHD and am part of a SAHD group, people look amazed.  They ask me "Is there really such a thing as a stay-at-home dad group?"  To which I obviously say "Yes.  Yes there is".  But there still remains that look of disbelief on their faces and always the question; "So what? do you guys just sit around and drink beer and talk about your kids?"  To which I say again "Yes.  Yes, we do.  Well except for the one guy who doesn't like beer so he drinks booze or wine."  People just don't know about us.  We aren't out in packs.  We don't take over Groupon deals at Gymboree.  And we don't careen down paths at the park in large groups screaming "ON YOUR LEFT!" shooting by with our B.O.B strollers.  We are a little more civilized and a lot less social.

We are men.  We are supposed to be rugged and tough and built to withstand shitstorms.  We grow beards.  We drink beer (or wine).  We have customary terms like "breaking balls" and "busting chops".  When other dads don't have time, like the Honey Badger, we don't give a fuck!  Why?  Because we are men and we can hold our own.  We are, alas, a bit primitive.  There I said it.

I won't lie.  I like the SAHD group time.  It is therapeutic for me when I meet up with these guys.  I wish we did it more.  We have taken on what, until very recently, has been seen as solely the woman's role:  to cook dinner, do the laundry, buy the groceries, clean the house, research the school systems, go to the doctors, pay the bills, raise the kids etc.  So I think we are still defining what and who we are.  A lot of us find solace on the internet by reading each others blogs and finding community there, and I love that aspect and that instant realization that you are not alone in your quest to not be the worst parent ever.  Go ahead and call me old fashioned, but I also like that personal interaction (no matter how much I sweat at that first meeting).  I welcome and relish the opportunity to not talk about playgrounds, Elmo or try to answer the question "why" for the 100th time that day.

Mom's have had this stuff figured out for a long time now, but they've been doing it longer than we have.  They had their mothers to talk to about these things first, and then they got their groups.  My father could sell a pacemaker to an olympic athlete, but he wouldn't understand the first thing about diaper rash cures, tantrum diversion tactics or age appropriate activities (I grew up watching baseball or open heart surgery and I couldn't tell you how many bars I fell asleep under as a kid - I just know that if you curl up just right, that foot bar is mighty cozy).  And I guess, in a nutshell, that's still the issue: we are our father's sons.  We are capable imbeciles.  I look forward to seeing what role my boys take on when they are old enough to have kids (with any luck, that'll be at least 25 years from now), but they'll probably have an app for that by then.          

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