A SAHD Sad Cell

artcrazycoworkersI was in my usual Thursday mid-week escape from SAHD life at the nearest Starbucks trying to get through “Collapse” by Jared Diamond.  We pay a sitter to give me four hours of relief so I can go to the gym, do some errands and move on my own.  It’s a guilty pleasure but I’m not ashamed.  I’m reading this book not on my own volition. It’s my local book club’s book of the month and I can’t for the life of me read more than a sentence without falling asleep.  It’s like a college textbook about how societies collapse.  I can’t find one thing on any page that makes me want to turn to the next page.  My mother would tell me that falling asleep on a book means it’s not meant for you.  I agree.  That’s why I spent my time watching the other peeps in the coffeeshop. It’s weird watching people in the midst of their workdays, getting coffees, making deals, wearing workclothes and living the worker bee lifestyle that I’m now a stranger to.   This always causes a lot of mixed emotions.  They are busy with “work”.  I am not. I don’t envy the workerbee but then, the modern American Male has a hard time taking a measure of self worth without punching the clock.

Frankly, I try to fool myself that I’m doing something more meaningful with my days, something greater than just collecting a paycheck, I’m intensely active in the youth experience of my own child during an important period in her life.   But my wife is the one going to work.  We’re a team and everyone has the same value and measure of work.  No one person is better or more important or doing something more “important” than the other.   Both roles are necessary.

So if I don’t have one up on her, I can’t very well have one up on those workerbees down at the Starbucks can I?  Everyone’s got to pull their weight. But here in the OC, it’s a bit different.  Driving the Lexus or the Porsche with a Blackberry in your hand, althought terribly materialistic and certianly not enviable, creates a cloud of perception that everyone is busy with something important but me!  There’s the guy with the bluetooth in line cracking a deal or talking about his account down in Laguna who won’t get off his ass.  There’s the Russians smoking in the corner playing cards.  There’s the UC Irvine students punching the keyboards on their laptops with noise canceling headphones making a lot of noise.  The thing I notice, in my downtime, in this time of escape from the Diaper Genie and the indestructible board books with snowmen and dancing dinosaurs, is the lack of interconnectoedness I have and true isolation.  A SAHD isn’t on the phone talking to any of the following:  account manager, bookie, interior designer, lawyer, or any other “mover” or “shaker”.   A SAHD is at the park watching their kid, picking up toys, washing dishes or breathing a sigh of relief or taking it easy at a coffee shop or trying to relax after shutting the door on a sleepy child.

My SAHD cellphone mostly is used to talk with my wife or my mother.  I don’t really text and I can’t navigate the internet with it.  I call my wife when I miss her and when I want to see when she’s going to make it home from work.   It seems like a metaphor for me not being connected.  It’s easy to say that being a stay at home parent is a brave choice and a progressive one for a me, but it’s got warts.  They are the things that we have learned since we were children; the value of work, the desire for success, the need to rise up and continue to improve,  accomplishment satisfaction and the need for continual approval by our co-workers or superiors.  A stay at home parent has all those qualities and recieves them, but the are harder to scratch at and sometimes just below the surface of our daily activity.   I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t want to go to a workplace and assure my intelligence and value in the jobmarket.   But sacrifices seem to be the name of the game in parenthood — leaving a child to go to work and staying with the child from work certainly count as sacrifices.   Coming to terms with the implications of those decisions seems to reverberate for quite awhile.

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5 Responses

  1. Wow. This post hit me right in the face today. Let me tell you, the phrase “the grass is always greener…’ could not be more appropriate. Perhaps the only problem with staying at home with your children and connecting with your family as a career is that there are no tangible “rewards” given to you by superiors by which to measure your success. No promotions, no raises, etc.

    Truth be told, I truly believe that the job you do on a daily basis is infinitely more valuable in the long term and, frankly, wish I could do more of it myself. I would bet that, in 20 years, when you look back on your “body of work” and I look back on mine, you will be the one who is more satisfied with the work you have done.

  2. I would KILL for a career. I’m never going to have one. I made that choice 11 years ago, to be “Just” a mom, when I was 23. When I’m done full timing it, when I’m closer to 40, I am never going to be able to START in the marketplace.

    I’m trying really hard to be okay with that. Most days I am. Somedays, I very much so am not.

    And, dude, I stopped carrying a cell phone half a year ago. The ONLY person who called it was my husband. I love him, but not $50 a month love him. 🙂

  3. SAHS is pretty tough as well. I’ll fill you in on the details some other time, but my decision to return to the farm was essentially a humanitarian aid mission to keep my mom from going under. Duncan and Dad are not much help around here! I envy you your family, your wife and little one. Deal making shallow heads, less so. Yet, OC sounds like a welcome change at times from the relentless isolation of the Virginian countryside. As your other commentator said, the grass is always greener… On which note, let’s keep in mind that everyday which passes brings us closer to the spring, one word, two syllables and 162 games.

  4. Modern American Male has a hard time taking a measure of self worth without punching the clock.

    Maybe 20 years ago it was modern American Male characteristic.

    But, rest assured it’s now gender universal. When Liz Funk emails me to review her “first book” about the intense pressure on girls and perfection. And includes a bio at the end with more career credits then I’ve spent my life creating and the throws in her speaking tour and her publicist . . . I want to crawl under the bed and die.

    Money = validation. Paycheck = validation. DOING = validation.

    Maybe it shouldn’t but, I have yet to find a way to really be at peace with “failure.”

  5. It’s not just about the paycheck, or the exercise of professional skills. It’s the fact that, before God’s Greatest Fucking Miracle came along, you were a real person — a whole person, who regularly engaged with adults and with the world at an an adult level. You had well over a decade of being a fairly independent, self-sufficient person with interests of his own.

    Now? You’re just some dad. Who the hell needs your company, who the hell depends on you, except wifey?

    I’m in a similar boat. Not identical, because my wife took over the stay-at-home duties before our second was born, and I’m now the work-slave. But, even now — is there even time to participate in the adult world, outside of the job? It feels like not. I miss the person I was. And I envy people with some sense of adult purpose.

    Too much, parenthood means isolation.

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