So, today, in my quest to befriend a stay-at-home dad I introduced myself to a dad at the playground with his one-year-old daughter.  I am pretty confident that he is a stay-at-home dad because I have seen him there before and overheard him making plans with other stay-at-home dads (potential jackpot!).  But all did not go as planned…

It started out really well.  He complimented my son on his Grateful Dead onesie.  I then said hello to his daughter.  We then exchanged the normal, requisite (dare I say tedious) pleasantries: age of kids, names of kids. And that is when it got awkward.  I introduced myself, “I’m J, by the way.”  He introduced himself.  And then, silence.  I didn’t know what to say. I suddenly felt totally constrained by lame-ass insecurities.  I didn’t want to seem too eager and I definitely I didn’t want it to seem like I was hitting on him.  So I just went quiet.

After a couple of minutes I asked if he lived nearby (another normal playground question).  He answered.  We each said one sentence about how great the playground was.  And, done.  Then he wandered off, and I wandered off.  And we avoided one another for the rest of the hour or so we were both at the playground.  Lame and awkward.

I did have a nice conversation with another mom, though.  Same questions to start, but then it just happened.  Was it because there weren’t the same stereotypical gender dynamics to worry about?  Was it because we just clicked better? Was it because I was more relaxed?

I still want this to happen and I will try again.  But somehow I feel like I need to adjust my approach so that it doesn’t seem like I am desperate- don’t want them to smell blood in the water… Suggestions? Words of advice? Tales of your own humiliations?

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Twice in the past two weeks I have been at playgrounds and encountered stay-at-home dads with their kids.  In both cases I have immediately developed serious friend-crushes.  I want to be friends with these guys really badly.

Why? You might ask.  Well, a couple of reasons. 1) I just think it is really cool when a guy is willing to put social pressures aside and be a stay-at-home dad.  I think it shows confidence and openness. 2) They usually seem to be pretty adventurous- up for fun trips with the kids to new places or events.  But most importantly, 3) I just miss hanging out with guys!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful that I have the mom friends (and non-mom women friends) that I have- they are incredibly wonderful, strong, smart, exciting, bad-ass women.  But there are times when I really miss testosterone.  I miss open competitiveness.  I miss stupid, dirty jokes.  I miss eating like a guy and not talking about calories or food-guilt.

So I’ve decided that I have to get over my befriending people at the park fear and take the bull by the horns.  I am going to befriend a stay-at-home dad even if it kills (or humiliates) me!

Readjusted Priorities

March 20, 2009

Judith Warner’s piece in the Times today that talks about our failure to pay attention to the families that are really struggling in this recession (or whatever you want to call it) rang incredibly true to me.  If I hear one more story about how the very wealthy are struggling to make sense of their smaller bank accounts I may scream.

I am sure it is a harsh reality check when you can only go to Gymboree for your play sessions twice a week.  It must be really hard to come up with things to do with your kid who has more toys than the entire kindergarten class in any working class or poor neighborhood you can name.  And believe me I know how hard it is to balance a baby and making dinner at the same time, rather than ordering in.

But when I hear that the unemployment rate in Detroit, a working class city if there ever was one, is now at a 26 year high of 22.2%, those are the families I think we should be hearing about.  How are those moms and dads making it?  Families are making hard decisions about whether they are going to pay their heating bill or their food bill, whether one or both of them work isn’t even an issue that is on the table.

Maybe we should focus all of that energy we expend criticizing families for the choices they make- both parents working, one parent staying home, daycare or nanny, etc., etc.- on thinking creatively about ways to get the country back on track.

Ok. I’ll get off my soap-box now.  Happy Friday.

Kids, Dirt, and Dads

February 23, 2009

I recently saw a Huggies commercial that pissed me off.

mrmomfs

The commercial is based around this woman and her kid who are at a park.  She has her baby in a bubble so that he won’t get dirty.  He keeps rolling from activity to activity and not being able to participate because he is in this bubble- so sad.  A dad of another kid is there (I assume he is a stay-at-home dad) and is watching the mom in disbelief.  Then he pulls out a Huggies wipe to clean of his own kid’s face.  The mother sees this and is immediately excited and relieved.  It then cuts to her giving her baby a piece of cake and saying, “no more bubble for you.”  She then wipes his face with a Huggies wipe.

First of all, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Kids are supposed to get dirty and the fact that this ad encourages the hysteria about keeping our kids ultra-clean makes me crazy.  Kids are supposed to have dirt under their finger nails, and cake crumbs on their faces- it is what makes childhood, childhood.  And if you always have a parent hovering over you to wipe away anything little particle of dirt you aren’t actually getting to play.  

It reminds me of a story my friend recently told me.  He went to pick his daughter up at day care after a long, very cold day.  As he arrived the day care worker anxiously apologized for his kid having some paint on her hands from finger painting.  Turns out, in an effort to keep the kids entertained when it was too cold to go outside, they had pulled out the finger paints and let the kids loose.  Apparently parents had already complained that their kids were too messy. Ridiculous. 

We have got to let our kids play, get dirty, and try different things without worrying about the dirt (and inconvenience of an extra bath).

The other part of the ad that really bugged me was that while the mom character was pretty and nicely coifed, the dad character was straight up creepy.  He had a bad ’90s haircut, looked disheveled, and was just unappealing. Now I know I should give them credit for having a dad in the ad but why does he have to be weird?  Why is it that the dads in baby product commercials (when there are dads) are always weird looking?  Is it that ad execs think that moms are so easily distracted by a good looking guy that we will forget the product?  Is it that good looking dads are somehow threatening?  Is it that there is an assumption that any guy who would be that involved in his kid’s life is somehow incapable of being put together?