I think of myself as a fairly modern and well-adjusted dad, though it occurs to me that my list of ‘dad behaviours to avoid’ may be based too much on TV and unrealistic scenarios. I grew up during the sensitive 80s, and the message was that real men are now in touch with their emotions and this wasn’t the case before. But there is every chance that there were great, affectionate dads in the 50s and 60s, way more demonstrative than Ward Cleaver. The challenge is to find good, realistic role models to compare yourself to. I’d advise against comparing yourself to anyone, but that’s a part of your normal human development. Just don’t set the bar impossibly high.
Still, no matter how comfortable I am with our current family plan (the wife working and me staying home with the lad), it only takes a whisper of a hint of money troubles to tap into my well of dad guilt. As soon as the prospect of cash getting tight is mentioned, I feel like I am failing to follow one of the dad Prime Directives. (And yes, I understand ‘Prime’ implies a singular directive, mister pickypants. I’m using it in a plural sense anyway, so there.) As a manly man father, I should be earning the big paychecks and buying things for the family. Besides scaring off the ever threatening sabretooth tigers, bringing home the bacon is one of my important duties.
When this money panic sets in, it doesn’t matter that we decided as a family to try this arrangement out, and that I’m working on my writing and seeing real improvement. The man guilt is wired deep down in my perception of gender roles, and it is mighty powerful when triggered.All of the calm rationalization goes out of the window and I enter a state of paralytic guilty terror, which of course keeps me from doing anything productive, and so the shame spiral begins! The notion that I could possibly make a modest living by selling my made-up stories to internet strangers starts to sound pretty crazy and unattainable.
To be honest, I don’t want to go back to a regular job. My last one ground me down and broke my brain, and I’m not jazzed about going back. The real issue, though, is that I want to keep spending my days with the little dude. The plan, at least in my head, was for me to stay at home with him until he heads off to kindergarten in 16 months. I will go back to some kind of lame part-time night job when we need the cash, but I really don’t want to go back full-time and give up this time at home with my highly excitable, sometimes infuriating, but always entertaining Maxwell.