‘Who is REALLY caring for your children?’


My wife came with me to the recent Dad 2.0 conference in New Orleans (thanks again, Cottonelle, for the trip!), where I attended sessions and workshops while she drank cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde, visited cemeteries, and otherwise explored the city.

I’m joking. Mostly. While she did sample more of the local cuisine and color than I did, she actually attended some sessions, too, and visited the sponsor booths and suites, and met and talked with dads from around the country. She was an active attendee, and I was excited and proud to be able to share the experience with her.

My wife works with developmentally delayed infants and toddlers, a job for which she attended a conference of her own on Tuesday earlier this week. The day after she got back, she surprised me with this e-mail:

“Yesterday, I went to a conference in a neighboring city. It was nothing like Dad 2.0, with all of its glitz and swag (the entirety of my ‘swag’ for this one was a printout of the PowerPoint presentation and a folder—in my color choice—to store it in). No Lee jeans, no Starbucks (in fact, the first announcement of the morning was an apology for the fact that they forgot to buy Half and Half to accompany the industrial urns of watery coffee). I left my house at 5:45 in the morning and returned roughly 12 1/2 hours later. The conference was attended primarily by educators, child development specialists, child advocates, and foster parents.

“During the breaks, I chatted with the people at my table. One woman asked if I hoped to have children someday. I informed her that I already have three children. She declared, ‘Oh, you do not look old enough to have children at all!’ Bless her heart. Of course she asked my kids’ ages. I told her. Upon learning that I have a toddler, she asked how I could get away from him for an entire day to attend a conference. I assured her he was safe and sound with my husband/his father, and I had no concerns about being away for a day. Then she said, ‘Sure, but who is REALLY caring for your children? You must have a nanny or a daycare provider. A man couldn’t possibly handle a toddler and two older children ALL DAY LONG.’ I was shocked. I’m sure I said something about my husband being an amazing father and just as capable of caring for our children as I am. But mostly I remember working very hard to keep myself from expressing my outrage in a way that was sarcastic, rude, or unproductive.

“I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but this conversation—and the sentiment behind it—was repeated all day long as I chatted with more and more conference attendees. I am disheartened to realize that in a room of more than 150 professionals who work with children for a living, so many people are clinging to the idea that men cannot be competent (if not excellent) caregivers.

“I am thankful for Dad 2.0 and the blogging world that is working hard to change stereotypes of men and fathers. I am happy to see small changes in the media and advertising that are depicting involved, loving fathers. I hope to see more. I hope, as each year passes, fewer and fewer people react with surprise and shock when I say my children are with their father for the day.”

I was humbled and grateful to read my wife’s perspective, and though I have flown solo with the children before, I do have to point out that the two girls were in school for part of this particular day, and a friend did watch the kids for a couple of hours in the middle of the day since I edit two weekly newspapers and we were on production deadline. But I did get everyone out of bed, dressed, fed, brushed, and packed up in the morning; had the toddler with me in the office for the first third of the work day; handled all of the school drop-offs and pick-ups; edited articles for two newspapers with and without kids tugging at my sleeve; gathered up all the kids for the third third of the work day; drove them to an appointment in the late afternoon; and took all three back into the office with me at the end of—and past the end of—the work day because a computer crash in our production department deleted several files and I had to re-approve already-done work in order to make sure the paper could get to the printer late but intact.

Quickly moving from assessing libel risk to changing a poopy diaper is an odd shift, but not a prohibitively taxing one.

I am fortunate to have giving and flexible friends, bosses, and co-workers, without whom none of this crazy juggling would be possible. I’m amazed and grateful at the help we receive, and at the fact that my wife has a similarly busy schedule—plus she remembers the laundry—and pulls it off.

I’m not doing any of this (or mentioning it) for applause; it’s what has to be done. But I’m sure glad she’s the one I’m doing it with.


Almost … There


As I write this, I’m about an hour away from the penultimate leg of my journey back from the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans. I’ll write over the next week about the amazing experience I had at the conference and in the city, but for now, I’m just anxiously waiting for the final several-hour flight that stands between me and my three kids. We have a big drive ahead of us tomorrow, but that’s no big thing to me.

I really can’t wait to see my children.

Health Week: Worry Wednesday

Health Week: Worry Wednesday

So, I’m going to New Orleans for my birthday.

Which is awesome. And stomach-churningly freaky.

If there’s one thing I worry about—more than germs, more than personal financial collapse—it’s air travel. I am terrified of flying.

When I’m on a plane, I’m sure I’m going to die. I’m not worried I will. I am positive I will.

When I flew to New York for a wedding some years back, I stayed up for 36 hours before the red-eye flight to ensure I’d be sleepy. Then I took double the recommended dose of sleeping pills the proper amount of time before departure. And I washed them down with alcohol.

None of this is medically recommended, by the way. In fact, I don’t recommend any of it in any way, since I spent the next eight airborne hours death-gripping my armrests like I was being Tasered and staring with pupils the size of Susan B. Anthony dollars at the little airline icon slowly creeping across a map of the United States. My panicked body apparently immediately synthesized every gram of narcotic and ounce of booze directly into glutamate, which is the chemical your brain starts pumping when you’re threatened and need to decide whether to choose to fight or flight. Fight or flight? On a plane? Ha!

I’m not proud of my phobia, which makes me a miserable travel companion before, during, and after any air travel.

So why am I planning to willingly step into a pressurized cabin that has no business being several feet above the ground, let alone 30,000?

About a month ago, I decided to enter a haiku contest to promote Cottonelle toilet paper and wipes on Twitter. Why not, right? I got to make a joke about butts, and I won a $200 gift card to Amazon when my entry was selected to be one of seven winners.

The winning text, by the way:
“Cottonelle sheets, wipes—
Like yin and yang for your butt:
Two forces, one whole.”

Suddenly, new people were following me, probably eager to see if I had anything else funny or insightful to say—about butts or any other topic. And I realized my Twitter account was linked to a web page to which I last contributed content in March 2011.

Since there seemed to be a hot iron in front of me, I decided to strike by launching a blog based on a concept I’d developed at around the same time I stopped posting elsewhere. Standing in the Shallows went live on Oct. 6, 2013.

Then …

Last night, my phone rang, and at the other end was a voice telling me I’d been randomly selected out of the seven haiku winners to get plane fare, a hotel stay, and conference registration for the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans, set for Jan. 30 through Feb. 1, which coincides with my birthday. And here I am with a blog and everything!

I don’t know much about New Orleans beyond the fact that bodies can’t be buried there due to it being below sea level, and of course the levee situation, and Mardi Gras, and beignets, and that Simpsons episode where they make a musical out of A Streetcar Named Desire and refer to the city as the Sodom and Gomorrah on the Mississipp’. I don’t really like jambalaya or gumbo or muffalettas, but I do like visiting new places, even if getting there isn’t so much half the fun as it is all of the bladder-emptying terror.

But thanks, Cottonelle and Dad 2.0! I’m looking forward to learning a lot in Louisiana—assuming I don’t plummet to my doom.

(I’m still playing the long game too, life-wise, just in case, so don’t forget to weigh in on my Movember moustache style in yesterday’s post, and visit my Mo Space if you feel like leaving me a comment, making a donation, or just seeing what’s what.)