Being a man who tends to avoid challenges whenever possible, I was struck with an interesting dilemma when Kate left her job at the end of last month. On the one hand, our family would have no income and we wouldn’t be able to pay our bills or feed our children. But on the other hand, I didn’t have to take care of the kids all on my own.
It turned out not to be much of a dilemma. I much preferred life with Kate out of work. And it was a bonus to watch her self-esteem and general appreciation of life get slowly eroded by near-constant whining and fighting of the older two. “Welcome to my world” I would sing as I skipped around the house all day long.
But then Kate went and ruined it. With a focus and intensity I haven’t seen since, well, the last time she faced the prospect of staying home with the kids, Kate began networking, calling on recruiters and headhunters and friends…anyone. I figured I had at least a month, probably two, to enjoy this. Kate is undeniably good at selling herself –so good in fact, I wake up every morning wondering how the hell I got here. But we were in a recession, I reasoned. No one’s getting jobs. I didn’t get the tenure-track English professor job I applied for at Montclair State University a couple weeks ago. Times had to be tough. I had a month easy.
But the interview requests started coming in. I balked at each one, trying to point out flaws…”would you really like being in charge of the whole thing, though? Wouldn’t that be a lot of pressure?” Or, “do you even like clothes?” At one point, Kate interviewed for a company that was based in New Jersey, only about ten minutes from us. My tune changed a bit…”Well, you’ve always loved data, and processing it seems like it could be pretty fun”.
Kate cruelly let the possibility of this job linger. I laid awake at night imagining mornings with Kate helping out, her zipping off to work when the kids went to school…her slipping out at lunchtime to feed the baby and fold some clothes…and then her getting home in time to make dinner.
It was all for not. Kate found better prospects in the city. She started heading out for interviews, leaving me with two kids not yet in school and one baby not yet willing to accept breast milk from a plastic nipple. It would be my first taste of life as a stay-at-home dad with three kids.
Up till this point, the only times I really felt like I had a lot of kids on my hands were when I was folding laundry and when I was trying to get them all in the car. Otherwise, I could forget about one or two of them at a time without much trouble.
But being alone with them for an extended period of time made me nervous. I was nervous because there had already been several instances whereupon I’d walk into a room, see him there (because third children get left alone in rooms a lot) and gone, “oh yeah, forgot we had you.” And it was nice, sort of like finding a balled up twenty in the pocket of an old pair of jeans, but an extended period of solo parenting…I knew I was going to go out with the older two and forget Theo at home. And I did.
I suggested a bike ride and the three of us headed out the door. We had started along the sidewalk across the street when it dawned on me that I’d left Theo. It wasn’t a big deal –just a few minutes alone for him—but the image of Theo in his car seat left in the middle of the road ala Raising Arizona was now unshakable. I was concerned. So I wrote his name on my hand –Memento-style.
So far it’s been pretty effective.
So, Kate’s first extended foray into the city went surprisingly well. Theo never really got too hungry, or at least too mad about being hungry. All that superfluous, strategic breastfeeding paid off –Theo no doubt drew on the fat reserves located in his neck and ankles.
When Kate finally got back from her interview, she was moaning and holding her breasts. I looked at her, then them. That’s when I realized that our brief time together at home would very soon be coming to an end. I even felt sorry for the hopeful applicants vying for the same job Kate just interviewed for. Her massive melons, popping out of the top of her blouse, were mesmerizing. No way she didn’t get the job.
She sat down, pulled off her high-heels and asked me to unzip her blouse. It was like snipping the casing off a stuffed sausage. “I need to feed this guy”, she said. “My boobs are like bricks.” She gingerly pulled one out. I looked down at Theo, who was now on Kate’s lap staring up at her with a wide-eyed look that somehow seemed both delighted and terrified. As Kate jabbed his face with her dripping nipple I was reminded of that classic Far Side cartoon where a mosquito is blowing up like a balloon as she feeds and her friend is yelling, “Pull out, Betty! Pull out! … You’ve hit an artery!”
Theo survived the feeding and effectively restored his fat reserves, perhaps even making a new one in his forehead…
As I predicted, Kate ended up getting the job. It was back to real life for us all. Starting Monday, Kate will be commuting into Brooklyn (slightly less bad than East Harlem as with the last job) to for her new job at a non-profit. It’s a perfect job for her. I’m going to go back to yelling at my kids, making sandwiches (now one-handed) and counting down the minutes till my wife comes home with those awesome bazoongas. It’s a perfect job for me.
Here’s a little a recap of our summer in pictures. We didn’t really go anywhere and didn’t really do much but somehow a lot happened…