Day 19: Mr. Mom.

Dear friends,

DougJoanStPats

Still crazy about him after all these years.

On the 19th day of this month of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for Mr. Mom.

It’s his 50th birthday. Give him a shout-out, will you?

I have written many, many stories about him. If you followed me over from my former blog, you’ve read most of them. I keep searching for new and better words to capture my enduring affection and respect for the man I met at age 22 and who — nearly 30 years later — still makes my eyes light up and my pulse quicken.

In this space, my favorite posts about Mr. Mom are this one,

and this one

and this one.

Despite continuing attempts, I seem to come up short at expressing what he means to me.

I’ve said he’s my genesis. My steady rudder. My love, my life, and my laughter. The reason I’ve achieved anything worth talking about. The most evolved man I’ve ever known.

And none of that scratches the surface of a man so kind, so thoughtful, so devoid of ego, so generous, so invested in becoming all he can to benefit those he loves that this writer — a woman who thinks she’s pretty adept at stringing words together — quietly contemplates the paucity of her prose and fervently wishes she could do him justice.

Since I can’t, I’ll simply say Happy Birthday, man of my dreams.

With gratitude {for the tall drink of water who took a chance on an over-dressed, under-evolved college girl on a blind date 28 years ago},

Joan, who kind of fancies herself the Diane Cort to Mr. Mom’s Lloyd Dobbler for more reasons than you can imagine, including wild romantic gestures, trench coats, “friends with potential,” and paternal frailties

The epidemic.

Dear friends,

One of the most fascinating things about writing a blog is discovering the search terms that cause people to stumble upon my site.

I had no idea when I wrote two posts early on mentioning Tina Fey that nearly every day someone would visit Debt of Gratitude as a result. “Tina Fey” is the number one search term on my site. “Tina Fey wallpaper” is number two. (I can’t explain why anybody is searching for Tina Fey wallpaper. I can, however, explain my interest in both the actress and the wallcovering.)

Lately, though, some odd search terms have popped up. Saturday it was “the epidemic of Mr. Moms.”  Really? There’s an epidemic? Not where we live. Not where we’ve ever lived. In fact, in all our married life, we’ve only known one other couple with a stay-at-home dad. And don’t get me started on my reaction to comparing a parenting choice to a disease.

Then yesterday, a search for “places to make pottery in Massachusetts” led a reader to me. I’ve written about places. And pottery. And Massachusetts. But not all three in the same post. I bet the reader was really disappointed in what I had to offer.

However, somebody else also stumbled across my site yesterday as a result of a search for “freckles.” I mentioned Kate’s freckles recently in a post about her prom photos and, who knows, maybe that reader got just what he/she was looking for.

You know what NOBODY searches for? Gratitude. Appreciation. Gratefulness. Thankfulness.

If there’s an epidemic happening out there, I’d say it’s a dearth of gratitude — which, as you know by now, is EXACTLY why I started this site and what I attempt to focus on — no matter how weakly or obliquely — every day.

So, yeah, it’s ironic that the very thing nobody searches for is exactly what I have to offer.

I’m going to keep beating my drum anyway. You never know when gratitude is going to trend.

And then, baby, I’m the number one Google search result. I can feel it.

With gratitude {for mysterious algorithms that bring readers searching for “highschool black shoes for girls” to my humble site},

Joan, who appreciates every single reader, every single day

He said. She said.

Dear friends,

It rained at our place yesterday. Big ol’ buckets of rain poured down for most of the day, including just as Mr. Mom and I were falling asleep. Under the steady drum of rain on our roof in a house that was dark and otherwise still, here’s the conversation we had.

Mr. Mom:  I forgot to tell you. When I was driving to Wichita earlier this week, I drove through the worst rain ever. I could barely see the road and had to slow way down. I’ve never driven through rain that hard.

Joan: That’s not true.

Mr. Mom: What do you mean?

Joan: It’s not the worst rain ever. I was with you when you drove through the worst rain ever — that night we drove from Tulsa to Nowata and I was so scared and made us pull over. Remember? It was raining so hard the water started pouring through the seals of the side windows.

Mr. Mom: That was a function of the windows in that crappy ol’ Ram Charger and the wind, not the rain.

Joan: Not true! When we pulled over, it was raining so hard we couldn’t even see our hood ornament — and the rain was so heavy that RAIN WAS POURING IN our windows.

Mr. Mom: <chuckling> Shut up!

Joan: No! You’re wrong, and you’re trying to blame the windows when in fact it was the heaviest rain you’ve ever been in.

Mr. Mom: <chuckling> Oh, so you’re saying the wind wasn’t a factor?

Joan: The wind WAS a factor.

<Pause>

Joan: But it was still the heaviest rain ever.

With gratitude {for a pillow partner that lets me win all the important arguments},

Joan, who is the Master of Trivial Pursuit in her own life

Mr. and Mrs. Mom.

Dear Friends,

Image courtesy of Pinterest

I recently pointed you in the direction of a blogger named Glennon Melton of Momastery on my post about funny writers (of which we have well established I am not one).  Glennon has a serious side, too, and her article Friendly Fire was reprinted recently on the Huffington Post. In it, Glennon discusses the ways in which women criticize themselves and each other for their choices related to careers and family life. Her point is that we’re all doing the best we can and, despite our choices, we’re all conflicted about them at any given moment.  Witness:

. . . When you yell about how much peace you have with your decisions, it just doesn’t ring true. The thing is, if you’re yelling, I don’t believe that you’ve got it all figured out. I don’t even believe that you believe you’ve got it all figured out. I think your problem might be that you’re as internally conflicted as the rest of us about your choices. But instead of kicking your own ass, you’ve decided it’d be easier to kick ours.

I’m a working mother who’s worked my butt off and sacrificed more than I care to count over two decades to advance my career and reach executive status. I also am a woman who loves nothing more than to putter around the house, cook and bake, pamper my children and husband, and nest in every way I know how. To say I have been conflicted is to say the sunrise is reliable. But I mostly made my peace with my conflict nearly a decade ago when my husband sold his business and became the stay-at-home Dad I now call Mr. Mom on this blog.

I wrote an essay on our choice (and on our individual demons) that was published in a 2007 anthology of Oklahoma writers. I’ve decided to reprint it here for any new readers who didn’t follow me over from my former blog.

Here’s the point I continue to be struck by, both when I wrote that essay years ago and earlier this week when I read Glennon’s post: Our struggle is a foreign concept to men.  As women, we torment ourselves and others in a way that never occurs to our male counterparts.

When Mr. Mom became a stay-at-home dad, he had his demons to face, all right. Boredom, monotony, lack of adult stimulation, feelings of diminished value due to lack of earning power . . . all of these became personal struggles to confront. But never once did he suffer from what Glennon calls “Mommy Guilt,” that inner voice that criticizes every choice a mother makes — and then projects that guilt, as a coping mechanism no doubt, on every other mother she knows.

When we first made our transition, I used to marvel at how my husband could be so in-the-moment. He did the best he knew how, every day, for our kids and for me, without looking back and without second-guessing. Over time, he got better at juggling the home-keeping side of his job and now I marvel at how he manages to do so much.

Nurturing and loving a family is tough work, folks, and to tackle that while keeping  house is to excel at multi-tasking and to sacrifice your own dreams and desires for a good long time. I am acutely and reverently aware of what Mr. Mom gives up to make our lives easy and comfortable and filled with loving care. Why any human, female or male, would see fit to criticize another for doing this yeoman’s work is beyond me.  And why any soul would criticize themselves or others for choosing to be an earner for their family is also hard to fathom.

I’ve done it, though – beat myself up with the rest of the Mommy Guilt survivors. A few years ago I was bemoaning my failure to spend more time with my children in a lunch conversation with a dear friend. (Read: I was self-flagellating for being a working mom – even as I had a husband who stayed home!) I think I said something like “As a mother, I just don’t know what I’m any good at.”

And my friend put down her fork, looked me square in the eye and said, “I’ll tell you what you are good at, Joan. You are a provider. A damn good one! I know plenty of men who aspire to provide for their family at the level you do. Let go of the guilt and feel good about excelling in your role.”

I cannot repay my friend for her kindness. I took her words to heart and I have mostly released the guilt. It tries to creep in now and again, but I remind myself there’s no point in it.

If the man in my life doesn’t need it, why should I?

With gratitude {for the freedom to choose my path, a partner who signed on for the ride, and the good sense to hear sage advice when it’s offered},

Joan, who honestly digs the whole “happy housewife in an apron” image but is mostly content to wear that persona on weekends

You and me’s just a Fool’s Paradise.

Dear Friends,

I came home from Florida yesterday, still smelling of sunshine and seafood but tingling with anticipation to see my family.

Seventy-two hours is nothing to be away when you’re busy working and trying to eek out a little fun in between the work.  But it’s a lifetime when you’re in a hotel late at night, uncomfortable in a bed that’s not yours, listening to strange sounds from a strange parking lot outside your window instead of the breathing of the man next to you, whose breathing you adore and which makes you feel like everything in your life is safe and good as long he’s breathing next to you.

When I’m away from my family, it’s the little things I miss.  And for some odd reason, Sunday night as I went to bed for my last night in Florida and reflected on those little things, I thought of this:

Mr. Mom and I are serious fans of the Coen brothers. (You know, Joel and Ethan, writers and producers of some of the most brilliantly scripted movies of the last 25 years?) Mr. Mom introduced me to them via Raising Arizona when we first started dating. And ever since, he’s been quoting select lines from that movie and many other Coen classics whenever a situation applies.

For example, like the bumbling bank robber Gale Snoats (John Goodman) in Raising Arizona, I have a habit of telling Mr. Mom to do two things at once. In the film, Snoats shouts at his victims to freeze and to get down on the ground, to which a puzzled hayseed replies: Well, which is it young feller? You want I should freeze or get down on the ground? Mean to say, if’n I freeze, I can’t rightly drop. And if’n I drop, I a-gonna be in motion.

So whenever I issue two orders at once to Mr. Mom, he always stops, smiles and says: Well which is it young lady? You want I should stir the pot or get the milk out of the frig? Mean to say , if’n I stir the pot . . .

I could recite a long list of other examples of Coen dialogue in our routine conversations, but one that really tickles me is that lately Mr. Mom has taken to quoting Raising Arizona to Kate’s Chihuahua, Sweetpea. There’s a scene in the movie where . . . well, just watch for yourself (it’s only 30 seconds long).

raising-arizona-meeting-ed

Mr. Mom is the one who, more times than not, lets Sweetpea out of her crate in the morning and follows her through the house to open the back door for her potty break. Sweetpea runs out of her crate in Kate’s room and down the hallway and, at the exact point she must turn to go to the door, Mr. Mom says in his best Ed McDunnough (Holly Hunter) voice, “Turn to the right!”

I don’t know if Mr. Mom knows I hear this every morning. And I don’t know if he knows I smile every time I hear it. But I do know that quoting Raising Arizona to Kate’s dog is only one tiny reason I find him so wonderfully essential to my life.

With gratitude {for our little Fools’ Paradise},

Joan, who’s pretty sure Sweetpea enjoys Mr. Mom’s humor, too, even if she hasn’t exactly said so

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 651 other followers

%d bloggers like this: