This summer my family and I moved to a new town. It’s a small town, a friendly place where we got to know most of our neighbors in short order. There are all the usual suspects: The retirees, the semi-retirees, the coffee shop owner, the professional couple…
…and then there’s Elmer.
As you might have immediately surmised, Elmer is an elder, in his mid-nineties. Elmer apparently doesn’t know quit, working out in his backyard with his trusty walking stick, elaborating on the neighborhood property lines with me in great detail, and taking seeming daily walks around the block with a younger woman (that is to say, his wife, who’s merely in her early nineties).
Elmer’s what either of my grandfathers might have affectionately referred to as an “old timer.” A product of his era, not so much unswayed by current societal norms as perhaps roundly uninformed. The type to not flinch at something like making reference to “the girls working down at the bank,” because hey, that’s just what they are, no?
So it shouldn’t have surprised me when, apparently informed by the unseen machinery of our small town’s information transmission infrastructure, he asked if he heard right that I was a “homemaker.”
Arghh…right in the manhood. “Stay home with the kids” I’d heard. “Stay at home dad” I’m accustomed to. “Homemaker,” however, was a new tickle on my tympanic membrane.
I mean, the fact he hit me out of nowhere with a homemaker haymaker shouldn’t have shocked me. For God’s sake, the man was in his thirties when “Leave It to Beaver” debuted. But it stirred an odd bit of defensiveness in me. No bearded guy who fashions himself the bristling, brawny sort wants to be put in league with June Cleaver and Aunt Bee. Fighting an urge to suck my teeth, I said yes, I write and stay at home with the kids.
As the conversation waned and I scooped up Sprocket, who was looking for a fainting couch over the fact I engaged in conversation not involving her for more than seventeen seconds, I mulled the exchange over in my head. In the end, I wound up coming to terms with homemaker.
Few occupations have such loaded terms attached to them. What is excluded from being a homemaker? What could be more important than making a home for your family? The word rather morphed itself from a dainty aproned thing to something you’d find splattered by sparks in a forge as one takes the raw material of sticks and stone and drywall and fashions the lot into something new, something indelible and eternal.
If you’re a stay at home dad, you might find yourself occasionally getting defensive at how you’re handled in introductions:
“Oh, so you just stay home with the kids?” Yep, just me and my buds. The toddler and the newborn and I all stumble out of bed before noon most days, nosh some Lucky Charms and tuck into a few hours of XBox. Tater’s really good at no scoping, he’s a little hustler, that one.
“Do you do anything besides staying at home?” What, you mean, like a second job? No, Gwendolyn, not to speak of. Do you moonlight somewhere?
“Do you think you’ll go back to work at some point?” Uh huh. I’m sure I’ll start craving doing work soon. You know, given the NO work now, presumably, work will RESUME at some point.
But try not to let it bother you. These people are either ignorant or guilty of clumsy phrasing and don’t really deserve your ire. If they haven’t been in your shoes, home to them is a place of control, comfort, and respite. To get to stay in that place seems to them to be a wonderful prospect.
Lost to consideration is the fact that, when your home is your workplace as a stay at home parent, you don’t have much in the way of respite. Especially when you’ve got a baby around, you never clock out. Every day you’re presented with about seven things that have to be completed, and at the end of the day you’ll probably find you’ve finished one and got three more half done.
But that’s okay. You find a place to stop, get some broken sleep amongst the bad dreams and colic, and haul yourself up to do it again the next day.
That’s just how it goes when you’re making a home.
About the Creator
Rambler slowing so my kids can start rambling. Done everything from cattle ranching to law enforcement, clergy work to retail, writing to living in Canada's far north. I try to let all of it inform my writing, but current focus is SaHDs.