Mommy Wars: Dispatches From The Front Lines Of Daddy Wars
I am firmly in the midst of a war that no one knew was being waged.
I’m straddling the line between both sides, not so much as a double agent, but more of an innocent bystander who can’t really consider himself a member of either team. These Mommy Wars have decided to jump across gender lines and become an all out battle on the male side of things. Yes, you heard me right. The Daddy Wars are out there, the trenches have been dug, and fathers everywhere are suiting up for daily battles that they didn’t necessarily ask for. They’ve been handed this war by a society that no longer eschews the male-as-caregiver role, yet still looks upon it with a wary eye.
Fathers didn’t have to follow in the matronly footsteps that decades of mothers before them tread by picking fights with each other over which form of childcare was “better” or “smarter” or, worst of all, “more loving.” We could have chosen to break new ground, share the best of our experiences, and all been friends, right? Wrong. Sadly, that silly little antagonism between the work-at-home parents and the go-to-work parents will always be there. When parents do things differently, they are bound to have different opinions about the “others” — and dads are no exception.
As a work-from-home Dad, I am literally in the middle of this war. I can neither pledge allegiance to the stay-at-home dads nor the go-to-work papas. I have a little bit of both in me at all times and it’s gotten me some interesting looks from both sides. The best part, however, is my ability to play Switzerland and just observe the fighting like an impartial wartime journalist. I can laugh at the dirty looks shot across the room at The Little Gym to the dads that have to leave their children with their wives and nannies and I can still get a good chuckle as I watch those same dads mouth “get a job” to those same stay-at-homers. That’s not to say I’ve escaped the ridicule of both the stay-at-home crowd and the go-to-work dads.
Do you have any idea how emasculating it is to take your daughter to her doctor’s office for a check-up on a weekday mid-morning and have the receptionist, nurse, and every mother in the waiting room look at you like you’re an adorable teddy bear that they just want to hug and cuddle? It’s as if the sight of a stay-at-home dad bringing his daughter to the doctor immediately melts their collective hearts into a messy pile of “awww.” If they only knew how much work I needed to finish when we arrived home, their “awww” would turn into awe pretty quickly.
Not to mention the fact that, because I’m a work-from-home dad, nearly every single member of my family has said at one point or another “Oh, you work from home. You can take a few hours to take her to the doctor/dentist/shoe store/park/out to lunch/to a play date/etc/ad nauseum, right?” As if working from home doesn’t so much involve actual work but instead consists of a strange semblance of futzing around on the Internet and clipping your toenails while you just collect pay checks.
In this respect, I feel like a kindred spirit to the masses of stay-at-home and work-from-home moms and dads. It’s like everyone thinks that being home means doing nothing for most of the day. I’ve heard similar gripes from stay-at-home mom friends and they get the exact same comments. Listen, whether you’re a stay-at-home or a work-from-home, I feel your pain. Take my advice and use the same response that I’ve used with those same family members time and time again: Working from home means just that… working.
I’ve had my share of experiences with other fathers on both sides of the Daddy Wars. Most of the time when I explain that I’m a work-from-home Dad, I get that same glitzy-eyed look like I’d just told them my job is to watch movies and eat popcorn all day long. I’ve also had the exact opposite reaction. If it’s not the excited look I just described, it’s a sullen look of dread that would make you think I’d told them my job is following dogs around with a shovel while they do their business.
What matters most to me, however, isn’t what side of the battle I’m on, but rather how my stay-at-home/go-to-work situation affects my family. As long as my wife and daughter are happy, I honestly couldn’t care less about what Stay-At-Home-Dad or Go-To-Work-Dad thinks about me. Let them shoot me their looks and mouth their words. I’ll remain Switzerland and I’ll just laugh it all off to live another day in the trenches of a war I never once asked to be a part of.