Mr. Mom, in a whirl of his own
It's not like Mac meant to shame us; it's just that we were so messy by comparison. "How can anyone be so tidy in a room full of toddlers?" we'd wonder (shamefully). But the real problem was that we didn't know how to relate to Mac. (It might have helped if he'd been more unkempt.) He clearly wasn't "one of the girls."Skip to next paragraph
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I first met Mac at the local library's story hour, when my kids were still too young to read, but old enough to sit still - at least for a very short while. Mac is a stay-at-home dad in a town full of nannies and two-income families. Even in this loosey- goosey new millennium, Mac is, to say the least, a rare bird.
Mac was an actor before he had kids, but now he mostly spends his time as primary caregiver (otherwise known as benevolent schlepper), a role usually relegated to us, the stay- at-home moms. He takes his son and daughter to school, he picks them up, he does the shopping; in other words, he does the stuff that mothers usually do.
And to make matters worse, he's not a wuss or a groovy guy. He's just a guy. Which means he's not at all like us full-time moms. We are the strong, the proud, the few, and yes, the female. Mac is stronger, prouder, fewer, and did I mention Mac's a man? So at library story hour, Mac stood out like the proverbial bull in a china shop, not because he was breaking things, but because he was so, yes, that's right - male.
For this reason alone he didn't exactly blend into the scenery the way the rest of us did in our sweats and jeans and tired-looking faces. To make matters worse, Mac was immaculate, as was his son. Every week they would arrive on time, listen attentively, never make a mess; they put us to shame.
Though I wouldn't say we hated Mac, we didn't know what to do with him either. The fact that his wife - who works in publishing - is a hoot and-a-half to hang out with only made matters worse. It made even us feminist moms wish for a traditional division of labor.
Why couldn't Mac go to work and Lucy stay home?
But that's not the way Mac and Lucy wanted it, so we just had to adjust, since frankly it was none of our business anyway. To his everlasting credit, Mac never seemed to care about fitting in.
He was just trying to be a good dad, first to his son and then to his daughter when she showed up a few years later. He wasn't looking to make new friends, swap recipes, be a faux mom. He was never unfriendly, just sort of aloof.
Mac and I exchanged polite hellos for many years, on playgrounds, in parking lots, at birthday parties. We weren't quite friends, but we certainly weren't enemies, either. We were hospitable acquaintances. It was sometimes awkward, but mostly all right.
Things got easier as our kids got older; time has a way of doing that. Mac took up part-time coaching weekend soccer and after-school baseball. Not surprisingly, this more-traditional male role put us moms at ease. We knew how to relate to a man with a baseball in his hand better than we knew what to say to a guy pushing a stroller. (Shame on us for that.)