Hi, I’m a stay-at-home dad in a television show or movie and the thing I think about most is doing sex. Specifically, I’m worried that my wife doesn’t want to do sex with me anymore because instead of expressing my manliness by driving hard bargains and winning bread, I change diapers and wash dishes all day.
When I’m not grumpily contemplating whether my wife thinks I’m a eunuch because I spend most of my time raising our children, one thing I’m definitely not doing is shaving or combing my hair. That’s right, you’ll recognize me instantly by my ruffled hair, which is perfect for running my fingers through when I’m stressed out, and my patchy stubble. You see, I’m scruffy because having facial hair is the only thing left that makes me feel like a man and also I’ve given up on grooming and everything else. And yes, that means I’ve also put on a few pounds so I’m a little soft around the middle, but I’m not so disgusting that the moms at school pick-up don’t think I’m kind of adorable.
My wife and kids might describe me as moody and a bit detached at times, but that’s mostly because I’m thinking about that half-finished screenplay in the drawer of my bedside table/the punk rock band I used to play in before my wife got pregnant when we were nineteen/the independent brewery I started out of my garage that did well at first but fizzled out when more competitors moved in.
When I’m not moody though, the word that probably describes me best is frazzled. Yes, I’m often frazzled in a way that emphasizes how difficult caring for children can be. And, because of entrenched gender norms that have traditionally classified childcare and homemaking as feminine tasks, my frazzledness often manifests in stereotypically feminine ways just so you won’t miss the underlying subtext. That subtext is, of course, that I am constantly questioning my masculinity and worrying about how all of this is going to affect the amount and quality of sexual intercourse I’m having.
However, despite being a mess in many ways, I’m a genuinely good parent. I love my kids more than anything. Don’t believe me? Just look at the touching moments I share with my kids amidst all the self-loathing. We also laugh together, the kids and me. Oh, do we laugh. But not in a raucous way, it’s just that we share things. Secrets and such.
But those little moments pale in comparison to the one big moment. You know the one. It happens the day after the simmering feud with my wife finally comes to a head. What was merely a misunderstanding about who was supposed to pick the kids up from sports practice turned into something more and before you know it I’m screaming at my wife in the kitchen, “Do you even love me anymore?” I spend the night on the couch tossing, turning, and running my fingers through my disheveled hair. In the morning, we barely speak. Luckily though, we find something to take our minds off our problems when my daughter or son must face down self-doubt at their school concert/big game/dance recital/sixth grade graduation.
Just before the event, I put my arm around his/her shoulder and tell him/her about the time I was scared and thought I couldn’t do it. That time was, of course, when the nurse handed him/her to me in the delivery room. I was terrified, I tell him/her, but I put one foot in front of the other and just focused on my breathing and here we are today. Then we smile and cry. And he/she nails the solo/wins the game/gets a standing ovation/delivers a perfect speech as I look on and think to myself that no writing award/rock concert/small independent brewery could ever match this moment.
As we bask in the glow of our shared parenting triumph, I reach over and grasp my wife’s hand. We share a look of love and understanding. In that moment, I know that everything is going to be alright and, most importantly, we are going to do sex later.