This week on Jerry Springer: “Stay-at-home dads who don’t drink beer or watch sports”

Here’s another reason I don’t have many Stay-At-Home-Dad friends: I cry like a faucet.

I had downloaded some of the free Learn Along With Sesame episodes from iTunes. (Boobaby’s not doing TV yet, but I don’t know how long they’ll be free, so I wanted to take a look.) In one of them, Elmo gets so scared when there’s a grease fire in Mr. Hooper’s kitchen that he won’t go back inside. His red fuzzy hand shakes and his red fuzzy lips quiver, and I am instantly a blubbering mess. Later, Big Bird’s pen pal Gulliver visits Sesame Street and learns that you can make friends who aren’t birds like yourself — you can be friends with people and monsters and birds! “Oh, if only it were that easy, Gulliver!” I shout through my tears.

Despite this display of wimpery, I’m actually getting tougher. I used to cry at long-distance phone service commercials.

Even so, it’s a far cry from the SAHD attitude I’m seeing in the popular media. You know, the “Even though I’m a stay-at-home dad, I still watch sports, scratch my crotch, hide my feelings, and drink a lot of beer.” I don’t do any of that anymore, but then I never did. Super Bowl Sunday nauseates me slightly, although at least it’s easier to park at the zoo that day.

I read recently that there are on the order of 130,000 stay-at-home fathers in the U.S.: a minority, to be sure, but a significant enough one that I shouldn’t feel too lonely. On the other hand, I seem intent on slicing that minority thinner and thinner. Thoughts that strike me:

I’m not a stereotypical guy

  • I’m a stay-at-home dad
  • I stay home with Boobaby by choice (that is to say, not a laid-off guy who happens to stay home)
  • I cry when appropriate
  • I don’t like sports
  • I don’t know anything about investments
  • I have no ambition to have a powerful job
  • And so on…

Every time I think of something to add, I cut myself off from another subset of people, more clearly defining myself as “unusual” or “oddball.”

That’s silly, though, because I could just as easily embrace the parts of my existence that are universal — and not gender-related. Someone said to me once, “The last thing we need is a more thorough identification with a tribe.”

I am a stereotypical person

  • I’m a parent
  • I’m a spouse
  • I belong to numerous communities, both geographic and implicit
  • I am fascinated with other people
  • I’m getting older
  • I want to tread softly in the world but be heard widely
  • And so on…

Every time I add something to this list, I’m allying myself with a new group — a point of commonality, not divergence. Everybody is different, sure, but really, everybody is the same, too, and I’ll only learn anything by bridging the differences and embracing what we share.

Unfortunately, there’s a sort of comfort in looking at someone different (a beer-swilling, gruff, unemotional stay-at-home dad, for instance) and pointing out the disparity.