Ask Dad: Why No Sympathy for Stay-At-Home Dad?

Andrew Dalton

It's the end of the week, and soon school and day care won't be there to help parents do their job. But don't worry. Ask Dad is here to help ease your burdens. So what ails you? 

I'm a stay-at-home dad who gets the big kid off to school and the little one fed and diapered. My working wife seems to think I have it easy. How can I get some appreciation?   

Not to dance on your dilemma, dad, but your question makes me very happy. Camille Paglia once said that she'll know we have gender equality when there are as many female serial killers as there are male mass murderers. 

I think we'll have sex equality when there as many house-husbands feeling neglected and under-appreciated as there are wives. I want it to become a cliche, to replace the gags-at-the-smell-of-diapers image that dominates now. 

Ask Dad has been on both sides of this situation, and some resentment is inevitable. Working parents miss their kids, and may even feel guilty for leaving them all day. Social expectations make this even more powerful for ladies like yours. So the first thing they notice about you when they get home is that you've had exactly what they want all day. Sympathy just ain't automatic.  

When two people are both exhausted at the end of their own long days, the last thing they want to hear is someone else's beat-down story. It makes you feel like you don't get to own your own woes. Which leads me to the first in a list of suggestions to win you some love.  

  • Show a little sympathy yourself, you jerk: Admit it, when your lady comes home from work and wants to talk about her pain-in-the-ass boss, or that co-worker that's trying to destroy her, you roll your eyes a little bit and think to yourself, "At least you didn't have to get their poop under your fingernails or have to pat them down for illegal candy." A little bit more tender-loving listening and sympathetic nodding will probably be paid back. 
  • Pull off showy acts of parenting brilliance: I don't want to add to your already heavy work load, but a well-placed set of pigtails, a homemade greeting card or well-set table at the end of the day is bound to win you accolades. If you suck at all that stuff, fake it. Have a kid or a neighbor help you.  
  • Join a stay-at-home moms group: I say 'moms' because we still live in a world where many men have aversions to both staying home with kids and discussion groups. But there will be no more sympathetic ear than parents in your same bind. They may be wary of your hairy manhood at first, but I bet you'll be one of the more popular members eventually. This might even make your wife jealous and prompt her to pay you a bit more attention. (Don't try to force this, just let it be a happy side effect.)    
  • Set up a zany 'Mrs. Mom' scenario: Have your lady play your role for a day. Can you imagine a woman trying to take care of children? Can you picture her dealing with the older kid's Xanax-addict teacher and change the diapers of the little one without gagging? Hilarious!

Ladies, help me out here. How can this SAHD get some sympathy and appreciation from his wife?

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