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There are all kinds of different reasons to run – health, sanity, competition, escape…
One of the reason I run is because I am a stay-at-home dad. No, I don’t run a business from home. I am not a dad who lost his job and is temporarily at home. No. I am a homemaker, I AM a stay at home dad.
Years ago, Jess and I decided that we wanted to have one of the two of us taking care of our children during the day. Fortunately, one of us made a salary that would allow us to do that. It wasn’t me – my salary at that time would have put us in a studio apartment in a bad neighborhood.
And so my journey as a homemaker and stay-at-home parent began.
That was over 10 years ago.
In very short order, I gained a new respect for the millions of women who had given up careers (voluntarily or not) to raise their children and take care of their homes. Homemaking is not an easy gig. I was quickly accepted among the moms I would regularly cross paths with – for which I was grateful. Not every stay at home dad is readily accepted into the stay at home community.
Still, despite the acceptance of the moms, and the feigned/ignorant jealousy of my male friends, I knew I was still a strange man in a strange land, an oddity, a curiosity (years ago, a store clerk, unable to wrap her brain around the fact that I was a stay at home dad insisted, INSISTED, that I must be a nanny).
To the moms, I am a nice guy who works hard (and isn’t it sweet), but I can’t ever share what they share. I didn’t carry Katie or Brooke inside me for 9 month. I can never know the emotional ups and downs nor the emotional bond mothers have with their kids. I can’t share in the more intimate conversations they will have with each other because, well, I’m a guy.
To the dads, I am an enigma, a riddle. How does this guy do that? But I don’t share the burdens of salary and employment that they do. I cannot know what it means to be the sole bread-winner – “the man” of the house.
It is a lonely place – a toe, if that, in each world, but not fully accepted, respected nor understood by anyone in either.
The truth is, as a stay at home dad, the economy scares me as much as the next man, but I have the added insult of knowing that my skill set is over 10 years out of date. I cannot suddenly be “the man” should Jess lose her job. Go back to school, you say? When, is my response. Were Brooke your typical child, I might be willing to bring in a baby sitter or a nanny or put her in after school care, but she is not. Move, you say? So that we don’t have to depend on Jess’ sizable salary to live in this neighborhood? Where, is my response. Were Brooke typical, we might have moved long ago, but, as much as we complain about the school system, unfortunately, it is still one of the best in the nation, IN THE NATION, for children like Brooke. No, we cannot move without putting Brooke’s future at stake.
It is depressing to know that I cannot cleave the chains that bind us to our situation and location. Despite all the good I know I do – and believe me, I know – I know my chosen vocation raises eyebrows, and at times leaves me feeling powerless…
Which is why running is so important to me. Through running I can exert my strength. I can look at 80 – 90% of the men on the planet and say, “I am stronger, I am faster, I am better at something than you.”
It is a male thing. A man thing.
But it is not for them, those other men, that I run.
No, it is for me.
It is to remind myself that I am still a man…still strong…still capable…still powerful…
…still a man.