Being the only SAHD in a small, ultra-conservative town means I often get treated quite a bit differently than most other dads around here and some people simply don’t know how to relate to me at all. When men around here get together, the primary subjects of conversation are hunting, fishing, football, or farming. Now, I grew up on a farm and I spent my childhood doing all four of those things. But since we moved here from Dallas five years ago, most people assume I’m just a liberal city boy who knows nothing about those topics. I can tell it makes some of them very uncomfortable.
A few fathers that I’ve met have said they envy me being able to stay home and raise my kids, but most have said they just don’t have the patience to do what I do. I was surprised at the number of moms who have been quite negative about our household arrangement. But there are a few moms who have been very supportive.
One of my favorite stories about this subject comes from an experience I had at a local grocery store shortly after we moved to Crockett. Hudson was about 18 months old and I took him with me to buy a few things for dinner. When I had everything we needed, I got in line behind an elderly couple and started putting some of our groceries on the conveyor belt. The man in front of us noticed Hudson and the following exchange took place:
Man: “So, you’re babysitting today, huh?”
Me: “Not really. I stay home with him everyday.”
Man: “Oh? You don’t work?”
Before I could speak, the man’s wife, a tiny little lady, turned around, fixed her angry eyes on him and spoke with voice that belied her small stature.
Her: “John Paul Johnson!* I can’t believe you just said that! Do you think I wasn’t working when I raised our boys? Do you think your momma wasn’t working when she took care of you and your brothers? How dare you say something like that!
At this point, the whole scene reminded me of an old Western movie where the villain enters the saloon, the piano player stops and all the patrons turn to look at the door. Everyone stopped moving…customers, cashiers, bag-boys, vendors. The manager was about 20 feet away and I could tell he was trying to decide if he should say something or just keep his mouth shut and avoid her wrath. A few seconds later, it was obvious he decided that discretion was the better part of valor.
The woman was still ranting at the top of her lungs when I raised my hand and tried to calm her down.
Me: “Ma’am, it’s okay. I know what he meant. I’m not offended.”
Her: “No, it is NOT okay and I AM offended! I’m offended and I’m MAD!” <turns back to husband> “Now, you apologize to that young man and come meet me in the car!” <storms out of the store like only an angry Southern lady can>
The store slowly came back to life as she stomped through the door and the man turned back to me.
Him: “I’m sorry about that.”
Me: “Don’t be. I understand what you were trying to say. I didn’t mean to get you in trouble.”
Him: “I haven’t seen her that mad since I quit drinkin’.”
He paid for the groceries and very slowly made his way outside. Then I heard a chuckle behind me and another elderly gentleman put his hand on my shoulder.
Him: “I sure hope you enjoy peace and quiet, son. Once word of this gets out, there won’t be a man in Houston county brave enough to say hello to you.”
Fortunately, he was mistaken and men do say hello to me once in a while. Most of them still don’t know what to say when I tell them I’m a stay-at-home dad, but that’s fine.
*When a Southern woman addresses a man by his full name, you know an ass-chewin’ is about to commence.