There's was an obvious level of terror when Melissa and I packed our entire lives into box to move to Idaho. I had been out for a short visit, and all she had to go on was a few pictures and my very detailed description of, "It's pretty!"
Recently I discovered that another gentleman (that seems way too pompous, but I'm gonna allow it), somewhere in Idaho, has been blogging about his experiences here in the "Gem State." While he doesn't seem to be a dad, he often talks about things that speak to me in different ways. Like me, he moved from a much larger city to the slow paced life somewhere in what I assume is the Boise area. Also like me, he seems to be struggling to adapt to certain aspects of being in an area that can feel out of touch with the rest of the world.
Truthfully, some of what he talks about on his website is just untrue. Sadly though, it's easy to convince people that life in Idaho is some form of black and white cartoon centered around a potato. People in Idaho know what the internet is, and I even saw our Governor take what I'm certain was an iPhone out of his straw hat, check the time, and put it in his overalls. Life here is not all that different from them big fancy cities.
One thing does tend to irritate me about many of the people here - sometimes I feel unwelcome. While I find the idea that Idaho needs to "catch up" with the rest of the world to be a little short-sighted, the very concept of a stay-at-home dad is still perplexing to some people in this state. I think much of it comes from religious points of view. The idea that the woman's role is in the household, but there has to be more to it than that.
It doesn't really bother me that people around here find it a little odd that I'm the one at home with the kids. What bothers me is their need to bring attention to it. As a man in an area that does not seem to understand that fathers are also parents, it's hard to find the balance between being offended by people who seem to look down on fatherhood, and not caring at all what they think. It's not okay that people ask Melissa why she is not the one at home. It's not okay that people ask me if I'm having a "day off with the kids" and then give me the most confused look when I explain that I'm a stay-at-home dad. I wish that confusion was limited to this state.
I don't feel a big connection to many of the dad bloggers I've come across, but that has a lot to do with me not trying that hard to make the connections. Still, I've come across some great sites and done a lot of reading and one thing I've seen discussed a lot is that dads are too often forgotten in the parenting world. There are still people who want to perpetuate the idea that fathers can't be every bit as involved in the lives of their children as mothers. There are still people out there who feel like something must be wrong with Melissa and I because our "roles" are not reversed. There seems to be a nation-wide level of complacency to commercials, clothing, greeting cards, movies, TV shows, and more, all portraying dads as not only less important than mothers to kids, but fundamentally stupid when it comes to our children. We are supposed to be good with a hammer, not a hug. Good with a lawn mower, but not a frying pan. This has sadly become a common ideal in the minds of many people, and I really have to thank the amazing group of dad bloggers who have pushed issues of unbalanced views of fatherhood into the light. People are way too passive about underselling the role of a father.
See, there's not much poking fun at moms going around. That's a good thing, but I do think it's time for people to stop pretending that dads are some sort of mute sidekick when it comes to parenting. Great fathers are everywhere, and I think most people are aware of that. So I'm confused at the companies who make efforts to pretend otherwise. What more can fathers do to stop the negative image for the people come up with this crap? How is it that with many great figures of fatherhood around, people are still searching for a better father?
Fun little exercise, open up your eyes a little wider when shopping, watching TV, or even reading parenting materials. It becomes surprising how many commercials paint a picture of the lost dad who needs mom to save the day. You'll hear things like, "dad-proof" or "mother approved." You'll read that "even dad can get involved with this!" or "you'll be surprised to know that there are things we can learn from dad!" or "it's okay to let dad push the stroller even though he doesn't understand how to dress your child." Let's not forget the amazing "parenting" books that have a "special chapter just for dad." It's quite sad, as a father, to need to defend your commitment to your children to faceless corporations and strangers who have turned fatherhood into a joke. A big thank you to the dads and parenting blogs out there, fighting for our real place in the lives of our children.
Not every dad is perfect, but that applies to moms as well. Sorry world, but there's a lot of great dads around. Our bad.