An at-home parent typically has one choice every day: leave the house or stay at home? Staying is nice because you can go without pants all day and watch The Price is Right. Going out is nice as well because, you know, nature. But while going out often involves diaper bags, strollers, and frantic store aisle chases, those unpleasantries aren’t the worst things about leaving the house.
It’s the fact I’ll have to speak with other parents.
I am, by default, a fairly antisocial person. If given the chance to sit alone in the dark, I’ll usually take it. Not exactly a good quality to have when taking your kids out of the house. Especially to places likely to have other parents. This is because parents talk. A lot. “She’s got such beautiful eyes!” “He’s been a little gassy…” “Do you watch The Chew?” It’s all terribly awkward for me. Here’s a common example:
“How old is she?” The “she” in question is, of course, my daughter. And she’s two. My response will therefore be: “Two.”
Nice and abrupt. Just the way I like it. This is when the awkwardness sets in. The other parent knows it. I know it. But the ball’s still in my court so I toss in the following to not come off as a psychopath: “And yours?”
It’s at this juncture that I wish the other person will follow my initial lead and respond with another abrupt answer so that I can go back to my typical recoiling-from-you-whoever-you-are nature. But that never happens. It’s never a one-word answer with these people. Instead, I find myself on the wrong end of a fireman’s hose; one that’s blasting gassy-baby stories in my face. Pretty much the bane of my existence.
Now—putting my terrible social skills aside for a moment—let’s take a moment to wonder just why this is. Why do parents—especially at-home ones—feel the need to divulge so much about their personal lives? Why are they so chatty with people they just met? Is it because I’m in the male minority and therefore more socially challenged? Perhaps…but I have met enough at-home fathers by now to know it’s not really a gender issue. Other at-home dads are far more social and talkative than me. Sure, they don’t converse quite as much as the ladies do, but it’s not as large a gulf as might be expected. Instead, I think it boils down to two simple things: a need to speak with other adults for a change and the opportunities for playgroup networking that stems from that.
For the most part these are people like me who don’t see a lot of others their age during the day. Just kids. Yowling, scowling kids. With schmutz on their faces. And poop in their pants. But unlike me, these people have something called social skills. So they talk. And they bond. And they establish playgroups. And this is pretty much how they survive At-Home Fun Time Land, you see—by talking with other parents, making friends, and expanding their network of people they can share time with during the long days when their spouses are out. All healthy habits to have.
And yet I shun them. Not out of logic or need. Just because I’m wired differently. Just because I’m WEIRD.
So here I am, an entire year since I first set out on this at-home adventure, stuck between my antisocial nature and the realization that I should be reciprocating with my fellow breeders. I mean, it’s obvious, right? I should be opening up my heart and mind to them. I should be making friends so that I won’t feel so cooped up over the long, cold winter months. I should provide my daughter and son with more opportunities to play with other kids their age. It’s pretty obvious. So I should try. And I promise to! Just…
Not today, okay?