When I first heard about the novel Fathermucker by Greg Olear I immediately added it to my Amazon.com Wishlist. I use that wishlist as a list of Things I Really Ought To Read. If a particular book is available at my local library, I’ll get it there. Unfortunately, Fathermucker is not available at my local library. Luckily, for my birthday my sister bought the book for me.
Fathermucker was published last year. There’s a blog, too, a damn good one.
Fathermucker the book is about a day in the life of Stay-at-Home-Dad (SAHD) Josh Lansky. Josh is having a very bad Friday. He’s the father of a five year-old boy with Asperger’s and a three-year-old daughter. It’s Day Five of his wife Stacy’s out-of-town business trip. He is tired. His nerves are frayed. His small kids act as charming, infuriating, and messy as small kids act. Then Sharon, a mother in their kids’ playgroup, tells Josh that she’s pretty sure Stacy is cheating on him, and chaos ensues with much hilarity throughout the rest of the day.
The title of the book is author Greg Olear’s word for fathers who stay at home and take care of the kids. He says, “It implies the mucking up of gender roles, which is what makes it so appropriate. It conveys the messiness, the blurriness, the sloppiness of SAHD-dom.”
The world Olear describes in Fathermucker is one similar in many ways to the one in which I live, but also remarkably different. First off, the setting of New Paltz, NY sounds like a Very Liberal small town, the kind you can only find on the East Coast. In the Midwest, small towns are conservative. As far as I know, there is not a small town in Michigan that hosts a Gay Pride Parade.
Second, here are some things that Josh does that I do not do.
Eat at McDonald’s several times a week. Though I do buy my kids French fries from McDonald’s. I tried their slushy drinks recently as I was craving something approximating the slushy drinks from CoCo in Shanghai. I was disappointed.
Subscribe to and read US Weekly. I only read the headlines in the checkout lane at the grocery store….Though I have been tempted to buy a copy.
Go on regular playdates with a regular group of moms. There isn’t a large collection of urban-minded moms like you’ll find in major cities, or those suburbs or small towns where urban-minded moms and their partners move when they realize how expensive it is to raise kids in a major U.S. city. Generally speaking, these are the kinds of moms who are not freaked out by a fathermucker. Also, parents here aren’t into hover-parenting the way Professional Type A Parents on the coasts are, supervising every single moment of their childrens’ upbringing.
Wear the same pair of jeans for two weeks straight. I have managed to maintain much better hygiene, thank you very much.
Third, here are some things that happen to Josh that have never happened to me.
Sold a screenplay. Though I did publish a novel.
Get hit on by a mom. Nope, never happened, thankfully.
The rest of the book, which is to say the vast majority of it, is a pretty accurate, funny, evocation of the challenges, fun, and insecurities of being a fathermucker. Not to mention how under siege you can feel as a parent to small children. Here’s Josh about putting off the kids immediate demands,
Kids have no concept of time. Ever again, forever, yesterday, tomorrow, last year, next month—none of these terms have any real meaning to a child, especially a three-year-old. Sometimes you can use this to your advantage. Sure, you can say, we’ll go there tomorrow. Or, We’ll buy the new Lego set next week. So few arrows in the parental quiver—important to use the full comportment of weaponry at your disposal, however meager their power (and however deceptive their advertising).
And here’s Josh talking about one of the mothers in the playgroup.
The other issue with Gloria is that she’s a stay-at-home mom—a SAHM, as they call themselves on the comment boards at the Hudson Valley Parents website—to a single child. With the first kid, you want everything to be perfect, and you tend to rail against the many forces at work to corrupt the pure, blameless creature in your care. Little lamb, who made thee? Once a sibling enters the world, you stop drilling the first kid on his ABCs and his multiplication tables, and charting when they feed and sleep and poop, and you chill the fuck out at playdates.
Gloria is a SAHM. That makes Haven a Son of SAHM.
And it make me SAHD.
Read Fathermucker for several laughs about being a parent in this day and age with playdates, Legos, “Mommy Wars,” Yo Gabba Gabba, child-wrecked minivans, playlists, more Legos, and Dora the Explorer.
Oh, and I guarantee you that you will not be able to think about Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat in the same way again.