Walking to the playground, today, with Little C in the stroller and Big E on his scooter, I noticed an inordinate number of adoring expressions from passing women. I recognize that pursed lip, upside-down smile simultaneously showing sympathy, adoration and appreciation.
I know my kids are cute. I also know that most mothers don’t receive that look from other women. It’s because I’m a man. People think it’s sooooo cute when a dude’s got two kids. We’re not supposed to be capable of such feats. So I look like a hero. I know it. I appreciate it. Sometimes I resent it.
Nannies, especially, can’t believe my partner and I are raising kids without help (aside from our wonderful, regular babysitters). When I’m on the playground on a Wednesday afternoon and I’m the only man (often the only white person…a funny detail about raising kids in Manhattan), I’ve had many conversations with nannies asking, “Your nanny is off, today?” “Is your wife sick, today?” “Are you the nanny?”
Heaven forbid a nearly 40-year-old man take his own kids to the playground on a weekday afternoon. Eh. It’s just that my situation is unique. And I’m lucky.
We interviewed nannies after Little C was born. We weren’t sure if we could keep up the Broadway show schedule with a toddler and a newborn. Ultimately, it didn’t make sense to obligate ourselves to employing someone for 40 hours. We only needed 32 hours of help, and the boys would be asleep for 12 of those hours.
During our interview process, the nannies were astounded we didn’t already have help. In one interview a predominantly-Spanish-speaking woman asked, “You have no cleaning help?”
She looked around at our not-clean apartment and said, “Ah.” Now she understood the dismantled puzzles strewn about, the empty water bottles under the dining table, and our unintentionally spotted rug.
Now she understood why we needed help.
She asked, “But who does your laundry?”
“You’re looking at him,” I replied.
She took a moment to verify she’d understood me. Then she laughed uproariously…like…uproariously.
Had I missed a joke?
It’s sort of a laundry badge of honor, now. I’d be happy to hand it off.
Until my baby gear business takes off, I’ll be doing the laundry and shepherding two kids to the playground and pretending not to see the sympathetic smiles of appreciation from behind my sunglasses.
My eyes look too tired to take the glasses off, after all.