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Charlie Stewart

First Person: Tips from Mr. Mom

Necessity is the father of invention
Saturday, June 17, 2000

Mr Mom
I have been a Mr. Mom the past five years, and a friend of mine was recently encouraging me to write a book about my experiences. I plan to start the outline and write the book just as soon as I find my son's retainer before his orthodontist appointment.

C.P. Stewart III lives in Squirrel Hill and manages the homefront for his wife, Franny, and their three children ages 14, 12 and 9.

The problem with writing a book is that usually one has to sit down for endless periods of time, and it has been five years since I sat down to eat breakfast or lunch. It is true that I might be of help to fathers out there who are struggling with parenting and time management.

For instance, probably the most valuable lesson I can pass on is that the key ingredient to cereal is - are you ready for this?- glue. If you let leftover cereal sit around in a bowl on the breakfast table, it will take the better part of your afternoon to chisel it off.

Tip No 1: Rinse Cereal Bowls Immediately.
This will free up valuable time to do something useful, such as go out and buy a case of pacifiers so there is at least one in every room, closet and vehicle you own. Do not bother to read any books on parenting. This also will save you bundles of time. Most books advise you how important it is to show your children love and give them "quality" time. But what you really need to know is -

Tip No. 2: Get Down on Your Hands and Knees and Look Under the Couch for That Missing Soccer Shoe.
This is hardest to do when the carpool is waiting. Also, you must not be distracted by other items you might find under there. Stay focused. In a book called "Parenting 911," somehow the authors figured out that when fathers are involved, their daughters are less inclined to engage in promiscuous activities and to develop eating disorders. A 1997 government study also shows that in two-parent families, when fathers are present, the children are more likely to get A's. Which brings us to -

Tip No. 3: Stick Around the House.
Even if you are just a blob sitting in the family TV room, you are a benefit to society. If you do go out and buy a book, don't believe everything you read. For example, "Parenting for Dummies" advises us not to mark our children's clothing with their names because bad people will be able to use the information against the family. If I might suggest -

Tip No. 4: Mark Anything That Has a Chance of Leaving the House.

Most mothers even return the clothes clean, and I spend less time stooped over the steaming, moldy clothes in the Lost and Found bin at the pool. As much as Bill Gates would like to think Microsoft has changed the world and made life easier, get a load of -

Tip No. 5: There Are No Technological Advances in Parenting.
Parenting is a 16-hour day of strenuous, mental and physical labor, day after day, week after week.
A friend of mine, Randy Harper, age 33, of Monroeville, is a full-time father of a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. His wife, Kamini, is a trust administrator at PNC. "I never realized what I was in for," said Randy to me one day. "It's three times harder than going to work. I'm begging to go back to work."
He says that half jokingly because, as he has told me, taking care of kids has given him "more rewards than you can count."
If you have an adolescent daughter and you innocently stumble upon her and your wife engaged in conversation, here comes -

Tip No. 6: Leave the House Now and Head for the Airport.
One Shadyside resident and stay-at-home dad says his daughter "always has long conversations with her mother. I don't know what they are about."
What they are about will remain a mystery to fathers and will run the gamut of emotional highs and lows with tears and laughter. Meanwhile, mother and daughter will never know you have gone to play Pebble Beach, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, buy a sports car or see "The Lion King" in Toronto with your other kids.
There is a national organization of stay-at-home fathers called Dad-to-Dad, an At-Home Dad newsletter, a National At-Home Dads Association and an Annual-Stay-At-Home Dads Convention. I cannot imagine going to a conference full of full-time fathers trading pasta recipes and insisting that it would be more appropriate to call them "Mr. Dad" than "Mr. Mom."
Also, if I went to their convention, that would mean I would have to painstakingly write out a long schedule of our kids' activities for my wife to follow on the days I would be away. So, now we have arrived at -

Tip No. 7: Hold on to your hat - if you want to be a better father, learn how girls' shoe sizes translate to women's sizes, get a pat on the back or even a little sympathy, Talk to Mothers, They Are the Experts.
Mothers have been mothering for eons. They know the ins and outs on all of life's intricacies - from which minivan has the most cupholders to how to fold a fitted sheet.
They might not fill a book, but these are the pearls of wisdom I can offer fathers for Father's Day. Now, where is that retainer?


Re-printed with permission from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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