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Mr. Mom

It was both the best possible time and the worst possible time for my wife to go out of town.

Reilly was six months old, had five teeth already, and she had an appetite that breastfeeding could no longer satiate. Similac and the occasional solid morsel were now on the menu. However, my job had me perpetually on the road in Guilford and Randolph Counties. Crises abounded and my days were long.

My wife and I are an effective tag team when it comes to managing Reilly’s needs, and at that point, neither one of us had ever had to go it alone with her for so much as a day.

Nevertheless, Mom was off to work-related training in Rocky Mount for a week, and so preparations began for Dad to fly solo. Scenes from the 1983 Michael Keaton film Mr. Mom flooded back to me.

Caroline: “Do you want to go over the list one more time?”

Jack: “No I don't want to go over the list! Okay, let's go over the list.”

In the movie, Keaton (Jack) is a recently laid-off engineer who has to run the household while his wife Caroline goes to work.

Among the differences between Jack and me are that I am a first-time dad and that I still had to work. For a few hours a day, Reilly would be in the capable hands of a babysitter. The trick would be getting her to—and back from—her trusted caregiver while managing my job. Then there was everything else.

Sunday night I scrubbed, filled, and packed most of the bottles in the cooler. The car seat was installed in my sedan along with the portable DVD player that kept my car-hating child from screaming.

Reilly had begun sleeping through the night to about 6 am. I resolved to get up long before her and get ready for work. When she roused, I’d already be caffeinated and waiting to feed her.

She awoke at 5 am, and she wanted to be held.

Into the shower, with Daddy, she went.

There’s nothing like shampooing your hair one-handed while an infant playfully smacks you in the face. Also, I would have given anything for a wall-mounted dryer that morning. I dressed while keeping a hand on my towel-bundled daughter lest she rolls off the bed. I was carrying her to the nursery to get her dressed when she peed all over me.

Finally, we got out the door. The minute Reilly was in the back seat she gave me the pouty face that precedes a supernova of angry. I pushed play on the DVD. Lighting McQueen appeared. All was well.

We got to the babysitter a little late, and then I was off to Greensboro. By 4 pm I was flying back down Highway 220 to make it in time for the afternoon pick-up.

Reilly and I jog-strollered around the lake, and then we ate. In the last hours of daylight, she babbled beside me from the portable playpen as I weeded the flower bed and used the blower on the porch. Reilly then went in the high chair from which she throws stuff that I pick up for her to throw again. I introduced her to Honey Nut Cheerios. Those she did not throw. Life was good.

Done with sitting, she soon demanded to rest on my shoulder while we did chores—one-handed bottle washing, one-handed laundry, one-handed vacuuming…and then purple-faced screaming.

Wait, when did she start despising the vacuum? I shut it off, and Reilly continued to holler

Jack: “Your Mom calls the vacuum ‘Jaws’?”

I didn’t understand. She watched the much-louder lawn equipment with fascination and yet she hated the vacuum.

Jack’s kid: “You’re doing it wrong.”

The blower. The gas-powered blower was still on the front porch. Back into the high chair, Reilly went.

She was still hollering as I opened all the doors and quickly walked out the front. I came back in with the blower strapped to me and running at half-speed. Reilly was transfixed and quiet.

I blew the dirt off the hardwood floors and rugs right out the open sliding glass—it’s good to have a small house and an open floor plan.

Bath time went off without a hitch. Reilly enjoyed another bottle in her swing while we watched episodes of the Muppet Show on DVD.

Tomorrow will be easier I thought.

The next morning Reilly was up at 5 am.

Damn it.

Jack: “It’s real easy to forget what’s important, so don’t.”

It was a long week, but honestly, I’ve never had more fun in my life.

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