By: Alan Tapley
Publication Date: 2010
Reviewed by: Pamela Victor
Review Date: February 7, 2011
Alan Tapley speaks for the quiet minority, those who are improvising their way through sleepless nights, endless parades of diaper changes, and princess tea parties while trying to maintain a modicum of machismo. Yes, Tapley speaks for the stay at home dad. Confessions of a Househusband is Tapley’s write-to-stay-sane memoir of his time as a stay at home father of his two-year-old and four-year-old daughters. His anecdotes are part cautionary tale and part parenting instructional, as he struggles valiantly to do a job for which he has no role model.
Any stay at home parent, whether mother or father, will relate to the details of Tapley’s days in Sippee Cup Central as he army-crawls his way through the day until relief comes in the form of his wife returning from work. Readers in the know will laugh along with him as he struggles with the tedious loop of daily chores that make up the life of a stay at home parent – cleaning, laundry, children’s television repeats, book repeats, request repeats, repeat repeats – and the often bare bones indignities of the job (like, as Tapley bemoans, the difficulty in finding privacy to poop.)
The author tackles all these challenges with snarky humor and his own unique perspective. On taking the kids swimming he advises, “Bringing toys to the pool is a pain in the ass. They get lost, go in other kid’s [sic] mouths, and are difficult to find when the day is done. Instead, borrow them from some mom who was stupid enough to bring them.” Although a fair bit more editing of the whole book would make his jokes pack more of a punch, readers can think of him as a male Roseanne. He can be coarse but he’s funny, and you know his central goal is to give his kids the very best…even if he needs a margarita to get there. Or two.
On that note, a warning to delicate readers: Tapley can get down and dirty. Some may find his humor too crude, as he is not afraid to drop the f-bomb, promote a generosity of marital oral sex, or take a toke in order to get through the day. Personally, I don’t blame him even a wee bit, but then again I’ve been a stay at home parent for the last fifteen years, so I understand the concept of ‘by any means necessary.’
Tapley liberally addresses his efforts to feel masculine as he does tasks he considers stereotypically feminine. Clearly not an overly macho guy, he still promotes regular visits to the gym (and not just for the free babysitting), ditching the diaper bag all together, and faking automotive maintenance in order to appear more “manly” in a world of pink overload. He even warns stay at home dads against buying feminine products for their wives, “My life is so saturated with Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine and Snow White that it’s easy to forget your masculine side. Where do you draw the line? For me, it’s tampons.”
After a plethora of pronouncements in defense of his masculinity, I found myself wishing Tapley would stop apologizing and feeling embarrassed about being a stay at home dad. He even refuses to socialize with other stay at home dads because he says, “In my eyes, the only thing less manly than a stay at home dad having a tea party at the park with his kids, is five stay at home dads having a tea party with their kids at the park.” Though his reticence to acknowledge his life’s work is cute at first, after a while my patience ran a bit thin.
Nevertheless, veterans of the toddler wars may enjoy commiserating and laughing along with Tapley as he battles attacks of projectile vomiting and other common parenting skirmishes. With so few books written from a stay at home dad’s perspective, Confessions of a Househusband is a worthwhile read for its distinctiveness alone.
Quill says: This memoir provides a unique - and often funny! - view of the life of a stay at home dad.