Picture, if you will, it’s a warm summer evening, the sun is starting to drop and we’re playing Wiffleball in the street. Moreover, the radio in the front yard is blaring “Billy Don’t Be a Hero.” Yes, yes it is. Because it’s 1976, that’s why.
Which also means that most of the cars that pass by as we play are driven by dads coming home after having spent a long day somewhere mysterious doing things even more mysterious. “At work” is pretty much all we’ve been told, because at that age we don’t even really care much anyway. All that matters is that dad is back and it’s time to head indoors for dinner.
That, however, was a long time ago and the world in which I find myself is very different indeed. I’m a dad now, but instead of a Buick the size of a nuclear submarine in the driveway there is a small Japanese SUV. There are no bell-bottom pants in sight, and, god help us, we have more than one TV in the house. Alright, more than two.
Inexplicably though, all this may be lost on Frank Wiley as he notes with a slight tone of surprise that more dads than ever are staying at home with their kids. Yeah, I know. In my neck of the woods this is no surprise, as the neighborhood is filled with cops, firemen, and restaurant/food service guys. There are also families in which the wives have the most earning potential, guys in the trades, and guys who are simply “between jobs.” Simply put, this is an average neighborhood and you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a dude pushing a stroller around while waiting for Starbucks to open.
Yes, Wiley is simply pointing out that more dads are staying home with kids, but reporting on this trend as if it’s surprising (which it likely is to Frank, since he will admit only that this delightfully vague information has appeared in “a U.S. report” with no further elaboration) seems very… 90’s.
And yet, I must admit a certain nostalgia for the nineties, if only because back then politics seemed harmless, the interwebs were shiny as a new penny, and it had been a full decade since that movie with Michael Keaton had added that phrase to the lexicon. Just saying.