Please welcome author of the critically acclaimed, Everybody’s Daughter, Michael John Sullivan as he shares what it’s like to live in a house filled with women and his personal journey as a stay-at-home dad.
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I grew up on the streets of Richmond Hill, Queens, playing tackle football on concrete and roller hockey with hard, plastic pucks. I never gave it a thought when four or five kids, twice my weight, piled on me as I tried to score a touchdown. None of us gave it a thought.
I took the D train up to the Bronx to watch the Yankees play on week nights and never gave it a thought. We never worried about our safety.
We played basketball in some of the roughest parks in New York City. Danger? We never gave it any thought.
We were boys, men, macho males.
Well, those days are long gone. For the past couple of decades I’ve been surrounded by females. I’ve been married 21 years and have two teenage daughters. My male pup is my only consolation as I battle for my territory in this XX chromosome neighborhood.
As I talk to him daily, his head tilts side to side, perhaps wondering what the fuss is all about. Well, let me tell you.
My day starts usually after finding myself at the back of the line for bathroom time. When the bathroom is free, I am greeted by the cluttered counter sink, littered with hair brushes, makeup kits, toothbrushes, opened tubes of toothpaste, foaming face wash, cups, and pads – no, not the I-pad kind.
So, I stare. And stare some more. How do I move with skill to start my day? If I do remove the clutter, where should I put it? Scrape it all into a pile and shove it under the sink? Will I hear about that later? So, I do what any lone male would do – ignore the refuge and work around the female debris.
I enter the kitchen and I find a similar scene on the counter by the toaster. Clearly lunches have been made while breakfast was consumed. It’s a regular smorgasbord: Plastic bags, pretzels, goldfish, half-filled cups, orange juice, milk, cereal remnants floating in a bowl of milk, and an uneaten piece of toast.
What to do?
Then there’s the shoe problem. Shoes everywhere. Shoes in the kitchen. Shoes in the den. Shoes in the living room. Shoes, shoes, shoes. Females love shoes.
Some days I re-energize my patience and love and clean it up. Other days, I ignore it. When it becomes too much of a burden, I reach for a piece of chocolate in the fridge. Why not? The three females are always ravaging my chocolate stash so I go for theirs. All’s fair in love and clutter.
I always wondered how the three females in my life became so messy. I always thought boys were supposed to bear the Oscar Madison mantle with pride. Boy, how I was wrong.
During one of my frequent nights of insomnia, I went downstairs to the living room to watch some late night TV. It was dark. We to think of ourselves as a “green” family, limiting our energy use despite our home looking like a Staten Island landfill.
Bam! My leg smacked into a hard, metal object. I winced and muttered words not fit to print here. I staggered over to the couch as my pup looked at me with empathy. I rubbed the bruise and growled quietly some more, afraid to wake anyone up.
It took about five minutes to restore my composure. I reached over and felt the wide, circular popcorn tin, sent to us by an aunt and uncle for Christmas.
Why, in God’s name, was this standing in the middle of the living room?
On further investigation the next day, it was disclosed that one of the females felt more comfortable putting her feet up on it to watch TV.
And I wondered, wasn’t this a male trait?
I spent a good portion of the day limping around, muttering and growling about every piece of clutter that obstructed my chance to regain my wonderful disposition. I searched and searched for it. Yet, not even the licking of my pup could temper my crankiness.
I needed to do something about this problem and soon. It was a matter of survival.
But, what to do? How to combat this? Ask Dr. Phil? Pastor Bob? No. None of the experts could possibly have an answer.
How does one fight such a menace when you’re the only male?
The answer hit me the night Notre Dame got pummeled in a football game by Alabama in the National Championship game. The spaces the females had claimed over many years of battling that I had given up without a fight would have to be contested.
So, I went upstairs, placed shaving cream and razors on top of the counter in the bathroom, strategically put my toothbrush and opened toothpaste on the other side, and my deodorants in both areas. Ha! This will show them. I can fight clutter with clutter.
I was so excited about my declaration of independence from the domineering control of my messy females, I hardly slept. I watched the first female go into the bathroom and giggled, waiting to hear their forlorn cries. I waited and waited and waited.
The first female left and waved good morning to me. This was certainly a ploy to deceive me with kindness.
The second female entered the bathroom and skirted out in only a few minutes.
What? No reaction?
Frustration. So, I went into the bathroom and emptied the garbage can all over the floor. Certainly, this would prompt some anger.
But no. Everything lay where it was, untouched. Not a peep of angst from the three females. I felt like the Lorax, ready to pinch my tail and head skyward.
Then, I realized while this was an annoyance, the overall picture was wonderful. I was given an incredible gift – a chance to work from home and help raise my daughters over the past two decades. We’ve shared birthday parties, snow days filled with sledding and hot chocolate, shivering winter afternoons baking chocolate chip cookies, summer afternoons at the beach, to Pixar and Disney movies in the theatre.
There is no better gift I could have received and still am benefitting today. I truly am grateful. I hope it continues for a long time, even if it means an occasional bruise on my knee or a moment or two of frustration.
May your day be filled with the same gratitude.
Michael John Sullivan
Michael is also the author and creator of the Sock Kids Children’s Series. To learn more about Michael and this series, please click HERE to visit the Sock Kids Website.
Check out Michael’s books on Amazon.