From the Publisher
"A refreshing, utterly hilarious and often moving portrait of parenting and masculinity at the dawn of a new millennium. In addition to the sharp humour, there is a tenderness and warmth" -Quill & Quire
"One of those truly delightful literary gems: an amusing and witty book that leaves you chortling out loud until your spouse tells you to share it or shut up. All this is served up in a clever, earthy style that's reminiscent of American humorist Bill Bryson." -Kitchener-Waterloo Record
"Housebroken is an etiquette for married men a life skills guide for guys who would never deliberately buy onefunny and never preachy, Eddie is an envoy from the galaxy of domesticity." -The Vancouver Sun
"If you, prospective father or mother, read only one 'Prepare Yourself for Parenthood' book, make it this one." - The National Post
Novelist and journalist Eddie (Chump Change) is living a dissolute bachelorhood of bohemian squalor and interchangeable "sexually forthright, non-rocket-scientific young women" when he finds the love of his life in the form of a family-minded woman. He was wary of the crimp domesticity might put in his literary aspirations, but when son Nicholas comes along, the avowedly unemployable writer decides that he was "born to be a househusband." He may stay home while his wife goes to work, but he's not entirely housebroken: he uses the corner bar and neighborhood lingerie shop as day-care centers, longs to join the glitterati, muses about divorce on a hellish family vacation, exists for long periods in a haze of boredom and sleep-deprivation and wears the indelible social stigma of the stay-at-home dad. But he derives an unsuspected degree of fulfillment in a house well-kept, a meal well-cooked and a child well-cared for, and finds that family life gives him "more sustained happiness than I ever expected to enjoy on this earth." These superbly crafted explorations of fatherhood are full of wry humor, keen observations, and hilarious, off-kilter riffs on such topics as the Teletubbies, the seduction techniques of the single man and the scientific literature of parenting. This indispensable guide to fatherhood in the post-feminist age proves that writing and child-care do indeed mix. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
1. A SQUARE PEG
"You're doing a good job," the guy behind the counter at the butcher's shop says.
That's funny; it sure doesn't feel like it. Nicholas is six months old. Pam's been back to work for a month. I'm pretty new at this and very shaky. I've lost his pacifier (again); he's fussing and squirming-on the verge of a major tantrum, I can tell, complete with tomato-red face and hot tears streaming down his cheeks-and the stroller's blocking traffic in the long, narrow store. Though it's four in the afternoon, he's still in his sleep-suit, same one he wore yesterday, the front festooned with crusty food. Earlier a woman stopped me in the street and said something over and over again in Chinese, fingering the sleeves of his outfit.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand you. I don't understand what you're saying," I kept telling her. But I was lying. I knew perfectly well what she was saying. In the universal language of interfering busybodies and tsk-tsking babushkas everywhere, she was saying, "Your baby cold. Needs another layer. You bad dad. You very, very bad dad."
I feel, in fact, like I have BAD DAD tattooed on my forehead as I jam a carton of homo milk between his lips, trying to get him to drink from the spout, teenager-style. It works, sort of: he drinks greedily, hungrily, like a neglected orphan-boy, the milk coursing down his cheeks and soaking the front of his PJs.
"Thanks," I tell the butcher. "Could I have a boneless pork roast, please?"
You've probably seen us around: huge, hulking brutes, some of us, stubbled, troubled, humbled, baffled and hassled, pushing strollers down the street, shopping carts down the aisle or swings in the park. Every day there are more of us. We're househusbands; hear us roar!
I never meant to become one, of course. I don't think many young men wake up in the middle of the night thinking, "Now I know what I want to be in life! A househusband and stay-at-home dad!" But who knows? Maybe someday that will change. Obviously we're in the middle of a revolution in the workplace. A recent study by the Families and Work Institute in New York suggests that women now earn more than half the income in 45 percent of the households in the United States. If you factor in single, divorced and widowed women, you could say that women earn more than half the money in more than half the households in America. Maybe someday there will be a corollary revolution in the home, and boys will grow up dreaming of staying home to take care of the kids.
(Don't hold your breath, though. Old habits die hard: according to another study by the same organization, even in households where women are the sole breadwinners, they wind up doing most or all of the housework.)
Overall, I consider it the best job I've had (well, on a nice sunny day it can be the best job in the world-and I pray to a new god now, El Niño). I treat it like a job, too: my wife, Pam, is the client, and has to be pleased with the overall product; my son, Nicholas, is the boss and orders me around on a day-to-day basis. Of course, like any boss, he can be moody and dictatorial, can freak out and call me on the carpet for poor performance of my duties. However, unlike most bosses, in my experience anyway, he's also capable of radiating pure joy and happiness, of lighting up like a Christmas tree when I report for work in the morning.
And that's a key difference, I feel, between the home-based and the office-based man. Both my client and my boss love me. I never wake up in the morning anymore with my guts churning, thinking, "Argh, I have to go to work and cross swords with all those jerks again today." Christopher Lasch called home a "haven in a heartless world," and I agree.
I was never really cut out for the rat race anyway. I mean, I know nobody really is, but I always seemed to have a harder time of it than most. I'm a square peg, I guess. For me, it's never been a question of will I get fired or not, but how long have I got? The moment I walk through the doors of any new job, sporting a fresh shirt and fake-confident smile, an invisible hand reaches out and overturns an invisible hourglass, and my time starts running out. From day one in any new job I'm as apprehensive as an escaped convict or soldier in mufti behind enemy lines, just waiting for the horrible moment when someone does a double take and says, "Hey, wait a second! Who's that guy? He doesn't belong here!" And then I'm off and running again, searchlights sweeping the ground, dogs barking behind me. . . .