The “bones” for this post came from an email exchange with Rosemary Counter for her article for the Toronto Sun and affiliated Sun Media papers. The original article can be found on Rosemary’s site.
Adam Sandler’s new movie, That’s My Boy opens in theatres tomorrow. Like most comedies, and especially Adam Sandler comedies, it pushes the extremes on stereotypes for, hopefully, comedic effect. The stereotype pushed this time round is a slacker dad, played by Mr. Sandler.
So what is a slacker? It’s one of those words that I see an image in my mind’s eye, but when it comes to describing it, it feels just out of reach. The term slacker has been around for awhile. The usages have varied from Sudanese workers under British rule to draft dodgers during the World Wars. However, late 20th century meanings have been about aimless and apathetic Gen Xers (hey, that’s me – the Gen Xer, not the aimlessness and apathy) who didn’t rally behind causes or politics and who did as much as possible to avoid meaningful work.
So are there slacker dads? Of course there are. For almost any role, we can find examples of someone being a slacker. Is “stay at home” synonymous with “slacker?” As a “stay at home” dad who has chosen the role and not had it thrust upon him because of someone else’s decision, I think that the image of a “slacker dad” comes about because there are dad’s who didn’t willingly choose to be full time with their children. Because of that, they often feel it’s just a temporary role and they don’t realize or embrace the secondary duties that go along with staying at home. Things like groceries, cooking, cleaning, laundry and everything else that requires attention around the home. Not knowing (or wanting to know) any better, they’re content to cover the basics and spend any additional time doing the things that get them labeled slackers.
When I managed in retail there were staff that felt they were just in the job to sell and didn’t embrace the other aspects of maintaining a retail environment, like cleaning, ordering, putting out stock and doing the things that required attention around the department. Most staff who were in it for the long haul were willing to do the secondary roles to be successful.
The same is true for being a stay at home dad. If you have systems or you do certain tasks on certain days it makes the overall “running” of the family go smoother, it takes your never ending list of chores and turns them into routines. Ultimately, the best run homes are the ones that no one notices what has been done.
I think it takes more than a quick glance before passing judgement on the abilities of any dad. We need to understand their situation before labelling them. Better yet, instead of applying a label, once you know their situation, ask if they would like some help or tips. Don’t wait for them to ask, but also don’t heap “helpful” advice someone who is probably already feeling overwhelmed. I bet most would jump at the opportunity to feel like their getting ahead, or at least, no longer falling behind. Even if they view their current role as temporary , the knowledge they gain can only make things easier at home in both the short and long terms.
A true slacker is one who’s heart is not into their role and is waiting for something better. Most dad’s hearts, stay at home or not, are with their kids, they just need some on the job training and support from their peers. What genuinely useful piece of advice would you offer to an overwhelmed parent (dad or mom) who agreed to some help?