When Erin was five months old Emily went back to work and I became a stay at home dad. Emily had been going to new parents' groups at our local Day One for Erin's entire life, and had built up friendships with many of the moms with kids in Erin's age group. Not knowing what else to do with my time when I became the primary I started taking Erin to these groups once she was in the "6-12 month" age group.
My reason? That group sounded more like a playgroup than a mommy group, and ostensibly the point was to get Erin out of the house; I wasn't looking to make friends. And I didn't need to sit around in a circle complaining about (or bragging about) my husband, or talking about who had the sorest nipples and/or vagina.
As luck would have it, and despite all of my efforts, I did manage to make friends. Women I love hanging out with. They've made out with me and fought over me, and I would meet up with them at least twice each week, sometimes more often.
I was, and still am, the only guy in the groups that have since splintered off from the Day One playgroups. Which makes me a bit infamous, I think. At a birthday party (yeah, the babies are all turning one) last weekend I was introduced to the mother of one of my mom-friends, and I was greeted with "Oh, so this is Shawn." Um. Yes. I'm sure everything she had been told about me was lovely, because that's just the kind of person my mom-friend is. But still, I wondered...
You see, I do constantly worry what they think of me. I'm sure they all worry what everyone thinks of everyone else, but you'll pardon me if I claim a little uniqueness in the worry department: I am the only one with dangly bits and facial hair.
When I first started going to Day One the conversation was still in many ways about nipples. Not so much about vaginas, it being six months since delivery, but nipples were still an issue. Sometimes I worried that I was stifling the conversation. Once I came in late and the facilitator said "Well, the topic I went with today was 'sex', because I didn't think you were coming." But you know what? I heard a lot about sex that day. I don't think anybody was feeling stifled just because I was in the room.
More evidence that I am just one of the girls to them is the regularity with which I catch sight of a boob. Every playdate or signing class or birthday party or whatever involves, at some point, me getting a big ol' eyeful.
I swear I'm not darting my eyes around hoping to sneak a peak. Boob-sightings just happen. And the moms don't seem worried about it. Which I think is fantastically confident and comfortable, and flattering really, in a wow-they-don't-think-of-me-any-differently kind of way. Also I don't think I'd be taking my shirt off in front of them any time soon, especially since I've been telling lies about my Ryan Reynolds abs for months now.
But even though they have never seemed to care, I have always felt a little bit like a pervert when it happens. I don't ever ever ever want one of them turning to me and saying "Hey, pal...my eyes are up here."
There are probably many guys out there who would love to be in a position to catch a glimpse of a strange nipple every now and then. I worry about being mistaken for one of them. So far I just act as though it's not a big deal to me; and maybe that's exactly what I should be doing; and maybe it really isn't a big deal to me.
But it's just one more in a long list of SAHD worries I have.
Another worry? That letting them know what I worry about will cause them to worry about making me uncomfortable. If it does make me uncomfortable, it's not in a "ew, gross" or "stop hitting on me" way. It's in a "I hope I'm a good person" way. Nobody, I think, likes to worry about whether or not they are a good person, and that's what the flashes of boob make me think about.
So, if you are reading this, breast-feeding mom friends (and I know that some of you are, because you are little voyeurs :} ) don't change on my account. But, maybe you can not sit behind me so often when we're supposed to be in a circle. When I turn to grab Erin as she runs by I end up with a sudden, surprising glimpse. Maybe you're more comfortable sitting where you think I won't see, but I promise, if you are sitting in full view I will do my best to preserve your modesty. I just need to know what's coming so that I can look away discretely instead of with a "Holy crap, uh, sorry, um, nipples?"