If you’ve followed life in Suburbia very long, you know my views on marriage and family life. Adventure Guy and I cobbled out our childcare and work arrangements bit by bit as we’ve added to our family and to our careers over the last 15 years. And, minus the occasional glitch in calendars, we make the whole dual-career-family-balance thing work pretty well if I do say so myself.
Even so, I found myself intrigued by the offer to review Man of the House, Ad Hudler’s most recent novel about life as a stay-at-home dad. While Adventure Guy and I did at times entertain the notion of my staying home for a few years, honestly, the idea of his doing so never garnered serious consideration. Primarily because for most of our work lives, he’s outearned me by quite a bit.
That is not the case for Linc Menner, a former landscape architect who stays home with his daughter, Violet, while his wife, a hospital administrator, provides the financial support for their family. Man of the House follows Linc’s evolution from caregiver extraordinaire to a man dissatisfied with his life of cooking, cleaning, and carpool duty–a journey with which I know many women identify, especially those who, like Linc, find their children are not quite as dependent on them as they once were.
Hudler sets Man of the House in Naples, Florida, where the Menner family has recently relocated for Jo’s new job. Linc immerses himself both in supervising the extensive renovations of their new home and in religiously following the Weather Channel to insure full hurricane preparedness. Dealing with contractors and, less-plausibly, one of Violet’s teachers who develops a stalker-like crush on him, keeps Linc busy even as Jo works long hours and Violet becomes more interested in her teenage social life than in deep conversations with her dad.
Linc’s struggles highlight the challenges of staying at home as well as the unique difficulties stay-at-home dads may face with fitting in to a female-dominated role. And, speaking of female-dominated, the one jarring part of Man of the House for me came from the portrayal of Jo, Linc’s wife. While Linc seems, at least in the beginning of the novel, to have completely embraced his feminine side, Jo takes on all the negative characteristics of the uninvolved, self-centered stereotypical career man. And, though it makes for heightened drama in a novel, I find that few families, regardless of their work and childcare arrangements, fit so neatly into the boxes Hudler assigns Linc and Jo.
But like, Linc and Jo, I found myself much happier at the end of the novel when, just like in real life, things didn’t work out quite so neatly. Overall, Man of the House provides an enjoyable, distracting read, no matter what your current role in life.