“Fatherhood is fear. Fatherhood is disappointment. Fatherhood is anger and envy and lust. And the surest guarantee of fatherly success is a Spock-like mastery of those emotions. Mister Spock, not Doctor.” (3)
So begins Greg Olear’s comedic day-in-the life of a stay at home dad (SAHD). Though not a father myself, I can sympathize with Olear’s narrator and protagonist, Josh Lansky. As a nurse who works only three days a week married to an attorney, my wife and I have long agreed that when the children arrive that I will primarily taking on the more traditional child-rearing while she puts in the long hours at the office bringing home the bacon. After reading Olear’s Fathermucker, I must say that I am completely terrified for my future.
Terrified you say? Well, Josh Lansky is a descriptive narrator and Fathermucker is humorous catalog of tedious day-in-the-life while rearing his two kids, a three year girl and a 5 year boy with Asperger’s syndrome, while his wife is out of town on a business trip. His day begins at 5:03 am with his son screaming for a book or a toy or whatever he needs and from there the day is an avalanche of entropy that Lansky must contain to feed the kids, get the oldest to school, chaperone the youngest on a play-date, chaperone the oldest on a field trip, feed them again for dinner, and ultimately survive the 13 step process of getting them to bed. The never-ending work and total lack of free time to breathe and have a moment to his self is what makes the book both humorous and frightening. I know that the day will come when I must surrender my freedoms for the joys of fatherhood, but for now I’m enjoying those freedoms and having the freedom to read this book is just an example of what makes the other side seem so daunting and otherworldly.
A book that just cataloged taking care of the kids would really be a collection of essays, which Fathermucker is not. There is a plot and the plot is based around Lansky’s neurotic fear that his wife is having an affair. This seed is planted early in the book by a mother at the play date, but as soon as that mother is about to provide Lansky with the evidence to support her suspicions their conversation is interrupted by Lansky’s daughter’s insistence that she wants to leave the play-date NOW and won’t accept any vain condolences until she is ushered out of the play-date, thus separating Lansky from his conversation about his wife’s supposed affair. It is a good hook to move the plot along and throughout the novel Lansky neurotically works out his suspicions with all the potential men that wouldn’t mind treating him as a stay at home cuckold.
Olear is a very descriptive and detailed writer able to fill 300 pages with the observations, thoughts, and events of one man’s day in a way that really felt like it was timed just right. What I mean by that is that a single day can go by quickly and told from the perspective of single person 300 pages may be excessive, but Olear fills those pages with a lot of detail about setting, interaction, choices, and perspective. To this fault, at times the neurotic tangents were a little too burdensome and unnecessary. Additionally, there was way too much reference to Facebook posts, songs on the radio, and tabloid gossip that I would ever want to be interested in. However, I felt that Olear’s descriptive talents shone through with each of the sequences about Lansky’s kids. Every moment describing the kids was a pleasure to read because it inspired emotion, even if that emotion was at times terror and fear, because most often that emotion was joy and humor and most of all love. There are a lot of great and heart warming moments about Aspergers syndrome and it was touching to see Lansky as a father find pride in his son’s struggles with social situations.
Lansky is a likable protagonist because he is a self-aware man doing all that he can do to keep his sanity while trying the best that he can do be a good father all while acknowledging that although his kids love him now they will likely spend time on the therapist couch during adulthood belaboring their relationship with their parents. Fathermucker was an enjoyable and light read, inspiring in a comical way and one that I’d promote any young father to read (if you have the cherished spare time to do so).