How far would you go to save some extra money in the household budget? Let’s be honest here, as SAHD’s we are single income families. And sometimes, that income needs to be stretched. So we find ways to save money by cutting corners. But how far is to far or how far do you go?
In Ron Mattock’s new book, he describes in detail how far he went and thus we have the tittle Sugar Milk. Don’t worry, I won’t ruin the story for you by revealing it here and I’m not sure I could do it justice even if I did write it down. But the story alone is worth the read of this new book on how one man became a SAHD, adjusting to a new family, and finally learning to embrace his new role.
But don’t start thinking that Sugar Milk is full of sentimentality. It’s not. It’s told with a flair of exageration and resembles pieces of a Texas Tall Tale, which is appropriate considering that Mr. Mattocks is himself from Houston. Each event in the book is described in larger than life ways. For example, when his step daughters belch, it is not a simple burp that he writes about. It’s magnified so that it resembles a catagory 5 hurricane that just happened at the dinner table. This is the hook of the book that gets you interested. It’s the humor that makes you want to turn the page to get to the next chapter and see where in the hell is this possibly going. Turns out that Mr. Mattocks is a funny guy and the book flies by faster than you thought it would. Pretty soon you are out of stories and that’s kind of sad, I like laughing.
There are a couple of parts in this book that really stood out for me. First off, the road of how Mr. Mattocks became a stay at home dad. Whenever I meet a SAHD, I am always fascinated by how he became a SAHD. How did his experience differ from mine, did the life choose him or did he choose the life, and why is he so much more handsome than me. This is where the book begins, with Mr. Mattocks getting laid off because of a bad economy and divorced, that’s called the doube whammy. This is the second aspect of the book that I find interesting and was thrilled to be able to read about. Where is the divorced stay at home dad and how does he deal with it? Mr. Mattocks does a pretty good job exploring this issue in a way that keeps your interest and you find yourself laughing. Apparently, there are dating websites out there that are not what they really appear to be. Who knew?
Finally though, there is an underlying theme in this book that I connected with which is always a mark of a good book for me. Throughout the whole thing, you can see the struggle that Mr. Mattocks has with his new identiy of being a stay at home dad and the eventual reinvention of his self image. Many of us have felt and thought those very same things. We have asked those questions: what is my self worth now that I do not bring an income into the house? What the hell do I do now? Am I really cut out for this?
Sound famliar? I’m betting it does.
The book doesn’t wallow in self pity but simply tells a story that many of us have lived or are living right now. It just does it with a great deal more humor.
Now that the review is done and I’m assuming everyone’s rushing to buy this book, we are going to offer you a bonus. I had a chance to do a little Q&A with Ron Mattocks. I feel this will give you a pretty good idea of what you will be getting in the book. Enjoy.
Concerning the tittle of the book, wasn’t there a part of you that you thought, man, I’ve gone to the darkside. Any other money saving ideas?
At that point I had gone a little mad. There was a month after my wife and I were both laid off when we had no income, so every penny literally counted. It’s just we each had different ideas on how to conserve money – mine being the more creative route. Since my wife was hired at her current job and I’ve been getting a few paid writing gigs, I’ve loosened up. Right now, though, some of the things that are saving the most are handing the girls three sheets of TP (four if I feel generous) to take care of business rather than leave a whole roll in the bathroom; and I’ve also removed all the light bulbs from their room. (When it’s dark they’re supposed to be sleeping anyway.) Our local IKEA sells hotdogs for 50 cents; we eat their like 2 or 3 nights a week – our grocery bill after coupons is next to nothing. Just found out this week that the Army surplus store sells Meals Ready to Eat at 10 bucks for a case of 24 – the Chicken Loaf meal isn’t half bad. Okay… I’m not allowed to do any of those things, but I have suggested them to my wife. That women has a third-degree black belt in glaring.
It seemed that there was a part in the book where you struggling with the whole role reversal and losing your identity. How did you deal with it.
This was huge. It took me about eight months to figure out that my identity had been built almost entirely on external forms of validation. In the corporate world it was about promotions, annual reviews, and performance bonuses–all objective criteria–which was also coupled that whole idea of men being the providers. Understanding the temporary nature of this helped me see the other ways in which my family depended on me: I kept my stepdaughters on track, let my wife focus on work without distractions, and provided emotional stability to my sons by really tuning into their needs. I started to rebuild my self-confidence on being comfortable with myself and my new role. I also stopped feeling sorry for myself and focused outwardly on the family’s needs. This is also when I decided to write the book.
You ever think about going back to work in your old field, trudging back into corporate America or are you a writer for life now?
I don’t want to. The thought of it makes me roll my eyes and an instant laziness comes over me, but the needs of my family come first. So, although I’d like to be a writer for life and I put the majority of my energies in that direction, being a writer is a low, low paying profession. Financially, we’re not out of the woods yet, and because I have a higher earning potential based on my prior experience, I do apply for and entertain corporate job opportunities. This is also probably the quickest way for me to get back to Chicago where my boys are at too. That all trumps what I want, but to date for all the jobs that have come my way in the past two years, due to one reason or another, I haven’t been able to even get my foot in the door for an interview. In the meantime, I’ve been making more headway with what I’m doing at the moment. Just a matter of going with the flow.
With your boys in Chicago and your stepdaughters in Houston , ever filled pulled two different directions at once? How do you deal with it.
Yes. There’s almost a subtle rivalry between my stepdaughters and sons. It’s not confrontational. We’re talking stuff like my 8 year old stepdaughter wanting to know if she’s as tall as my oldest son who’s 11, or if the boys find out I took the girls to a movie, the boys get bent out of shape. Still, the girls are much more excited about having stepbrothers than the boys are stepsisters. So I have to filter every thing I say and do through the question of how will something be perceived by my sons and stepdaughters. It gets even trickier when we’re altogether. I have to be conscious of balancing my time, enforcing rules, and showing affection evenly amongst all five kids.
Any devious plans for when your daughters start dating?
I can be a scary guy when need be. In those situations, I’ve always pictured myself wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and sharpening a huge pile of knives when their dates walk in. Wouldn’t even have to say a word.
What is your best lice fighting solution and have you finally gotten over your ordeal?