Achieving Results

Medical statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is interesting, but what they conceal is vital. This quote (that I wish I had thought up) doesn’t really pertain to the column, but it mentions statistics and bikinis, two things that men enjoy thinking about.

Dr. John Gray of Mars/Venus fame says that a man’s sense of self is defined by his ability to achieve results—visible, empirical, definable results. Men’s interest in sports statistics backs that up. Years ago, I imagine that when someone read about their favorite team in the paper, they found the wins and losses columns. Nowadays, wins and losses are joined by “games behind the leader”, “goal differential”, “interceptions allowed”, “strikeouts”, “shots on goal”, and a myriad of other important pieces of information that any man needs to have an intelligent conversation.

Men in the workforce have many ways to create stats and see instant results of their work. First off, they have a day that begins and ends. When the day is over, they have worked 1 day. They receive a paycheck every 2 weeks. They finish a certain percentage of projects they were assigned by the deadline.

Stay-At-Home-Dads want to see immediate results in our work, also. The problem is that our work—raising the kids—is an ongoing process that never ends. Our days often run right into one another. We don’t get paid, so there’s no point in waiting for a paycheck. As long as the family is not allowed to be naked, there will always be laundry to do. The statistics of our projects change every day our children are alive.

In order to nourish this part of our masculine makeup, we need to find other tasks to finish. Playing or following sports are great ways to do this. So are hunting, reading, and woodworking, among others. You set a goal, you work toward the goal, and either you reach the goal or you don’t. There is no guessing. There is no waiting. Your team won. You bagged a deer. You finished the book. The birdhouse did not collapse, killing the poor occupants inside.

Just as important as feeding this particular personality trait is allowing it to be a little hungry. When I took on the job of raising the kids and maintaining the house, I knew there would be sacrifices to make. Time with adults, using the more advanced parts of my brain, and not screaming at the sound of Barney are all on the list. The most important sacrifice I have made is the step away from the center of my universe. Life is no longer primarily about making sure I feel fulfilled. It’s more about my kids and how I can help them to blossom. Getting the warm fuzzy for a job well done just doesn’t rank as high as it once did.

So to quantify my goals of “being a good parent” and raising my children to be good people, I will have to be content with the very vague, very non-statistical “I’m trying my best” and “they are pretty neat to be around most of the time” answers. If I want to get some cold hard numbers, I can use these: I have four children. None of them will be allowed to wear a bikini. I’m batting a thousand.

©2008, Mark Phillips

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 Women, it's true, make human beings, but only men can make men. - Margaret Mead

Mark Phillips is a Stay-At-Home-Dad and freelance writer. Along with raising his four children, he is developing a franchise called “The Vacuum IS a Power Tool.” It is designed to help SAHDs maintain that which makes us men, instead of hairy Mom-substitutes. He earned a B.S. in Communication/Theatre Arts and teaching certificates in English, public speaking, and psychology from Eastern Michigan University. After six years as a high school English teacher and Director of Dramatic Arts at Powers Catholic High School in Flint, Michigan, he changed careers and became a Stay-At-Home-Dad. or E-Mail

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