Predictable but funny account of a sports journalist’s half-year stint as a stay-at-home dad.
“I am like most husbands. We think we have a vague idea of what our wives do in our absence, if we think about it at all,” writes Murphy (The Sweet Season, 2001). He had reached critical mass at Sports Illustrated, a magazine that demanded chronic absenteeism from Murphy’s duties as a father and husband: “I was missing their lives. I would not get a chance to do this over.” Of course, he doesn’t know from critical mass. The chronology of entropy that ensues is a well-worn trail, and even if Murphy is not Cary Grant in Father Goose, he does possess a certain vulgar charm of the kind that might be scripted for the actor Owen Wilson. He’s clueless when his wife warns him, “Every minute of your day is accounted for. . . . If you don’t comprehend that, you’re screwed from the start,” and he is screwed from the start. But Murphy proves to be a quick if bumbling study. He learns that when the day-to-day caregiver gets sick, tough on you; he learns that when the kids get sick and spoil your schedule (by now he has learned all about the sacrosanct calendar), too bad. He learns all about anger, quoting Anne Roiphe on “the quick summer storm kind of anger, the slow burn anger, the underground anger” that will find him more than once “nodding offhandedly to my perfectly reasonable desire to gangster-slap my six-year-old.” (Just a passing thought, never acted upon.) Murphy learns a bushel, from why sex evaporates to why supposedly fun things like skiing and camping trips become a drag.
After this paean to all he’s learned, it’s jarring to read that Murphy later returned to the Sports Illustrated life. He may claim that since his adventure, “when I’m home, I’m more involved,” but that’s cold comfort.