A Man’s Holiday

Just imagine. You tidy up your desk, put the plant near the window and add a little extra water. You make sure the bag of chips in your filing cabinet that you snack from occasionally is thrown away. You bid goodbye to your coworkers, leave the office, and proceed to forget that it even exists.

You have begun your vacation.

For a week, nothing that even resembles your job enters your mind. You focus on doing what you want to do. You have no one breathing down your neck waiting on a deadline. You have no one pestering you to work harder or longer or better. You are here. Work is there.

Unless you are a Stay-At-Home-Dad.

If you are a Stay-At-Home-Dad, you pack up the family’s belongings, pack up the family, and go somewhere exotic and warm for a holiday from reality. The entire time, you still have to be alert that your kids are safe and fed and behaved and not left at the last rest area. If you are a Stay-At-Home-Dad, your job follows you on vacation.

Vacations are fun. They are wonderful times to bond with your family and enjoy a different scene and a different routine, but they are not relaxing. (Of course, this happens to Stay-At-Home-Moms too, but they don’t read my column.)

So what does a Stay-At-Home-Dad’s holiday look like? One that is revitalizing and is truly a break from his 24/7 job?

First of all, he’s the only one there. There is a time and place for a trip for two, when the wife can come along, but on a Man’s Holiday, a man must be free of all things for which he is responsible. No kids. No laundry. No wife.

The place for a Man’s Holiday must be rustic. This is not a time to be pampered by some Swedish masseur who comes to your suite and paints your toenails while you watch figure skating on a large screen TV. This place must be wild and you must use your ancestral skills to tame it. Like camping. Or a cabin. Or in a large oak tree on the side of a mountain. If you have a choice, heat your vacation home with fire, not some mamby pamby electric heater. It may have a shower, but don’t even think about using it.

The food on a Man’s Holiday is minimal. Bologna sandwiches, hard boiled eggs and beer should be enough to sustain any man indefinitely. Not only are these foods filling without being difficult to cook, they are easily transportable. If you cannot find bologna, bread, ketchup or eggs, do not forget the beer.

There are only two things that must occupy a man’s time on Holiday: nothing and sweating. The first will probably be the most difficult to experience. It involves a great deal of will power to sit and do nothing. Don’t read. Don’t watch TV. Don’t plan anything or figure out anything or design anything. Just sit still and be quiet. Once this is mastered, it is amazing how relaxing the rest of the trip will be.

Sweating is important also. This can be accomplished by exercise or manual labor. Climb a mountain. Track and hunt buffalo. Cross-country ski across a frozen lake. Dig your van out of a snow drift. The sweat that soaks your clothes will be the sweet smell of a job well done. The sweat flushes your body of tension and toxic frustrations.

As you recover from your exercise, enjoy more nothing. If that gets tiresome, go sweat some more.

You may determine that you have had enough nothing for one day. (And this is the beauty of a Man’s Holiday: YOU get to determine when you have had enough. YOU decide when to get off the couch or IF to get off). If that happens, you have a few choices. If possible, watch TV. If not, take a nap. You might read a book, but only if it induces a nap. Taking a walk would work also, especially if it is long enough to be a hike, which would induce sweating. Praying is good. Do not give into the temptation to fix something around the cabin or straighten up because you will be leaving the next day and wouldn’t it be easier if this were already taken care of.

When it is time to go home, pack up and head out with your head held high. Enjoy the break and do not regret going back into the real world. Nothing destroys a vacation more than the desire to make it last forever. Don’t forget the relaxing freedom you had for a brief time and look forward to returning to your home and your family.

This weekend is for you to get reacquainted with you. You are the same person that you were before kids, before responsibility and accountability. You have grown and matured and become a more productive member of society, but that self-centered punk who spent summer days behind the garage blowing up GI Joes is still in there somewhere. Remember the man that was the most important person in your life and had no one else to care for but you? He’s waiting for you at the cabin. Go visit.

©2010, 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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