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Dad Doesn’t Babysit and Sometimes Mom Works Late

culture and society, parenting

“You’ll love this,” my friend Eric messaged me. “We went to a party at my wife’s friend’s place and when it got late, I left with the kids so Morgan could stay longer. You know, because they’re her friends and the party was transitioning into an adult party. Well, her friends were shocked and asked her for advice on ‘how to train their husbands to babysit for a mom’s night out.'”

I groaned. Eric’s been criticizing popular cartoons getting passed around on Facebook too, and has been surprised at how few side with him. As an example, he called this BS, while some of his friends commented with, “BUT IT’S TRUE, THO.”

Dad Doesn't Babysit and Sometimes Mom Works Late

The dynamic at their home as changed over the years — Eric was in law school while Morgan was pursuing her career; now they both work while their kids are in school and divvy up household and parenting duties.

“We have historically more-or-less split the family responsibilities evenly. We’ve never thought of anyone as a ‘primary caregiver.’ Morgan’s friends’ comments were so odd to us, because in our minds, the kids belong to both of us and there’s no major difference between our roles (except that I don’t braid hair or paint fingernails and she doesn’t teach them submission holds).”

To note, the people making the comments aren’t generations older than the early-thirties couple, themselves; they’re peers.

“Do you think I’d get more (undeserved) appreciation if my wife thought less of me?” Eric joked. “You know, lowered expectations?”

Dad Doesn't Babysit and Sometimes Mom Works Late

At this point, I work more hours than Jack, but he has taken over so many responsibilities — including those that people traditionally view as handled by women in the home.

I was at a work event, talking with some people about different dietary restrictions. It had come up that two of my three kids have extensive food allergies, and that my husband is vegan.

“Oh my God. That must make cooking for them so hard! How do you handle it?”

The first time that statement came up, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t correct her right away, because of embarrassment, maybe, or expectations on myself, or failure to live up to the stereotype surrounding positive phrases like “nothing like Mom’s cooking.” I’m mostly over that, now, and instead I respond with something like,

“My husband does the majority of the cooking, and he’s really great at creating meals that everyone likes.” Often the responses range from shock to admiration to “you’re so lucky.” Instead of my knee-jerk reaction to feel defensive –“but I work XX amount of hours a week and vacuum out the cars on Saturdays, etc” — I simply respond with, “He’s a great partner.”

And he is. Truthfully, Jack does 90% of the grocery shopping, makes breakfast six mornings out of seven, packs lunches every day, and cooks dinner four nights out of the week. He also takes the girls to school four mornings out of five and makes me a cup of tea on the nights that I work late (which currently, is most of them).

I finally came to terms with the fact that not cooking beautiful meals most nights out of the week doesn’t make me less of a doting mom. It just means that I know my strengths and cooking is not one of them. On the other hand, it’s a strength for Jack — he’s great at it *and* he loves it. Win-win.

Combined with the fact that some people don’t quite “get” working from home, it does mean that some people have the idea that Jack is the perfect husband and the perfect father while I lie around all day making carpet angels. But I’m learning that I can’t correct everyone’s assumptions (hnnnngggghh) and get defensive, you know, all the time.

While nothing is perfect, we’ve found our new normal, put our own systems in place (I braid little girl hair, put on little girl shoes, and slather sunscreen on little girl faces while Jack loads the dishwasher and packs lunches), and paid for some conveniences, as well (like getting a babysitter to pick them up from school, which happens right in the prime window for phone/video calls with clients on Mountain and Pacific Time). On weekend nights when Jack’s singing (it’s wedding season), we’ll declare it “Girls’ Night” and pop some popcorn and play games and watch a movie. Life is currently hectic, but neither of us feel an undue amount of pressure or that our responsibilities are split unfairly. So it’s hectic, but manageable. And peaceful. And even enjoyable.

Dad Doesn't Babysit and Sometimes Mom Works Late

It looked different five years ago when I was a stay-at-home mom, and it’ll likely look different five years from now.

I spoke at the Dad 2.0 Summit in February, and I saw multidudes (that was a typo and I’m leaving it because it fits) of men wearing t-shirts that declare, “Dads Don’t Babysit … it’s called parenting.” It was cool to see. I had no idea that there was an entire network of dads wanting to fight a stereotype, but more importantly, just raise their families. (Dads, if you’re looking for some cool sites, also check out Life of Dad, How to Be a Dad, and Puzzling Posts to start.) I’m also a contributing writer over at Adweek, and one trend that we’re seeing really start to ramp up is brands refusing to create spots casting men as the bumbling, idiot dad being managed by the mom folding her arms and ruefully shaking her head at him. Things are shifting, in a good way.

Families can figure out whatever works for them. Dads can raise kids, dads can handle bedtime so moms can stay out late, and dads can chaperone field trips. Moms can pursue careers and eat ice cream sandwiches whenever they want, because they’re grown-ups now.

I might be projecting a little with that last sentence. :)

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52 Comments

  • Reply Stephanie May 28, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    DUDE. RIGHT?!?! I literally have people stopping me on the streets to tell me how great it is that my husband works and has a life AND likes his kids enough to, you know, spend time with them and help feed them and such. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an awesome dad, but he does what dads should do, ya know? We’re partners in all things, parenting included. I stay at home now, which is new, so I do a lot of things but he cooks and does plenty of the care taking, because he’s a parent.

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 9:35 pm

      Hahaha, we jokingly call this the Facebook effect in our house. If I post a photo of me hanging out with the girls, the comments are positive, but they nowhere near compare to the feedback Jack gets on a photo of him with the girls. “You’re such an amazing dad!” etc etc. It’s more of an observation than a criticism, but we both notice it.

      Kind of like how everyone scopes out a guy wearing a baby. ;)

  • Reply erin senge @ growing up senge May 28, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    yep yep yep. My husband worked a full-time job AND freelanced from home full-time AND took care of our daughters full-time for nearly four years. He would start working at 4am and work until I left for work around 8/8:30, squeezing in the rest during nap times and after their bedtime (which was mercifully early!). It was insane for anyone to attempt. We both used to get so annoyed when people called him Mr. mom, or assumed he was just babysitting or that I had “the day off.” He did one year with two kids before it got too tough to watch the kids and actually be productive, and his freelance work grew to the point where his time was worth more working and my time was worth more taking care of the kids, so we switched. I quit my job and now I stay home. He rearranges his work hours as needed, and we get to all spend “fun” time together in the afternoons. We still split and tag-team parenting and chores, but I am responsible for most of the household stuff right now by default. We’re both grown-ups, and if we had no kids, or partners, we’d still have to do all the same stuff. It doesn’t make any sense to me to do anything other than than to divide up the jobs evenly…

    • Reply Lindsay Durrenberger May 28, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      I switched over to full-time freelance back in February, and I also care for our son (and am expecting our second son in just a few weeks). A friend of mine asked me out to coffee in the middle of the day on a Tuesday because I don’t “have a real job” anymore and I just kind of stared at her. So I definitely can understand how your husband feels. But it’s probably worse for him since he’s a man and I’m a woman and it’s more widely accepted for me to be at home than him. Solidarity!

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 9:39 pm

      I like the idea of scheduling it so you spend those hours together! Our mornings are generally pretty hectic, so while we all have breakfast together, it’s more chaotic than I’d like. I should devote some time to coming up with a way to making it easier and more enjoyable for all of us. In my mind, it’s a nice way to start the day. :)

      • Reply eRin @ Growing Up Senge May 28, 2015 at 11:49 pm

        Yeah, he usually joins us for breakfast and lunch, which is really nice even though it takes me and the girls nearly an hour to fix and eat our meals and he’s only there for like 15 minutes =) It’s a nice little touch base for everyone!

  • Reply Jill May 28, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    The “how did you train him?” question is one that I get too. I travel a fair amount for work and often get asked if my MIL is coming to help while I’m gone. Nope, DH can handle things just fine. In fact, the kids are probably easier to manage when I’m not there. :) We tend to go in cycles of who does more of the housework type things, but for the most part are pretty split. I was on bed rest for 5 months, over Christmas with our oldest. During that 5 months, he did EVERYTHING. He (along with a friend) made Thanksgiving dinner, did all of the Christmas shopping, cooked, cleaned, drove me to doctor appointments and even bought me maternity underwear. I honestly don’t know how he did it.

    • Reply Hannah May 28, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      I can totally relate to that. I was at a conference last month and more than one person asked me, “where are the kids?” I simply responded, “at home with their dad” but I wanted to add where else woudl they be? They have 2 parents.

      • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 9:40 pm

        I get this question a lot, too, and I often feel like people are making conversation. But I always enjoy answering and repeating the question back to them. Sometimes guys are like O__O what do you mean? Haha! The same thing you asked me, homeboy.

        • Reply Katherine May 29, 2015 at 7:29 pm

          Along the lines of asking if your MIL will come help out while you travel; I used to notice that my husband got lots of offers of dinners (as in: “Katherine’s gone for the weekend? Do you need me to bring you a meal?”) when people knew I would be gone and he would be solo with the kids.

          WTF people.

          I am solo with the kids roughly 40 hours a week and no one is bringing me lunches so I can survive.

          Come on.

          • Roo June 8, 2015 at 2:35 pm

            Saaaaaaaamesies.

  • Reply Heather Laura Clarke May 28, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Same boat over here — shift-work life for my husband + freelance life for me means that we both tackle household tasks, cleaning, groceries, cooking, and taking care of the kids. I like it this way, because he grew up in a verrrrrry traditional household where his mom did *all* of it while his dad worked, and that … that wouldn’t work for me.

    (Also: I laughed at the last two sentences, because I ate two ice cream bars yesterday — one with the kids as dessert, and one in the middle of the afternoon, secretly, because I’m a grown-up and I can.)

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 9:41 pm

      I had two today, too. I mean I’m not proud of it, but ….

      :)

  • Reply MissCaron May 28, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    THIS! So. Much. This. My husband is the primary cook in our family. We both work full time jobs and it’s one chore that I just really don’t enjoy (plus he’s a former chef turned accountant so he enjoys cooking). We balance the duties fairly well in our home and consider each other partners. However, whenever it comes up that my husband does most (read: all) the cooking my friends all talk about how jealous they are. I remember my step-father not doing more than scramble some eggs on Saturday morning and how exhausted my mother always was. The traditional gender roles get thrown out the window when both parents work and rightly they should (although many folks don’t think it’s possible). It’s sad that we don’t hold men accountable to take on tasks and do them well. I’m constantly hearing from my friends how they don’t trust their husbands with childcare. I mean, really!?! This is the man you chose to marry? He can’t even be responsible to watch his OWN children and keep them safe? How is this possible!?! I think it’s called enabling and unfortunately women do it to themselves.

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Yea, it’s interesting that we’re not talking about Boomers here. I suppose a shift in thinking takes time. Even if one is the primary caretaker while another one works, the idea that a shift in those roles is shocking probably means we have a little ways to go on this one.

  • Reply Tamara May 28, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    My husband and I don’t have children yet, but we get the “training” comments from time to time. We both volunteer at our church, so often one of us gets there earlier than the other. Many times, whoever comes later brings coffee/hot chocolate and breakfast for the other. It ticks me off when someone says “You’ve trained him well” (or even “You’ve trained her well”), because taking care of one another should be a GIVEN in marriage. It shouldn’t be surprising. It’s weird how a gift of flowers from a husband to wife is “expected”, but feeding her is not. I will take food over flowers any day! Feed me and I’ll love you forever :)

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      Interesting! I wonder if people say that sort of thing “You’ve trained him/her well” just as conversation filler or say it without really realizing what it implies.

      • Reply Tamara May 28, 2015 at 1:50 pm

        I think it varies. For some people, I really think they see it as a “role reversal”. I think others are just trying to acknowledge that the gesture is nice.

  • Reply Kristi May 28, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    He cooks but does he do the dishes too?? :) My hubby stays at home and I work at home and he does most of the kid stuff. Homework, driving, etc. I do the cooking but he does all the dishes. Love it!

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      He does! I mean, we have a dishwasher, but he loads and unloads. Honestly, it wasn’t until he was away for a few days that I was like, “Wow, he does a lot around here. I have to cook and put dishes away and make my own tea like a peasant.” ;)

      • Reply Kristi May 28, 2015 at 1:40 pm

        Ahh, you are one of THOSE families. Some families have to scrub their dishes, wash them, and then put them in the dishwasher. Other families just stick them straight in. haha :)

        • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 1:44 pm

          We usually do a cursory scrub if it’s something grimy. Otherwise, straight into the dishwasher it goes, and we hope for the best, hahaha!

  • Reply Lindsay Durrenberger May 28, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Still smiling over “multidudes”.

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      Yea, verily, God blessed the multidudes.

      I just made myself laugh out loud. Clearly I need a nap.

      • Reply Lindsay Durrenberger May 28, 2015 at 1:39 pm

        I laughed, too. :)

  • Reply Jennifer May 28, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    My husband and I operate in pretty stereotypical gender/marriage/parenting roles in our home, but he gets all sorts of PISSSSSSED if anyone suggests or indicates that he “babysits” his children. I work at a church, so weekends often find him taking care of our children during services as I get to serve in my role. The comments that he gets can land anywhere from laughable to blood boiling to humbling (in a good way). To be honest, I didn’t enter marriage expecting him to be a baby-wearing, dad-as-parent-advocate kind of guy, but when he was faced with children, he couldn’t help but be present. Often (confession time), this is in spite of me trying to push him into the more “traditional” model of absentee dad parenting.

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      Wow, that last line. Hmmm. I kind of want you to lie down on my couch and tell me more.

      You both sound like great parents! ♥

      • Reply Kateri June 2, 2015 at 4:21 pm

        I get it. I run a home daycare, yes I get to stay home with my kids, but I have no personal space or time anymore. Neither do my kids. My husband does a lot around the house, i.e. dishes, cleaning and yard work, but I so often beg him to back off! (warning warning warning- I’m a control freak. In the work smarter, not harder way) I’d rather cook and clean (the dishes/kitchen/scrap food off the food) then watch the kids while he spends 45 long minutes cleaning half-@##$%. I’m always like ‘work late, if you need to’ or ‘join an after work sport thing’ I’ll leave dinner in the toaster oven and have the kids in their pajamas for the last hour of quality play/snuggle. pleeeasseee.

  • Reply Donna May 28, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Love this! I am also a work-at-home mom with a business and a job, both in social media marketing/management, so I have events outside of the work hours and miss family dinners weekly. I’ve cared for the kids during the day and/or around school for over 20 years now, but not because it’s a stereotype or it was just expected — it’s what works. No daycare, no housekeeper, it’s just my husband and I. We created the kids, we share the caring for them. He leaves work for IEP meetings and dentist appointments and he cooks dinner or does laundry. It’s not an “I did this for you” type of thing, just his acknowledgement that it’s our mess, our house, our kids, etc… I think part of it is what we expect of our spouse early on; if I have a paying position, I am not being full stay-at-home mom, but if I didn’t work, I’d not expect him to do that much because then that other stuff IS my job. We all do what works for us, and it would never work for me to have a husband expecting me to serve him dinner after I’ve worked all day, too. This article is spot on.

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Thanks for the insight, Donna! I like your perspective of “sharing the caring for them” and our mess/our house/our kids.

  • Reply Deirdre May 28, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    This definitely resonates with me. My husband and I both have very active and aggressive careers but I am the president of my company and we have discussed that when push comes to shove my career and company comes first. I have the greatest earning potential and so we are a team with a common goal. We split the household stuff, sometimes it looks like we take on traditional roles as my husband does more of the outside stuff and I do more of the inside things, but we both feel that it is pretty even. Every night we decide who is cooking dinner while the other puts our daughter to bed, typically whoever has more patience that day does bedtime duty while the other gets some quiet time cooking.

    My husband frequently comments that the other men in his company have no idea what it’s like to be in an equal marriage. They are always amazed when he has to take off work because our daughter is sick or he has to drop off and pick up at daycare a few days in a row because I have a deadline to make. I love how our relationship is equally divided but I actually feel bad that my husband’s peers and superiors can’t relate. It just feels like the obvious way to live for us.

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 9:45 pm

      Wow, you guys sound like you have a great setup. Kudos to both of you for knowing what you guys want and achieving it together! Thanks for weighing in, Deirdre. :)

  • Reply Kate May 28, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Roo! I love this! So. Much. I don’t have kids, but my partner and I split all of the household things as well. I felt the same guilt about not liking to cook, but it turns out (like Jack) my partner loves grocery shopping and loves cooking. Frankly it would be rude of me to steal that joy from him. ;-) On the other hand, he hates financial stuff, so I coordinate all of that. I also grew up with parents who split household responsibilities, so I had great role models.

    I would be curious to know what your friend (and you) think about Father’s Day cards… Every year I am so irritated at the number of cards that share sentiments like “thanks for teaching me to fart and drink beer!” or have a dad sitting in his lazy boy. Thank goodness Etsy has some normal “Thanks for being a great dad” cards. #endtangent

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      Hahahaaa! You know, I hadn’t thought about Father’s Day cards, but now I’m going to look carefully the next time I’m at Target. ;)

  • Reply Tiffany May 28, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    I can’t tell you how much I love this post. It is just right for how I feel about my hubby’s role in our family. We would be lost without him in so many ways. Great post, Roo!

    • Reply Roo May 28, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      Thanks, Tiffany!

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  • Reply Steph Reiner May 29, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    I agree that the idea of an absent dad is antiquated and shouldn’t be the norm but I did not like your last sentence. It stems from mothers (not boomers, but peers) who still view SAHM as not living up to their full potential or thinking that all we do is make carpet angels all day. In fact, it’s usually the boomers who tell me that they think I’m doing the most important job when they find out I’m “just” a SAHM. I don’t get why people say things like “whatever works for your family” but then turn around and act like they’re somehow better for choosing to do things their way. Just pointing out it goes both ways… Excuse me while I go put on my internet armor/thick skin :D

    • Reply Roo May 29, 2015 at 3:32 pm

      I think you’re packing an awful lot into one sentence. The SAHM vs. working mom debate seems to be the most heated one of all. This is not about that. The carpet angels comment was absolutely, 100% not a dig at SAHMs — I was pointing out that my concern was that people thought I was neither working nor doing my fair share of the family responsibilities.

      • Reply Steph Reiner May 29, 2015 at 7:43 pm

        Mmkay I was confused by the “can pursue careers… because they’re grown ups now.” It’s not too far off to make a correlation that antiquated ideas are coming on all fronts from peers (not just the old ladies at Target) though… And you hardly strike me as a weirdly combative type. ;)

  • Reply Lesley May 29, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    We call what we do, reverse traditional. Traditional in that we have a parent home full time taking care of all that entails, and a parent working full time then rejoining the home front when the work day finishes. Reverse in that my husband is the home full time one and I am the working one. Where things got really interesting is when I started working remote and am at home full time too. So parenting gets really fluid around these parts.

    Even with that being the deal around here, I still get “aren’t you lucky” comments on the regular that he cooks all week nights, and spearheads the mountainous treks to the top of the laundry pile, and when I direct offhanded comments toward him to add things to his grocery list or arms length list of errands.
    I try not to be quippy about it, but usually I find, “Well, that’s his part of the job.” rolling off my lips. He knows not to take it personally and that the uphill battle seems to be for women to climb while he gets the accolades for succeeding at what is his day job.

  • Reply Elizabeth May 29, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    I love this! My husband and I divide things pretty evenly. I transitioned from also full-time to WAH about 28 hours weekly, plus my own side business when I want to take clients. Husband works full-time too.
    Truth: He’s a better cook than I am, while I love baking. He’s fantastic at creating a meal plan for us and doing nearly all the grocery shopping. (Though a new grocery in town has made it almost a family date.)
    I have gotten much better at starting our meals (or completing them myself) at least a couple days a week. He’s really, really good at de-cluttering and organizing. He cleans too, but I think I’m a little better at it. I clean and he puts away and organizes our catch all stuff.
    I still do better at nightly snuggles with the 3 year old, but he gets her in the middle of the night about 95% of the time.
    We are partners. Equal. And I love it. No other way.

  • Reply Leigh Ann May 30, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    I don’t know what I like more about this – the shattering of parental gender stereotypes or the fact that you just gave me a free laundry schedule. There was a time when I used to be able to do it all once a week, and well, that time has passed.

    I just accepted a new PT job (to go along with the other PT job I’m already working…), so things are about to shift around here as well. Not just the laundry.

    • Reply Roo May 30, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      Hahaha, Leigh Ann! Don’t forget to change around those names. ;)

      Congrats on the new PT job! Looks like things are about to get busy. :) Good luck to you!

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  • Reply Alison May 31, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Love your article. I’m a doctor and my husband is a managing director. We were always pretty even in splitting the household duties before we had our daughter 18 months ago – we were both working full time so it only seemed fair. Then I was off on maternity leave for 9 months and suddenly we found ourselves wandering down the stereotypical gender role paths. It took me returning to work to make us re-evaluate things – I was trying to work 40+hrs a week and be the primary caregiver. Now we share the role of “parents” equally – two nights a week he has our daughter while I work late and those mornings, I have her (which is my favourite part of the week!). Two days a week she is looked after by my mum and one day she’s in daycare. A fellow female doctor said to me “don’t you feel guilty about not being there for your daughter?”… They may have got my crazy stare… My daughter has a wonderfully close relationship with her grandmother, she adores her Dad and she has a mum who has found a balance in life that leaves me happy and fulfilled – No I don’t feel guilty. It takes a village to raise a child.

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  • Reply Lauren @ Faith and Macaroni June 4, 2015 at 3:20 am

    Love this. We fit a lot of traditional roles (I’m a stay at home mom with a military spouse), but one thing is for sure: when my husband is home, he’s parenting and being a partner. After I cook dinner (which I enjoy), I’m pretty much off the clock. He does the dishes and does the nighttime routine. Bathtime, teeth, story, everything. We split cleaning duties, he does his own laundry (he’s a throw everything in guy, while I like to sort), and enjoys most outdoor work. We fit some conventional roles because it’s what works best for us right now. But I’ve got a pro-breastfeeding in public, baby-wearing husband who is now learning how to cook. In ten years, it’ll probably look completely different, but I trust that my husband has my back always. BTW, I just left him and the munchkin alone for five days attending a cross-country wedding with no more than a kiss on the cheek and a Blue Apron box. He nailed it, just like i knew he would.

  • Reply Joshua C August 15, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Hey. I like this. I like this a lot. And Jack is my kind of guy.

    • Reply Roo September 2, 2016 at 10:06 am

      Thanks, Josh!

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