House husband: A female's fantasy

May 10, 2002 Posted: 5:07 PM EDT (2107 GMT)
Ad Hudler is down on the way some other parents treat him. He's down on mops too. Â*

By Kathy Slobogin

(CNN) -- For a working mother, it's a fantasy. You come home at night to a spotless house, a gourmet meal simmering on the stove, your child's homework all done.

Not only that. Your dry cleaning has been picked up, the gutters have been cleaned and the leaky faucet repaired.

Ad Hudler may just be God's gift to women: a house husband. He tackles the job with energy and perfectionism. He has landscaped the garden and decorated the house. He irons and does the laundry. He even soaks the stove knobs in ammonia to get them clean.

"Every night, every single night on my hands and knees I clean the kitchen floor," says Hudler. "Because a mop doesn't do it, a mop shoves the dirt around and it doesn't do it."

Hudler became a house husband when his wife, a newspaper publisher, got a promotion and a cross-country relocation. He stayed home with his infant daughter; his wife moved up the corporate ladder.

Now Hudler, a former reporter who lives in Fort Myers, Florida, has written a novel about the inner life of a house husband. It hasn't been easy. At cocktail parties men look at him as a source of amusement, or worse, ignore him. He says he just talks to their wives.

"It's hard. I just want to slap 'em and say, 'Look at that woman right there. Kiss her feet,'" says Hudler.

It's not just the men. Mothers in car pool lines don't wave to him. Several times women have come up to him in playgrounds while he played with his young daughter, put a hand on his daughter's arm and asked her, with great concern, if everything was all right. The assumption being that a man with a young child on a playground had to be up to no good.

"I felt like saying, 'I know I don't look great, I don't have a suit and tie on, but I'm this child's father. And you know what? I'm playing on the monkey bars and you're not," says Hudler.

Still, Hudler says women are his best friends.

"Women make better companions," he says. "They talk about things that are important, they talk about relationships, they talk about nuance, they talk about people. Men have sports."

Carol Hudler, his wife, says her high-powered and demanding career would not have been possible without a house husband.

He even does a kind of proxy shopping for her, taking Polaroids of possible furniture purchases for her later approval. Does she ever regret not being home herself?

"You know, I used to a long time ago, but only fleeting wishes," she says. "In all honesty I got to make the choice I wanted to make. I have the best of both worlds, I really do."

Adler's wife and daughter say house husbandry is the way to go. Â*

Their daughter seems delighted with her house Dad.

"I like having a Dad at home; it's almost like having another Mom," says 11-year-old Haley. When asked whether she would like a house husband when she grows up, she doesn't hesitate.

"Oh, yes. I want to be a lawyer when I grow up, and lawyers don't have enough time to take care of their kids or clean the house ... or something," she giggles.

Hudler says his job is the toughest he's ever done. And it's not for everyone. A house husband has to be someone whose self-esteem is not tied to making money. But he says there are considerable benefits.

"You gotta remember the really wonderful thing I have," he says. "I don't carry the stress with me every day of earning the money that keeps the family going. That's a huge deal. Sometimes I think men are jealous of that."
Hudler says he and his wife have a strong marriage. But his job as all-purpose caregiver has taken a toll on their sex life. In the novel he describes the demands of motherhood piling up and smothering sexual identity like quilts.

"Sometimes I forget I'm a man. And sometimes she forgets she's a woman," says Adler. "And we'll be laying in bed and looking at each other and go, 'Oh ... oh yeah.'"

The daily grind can get to him. He misses adult conversation. He gets tired of picking up panties off the floor. Still, he says he would have missed so much if he weren't at home, raising his daughter.
When asked if he's happy about the choice he's made, he struggles to control his emotions.

"Am I happy I did this? I would not trade it for anything in the world, even on the worst parenting day from hell," says Adler.