Like everybody, I have three or four levels of formality in my wardrobe, from my PJs to a nice suit. Most days, I wear what I think of as "relaxed casual" - jeans and a t-shirt of some kind. I also have "dad formal" which involves things like chinos and shirts with buttons. I mostly like how I look regardless of which level of formality an event requires, and in these days of "athleisure" wear, I really could leave the house wearing my PJs and it wouldn't draw any stares.
The Toddler and I go to a class every Wednesday morning, and I noted this morning a trend. Rather than my usual relaxed casual, I always dress dad formal for class. It's not because the event demands it - these are all SAHDs, and attire in the class runs the range from dad formal to PJs. So I wondered this morning why I always make sure I'm dressed well, shaved, and combed for class.
I've always thought of myself as an underachiever. I did well in high school, got a good score on the ACT, did really well at a college where that wasn't so hard, and convinced myself that that was evidence I was destined for greatness at something. It turns out my 4.0 GPA in college was my peak; I've never achieved anything like that success (success being defined as being better than my peers) since then, and depending on where I was in life, it's really, really bothered me. What happened?
I've thought about it. I've written about it. I've come to very few conclusions. But I do know that when The Wife got pregnant, and I knew I would be both a father and SAHD, I told people how excited I was, because I felt like I would be better at being a father and a dad than I'd been at any of the stupid shit jobs that had occupied my time since college. I really thought of, and still think of, fatherhood as my calling.
Now I think (worry?) that I view fatherhood as a way to redeem myself, and I think (worry?) that I look my best for class because I've defined success as being better than my peers and I want to be the best, most-put-together dad in class (which is impossible, because Stylish Dad is way put together). It's a competition, and I want to win at being dad. I'm pretty sure that's not healthy.