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Housedad has mother of all jobs

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Rick Erickson has seen the movie, "Mr. Mom," a lot.

Maybe he doesn't heat up cheese sandwiches on the ironing board or play poker with housewife buddies, as the flick's Michael Keaton did.

But Erickson can identify.

"I'm a proud housedad," said the 38-year-old Midvale man, which might surprise people who knew him as a 6-foot-4, 295-pound tackle on his high-school football team.

As a male hausfrau, Erickson does watch Oprah every day (he can tell you who Dr. Phil is, for heaven's sake) and was into Donnie and Marie before their TV gig went to the Nielsen's graveyard.

"Often, it was my only adult contact during the day," Erickson said.

This hardly represents the only peril Erickson has faced home alone with his three sons, 9, 6 and 2, the past six years.

"Until recently, they had no diaper decks in men's rooms," Erickson said. "You changed the baby in the stroller or hit the parking lot."

Making friends with most moms at the park is tricky.

"They think you're hitting on them," said Erickson, happily married to his wife, Heather, for 11 years.

Women grocery shoppers often give him the raised-eyebrow bit.

In their opinions, "I'm just a lazy husband who can't get a job," he said.

Actually, the Ericksons' arrangement issued from a few unforeseen circumstances and much thought.

"We didn't like some things we saw at day care," Heather said. "One of us needed to stay with the boys."

Heather had just been promoted to buyer for Deseret Book. Rick had hurt his back training to become a physical therapist.

"I had the far better job. We elected Rick to be home," Heather said.

Where he's been one humdinger of a housedad.

"He does a beautiful job washing and folding clothes, doing dishes, keeping the house clean," Heather said. "He takes the boys to the library and makes pancakes with bats and ghosts. He's very creative at keeping them stimulated."

Other mom-isms have been more challenging.

"Comforting and nurturing, I just think women do better than men. I'm more analytical and critical. When they get hurt, they still run to mom first," Rick said.

On the flip side, Heather battles working-mom guilt as breadwinner.

"I bathe and read to them and put them to bed. I need that physical contact, the one-on-one," Heather said. "And I like cooking. It's down-time and relaxes me."

Locating an off-switch can be difficult for Rick. Remember Calgon-take-me-away TV ads?

"There's no Calgon for men," he said. "Parenting magazines are feminine hygiene, clothes and beauty tips."

He gets some release nursing bonsai trees. And he gets strokes from many friends, if not all.

"We live in such a patriarchal community, some couples don't get what we're doing," Heather said. "But others admire Rick tremendously. Last Mother's Day, he gave a speech in church that had every mom shouting (or at least quietly thinking,) 'Yes!' "

No one lauds louder than Heather, who has a standing joke.

"I often introduce him as my kept man — he says he likes it that way," she said, laughing.

That sounds OK to me. Once upon a time, my writing job allowed me to arrange my day. I got to be Mr. Mom to my daughter, Emily, her first six years.

I've never had a better time in life, bar none.

As Rick told me, "Staying home, taking care of kids is the hardest job I've ever tried and easily the most rewarding."

For moms of both genders everywhere, Rick said it about as well as it can be said.

E-mail: gtwyman@desnews.com