Sugar Milk, subtitled “What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka” joins the library of first person, mostly true accounts of real dads navigating the completely new waters of fatherhood in the new millennium. Unlike many of these books that track pregnancy and the trials and tribulations of fatherhood in a still secure nuclear family (see Daddy Drinks, for example), Mattocks’ story is the more increasingly commonplace tail of a dad organizing his life around kids from a first marriage and stepkids from a second. Throw the recession of 2007-2010 into the mix, and the story becomes emblematic of the way we live today.
Mattocks story, however, is not a crying-in-your beer melodrama. A former English Lit major, Mattocks writing has a very readable style and tells his story with humor and clarity, despite the way his life tumbles around as he is living it. He’s a high-flying young housing executive and then laid low in his career by the housing bust. During this time, he also divorces his first wife and mother of his three sons, and remarries to a woman with two daughters. His new role, attempts to blend his families, and a new job as stay-at-home step dad bring new challenges unseen before in his career.
The “sugar milk” of the title is the subject of a funny anecdote on how we all cope with parenting in ways big and petty as we struggle to make sense of old roles and new economic realities. Anyone wanting to understand how real families are living and reconciling their real lives should read Sugar Milk, a bright spot of the daddy memoir genre.