We hadn’t planned it that way. I always thought I might be a Stay at Home Mom. I would have rocked it on the P.T.A. I know I would have been an awesome volunteer and made lovely meals, with every food group represented like my Mom did for us when we were growing up.
I always imagined my husband would wear a shirt and tie every day and that I would support him in his career.
Things didn’t work out the way we thought they would. They worked another way, and today we are parents holding non-traditional roles: I have a profession outside of the home and he works in the home. At first, it just made sense. We had three little kids ages 4, 3 and a new-born. Why would we work just to pay for childcare? So at first the idea was my husband would stay home for the short-term. The short-term became longer term and now we find that my demanding job requires high demands on the other parent. So while this set up is not necessarily intentional, it’s where we are and we have learned some things along the way.
We have learned that everyone wants to feel and know they are valued. I have long days filled with challenges. He has long days of laundry and picking up dog poop. Both of our roles have value and meaning and purpose. We have learned along the way how important it is to appreciate the other person’s contribution to the family. This realization did not occur over night. It took time to see that work is work no matter where you are or what you are doing, and it’s always greener on the other side. It took a long time for us to get our egos in check and for us to realize that we both wanted the other person to express admiration for the work we had done that day. Don’t get me wrong, we fail at this a lot. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own days and checklists we often forget to thank each other for the work we have done. It’s easy to take each other for granted. It’s easier to still to about the work and not about the life.
Stay at Home Dad’s are isolated. Stay at Home Mom’s go to parks and do “stay at home mom activities” with other Mom’s. I think it’s harder for men to reach out, ask for help, or chit chat. I know there are a lot more stay at home dad’s out there today, but they don’t network the same way as women. I wonder how they experience a sense of connection with peers and friends? I wonder how our society needs to change and will change as more Father’s take on the role of full-time parent while Mothers work full-time? How will children understand their roles as parents? How will schools address parents? How should schools utilize Stay at Home Dad’s as volunteers and tutors? How will men see their roles differently in the future? How will women change expectations of themselves?
As a Mom, I want to do it all. I don’t want to miss a practice, or a bedtime book, or a doctor’s appointment. But sometimes my job does not permit me to get to those things. One of the hardest things for me has been to give up control and to let my husband be the one to go to practice, or read the book, or go to the appointment. The hardest thing has been to release control, and let him be in charge and enjoy those moments that I have to miss. This is hard, because of the appendage of guilt that clings to my back like an annoying little monkey and says, “you should be there, all of the other good mothers’ are there, why aren’t you there?” It’s hard because I grieve the experience and wish I could be there. I think one of the greatest gifts I can have given my husband and myself is to let go of the guilt and rather have gratitude that he is able to be there and provide support to our children. Guilt turns in to resentment. Gratitude turns in to joy.
Sometimes our son will come home and ask, “What does Daddy do all day and why doesn’t he have a job?” There’s always this awkward silence and then we say, “Daddy’s job is being a Daddy and making good meals, and being home with you when you get home from school and helping you with your homework.” “Is that a real job?” he asks. “Yes, that is a real job.”