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Last week I wrote about Marc's life as a stay-at-home-dad, but in the interest of word count I left some questions unanswered, mostly the ones about me and my relationship with my family. So this is part II: spacefem the working mom.

I'm an electrical engineer. I've always made more money than Marc, and was always happy that in my generation that's no big deal. I didn't have to marry a man based on his ability to bring home income because I was well equipped to do that. Marc does work from home, brings in 10-15% of what we earn, but we mostly spend his checks on special occasions. And he pays for his own phone. But I pay the bills, mortgage, gas card, car payments, etc. We have separate accounts, but one joint account for groceries. There's an automatic weekly transfer from my account to that one, the amount is based on the budget we're trying to stick to, it works out to about $30 a day.

Marc spends his days chasing toddlers, to get out and talk to adults he hangs out with other stay-at-home parents, the VAST majority of whom are women... 97%, I read. I regularly come home to find out that various women and their kids have been hanging out at our house all day. Doesn't bother me. Also doesn't bother marc that I work with men all day. It's awful to think about but I guess if anyone was poised to put our monogamy at risk it'd be me - I have way more free time to cheat because my work environment isn't filled with toddlers. Shit, if there's a quiet moment in my house when both kids are asleep and my sexy husband is just available for pleasures of the flesh I want to KNOW about it, I'll take a long lunch that day!

No, normally I come home after work with a bottle of pumped milk in a cooler bag, sneak in the door and try to get my coat off without the baby seeing me because if she sees me detour instead of picking her up immediately she will FREAK. I get a totally happy welcome home from the 3-year-old though!

And even before I get home I tend to avoid detours - late meetings, professional organizations I used to be involved in, one downside to this is that I don't feel like I get much free time. I used to love evening groups but now if I want to go to a meeting after work for two hours, well that means an 11 hour day for Marc. He says he doesn't mind that sort of thing, but the vibe changes... I think he minds.

And I don't love him leaving me alone with the kids. When he's been gone for a weekend, I take us all to my parents house. I'm not used to watching them for hours, I can't figure out how to get things done. I used to feel bad-mom guilty about this but I talked to some guys at work and they were like "my wife would never leave me ALONE with our own children!" and then I don't feel so bad.

Josie expects more attention from me when I am home, like she'll ask me to play with just her in her room and I'll do it. We established that she rarely, if ever, asks marc to play with her in her room, because he's with her all day so he doesn't feel at all bad saying "Go entertain yourself child! It's good for you."

As for the career front, dynamicgirl said this perfectly: "I think there's definitely an attitude towards being a mum. Like, they discover I have small children and instantly think I'm less devoted to my career. But once they find out I have a SAH partner, they assume I'm dedicated again."

I have totally found that to be true. Maybe it's because it IS true that if you're working to support a whole family, it's like they know your whole family depends on this company and this job. Makes logical sense to me, to be honest.

It's not fair that when a man becomes a father everyone pats him on the back and says "congratulations!" but when a woman becomes a mother everyone pats her on the back and says "congratulations... what are you going to do about work?" It's always a question, and it's always women's, and it's bullshit. But I have a quick snappy answer that everyone is satisfied with, especially now that we've done it for three years. With the first baby, there were some uncomfortable chuckles from guys who said things like, "So Marc's going to be, like, the mom?" And I said no, pretty sure I'm the one who's pregnant here, he's still the dad. But he's a talented man. He's going to be great at this. My prediction came true.

I also like that no one can accuse me of "maternal gatekeeping" - it's this phenomenon I've totally seen where women just think men suck at childcare so they pick on the guy's mistakes, and it's really discouraging. I've seen it in my birth club groups, moms complaining about their baby's dad using the wrong size socks or putting a onesie on backwards or being too slow on a diaper change. Hey, there are natural consequences for that diaper change thing, stand back and he'll learn :) But the bottom line is that having a new baby is stressful, and it doesn't take much for ANY parent to want to run away from it.

I had a coworker whose husband also worked, but after she took 12 weeks of FMLA leave for their baby, HE took 12 weeks of FMLA leave. The baby wasn't in daycare until she was almost six months old, and it gave dad some bonding time without mom that I think is really important, it can really set the stage. So I'd strongly recommend a setup like that if your partner is going back to work too... take some time.

As new mothers we have to be with our babies, pregnancy is all us, breastfeeding is another layer on top of that. Dads need something to counterbalance the biology.

There's been a lot of cool research lately on the importance of fathers, how kids are more confident, empathetic, deal with their emotions on their own, based on the examples set by their dad. And it's one reason I love that marc is at home... he shows that the at-home parent can be male, not just to our kids but to the whole community of at-home parents he's involved in.

Every field needs diversity. I encourage women in engineering not because women deserve it, but because engineering needs to draw talent from the whole population.

Same with 8-5 parenting. There are kids in these "mommy and me" playgroups that Marc goes to who are just facinated with him. They hang out by him, get close, brush up against him, he didn't even notice it until a facilitator pointed it out one day. The kids just like having someone different around, maybe someone who reminds them of their dad who they only see for a couple hours a day.

That's something I didn't expect. I thought leaving my husband at home would just be nice way for me to come home to a warm meal at night. But now I think we made a decision that's good for a lot of little people... free bonus that I didn't expect. That's cool.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
katherineh
Feb. 23rd, 2014 08:25 pm (UTC)
I am a stay at home Mum right now, it's a pragmatic decision as I can't afford two lots of childcare right now. I often feel like I'm letting the feminist side down by doing this. I almost didn't have a second child for this reason. It's so great for my daughter that there are men around at toddler groups. I'm lucky that there are a lot of men involved with childcare where I live.
cordial_kitten
Feb. 23rd, 2014 11:44 pm (UTC)
Oh I have a question now! More about a work at home parent rather than a stay at home dad. You say Marc does work from home. Do you two have some kind of arrangement worked out that he is able to work while you are home? Or does he work at night? Or do you have sitters sometimes? It is nearly impossible for me to work with the kids around, especially the 1 year old, but I can't afford more than 1 day of daycare a week unless I can work more, but there isn't more time to get the work done ... 2 hours at the end of a looong looong day with 2 kids is not a great time to do inspired work.
aliki
Feb. 24th, 2014 12:51 am (UTC)
"I had a coworker whose husband also worked, but after she took 12 weeks of FMLA leave for their baby, HE took 12 weeks of FMLA leave. The baby wasn't in daycare until she was almost six months old, and it gave dad some bonding time without mom that I think is really important, it can really set the stage."

We kind of did this and plan to do it again! I took 12 weeks of FMLA leave which was then followed by 10 weeks of summer holidays as a teacher, then Brian took 6 weeks of FMLA, so Erika didn't have to start daycare until she was 7 months old.
njntrubl
Feb. 24th, 2014 08:10 pm (UTC)
Hey cordial_kitten, Marc here. Yeah it's really rough to try to get any meaningful type of work done with the kiddos running around. Luckily, our 3yo is in school 3 days a week and we have an awesome neighbor that watches the tiny one in the mornings on Monday and Friday. Beyond that, it's trying to get 20 or 30 minutes in here and there will keeping the baby from choking on stuff and the 3yo from killing herself. LOL
tabloidscully
Feb. 24th, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I agree with your point about the wisdom in taking leave for both parents to bond with their children. I will never forgive my in-laws for refusing to give my husband so much as a DAY off after our daughter was born.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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