Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

working mom, stay at home dad: how things are working out for us

Last week NPR posted on facebook looking for stories of breadwinner moms who go to work and leave their kids with stay-at-home dads. I replied and emailed but didn't hear back which is fine, they got tons of responses because it's really not that rare a thing anymore, so common that I barely ever write about the "dynamic" of our situation because it's just life. But it did get me thinking this week so I figured I'd write up some thoughts even if NPR decides it's too boring a story.

Since marc and I have been together (seven years!) I've had an 8-5 job as an electrical engineer at a large company and he's done contract database programming, or for a few years he was a logistics lead for a retail chain, and he DJs which is always profitable until he snaps and decides he's tired of selling is soul and playing top 40 crap, etc. either way he's been employed, but with more transitions, so when our first baby came around it was easy to say "hey, just don't take a contract right now." I've always worked with guys married to wives at home and envied the convenience of their lives... even as a single person I had to remind them that I had to do stuff like buy my own food at the grocery store or wait for the cable guy, there were so many things that just happened automatically for my coworkers and they totally took it for granted.

I also remember hearing a woman engineer who'd reached VP level talk to us at a conference about how her husband moved around the country for her to take various positions throughout her career. She told us that we can talk all we want about work-life balance, but once you're married, at the end of the day, "someone's career has to be flexible."

I was prepared for my life to go either way if I had kids... I guessed that I could take a few years off, relax, volunteer, watch the babies. Or I could have a husband do that. But leaving a six week old baby at daycare so I could pay double-income taxes and STILL have to do that damn grocery shopping was at the absolute bottom of my list.

I had a coworker laugh awkwardly when I said marc would stay home with the baby while I went to work, asking "so he'll be like, the mom?" No, I explained, he'll still be the dad. It'll be okay.

Marc took the baby to a parent group at our birth center, he was the only dad in a sea of moms, and an older volunteer there to mentor everyone reached out for our daughter, telling marc "she just looks like she needs... she needs... um here let me see her..."

People ask me a lot why I think we need more women in engineering, and my #1 answer is NOT "because women deserve to be here", it's because engineering deserves US. We can't make great airplanes if we only draw talent from half the population! Well, now that I've heard Marc's experiences I think daytime parenting has the same story. He goes to playgroups and random kids just sort of post up on him, it's different to see a guy there, but it shows them that fatherhood isn't always this evening/weekend activity!

And last month, Josie totally had no treats for her church group's valentines day party. We were just busy, and I felt guilty even though I know she's only two, there will be plenty of treats there (probably too many!) and marc didn't really give a crap. "We don't even like valentines day, who cares?" he said. And I knew the teachers gave him leeway on stuff like that, because he's a guy... and a pretty relaxed one at that. I kinda realized that maybe it's good that some parent doesn't give a crap. Maybe others in the group will ask why they DO give a crap. I certainly did.

Every field needs to have some people in it who were raised a little differently, to change the perspective sometimes, and remind the people who fit the norm how to think differently. As we women engineers like to say, a company that accepts diverse people is on the path to accepting diverse ideas.

Josie is almost three and thriving. She has friends, Marc's been great at getting her involved in stuff, but she spends lots of time at home with her dog and her dad and when I come through the door she's there waiting for me. Marc is great at what he does, loves to run errands, does meal planning and cooking and can clean the house in an afternoon if we've got people coming over. We don't have tons of money, we budget carefully, marc works but it's less so when gets a check for a contract job that's when we party and go out to eat and the kid gets new clothes that aren't from a thrift store (although have you looked at little kids clothes at thrift stores? There's some deals there!)

Sometimes I feel guilty going to after-work activities because that means making marc pull a 12 hour shift. He doesn't seem to mind a lot, but has said that he wishes he could go out more. I'm not as well adjusted to watching Josie by myself though, she expects more from me, we're cool for a few hours but when marc has left for like a whole weekend, I take Josie and we go to mom's... I guess I could feel bad about that, but then I think about my engineer coworkers and ask myself how often their stay at home wives leave for a weekend (never! they've told me, they don't trust the guys!) and then I don't feel so bad that I need a little help myself to suddenly do what marc does every day. It's not easy!

I definitely think it's been good for my career too. My coworkers have the impression that I'm really "in it" and committed to our company. I'm pregnant again and still got a promotion this year, everyone trusts that I'll be back in six weeks, supporting the family. I'll transition back, working half days that first week or two so marc can adjust a little to another baby, but back all the same.

I have a lot of feminists to thank for this. Marc and I can both contribute to the family in the way we're suited, according to our talents, not birthrights. What if I couldn't be an engineer? What if Marc's contract job lulls would have happened when our baby was born anyway, but we lived in a world where we had to depend on him, and I would have struggled to just supplement his income with a job more traditional for women? Then we'd both be working... Marc out off obligation to provide, me out of financial necessity to get us all the way to what we needed, and what low cost provider would we leave our baby with?

Or another thought strikes me sometimes: what if I'd been living at home in my provider father's house with no education or opportunity of my own, and met my soulmate Marc, but had to tell him "No we can't get married because you don't make enough money?"

What we do is much better than any alternative, it's taken a lot of shifts in society to make it all acceptable, I couldn't have done it on my own. I am thankful.
Tags: feminism, marc, sahd, women engineers

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