Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mr. Mom and the Stay-At-Home Dads

The phenomena of the Stay-At-Home-Dad was captured in the 1983 film, "Mr. Mom" as a father loses his high paying job and then struggles to fill his wife's shoes when she receives a job offer and returns to work. While it's a cute depiction of how the typical man might feel being "stuck at home" with the kids, it's funny how in the end the dad gets his job back and returns to work having learned his lesson about appreciating his wife and kids more, etc.

But what about REAL stay at home dads? What is their often untold experience? How do they really feel about their wives paying the bills, about telling others in public what they do, about forming an extra special close bond with baby that most dads miss out on?

I don't know all the answers to these questions. But I can you my experience as the wife of a stay at home dad.

When my husband and I decided to try for a little bambino, we thought it would take awhile to get pregnant, then awhile to grow this little bean in my belly, and that our circumstances would likely change many times between then and when baby was born. When I got pregnant, my husband and I were both full time students, and I was also working full time. We envisioned that I would graduate with my MA, step into a sweet new job, and that my hubby would keep on going with school (while working part-time) and then graduate a couple years later, get a great job, make bank, and we would be doing awesome. At that point, I could be a stay at home mom if we wanted or see how things shook out.

Reality check? My hubby looked for part time work the whole time I was pregnant and couldn't find jack. I didn't get the raise I was up for, and after graduation I couldn't find a job in my field. i still haven't received so much as an interview from one of the 20+ applications/resume's I've sent out. My maternity leave was super short and primarily unpaid, and I headed back to work exhausted and poor. Then 3 weeks later, my husband's classes started again at school.

I know he's had mixed feelings off an on about our situation. He thinks it's awesome that he gets to spend more time with our girl than your average daddy, and hopes that connection with create the foundation for an amazingly tight lifelong bond. However, I think he struggles with sometimes asking me for beer money or checking with me before he signs on to participate in an opportunity at school that would interfere with the baby's schedule/my work schedule.

On my end, I've struggled with being jealous that my husband gets to spend so much of this critical time with our little one while I'm slugging it out at my less-than-thrilling job for which I am brutally underpaid. I get a little miffed when I return from a day at work to a crying baby (evenings are still kind of "melt-down" time for her) and don't get to eat dinner until she's asleep at 8. It's tough for sure and mommy-burnout is common for new moms but i think especially for working moms and maybe even more so for bread-winning working moms.

But you know what? I'm still so happy that I have an amazing and talented husband who loved me enough to A) have a child with me even though he wasn't 100% sure/on-board at first and B) loves her so much and has enough scheduling flexibility to watch her most days while I work. The way he engages with her is so incredible to watch. He really tries to get to know her as a person, and the way her eyes light up when he's around is worth all the money in the world.

Maybe some day we'll strike it rich, or at least score the jobs we want and so on. Until then, I love my stay-at-home husband!


Tiffany said...

I love this. What a stellar thing for Scott to do! He sure is creating some great bonding with E. I think it's super important for one parent (doesn't matter which) to be at home if it's financially possible. I give major kudos to working moms. I'm lucky enough to be at home and the thought of going to work makes me nervous. You're truly blessed to have a hubby that can be at home! If it were possible to me to get a well paying job I would totally let The Micker be at home.

Sarah McCammon said...

Very similar situation for me (as I think you know at least partly) - we got pregnant before we planned, while hubby was still fairly early in his Phd program and I wasn't making a lot of money. So he has done most of the daytime childcare. It hasn't always been easy, but there are lots of benefits - he's a far more plugged-in dad than most. Also, I've become more invested in my career. I grew up around a lot of women who stayed home, and I think it's easy to slip into what you've seen modeled. Now, I love my work and while it's challenging, I believe in the long-run, both of us will be closer to our kids and also have the emotional and financial stability that goes with two careers.