I got married when I was 30 and had my first daughter a year later. Within the next 3 ½ years there were 2 more girls added to the brood. Before we had our children, my husband and I decided that he would stay at home with the kids. My job was better paying and I was much more established in my career. We wanted one of us at home. It was a no brainer. He stayed home for 11 years and bonded with our daughters in a way that most men never get to experience. He also put up with a lot of crap, and in all actuality, so did I.
My spouse is a manly man. He pumps iron 5 days a week without fail. He burps and farts and scratches. Staying home with the kids caused him to be the brunt of all kinds of jokes and snide remarks. He took all of them like a man. I remember when I brought up getting a mini-van he said a really bad word. We got one anyway (6 months later he admitted that it was his favorite thing to drive, but I better not tell anyone!) He learned about carpooling, play dates and birthday parties, although I do have to admit that I stayed home the morning of picture day and did their hair (my vanity or theirs, I am not sure).
I tried not to comment when they were wearing purple and blue socks (he is a little color blind) and I laughed hysterically when flu season hit and I came home to the “puke” bucket in the middle of the living room floor. He still tells poopie diaper and naked baby stories that will just crack you up. One day I came home when the oldest one was about 4 months old and he was holding her above his head singing “Like a Baby, Spitting up for the very first time” to the tune of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin Song”. When I walked in, I startled him so bad he almost dropped her, but in that moment all I could think of is what a great Dad this man was.
Quite a few years ago, I was helping at a school party and talking to a Mom who worked at my daughter’s private school. She told me that her kids wouldn’t be attending the school the next year. I asked why and she told me that she just wanted to be a Mom and stay home with her kids. Without her income from working at the school, and the discount that it provided, they would no longer be able to afford to keep the kids there. I told her I was happy for her and to not feel guilty that she was changing schools. In the next breath she asked me what my husband did. I told her that he stayed at home with the kids. She didn’t bat an eye and said “Is that all?” She had no idea about the one-eighty that she did or that she sounded like a complete hypocrite.
Why is it that when women stay at home it is so great and sacrificing and when men do it they are considered lazy bums? Women are elevated to a state of martyrdom and men are considered creeps — talk about a double standard. Then they look at me like, “What is wrong with you that you aren’t doing it?” or the all encompassing “Don’t you feel guilty?”
Well I didn’t and I don’t. I hear a lot of stay at home Moms talk about feeling looked down upon by women who work, but frankly they should look in the mirror when they start to judge the way other people make their families work. It is everyone’s choice to make the right decision for their family. Sometimes that decision is for Mom to stay at home and sometimes it is for Dad to do it and sometimes they both need to work. I know that everyone is making decisions that they think are best for their children because they love them and want what is best for them. I think all of us need to stop judging what everyone else does for and with their children and remember to look in the mirror first.
One day when my youngest was 5 she said to me , “Mom, I’m so glad I’m a girl.” I asked her “Why?” She said “Because then I won’t have to stay home with the kids like Daddy does.” After I quit laughing I told her that not all Dads stay home and that we all make choices about who cares for our children when we are not around. At least she knows that she has a choice. There is no way society will dictate to her what she should do for her children and how she should do it. She will do it her way, whatever that means for her….just like we did!