Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Working Moms Wednesday: The "New" Dad

Working Mom Wednesday
Kudos and blessings to all the single moms out there who work full time and raise kids without the help of a partner. You deserve our accolades… and a Starbucks gift card with free babysitting. As for me, I know that working full time would be a lot harder—emotionally and practically—if I did not have a husband who is such an involved dad. Actually, it’s condescending to even phrase it that way, so let’s just be out with it: he spends more time at home with Kate each week than I do. But I definitely wouldn’t call him a “stay at home dad.”

Rather, he’s part of a new breed that I was really excited to see written about in this month’s Parents magazine. The article “The New American Dad” was all about the growing trend of men who are “neither stay at home dads nor primary breadwinner, but who work. . . and parent . . . and likely spend a fair amount of time worrying about not doing so hot at either.” Whereas women have faced the anxiety over balancing work and motherhood for decades, men have not faced the same societal pressure to seek this elusive “balance” until recently. As more women get advanced degrees (61% of all masters degrees are earned by women now) and pursue full-time careers, and as cultural changes break down the expectation that women do all the cooking and housework, men are more likely to be dealing with the pressure to “pull their weight” both professionally and at home. The writer also notes that in the economic downturn, men are more likely to be downsized (because male-dominated industries have been hardest hit). All these are contributing factors to the reality of the new American family, in which one in four preschool-age children have Dad as their primary caregiver.
Though we didn’t foresee this type of arrangement when we got married, or even when we got pregnant, Matt and I have a very “new” (modern, non-traditional, etc.) work/home life arrangement. I leave home for ten hours a day to my work as an editor in an office an hour away from home. Matt is a pastor at a small church with no office space, so he works from home (or Starbucks, or the hospital, or wherever his congregants need him). Three days a week, I take Kate to day care on my way in to work, and Matt picks her up an hour or so before I get home. The other two weekdays, Matt keeps Kate at home, navigating that tricky task of getting work done while caring for a rambunctious toddler.

At the risk of providing fodder to traditionalists who might say “that’s why men should be the sole breadwinner and women should stay at home,” I will say that these shifting roles do cause some anxiety. Matt has to carefully plan what needs to be done on day care days and what can be done on Daddy-Daughter Days. Even on DDDs, he faces the guilt and stress of not getting as much done as he’d hoped if Kate happens to not nap well or to be particularly needy that day. And when Kate gets sick and has to come home from day care, he is the one whose plans go out the window in order to pick her up and take her to the doctor. (He wrote about this just last week on his blog, actually.) And then there’s the feeling of cultural pressure that as a “real man” he should be going off to the office every day in a trench coat and fedora. As for me, I face the guilt of “abdicating” my role as primary caregiver and fear being judged by those who may think I should be staying home. On one hand, it almost feels like it would be emotionally easier to have Kate in day care five days a week than to feel like I’m making Matt do what is “supposed” to be my responsibility.

On the other (much, much stronger) hand, I love that Kate can be home two days a week (though day care has been awesome for her). I love that I can work in a career I love and that Matt can have such a special relationship with Kate. Matt loves his Daddy-Daughter Days, and has found that Kate can actually be an asset in his work, when he takes her with him to visit the elderly folks in the congregation. I love that we are a family that can adapt to do what works for us, regardless of the norms culture has previously dictated for moms and dads.

How do you and your spouse split or share work and home duties?

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Note: I got the Working Mom Wednesday button working in the sidebar (after much trial and error)! By next week, I hope to have the grab-code underneath it, in case you want to link over!

4 comments:

Kristen said...

Great post, Jessica. I still feel working mommy guilt, four years after this all began (almost to the day - my first maternity leave ended July 29, 2006!). And I feel like the rift between SAHMs and WMs is so huge, and I hate that - we're all doing what's best for our families!

But I digress. In our family, we share responsibilities fairly evenly, although John Michael probably pulls more "stay-at-home-with-a-sick-kid" duty than I do, given his capability to telecommute if necessary.

Our household chores fall by the wayside, though, because at the end of the day, we want to cram in all the munchkin time we can before their bedtimes. Then we're exhausted and sit on the couch like vegetables until our bedtime :) Messy house, yes - happy life, definitely.

Katie Bug said...

Since Jer is a pastor, too, he has Thursdays off in place of Sundays. Even though I stayed home this past year, Jer took care of Katelyn often on Thursdays while I subbed.
With me going back to work full time this school year, he'll probably have quite a few Daddy-Daughter Thursdays. We wouldn't get a discounted childcare rate even if he kept her every Thursday, though, so he'll probably use some Thursdays for yardwork and errand running. That will allow us to have more family time on Saturdays.
I anticipate that Jer be more likely to stay home with Katelyn when she's sick. His job is generally more flexible than mine that way.
I am glad that SAHDs are becoming more of a common sight in our culture. Financially, it would have made more sense for Jer to have been the SAHD and me to have been the WM this past year. I don't think that would have been a good thing for us, though, because neither of us would have been doing what we wanted. When families can make it work, though, I think it's fabulous.

Amy said...

Love this post. We have a "new dad" arrangement too, and have since 2002. He stays home every morning with any kid not yet in full time school, easing my guilt tremendously by reducing to half time the day care hours.

He still outpaces me by kajillions in earnings, but him being a business owner who can set his own hours has been wonderful for us, and allowed him a ton of extra bonding time with the boys as their primary daytime caregiver.

Tracy Wells Miller said...

Can I just say that the mental exercise of picturing Matt doing this:

"And then there’s the feeling of cultural pressure that as a “real man” he should be going off to the office every day in a trench coat and fedora."

gave me the best laugh I've had today???

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