I was reading another board I frequent a few days ago. Somehow the topic veered to having a stay at home parent. One of the posters said this: I used to work with a young, single woman. We were union so wage rates were public…
One day she pointed to a guy that was earning the same wage rate as she did. “I don’t understand; he is buying a house and I’m nowhere near able to do that. We make the same money, both have two kids, plus he has a wife that doesn’t work so he’s supporting an extra person.”
I was shocked I had to tell her he doesn’t pay for daycare. Saturday mornings he works for his father-in-law while you and his wife are taking kids to dance and sports. He never has to say no to overtime because after school care closes at 5:30. Two adults are contributing to the forward movement of that family, not one. Yes, his wife eats, needs clothes, might need a night out on occasion, but she is a value add to that household.
It reminded me of an old post I wrote a few years ago, It Wasn’t a One Way Relationship. That was the post where I finally said, “Hey! We didn’t have the life we had strictly because of him and his ability to make good money. We had the life we had because I was willing to move all over whenever he got a better offer elsewhere. We had the life we had because he never had to take off work to deal with sick kids (or a sick spouse), never had to tell them he couldn’t come in after hours, never had to decline a dinner invitation with people from corporate. He also never had to wash his own clothes or put them away. He never had to work all day and then come home and figure out what he was going to make for dinner or clean up the dinner mess. He didn’t take our daughter to gymnastics anywhere from 3-5 days a week or our son to hockey or soccer or baseball practice. He certainly never had to think about me and my job when being offered a new, more lucrative job hundreds or thousands of miles away. He also never gave up friends, a social life, and activities when moving from place to place. I always developed a life and a social support; he didn’t.
While I would never encourage anyone to stay at home with their kids anymore I am also tired of this narrative that staying at home is a drain on the family resources, or that a stay at home parent offers nothing of value.
He was able to do a lot of things because I was at home holding down the fort. He also had many things done for him because I did stay at home. He was the hard working man and I had agreed to be a stay at home mom so everything house and child was my domain. Had I been working full-time I’m not sure I would have been willing to do all the laundry, run the kids all over, put his clothes away for him, done all the grocery shopping, cooked all the meals (and fixed his plate for him) and been responsible for all the house cleaning. I could do it when it was just the two of us and we were both working, but with two kids? I would like to believe I would have grown a backbone and told him I didn’t give a shit how much more he made than I did; we were both working 40 hours a week and those kids and the household were every bit as much his responsibility as they were mine.
At this point in time, after what has happened to me after a twenty year marriage, I would never advise a person to stay at home with their kids, unless they had a very marketable degree, one that would allow them to jump right back into the workforce with pretty much no pay cut. Nursing comes to mind. Or pharmacy. It’s too much of a risk. When you don’t have a job or a way to support yourself you are vulnerable and more than likely you will end up putting up with more shit than you should because of it.
Whenever I say that staying at home with my kids was the biggest mistake I ever made (aside from marrying CF, of course) the mobster always tells me that staying at home with your kids is the most important job a person can have. He tells me he thinks I did a wonderful thing and that I didn’t let anybody down. It was CF that let us down.
I don’t want this to come down to stay at home moms versus working moms. I’ve done both and for me being a working mom is hands down the harder of the two. I say this having done it when my kids were teens who were almost fully grown. I can’t even begin to imagine how someone does it when they have little kids. My hat is off to you!
But I’m also tired of this notion that staying at home has no value and that all we do is take, take, take from our hardworking spouses. I always looked at my marriage to CF as a partnership, and as the two of us as a team.
A football team is made up of people who have different positions. There aren’t forty quarterbacks on a team. There is a quarterback and a center. A tight end. A running back. A wide receiver. A kicker. A safety. Just to name the few I can think of…. They all have a different job to do. They don’t all throw the football. They don’t all run for a touchdown. They don’t all punt the ball or attempt to make a field goal. They don’t all tackle and block. The team wouldn’t be successful if everyone went out onto the field and tried to do the quarterback’s job. Or the running back’s job. It takes everyone doing their own specific job to win a game.
On my team CF’s job was to work and make money. My job was to take care of the house and the kids so that he didn’t have a million things to do once he got home. Everything was taken care of for him. My job was to be supportive. I did that by being willing to move to around whenever a new job offer came up. I did that by never throwing a fit anytime he called to let me know he wouldn’t be home for dinner because he was going out with some people from corporate. I did it by not laying a guilt trip on him every year when he would fly out for a week for the production manager’s yearly meeting. I did it by handling everything on my own whenever he was traveling out of town, which wasn’t often, but it did happen. I was a value add to the household.
Another poster, a woman who has been single since she finally divorced her husband who had knocked up his mistress, replied: Frankly, I am sometimes amazed how much married, working women underestimate how much better off they are with a working spouse. I often hear, “Well, I made sure I made enough to support myself if I have to.” (Especially from a stepmom complaining about a mom needing CS). Yes, but you don’t have to and didn’t have to for the past 20 years. That gave you twice as much for retirement, college expenses, home improvement, vacations, medical expenses, whatever is important, than the one in a one income household.
I think it almost always comes down to the benefit of having someone else do the grunt work of childcare. I’ve heard stories of people who were almost ready to be fired due to missing work. Suddenly they’ve got someone who is willing and able to take on all of the childcare and that person is now thriving in their career. The first commenter mentioned that in 20 years of raising children her husband had missed exactly 16 hours of work because of kids; on these two days she was simply too ill to watch them. I believe one of those days she was actually hospitalized.
He could take all the overtime offered and never had to call in because of sick kids, never had to take time off to take a child to a doctor’s appointment, because he had a stay at home wife who did all of that. Same as my former husband. I’m pretty sure CF took less than a day off for children emergencies.
Right now my mom does those things for me most of the time. She’s the one that will drive Picasso to school and take him to his after school activities. She will bring him his lunch if he forgets it. She usually does my laundry and most nights she cooks. I do cook occasionally but she does it much more often. And when I was working two jobs and working fifteen/sixteen hour days? She was the one that made sure my kids got where they needed to be. She was the one who fed them. I don’t know if I would have been able to do any of that during that period.
Teamwork. It makes a difference. Having someone there to help support you is huge. You don’t all have to do the same thing on your “team” in order to say you’ve contributed. You just need to show up and do your part.