By Lynzy Pyle
Saying my pregnancy was unplanned is an understatement.
I am part of the 1% of women who got pregnant while on birth control. So, when we found out we were expecting, my partner and I were not prepared to make changes to our work and class schedules. As my due date approached, daycare didn’t seem to be an option for us either — childcare for a newborn averaged $250 – $325 dollars per week. Paid family leave was not offered for my spouse or myself, so we knew we would have to return to work quickly. We had no choice but to adapt.
My husband got a job working 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., and I stayed home with our daughter for the first two months of her life. I recovered from my cesarean section and was hating staying home all the time. I never left our house and would almost always have spit up or poop in my hair. I wanted to get back to work fast — the stay-at-home mom life wasn’t for me.
My mother-in-law and I were having one of our many conversations where I was the one doing most the talking, and I vented to her about how I felt like a horrible mom. I didn’t enjoy staying home with my daughter.
“I love her more than anything and she’s my life, so how can this be?” I said.
She replied something so simple and so powerful to me: “I always thought I was a better mom at work.”
This immediately stuck with me. The truth is that there is no perfect parent, and there is certainly no definition of a perfect stay-at-home parent. Being a woman is no exception to this rule; you do not have to be a woman just to stay at home with your child, nor do you have to make yourself miserable to fit into a role that society crushes you into.
I found a job and started working from 2 – 6 p.m. on weekdays. Chris and I got to see each other for just an hour or two each day, and our marriage suffered from it. We weren’t making a lot of money, and our expenses with a new baby were adding up quickly. Our few encounters turned into arguments about money, and I was struggling with less time and affection from my partner.
I started working full time on weekdays. I received a promotion at my office job and was making more money. My partner worked 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., three days a week. We mended the financial burdens we had, but working, going to class and caring for a baby is hard. Our marriage and our relationship quickly fell to the back burner as our beautiful daughter grew bigger and stronger.
Chris eventually quit working his late night job and became a stay-at-home-dad and a full-time student, which suited him well.
However, I couldn’t get over the questions and the weird looks I got when I told other men that my husband stayed at home with our daughter. Women seemed to love it and thought it was so amazing, but men certainly always had a look of disapproval.
Why should such an important job be limited to one sex?
According to athomedad.org, in 2014 there were 2 million men who were stay-at-home dads. This is a number that has doubled over the last 10 years. Still, many people in our lives were so shocked that my husband stayed at home with our daughter, enjoyed it, and, quite frankly, kicked ass at it.
In a household where the mother has a job or career that statistically pays more or offers good benefits, why shouldn’t she work full time? Especially with the invention of easy-to-use breast pumps and FaceTime?
Being a stay-at-home parent requires your full attention to a small human 24/7. Cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner, cleaning the house, and caring for your baby are just what you see on the surface. Behind the facade of domestic bliss is a loneliness that is not easy to describe. You may not leave the house for several days at a time, and it is hard to hear about your partner’s day and all the exciting things they may have gotten to experience. It is easy to become envious or lash out at your partner as you may not always know how to express a new feeling such as this. Your partner may feel envious of you because they had a long day at work and would have loved to stay home and be with the baby.
My husband, Christopher, is naturally better at keeping up with the toddler and preparing a balanced meal every night for us to eat. I am better at managing our finances and folding laundry. There are many things that must get done around the house daily, but to say that one sex must accomplish a certain task (e.g. take care of the baby or do the chores) is outdated.
Communication is key for any stay-at-home parent. You are doing a very hard job and when you need a moment, express this to your partner in a still manner. Express that you have a certain amount of time to yourself a day. This does not make you selfish or a bad parent. It may improve your mood and make you, in fact, a better parent and spouse.
If communication is lacking around your household or you just can’t seem to find common ground on important decisions, seek the help of a couples’ therapist. Couples’ therapists are not for miserable married folks who are inevitably getting divorced nor are they even for unhappy couples. They are for couples who love each other dearly but because of different life paths and experiences, see the world differently and therefore can have a difficult time relating to one another.
As we move into 2020, let’s learn to stop the stigma surrounding stay-at-home parents and which sex those parents “should” be. For my household, the dynamic may be much different than yours, and this certainly doesn’t mean that either one is better than the other. It just means that we love our families and see where they shine and have adapted those strengths to fit our lives.
Dedicated to Chris