Luxury? Ha! The working spouse is hardly putting his feet up, watching the game and drinking a beer with his buddies. Neither is the stay-at-home parent. The only luxury of having a stay-at-home-mom is felt by the children. And that’s how it should be. One dad responds to the whole “the stay-at-home spouse is a luxury to the working parent” concept, below.
Having had my kids in school – all day! – for over a year now, I’ve relaxed a bit about being super productive with every possible minute of my kid-free time. I still have the overarching sentiment that I must do things during school hours that I can’t do when they are at home. Things like writing, exercising, meeting with colleagues or friends. I save housework, for the most part, for when they are here, because I naturally do that while I am supervising homework or reading time or play dates.
You know what else I can do while my boys are at school? I can take a nap. Or see the doctor. Or get my hair done.
Yes, those things are luxuries. But it’s not like I do them every day. And if I was working full time out of the house, guess when I would do them? On the weekends, or at the expense of my work, or while a hired babysitter is with the children. There’s a tradeoff no matter when I take a moment for myself.
All the ladies writing now about motherhood and parenting and stay at home vs. working are saying the same things we said five years ago and even farther back, and I’m sure that when we wrote those posts in the Early Internet Age, we were repeating the same struggles that women who came before us did, but using more current technology. It’s the same old story.
One thing that has changed, however, is that more men are talking about it, writing about it, and discussing it amongst themselves. It’s no longer just us housewives or “working moms” who wring our hands and shake our heads in resignation – we can discuss the work/life balance conundrum with our husbands or friends or male colleagues who are fathers. In fact, it was the dad of a traditional-model family (dad works at an office, mom is in charge of the house and kids all day while he is gone, dad feel overworked and pressured, mom teeters between exasperation and extreme gratitude) who sent me the link to this article, which was a reaction to this article, and while the public’s reaction to both was off the mark, I understand what the writers’ points are. They’re new to this gig, which is a struggle. They realize that parenting is easier with a partner, one who picks up the slack where you can’t reach to catch it yourself. But you dangle the word “luxury” out in front of a readership that is supercharged for controversy over working/parenthood, and you create a lovely little internet firestorm for yourself. Well played, newcomers.
I urge readers not to take the bait. Parenting is hard no matter how you do it. The only people who are lounging around in “luxury” are the children, because that’s the whole point.
You all know how I feel about this issue: make your own choices. Find what works best for you and your family. If others criticize you, they can suck it. But I found my friend’s response, the perspective of the working dad responsible for financially supporting a family of five, refreshing, insightful, and heartwarming. He gave me permission to share it here.
Reaction to the “Luxury” Article, by Chris Tjaden:
I think what frosts Elena’s cookies the most is the notion that her sacrifices of being a stay-at-home mom in some way provides a luxury for me. That it enables me to work late when I want have to, travel when I want have to, and render her utterly powerless under the demands of my job. Or as she may question, my abilities to control my own time & my ‘desires’ to conveniently avoid coming home. All very valid questions that I want to reassure are totally not true.
- We are living far from home (and therefore family & friends support) and are constantly reminded of what we don’t have by friends who conveniently have parents come over to cover the kids on a whim. I am sure you can relate.
- We are in the throes of [caring for three] very demanding, and still dependent, children.
- We are extremely money-strapped…something that we are trying to come to grips with.
- Finally, is the issue of Elena’s dealing with some substantially extraordinary health issues.
- Time: because of all that she does, we have the luxury of our weekends. Sure there’s the growing chaos of shuttling kids to activities, but we actually can spend time together as a family (whether it’s going apple–picking, or simply being with the kids in the driveway).
- Sanity: because she stays home, we avoid the “awake at 5am so we can get ourselves and the kids out the door” phenomenon that comes with working. We avoid the evening mad dash of figuring what to make for dinner/making dinner/getting the kids in bath & bed that has to fit within the 2hr time frame of 6-8pm. And then the ensuing clean the kitchen/do the laundry/get lunches made/pull-out outfits for the next day that follows.
- Complexity: We avoid the negotiations of who can take time off when one of them is sick or needs to go to the doctor, or what to do if and when my job requires me to stay late or travel. Not to mention the lost weekends between having to squeeze in a week’s worth of chores & shopping, while trying to spend quality time with our kids, whom neither of us has seen during the course of the week. All very real issues.
- And this would go on, if I had a longer lunch break (which I rarely take)