A few weeks ago, I wrote something for Scary Mommy called “Can’t A SAHM Get a Little Love?”
It was about the need for working dads staying woke to the difficulties of being a stay-at-home mom, and to lend a hand when they get home. Because caring for children may not require going to an office, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard work, and the least a working spouse can do is not add to the exhaustion, frustration, and stress when they get home.
But guess what? The 9-5 life ain’t no picnic either. Can’t working parents get a little love?
My job is fairly flexible, and I’m able to work remotely every once in a while, which has come in handy during the early stages of The Hammer’s existence (even if working from home is a hellish compromise).
But still, even the best case scenario requires spending the bulk of my day in a cubicle, chasing deadlines, putting out fires, and mainlining coffee. An office chair is no match for an easy chair, and while I’m aware of the challenges of being a stay-at-home parent and am fully on-board with doing whatever I can to make Mom and Buried’s life easier (including getting a part-time nanny so she could keep her job this time around – she’s kinda both SAHM and a working mom, now excuse me for a moment while I bow in her general direction!), I don’t have it easy either.
Would I rather be at home soothing a baby and wrangling a five-year-old? Probably not. I’ve done the stay-at-home thing and I wasn’t a huge fan.
The opportunity I had to bond with Detective Munch was priceless and I’m glad I had it, but the gig itself is pretty boring, and often rather thankless. Having experienced it first-hand, and having the chance even now to occasionally get a refresher on those days I work from home, I’d be lying if I said my ability to leave that behind most mornings isn’t a relief. I have the luxury of spending my day interacting with adults – most of whom don’t climb on me while I’m working, or yell for me to wipe their butts, or require countless loads of laundry, multiple feedings, help with their LEGO projects or turning on a show.
Still: work is work. It’s draining and difficult and I have to get dressed and ride the subway (into midtown Manhattan!) every day. When I get home, I’m happy to see my wife and kids, and more than willing to help out with the dinner routine and the bath routine and the bed routine and the cleaning up and the disciplining and all the rest, but sometimes it’s nice to have my role acknowledged too. Both of my roles. I DRIVE A DODGE STRATUS!
I’m not going to sit here and gripe about dinner not being ready when I walk in the door, or complain that a drink isn’t being placed in my hand as soon as I put down my briefcase (it’s actually a fashionable – and manly! – sling bag); this isn’t the 50s. And I’ve already written about the reasons being a working parent is hard. But while every parent who stays home with the kids deserves kudos and recognition for a job that is often overlooked – if not flat-out looked down upon (“What do you do all day?”) – we parents who run off like lemmings to punch a clock and provide for our kids outside the home deserve some love too.
The same way a stay-at-home parent should neither be belittled nor taken for granted for doing the domestic heavy lifting, the working parent should receive similar recognition. Despite all the perks that not being at home changing diapers and vacuuming floors all day offers, leaving your kids behind is a sacrifice as well. Having to cram all your bonding into a few limited hours after work and on the weekends is tough. Is it as tough as your so-called bonding time actually being your full-time job? I don’t know. This isn’t about comparison. It’s about acknowledgment.
Maybe the traditional working parent, who throughout the bulk of history to this point have been dads, had little to complain about, what with the patriarchy and male privilege and all that. (God knows many of the domestic stereotypes previous generations have left us sure made it seem like dads lack of involvement in child-rearing went part and parcel with their lack of interest.) Maybe modern dads feel guilty about that privilege and are skittish about seeking a pat on the back. But back in the day, maybe most dads didn’t even want to deal with the kids when they got home; those dads didn’t deserve leeway. Times have changed. We’re (hopefully) moving past the insanity of deriding stay-at-home moms, and hopefully we can start getting an occasional shout-out too!
No one deserves derision. More and more dads are truly involved parents, more and more moms are working outside of the home, and no matter your gender or your role in the parenting process (provided you actually have one), we all deserve acknowledgment.
Everyone is getting by the best we can, and everyone deserves respect and appreciation for it. Sometimes, in the consistent clamor to remind the world that stay-at-home parents don’t get any respect, working parents can get lost in the shuffle. The fact is, we’ve all been dealt lousy hands.
Except maybe Gwyneth Paltrow?