My Husband Brings Home the Bacon AND Fries it Up in the Pan- Gender Stereotypes, Family Dynamics and Getting on the Same Team

“Dad doesn’t make computer chips.  He makes money.”

Ah, kids say the darnedest things.  I could simply use this cute one-liner to annoy people on Facebook.  But on this particular day, having just come from a panel discussion on balance between work and home life, Liam’s comment made me wonder if he had any idea what his father and I actually do

The panel met at the office of a global tech company.  Two of my friends, a married couple with two  young sons, had been asked to share their perspective on spending quality time with their children while also working demanding jobs.  As a stay at home mom, I was curious as to their answers.  How DO they strike that balance?  I asked if I could attend the meeting.  I’m sure it sounded like a weird request- who asks to go listen to someone’s work discussions?  But I have a fascination with getting a glimpse into other people’s lives.  Of course I have my own perceptions of what it must be like to working mom.  I grew up watching those Enjoli commercials.  Would my perception cross paths with reality?

The panel was made up of D and L, (my married friends) a woman whose husband left his job as a pilot to be a stay at home dad, a new mother, a divorced father, a married woman without children, and a father with grown children and a wife with an equally demanding career.  The audience was made up of men and women.  I appreciated that whoever organized the meeting treated it as a problem faced by all people- not just women, or people with children, or any other stereotype you can think of.  The  search for balance is something everyone struggles with (except one guy who sat in the back of the room who claimed he had perfect balance between home life and work but had no idea how he achieved it.)

One thing D said really resonated with me.

“I know my children are loved by many people and that they benefit from having multiple people to rely on.”

The curse of the stay at home mom is this egotistical trap that no one can do things as good as you would do them.  It can be exhausting.  I know it is a financial sacrifice and privilege for me to stay home.  I feel like I am doing a disservice by not providing some type of enrichment or interaction every moment of the day.  Of course it is impossible to meet that expectation, so I spend a lot of the day mentally huddled in guilt.  Why can’t I keep the house in order, prepare nutritious meals, run all the errands, assist in the completion of homework, tend to the boys needs, and provide multiple opportunities for exercise and creative growth?  When I write it out like that, it makes sense- my job is challenging to say the least.  But in my mind, I’m at home-  I SHOULD be able to do all of that.

It was nice to hear someone say that it didn’t have to all rest on my shoulders.  People are not only capable of caring for my children; they can indeed love them and want the very best for them.  I know this.  I am lucky to have the assistance of family and friends who treat them as if they were their own children.  But sometimes, I need the reminder.

D and L talked about being married and working at the same company.  They agreed that one of the major benefits is having a true understanding of what the other one is going through.  When one needs to crack open the laptop at 9pm at night, chances are the other one is doing the same thing.

This is a struggle in our household.  When my husband is not on call and I hear the tell-tale ringtone of his work cell, I get annoyed when he answers it.  Can’t he say no?  Is there no one else that can do the job?

Every panelist described 6am conference calls and answering emails well into the night.  They have the flexibility to drive the kids to school, and make time for their soccer games, but there is a price to be paid.  The 9-5 day is definitively a thing of the past.

I probably should have been frustrated to have this news confirmed, but it somehow made me feel better.  Ben wasn’t neglecting his family.  He was caring for us by doing what he needed to to ensure he has a job.

As they spoke, there was no doubt in my mind that D and L were a team.  When one person was having a rough go, the other was picking up the slack.  Does Ben feel like I am on his team?  Wouldn’t he feel a lot better if he thought I understood his challenges rather than grumbling about them?

After the meeting, I asked D and L what the benefits of being working parents were, besides the obvious financial component.  D expressed a love for problem solving, and enjoyment spending her days engaging in that activity.  L talked about the feeling of accomplishment that comes with knowing you are respected for the work  you do.

L’s comment stuck me.  One thing that can be tough as a stay at home mom is that there are no employee reviews, raises, or promotions.  A lot of what we do goes unnoticed.  I don’t expect an “Employee of the Month” plaque for ensuring the laundry is folded (although it would be nice).  D and L are both confident, self-assured people.  I have not doubt some of that comes from the accomplishments in their careers, and that pride carries over to their parenting styles.

On the way home from picking up Liam at school later that day, I told him I went to a meeting at a company that was similar to the one Daddy works at.  He knows D and L, and I said they work in a company that helps make computer chips, just like Daddy.  That’s when I got the famous “Daddy makes money, not computer chips” comment.

When we got home, I found a video online showing the process of making a computer chip.  I showed it to my boys, pointing out the various processes their dad might be involved in.  As a former semiconductor employee, I also made note of machines I used to work on and tasks I used to perform.

“I worked in a factory like that, but now my job is to take care of you guys.  It’s a very important job.”

I remember as a kid thinking my mother had it so easy staying home with us- she didn’t have to go to a job every day.  I didn’t appreciate the workload of caring for six children.  Our house would have came to a halt had she called in for a sick day.

I want my boys to know that they have two working parents.  We both put in long hours, we both face challenges with our jobs, and we both do it for the benefit of our kids.  We are all on the same team, and our ultimate goal is the same- to ensure the success of our family.

Now, about that plaque- my name is spelled K-A-T.  And I really wouldn’t mind a bump in pay.

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