Thursday, December 29, 2011

Parenting is Not a Career

Recently I had the pleasure of hearing two men make ignorant and insensitive remarks to their wives regarding their parenting responsibilities and the more I think about it, the madder I get.

The first man, whose wife was pregnant, was asked by a friend if he was ready for the sleepless nights that come with a newborn (and forever if you're me) and the man replied that he would be sleeping just fine because he wouldn't get up with the baby. He was the one with the job, you see, and his wife wouldn't be working. Her job was to take care of the baby. Since he worked all day ,when he got home, baby duty wasn't happening and his life would carry on just like before.

The second man didn't care to relieve his clearly exhausted wife of baby wrangling so that she could enjoy a moment of peace on Christmas. When asked, her husband also replied that her job was to take care of the baby because she didn't work and he had to go to the office every day to support them, therefore he shouldn't have to watch the baby during his time off.

There's a lot I'd like to say to these guys, but I'll refrain from cussing them out, and if I hadn't heard this sentiment reiterated numerous other times I'd probably not bother writing this, but dammit, parenting is not a career. You cannot equate it with having a job. It is work yes, but it is not employment. Being a nanny is a career. Being a parent is something else entirely.

Let me make it clearer for these guys, who have clearly been watching too much Mad Men and have somehow trapped their worldviews in the 1950s.

First, thank you for working to support your family. This is a wonderful thing and we stay at home moms are grateful, HOWEVER, you can't act like the only reason you're working is because you must support this burden of wife and child. You had a job before you got married and before you had a kid. If your family didn't exist, you'd still have to work.

You work for a set period of time each day. It's different for different jobs, but most dads are out of the house for ten hours, give or take, counting their commutes. Parents aren't parents for forty hours a week. They have to continue to take care of their children all day, every day, no matter what.

Laws require that workers get a break. Most people get a nice hour long lunch. You can relax at your desk, chill out in the break room or enjoy a meal in peace in a restaurant during this hour. This hour is yours to do as you please. During this hour you don't have a screaming child pulling on your leg as you try to heat a microwave meal, which you eat standing up as you simultaneously try to keep said child from pulling ant poison out from under the kitchen sink because your child has figured out how to disengage the child safety latches on the cabinets.

When you're at work if you have to go to the bathroom you can just get up and go. When you're home taking care of a child, you have to find a way to restrain the child, who then screams bloody murder while you try to express poop and nearly give yourself a hemorrhoid. You could also bring the child into the bathroom with you, but only if you feel like having the contents of your cabinets thrown haphazardly into the bathtub and your toilet paper roll completely unspooled while the baby chews on the toilet brush.

If you need to run an important errand during work or if you need to go to the doctor, in most cases, arrangements can easily be made. Stay at home parents not so much. Elaborate plans must be configured and babysitters must be found and paid. Simple tasks become arduous and complicated. Wow, it must be nice to be able to stop in for a latte at Starbucks on the way to the office without a wiggling little one strapped into a Bjorn, which is absolutely killing your back, and without then having to prevent the baby from grabbing everything in sight, including your scalding coffee. I know you complain about the commute and the traffic but I'd love to be able to sit in the car without my ears being pierced by bloodcurdling shrieks coming from the backseat because the baby can't handle the car seat and finds it totally unacceptable that you have to stop at red lights.

You may have a very demanding boss. Your boss might be a complete asshole, but I can guarantee you that no matter how awful your boss is, that he or she isn't calling you and hollering into your ear and demanding that you get your butt to work every two hours all night long every night while you wish desperately that you could just get some sleep. Your boss doesn't come mess up your house and then prevent you from cleaning it. Your boss would certainly allow you to get dressed without throwing a fit and I hope, that your supervisor doesn't demand that you pick him or her up and carry him or her around all day long. It is not your responsibility to keep your boss alive.

Let's not even discuss taking showers. Showers are a luxury for stay at home parents. For me, getting to take an uninterrupted shower, with listening to a sad baby, who you'd swear had just been abandoned to a wilderness wolf pack, whimper and whine in her jail of a crib, is akin to a full on spa day. I daydream about showers. You, with your jobs, can take as many showers as you want. You actually get to get up in the morning and take a shower every single day. I can't even imagine such a thing anymore.

When you have a job, you get days off. You get holidays. If you really hate your job, you can quit and get a new one. Parents don't have these options. Ever.

Supporting your family is a good good thing and I'm not saying that after a long day at work that you can't decompress or relax a little. I'm not even saying that you need to split parenting duties 50/50. I'm just saying that you need to show a little sensitivity and a little good sense. Stop equating staying at home with the kids to having a job and give your spouse some much needed assistance and relief whenever you can.

And let the poor woman take a shower for God's sakes. Look how greasy her hair is.


basteine said...

I am a stay at home dad. My wife works long hours (usually 70 +a week) and cheerfully pitches in watching the children when she is home. Because she works so many hours I dont begrudge her taking whatever time she would like at home to rest or unwind. I am thankful she is thoughtful enough to help me when she is home. I know there are plenty of stay at home parents who are not nearly as blessed as I am. What I find objectionable are the looks of surprise or pity I receive when stating my employment status. Why is it objectionable to so many for men to stay home and raise children? My wife and I made are choice and we are both happy with it. It doesnt matter what other folks think, but I just cant understand such a 1950s stereotypical mindset.

Wide Lawns said...

I can't understand it either. I tried to make this post as gender neutral as I could, although I was specifically responding to two men. I think dads who take care of the kids are great.

rockygrace said...

I have a co-worker who refers to the time he spends with his son while his wife is at her night job as "Daddy Day Care". It makes me INSANE. It's YOUR KID TOO, dude.

Robin said...

I had a conversation with a co worker after their first child was born... It's not babysitting when you are the Dad. It's called parenting.

Amy said...

Holy crap. I cannot even imagine my husband behaving like that. He would most likely not be my husband anymore. And here's the thing I don't get- don't these fathers love their children? Don't they want to know them and spend time with them? My husband can't wait to spend time with Emmett when he gets home from work. I suppose I should count my blessings.

kerry said...

I think the guys are being selfish and not wanting their lives to change. But your lives *do* change when you have kids... Maybe they didn't want to have kids? My dad loved us, but I think didn't really want us to intrude on his time, so I see it from the other side.

Not that that makes it ok. My friends just had their first baby, and it seems daddy's taking his proper turn at caretaking. This may change once he has a job, but for now it seems that he recognizes daddy has responsibility, too. Another couple has the stay-at-home-dad routine. I think it's great that not every guy (or probably even the majority) subscribe to the "dad shouldn't have responsibilities to the kids" mentality.

I think it's sad that I find it noteworthy when a dad stays home with the kids while the wife works. If it works for that family, why should anybody say anything? Kids are taken care of, family is provided for, end of story. And I do applaud the dads who take care of kids.

I think the "guy must work, wife must not" thing is an easy way for a guy to build a self-image. Get a good job, bring home a good paycheck, mow the lawn once in a while, and you're good. The world is a little more complicated now, but it gives guys more options. I think this is both good and bad.

greyspasm said...

That mindset is not as widespread as it used to be. I certainly pitched in with the midnight feedings, especially with the twins! Those a-holes you overheard were not unlike the moms on the playground who are more interested in their smart phones than their kids. They want their lives to remain unchanged. Basically, it's a matter of selfishness. Having a kid definitely challenges your beliefs.

Miss Kitty said...

Damn, WL. You told it like it is. Daaaaamn!

I'm thankful that more and more men are getting away from this sexist, old-fashioned, self-centered attitude. Sadly, there are enough younger men who think like this to perpetuate such tunnel vision re: parenting.

It's a long story, but my late father had that same attitude until he was a single dad with full custody of two little girls (ages 5 and 7). He worked full-time for little pay at a local sheet metal shop, then came home to clean, cook, help us with homework, and get us ready for school. It took first-hand experience for my dad to realize that a stay-at-home parent has a much harder job than anyone else who can leave work and come home. He never forgot those hard years, and truly appreciated what "housewives" endure.

May those guys' (I can't call them men) kids grow up to see their dads' dumbass attitudes for what they are...and may those kids look at having children as a lifetime commitment for BOTH parents.

Anonymous said...

Wide lawns, this is the type of prose I love about you. Honest and edgy. And at the risk of, oh heavens knows what, mine are in their 20's and I STILL can't go to the bathroom without hearing "MOM" and something. Keep writing and welcome back. ((((hugs))))

Melanie said...

Great post. You really hit the nail on the head!

Dawn said...

I agree with Amy. Just total crazy-talk. No way would that fly here.

Sure, if we're keeping score, my husband slept more and showered more, but I certainly got my breaks, and plenty of them. He never acted like he was doing me a big favor by watching OUR children so I could nap or shop or simply be alone. We're all on the same team.

Ardy said...

Best. Post. Ever.


LegalMist said...

Well said!

Anonymous said...

IMO, having a child carries with it an absolute responsibility to provide a happy and comfortable environment the child reaches adulthood. This requires a vast amount of time and effort that is difficult for even two parents to do well (there's a reason that humanity evolved in small bands where child care was a communal responsibility). It would be a truly heroic effort for one person to provide it - I'm not sure it's even possible without a lot of help from grandparents or other extended family members.

Anyone who is unwilling to take on this responsibility should not have children. There are few, if any, unpunished crimes more horrible than ruining a person's childhood.

Men with the attitude you mentioned should not be fathers. But I do have to wonder what their wives were thinking. This is too important an issue to leave to chance. Any woman should be aware of the prospective fathers' attitude toward raising a child before getting pregnant. If it's something like this, she has the responsibility to either not have a child with him or at least ensure she will have the necessary (loving, human) external support to provide for the child's happiness. If she goes ahead without this, she's being every bit as selfish as the father.

- lowwall

About Me

Blog Archive