I always wanted children, but never knew that navigating logistics would be a major part of it. As we discussed making our duo a trio, my husband — who already worked remotely from home — made the commitment to stay at his job and allow us to have the best of both worlds. I would go to work outside the home, and he would go to work within the home and care for our daughter. We began this arrangement (and the journey of parenthood) eight years ago. Since throwing another child in the mix, changing jobs, homes and caring for a sick parent, I have learned many things about having a work at home spouse that I would’ve never expected.
1. I’m not my mother — and that's OK.
My husband and I each have defined roles which play to our strengths and defy gender stereotypes. My husband cooks, schleps the kids to and from school and activities, and does homework. I clean, do laundry, and serve as the family secretary — making sure forms are filled out, parties are RSVP’ed to, and the calendar represents all the various places we need to be. But despite all of the things I do, I still battle with that feeling of not being a “real mom.” And that's because of what I saw growing up. My mother worked and did all of the above. It's taken me quite some time to be comfortable with what I bring to the table. Traditional gender roles don’t matter in our house, because this is what works for us and who we are.
2. People don't get it.
Other parents, particularly moms, on the school playground used to say things to my husband like: “Oh, ask your wife if we can have a play date.” This would infuriate him. People would treat him like a babysitter and not the father. This still happens from time to time. When I’m faced with parenting questions that he should be answering, I default to him and say things like: “He helps my daughter with her homework, so here is his number. You should text him if you have a question.”
3. No matter their situation, parents are always tired.
My husband does all the above AND works. He sometimes forgets to eat lunch and he never takes breaks. Consider how hard it is to send emails or make work calls while opening up a juice box and begging your child to be quiet. When I'm not at work, I'm at home to pick up where he left off so he can finish work. We power through homework help, dinner, baths, tantrums and bedtime routines to finally sit on the couch together and promptly fall asleep.
4. I am very lucky.
I recently sent my friends a photo of the pork shoulder my husband smoked outside in his DIY smoker and then seared and served for dinner, to which they applauded him for trying to be “sexy.” Truth be told, I have what many women want and fail to have because of gender stereotypes. He is a committed father who takes care of 90% of things that make our home run. I’m able to go to work with the comfort of knowing my daughters are with the only other person on the planet that loves them as much as I do.
Nicole Wolfrath has worked in career services for 15 years counseling college students and adults, facilitating career events, and conducting employer relations. Within her community she volunteers with non-profit organizations that focus on education and services for professional working mothers. Nicole holds a master’s degree in counseling and a bachelor’s degree in communications. She is mom to two feisty girls and lives on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @NWolfrath