So, my husband and I were in the car on the way to a football game on Saturday, when I logged into Facebook (relax, he was driving) and saw he’d posted the following status update:
“Back at work on Monday after 4 months of being Mr. Mom. Oh well, all good thing must come to an end I guess.”
I went through the range of thoughts.
Factually? He’s returning to work after four months home full-time with the kids. I went back to work full-time in May and he took the last two months of the year-long parental leave for our second daughter. He then took an extra two months flex leave to take us to September when our eldest started kindergarten (last week – pause for moment of parental awe for this milestone) so we didn’t have to find a short-term daycare solution for her.
I know what he means. And he was really just trying to be funny.
Ten “likes” already.
Including a very nice discussion asking him to weigh in on “who really has it harder”: “Mom” at home or “Dad” at work. [His answer – home front is harder].
Apparently nobody else has any issue with this.
But it took every ounce of personal restraint not to publicly comment on the thread with something to the effect of:
“Speaking for a moment as Mrs. Dad…” “If you’re Mr. Mom, does that make me not so Mrs. Mom?”
“Hey, honey, it’s me. Not sure what to call myself in this scenario. It’s 2013. Can we quit it with the 1983 bullshit gender stereotyping and just be parents already?”
But I stopped myself. Because calling your spouse out on Facebook isn’t one of the keys to a successful marriage.
And really, he was sitting right beside me, so I could have just done, like, the ADULT thing, and SAID something.
But I didn’t. Because, I didn’t want to start one of our few afternoon’s “sans kids” with some heavy conversation about “that thing you said which you obviously don’t think is a big deal and I do…”
For those unfamiliar with the term it stems from the 1983 movie here:
Starring Michael Keaton, it’s about the bumbling man who, when he ends up losing his job, stays home with the kids while his wife goes to work at the high power office job. Hilarity ensues as he can’t figure out the basics of child care.
Don’t worry. Its been years since I’ve seen it, but I seem to recall that everything works out in the end.
But getting back to me and my apparently exiting Mr. Mom.
We knew before having kids that we’d both be working. And we also both knew we wanted to be equally and actively involved in child rearing.
Indeed, watching how my (now) husband interacted with his nieces and nephews, and how his two older brothers were so actively involved in parenting – and how he wanted to be too – was one of his many “selling points” as a spouse.
And sharing childcare? While it’s not exactly seamless, it’s not exactly Brave New World/1983 either.
The 2012 National Study on Balancing Work and Caregiving in Canada noted that, in their survey sample, “responsibility for childcare is shared in just over one in four (27%) of the families in our sample.”
That said, it then went on to say that “women are still more likely than men to assume primary responsibility for childcare within their families” and that “our previous research in this area identified a strong relationship between responsibility for childcare and stress.”
I know. Shocker.
However, one of the items that got a bit of press from this study was the fact that, balancing work and care – children or parents (welcome to the infamous “sandwich generation“), while still more likely to be challenging for women, is now problematic for many younger men.
In an interview, Linda Duxbury, co-author of the report, stated the following:
“We’re seeing younger men stepping up to take on the caregiving role. Women are equal bread-winners today, so they have more say in who does what. And younger men feel responsible for their parents. What really stood out about young men between ages 30 and 45 is that they are in egalitarian families. That doesn’t make things better for women, it makes things worse for men. Plus, it’s not something you do for a few months – many of the caregivers reported that they’ve been caring for the same people for more than six years!”
I have to admit, I had mixed feelings when I first read that quote. Yay! Equality! But apparently the prize is that we’re all just now equally stressed.
But that was our game plan. Equal (with all it’s loaded “we both think this means something kinda different” imperfections) parenting.
We also shared the first parental leave in a similar fashion – again with me off longer as I breastfed and it worked with work schedules.
It made sense to both of us that we’d both take time off with the kids. We both work full-time; we’d both be equally involved on the home front; we should both be able to enjoy the experience of being home with the kids full-time. And, as well as enjoy, be ALL IN from the start; and so both know ALL that’s involved on the home front. How better to know that than to have DONE it?
So Mom isn’t always in charge on the home front. And neither is Dad. Equal parenting in action!
Which is why I found the post so annoying. Because it implies anything but equal parenting.
I finally explained my concern with the phrase/post to him last night.
I explained that I understood he was being funny; that I know it’s something people “just say”; and that there was nothing malicious meant by it.
But I explained that I found the comment sexist and dated.
That it insinuates staying at home is the mother’s job – ie: women’s work. And that, by extension, your time at home was some sort of nice “break” from the real – read “Dad/man” – work of life to which you were now returning after your “liberated” jaunt in mommyland.
I asked why he felt he had to make light of staying home with the kids and put it in some funny “ha ha” gendered light, like that. And, really? If we want to bring it back to 1983 Michael Keaton? Among other things, he went on to be Batman. So apparently, if you just time manage appropriately, you really should be able to do it all.
I said taking care of your kids – and knowing the nitty-gritty of how to do it – makes you more – not less – of a man.
But that a comment like that implies you are returning the parenting reins to me, the mom, because that’s somehow the way it should be: the woman must be defacto in charge on the home front – even thought both of us are working full-time.
And that’s bullshit.
I said I know that he doesn’t actually think that. One flippant Facebook post doesn’t define your stance on an issue. But I explained there is baggage behind terms like “Mr. Mom” and they perpetuate stereotypes that a) aren’t accurate; and, b) don’t need to be encouraged because moms and dads get enough flack about parenting and are hard enough on themselves without being pushed back into some dated stereotype of what someone else – some TIME else – thought they should be.
I know he thought I was over-reacting and somewhat lacking in a sense of humour. Because he told me so. But I love that he heard me out. I feel better now that my annoyance isn’t sitting inside and festering. Although I apparently felt the need to do one last purge of the whole thing here – via this post. Which hubs is also cool with.
Oh! And for the record, I also felt way less neurotic about the whole thing after going online and realizing a number of others out there have similar views on the need to purge this phrase from general use.
So with that said: Mr. Mom, your work is done. Dad’s home with the kids; we just call that parenting; they’re all doing great; and everything is as it should be.
And if he had to go back to work too?
Well, “Ode to our awesome daycare provider” deserves a whole other post, but suffice to say, if Michael Keaton can become Batman, I think we can make it all work too.