Stay-at-home moms (SAHM) are always a hot topic in parenting circles, but it’s rarely something that men will talk about. Until now.
Editor’s Note #1: Stay-at-home dads, I know how hard it is for you too. As a matter of fact, an argument can be made that it’s harder for you than it is for your female counterparts due to the societal stigmas that exist. However, this post is long enough as it is, so I’m going to stick to the ladies this time. I don’t want you to think that I ignored or forgot about you.
Editor’s Note #2: Working moms, believe me – I know how tough you are (especially since I’m married to one). The reason why I focused on SAHMs is because very few people know or understand how tough they have it, while most of society understands and respects your plight. If you don’t agree with that statement, can we at least agree that most people (other than the few cavemen who believe a woman’s place is in the home) view working moms in a more positive light than SAHMs? This post was created to give SAHMs the props they rightfully deserve – but please know that I have a ton of love and respect for how tough working moms are.
We all know this woman. She could be your neighbor with the dark circles under her eyes who greets you with a half-smile as she staggers into her house with a crying newborn on one arm and a week’s worth of groceries on the other. She could be the stranger you saw at Target trying to break up a “no holds barred” wrestling match between her two sons while all of the other customers gave her dirty looks. She could be your exasperated sister who calls you in tears at 1:30 PM on a Thursday afternoon because she can’t keep her three-year old daughter from using borderline terroristic methods to separate the remaining sanity from her mind. She could be your best friend who would strongly consider forfeiting her life savings if it meant that she could enjoy 24 straight hours of her kids not touching, kicking, grabbing, or talking to her.
She could be you.
I know what you’re thinking: DDW, you’re a corporate father with a wife who is a full-time business owner. What do you know about this topic?
Grandma Doin’ Work (my mom) and Grandpa Doin’ Work (my dad) have three boys: My older brother, my identical twin brother, and me. Speaking of my twin, I have a question for the moms out there: Let’s pretend that you have a three-year old son and you’re pregnant with your second son. How would you feel if you found out in less than 48 hours before you were to give birth to your son that you had another baby in there too? Well, that’s what happened to my parents. They freaked the eff out, but knew that they had to get it together, because…well, they didn’t have much of a choice. They only planned for two children, but they had to make it work with three.
My dad was a young professor at a local University and that left my mom to watch over three rambunctious little boys on her own during the day as a SAHM. Even as a child under five years old, I remember how hard my mom worked around the house while my brothers and I concocted creative ways to maim ourselves and each other. She cooked, she cleaned, she did laundry (at a laundromat), all while going to school part-time at night to get her college degree. I remembered that our craziness would bring her to the verge of tears many times, but we never relented. One of us would break an antique vase, another one would make one of his brothers drink a cupful of his homemade “lemonade,” and another one almost parachuted off of our 15-foot balcony using a bed sheet. I also remember that the only thing that kept my mom from the looney bin was my dad. When he came home from work, he would help out around the house, he’d give us baths, read us stories, and play with us so my mom could wind down and relax. He understood that his work as a professor was important, but his work as an involved father and husband was/is everything to him.
My dad clearly gets it.
That said, there are three types of working dads who are married to or dating SAHMs:
- DADDY DOIN’ WORK: The working dad who clearly gets it: Refer to my dad and the countless fathers just like him.
- WORKING DAD – VERSION A: The working dad who will help out every now and then, but secretly resents you for it: He’s the one who comes home from work and rolls his eyes the second you ask him to do anything that has to do with his children or housework. He’ll help you, but he quietly complains under his breath, “Are you kidding me? What have you done all day? Watch Maury Povich and The View? How dare you ask me to change a diaper?? I worked nine hours today at the office and I’m exhausted!” He’s usually a punk ass and doesn’t have the balls to ever say it to the SAHM’s face – but she’s smart enough to know how he really feels.
- WORKING DAD – VERSION B: The working dad who clearly doesn’t get it and will let you know about it: The demarcation line is clearly drawn in the sand. HE makes the money. YOU clean the house, YOU cook the dinner, YOU do the laundry, YOU do everything that involves the kids, YOU get him a beer when he asks for it, and YOU have sex with him whenever HE is ready. Have a problem with any of that? At best, he’ll talk to you like you’re a child. At worst, you’ll get your nose broken. Well, it gets much worse than a broken nose, but you get the idea.
SAHMs, if you’re involved with a Daddy Doin’ Work (DDW), you should rejoice. He’s a real man, he values you and your family, and he understands that a “Working Dad” is far from being a DDW. I have no empirical data to back up this claim, but I’ll go out on a limb and say 65% of SAHM partners fall into the DDW category. None of what you’re about to read refers to him, but he should read it for enjoyment anyway.
If you’re involved with “Working Dad - Version A,” you have to understand that his attitude most likely comes from cognitive dissonance. Since his version of “being home” involves a Coors Light, a sofa, and SportsCenter – he just can’t wrap his head around how someone can stay at home all day and work hard at the same time (this blog entry was created with him in mind). I’d say that 30% of SAHM partners fall into this bucket.
Lastly, the remaining 5% fall into the “Working Dad – Version B” category. If you’re involved with this fool, you need to take the kids to a friend/family member’s house and leave immediately. I’m not kidding. I’m cool with him reading this, but I highly doubt this entry will elicit any behavioral changes.
Now that I’ve painted the picture, here are my ten reasons why being a SAHM is tougher than ANY corporate job – and this comes from the perspective of a corporate dad (me). Go find your man, sit his ass down in front of the computer and read this together. Don’t worry, I’ll wait while you get him.
While I’m waiting, let me reiterate that what I’m about to type below is in reference to “Working Dads – Versions A and B,” not to the Daddies Doin’ Work. I don’t want my Inbox filled with hate mail from DDWs who think that I’m talking about them. Remember, we’re on the same team, fellas.
***Daddy Doyin cracks his knuckles and begins typing***
REASON #1: The Hours: Damn, it’s soooooo hard working from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. It also must suck on those really busy days when you have to stay in the office until 6:30 PM to finish a project.
Editor’s Note: Those two sentences were typed in “sarcasm font.”
You want to talk hours? How does 20-hour days sound to you? Weekends? Please. There are no weekends. When the baby is crying at 2:00 AM, who’s getting up? Is it you, Mr. Spreadsheet Superstar? Doubtful. She is the first one awake, the last one to sleep – and she does it every damn day, all damn day. I repeat – EVERY damn day, ALL damn day.
REASON #2: Tougher Clients: I know, I know – dealing with the consulting firm across town can be really difficult. Especially Bob. That dude finds a problem with every proposal you put in front of him, he never listens to your suggestions (even though you know it will only benefit his business in the long run if he did), and he constantly complains about everything. Now let me ask you something: When you negotiate with Bob, does he ever puke all over you? Does he ever shit himself and demand that you clean him up before continuing with said negotiations? Now picture that type of negotiation taking place multiple times a day. Depending on the size of your “consulting firm,” your wife/girlfriend has to negotiate with more than one Bob or Suzy simultaneously. At least you only have to deal with your version of Bob once a quarter.
REASON #3: No Breaks: OK Captain Corporate, I get the fact that you’re busy. Are you so busy that you can’t take time to rest and relax for a few minutes during the course of the day? Maybe you’ll take a walk to the corner Starbucks to buy a vanilla latte, maybe you’ll update your Facebook status during the weekly budget conference call, or maybe you’ll nap it out in your car at lunchtime. I don’t care if you work in the mailroom or if the company is named after you – every corporate person takes breaks like these during the day, and they’re lying if they tell you otherwise. However, SAHMs aren’t allowed this same luxury. Hell, in many cases she can’t even take a break to use the toilet because there’s a toddler causing a ruckus in the bathroom with her as she’s handling her business. Could you imagine if Steve from Accounting jumped around in the stall with you and screamed at the top of his lungs while you were trying to drop a deuce? That would be awkward, right? It’s no less awkward if it’s your own kid, trust me. Additionally, during those rare times when the kids are napping during the day, there’s no time for the SAHM to rest. She’s cleaning her
disaster area house, she’s trying to get through the never-ending pile of laundry, she makes herself a sandwich & coffee and consumes both in less than 45 seconds, etc. I’ll tell you what she doesn’t do: Take a break. She hopes that she can take 15 minutes off when you get home, but you’re too busy bitching about how hard your day was spent sitting on your ass in front of a computer for eight hours. Fellas, the reason why this sounds ridiculous is because it is ridiculous. Man the hell up and help out, for crying out loud.
REASON #4: The Commute: Listen, if anyone understands how much it sucks to sit in traffic, it’s me. I live in Los Angeles, and I know that it takes an hour to drive ten miles in this town. However, when you’re in the car on the way to work, there are so many things you can do to distract yourself (listen to the radio, catch up with your friends via phone, or simply daydream). SAHMs still have to navigate through the same nasty traffic on their way to the doctor’s office, soccer practice, supermarket, etc. AND
- Deal with a hysterically crying three-month old who loses her mind as soon as you put her in the carseat, or
- Referee two kids fighting in the back seat over who gets to play with the iPad, or
- Search for the location of the off-button on her three year-old “Why-Bot,” or
- Suffer through repeated “Mommy? Mommy?? Mommy!!!” “WHAT?!?” “Nothing.” conversations
There’s no listening to the radio, there are no happy phone conversations, and if there’s time to daydream – it’s only to think of how to clone herself or to invent a way to sleep while being awake.
REASON #5: Lack of Assistance: Can’t figure out how to load the new proprietary software onto your company laptop? Call the IT department. Need help with how to deal with a difficult co-worker? Go to Human Resources. There’s no 800 number for SAHMs, and most days they’re working solo. They are Human Resources, IT, Customer Service, Finance, Hospitality, and Health & Welfare departments all rolled up into one extremely exhausted person. Sure they can call up friends and family for advice, but how often are they stopping by the house to help out? Definitely not as often as they would like. Not to mention, when you get home from work – how often are you offering to help out?
REASON #6: Sick Days: You’ve done your best to avoid the nasty flu bug that’s buzzing around the office, but the sucker finally bit you. You’re miserable…fever, chills, aches, pains, etc. You call in sick and you spend all day alternating between sleeping and watching Law & Order reruns on TNT. It sucks, right? Well, at least you get to rest and recover. What happens if SAHMs get sick? Do they get to call in sick too? Nope. They just suffer through the same fever, chills, aches, and pains that you suffer through AND they have to watch over their kids while they destroy the house AND they can’t rest for a minute of it all.
I almost forgot to mention – having you at home sick is a nightmare for her because it’s like she just adopted another baby.
“Honey, can you get me some Advil?”
“I’m hungry, can you make me a sandwich?”
“Can you check my temperature again? I think my fever’s rising.”
On a side note, I’ll confidently state that women are a hell of a lot tougher than men are on average. You want to see a man look like a wuss? Just wait until he gets the sniffles. Hey, I’m man enough to admit that I’m guilty of this at times. Wait…did I just say that I’m man enough to admit that I’m a wuss sometimes? That was weird. Moving on…
REASON #7: Lack of Adult Interaction: You may not be best friends with your co-workers, but at least you’re able to have an intelligent conversation with them about a variety of grown-up topics. Last night’s football game, current events, how much you can’t stand Pete in the Finance department, etc. SAHMs are stuck in a vortex ruled by Patty-Cake, Dora, Sesame Street, and the Itsy-Bitsy Spider. The only semi-meaningful adult interaction they have is when they’re asked if they want paper or plastic at the supermarket. Sure, they have their Mommy Groups and play dates, but since most of the conversations are centered around subjects like “What’s the best diaper rash cream on the market?” does it really qualify? Guys, do you ever wonder why your wife/girlfriend won’t shut up when you get home in the evening? It’s because she can finally speak to someone without using baby talk or nursery rhymes.
REASON #8: Lack of Recognition: You absolutely crushed it on a recently completed office project and you felt that your deliverable was near perfection. Unfortunately, nobody recognized you for the amount of time and effort you put into it. You’re baffled at how your colleagues cannot see how hard you work everyday for the betterment of the department. You come in early, you stay late, your work is always done well, and you don’t even get a “thank you.” Instead, you’re just “rewarded” with more work and more unrealistic expectations. You sit at your desk frustrated wondering how much longer you can tolerate this shitty working environment. Many of the SAHMs reading this are saying, “Welcome to my world, buddy.”
REASON #9: Being misunderstood: SAHMs, have you ever gone out with your husband/boyfriend and someone (usually a man) asks you what you do for a living? After you tell him, how many times have you received the patronizing, “Good for you! What a busy job!” response? Sure, some of the guys are sincere – but most of the time you can smell the bullshit on their breath. Nobody has a more misunderstood job than SAHMs. It’s not all about daytime talk shows, surfing Facebook, sleeping, and sitting on her ass eating ice cream until her hard-working hubby gets home. Many SAHMs are highly educated, supremely motivated women who chose to be at home with their families – not air-headed bimbos who haven’t read anything in their lives other than Betty Crocker cookbooks. Sure, us corporate guys can be misunderstood too, but you’ll never find a job where perception and reality are more diametrically opposed than with SAHMs.
REASON #10: Pressure: You’re a Senior VP of Corporate Operations and you have a ton of responsibilities at the workplace that wifey just can’t possibly understand. Quarterly numbers must be met, you have to find creative ways to stay under budget, and you’re in the process of restructuring your workforce. Argh!!! There’s so much pressure! Here’s my response to this:
Man the fuck up.
I had to upgrade my swear from “hell” to “fuck” to make my point here. Nothing pisses me off more than corporate bigwigs who complain about how hard their jobs are. I’m sure you’re not bitching when that bi-weekly paycheck comes in, are you? Are you whining when you leave the office at 1:00 PM on a Friday to play a round of golf with Mr. Charlie and your other corporate buddies? Most importantly, did anyone put a gun to your head to take that job? You took it because you WANTED to! If you don’t like the job, find another one. By the way, you want to know what pressure is? Pressure is knowing that if you’re off your game for a split second, it could result in your most prized possession getting seriously injured. Don’t believe me? One day, a very good SAHM friend of mine was so completely exhausted that she fell asleep at the kitchen table and her two year old daughter grabbed her mom’s coffee cup on the table and dumped it over her head. Her daughter is now seven, and her burns are almost gone – but my friend’s psyche will never be healed. Five years later she cries whenever she talks about it. “I failed as a parent…but I was so tired. I just couldn’t fight it. I was awake for 26 straight hours with no help. God knows I would never hurt my baby…but my body just shut down.”
On top of that, her now ex-husband blamed her for everything. He said (and I quote), ”Your only job is to watch our two kids, and you’re too stupid and lazy to even get that right. Maybe I should throw hot coffee in your face before I go to work each morning to wake you up. I’m disgusted by you and I’m tired of doing EVERYTHING for this family!”
If you didn’t guess, my friend was married to “Working Dad-Version B” that I described at the beginning of this post.
She never received any help around the house. If she wasn’t chasing around her two kids, she was doing some other domestic activity – because if the house wasn’t completely spotless by the time hubby got home, she would get chewed out. 26 straight hours awake was too much for her, and her beautiful daughter paid the price for it. Many reasonable people understand that bringing home a paycheck (no matter how large) is not even close to doing “everything” for the family – as a matter of fact, money is just a small part of the family dynamic. My friend and other SAHMs all over the world have to deal with the pressure of keeping their kids safe and their husbands happy – and doing so with minimal rest. Memo to my friend (and I know you’re reading this): You are NOT a failure as a parent. If anything, you’re a role-model for women everywhere by filing for divorce and leaving that misogynistic scumbag as soon as he disrespected you.
I could literally write a column on the “pressure” thing alone, so I’ll stop now. I’ll end my point by saying if you screw up at your corporate job, at worst you’ll get fired. And guess what? If that happens, you’ll just find a new job. If a SAHM screws up at her job, it could result in death or horrific injury to her beloved children. She can’t go out and “just find a new kid.” Now that is pressure.
There’s my list.
If you’re a Daddy Doin’ Work who helps your wife/girlfriend with her household duties when you get home from work, that’s awesome. If you’re a man who used to roll your eyes at the thought of helping out your wife after a long day at the office, but now you see the error of your ways as a result of this post, then you’re bringing even more flavors of awesome to the table.
However, if you’re a man who thinks this whole post is a load of crap, then you seriously need to check yourself. Instead of coming home with a shitty attitude, why not come with some flowers to thank your lady for all of the work she does for you and your family? Don’t judge her if your house doesn’t look like the Sistine Chapel when you walk through the door, and don’t bitch and moan if a hot plate isn’t in front of you, either. The level of douchebaggery (my favorite non-word) of men like you is sickening. If you and your wife switched places for one day, you probably wouldn’t make it until 10:00 AM before you puked all over yourself.
Sorry for the ranting, but most of you know how emotional my story was about what being a dad means to me – so I get really upset with men who don’t take the job seriously.
Rewinding back to my personal upbringing, my mom eventually went back to work and she remembers the SAHM days as the toughest, but most rewarding of her life. Currently my older brother is a Harvard graduate and was recognized as one of the 100 most influential African-Americans in corporate America by Savoy Magazine, my twin brother is highly successful in corporate management, and there’s me – your friendly, neighborhood, Daddy Doin’ Work – and all of us are happily married with children. I spoke to my mom yesterday and told her that I was composing the post you’re reading right now and I asked if she had any advice for the SAHMs out there. She said, “Always remember that it gets better. SO much better. When you see your children grow up into amazing men or women, it makes all of the long days and nights totally worth it.”
Later on during that conversation with my mom, she also told me this:
“It’s pretty ironic that you’re creating this article on Stay-At-Home Moms. I never would’ve been a Stay-At-Home Mom unless that third baby was born – and since you’re the younger twin, that third baby was you. I’m so proud of you, honey. I think this is going to positively impact a lot of people. Pretty cool how the universe works, huh ‘Mr. Bonus Baby’?”
Pretty cool, indeed.
Ladies, I know the days are long, but please hang in there. Wear the SAHM badge proudly like Superman wears the “S” on his chest. When you sit there exasperated wondering if your kids are actually listening to you, or if this whole parenting thing is worth it, believe me – they are, and it is. Not a week goes by when I don’t thank my parents for the hard work and sacrifices they made for our family – and I tip my cap to all of you for doing the same for your loved ones.
Now go get some rest. If anyone deserves it, it’s you.
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