Last summer, my husband and I decided we needed a kid-free vacation and, thanks to our awesome parents, took off to Chicago for a night. No requests for another verse of Old MacDonald (or, as our daughter often screams from the backseat, “Mama! E-I-E-I, pease!”), no sharing of road trip snacks, but instead the opportunity to sit back and ACTUALLY chat with my husband for the first time in (what did not just seem like but actually was) a long time really made that car ride amazing.
Of course we spent the majority of the drive talking about our daughter, but eventually, the conversation led to friends, family, hobbies, and home renovation ideas. As usual, however, anything pertaining to work was completely one-sided.
“Chris, why don’t you ever talk about work?” I asked, realizing I literally knew NOTHING about what his job entailed.
“Because I choose to keep it separate from life,” he replied. “There are enough things to stress about, and I don’t want my family to be exposed to it.”
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 92.8 percent of all men with children under age 18 participated in the labor force last year, 95.6 percent of them being full-time employees. Full-time working dads are undoubtedly the majority of parents, yet their voices seem to be unheard. Obviously, I can’t speak for all fathers who work full-time, but after several more “why” questions down I-94, my husband, who averages 55+ hour work weeks, finally stated that he remains silent simply because he has accepted his role in our family.
Wait a minute, I thought. Is he saying that me sharing my work-life balance (or lack thereof) with others, such as posting about my “mom struggles” on social media, means I haven’t accepted my role in our family?
I, of course, took his comments personally at first. I mean, after having our daughter in 2015, I left my career and started a tutoring and freelance editing business in order to be able to stay home with her all day, saving our family the financial burden of childcare, and instead only work evenings AFTER he gets home. Since she was born, I’ve inarguably done the majority of the cooking and cleaning, babysitter bookings, and managing of the household’s day-to-day activities.
Why should I need to feel bad about venting when my life has changed so much since becoming a mother, and he still “just” goes to work every day?
A couple tongue bites and Sour Patch Kids later, I knew I needed to clear the air, we were, after all, on a “romantic” getaway:
“So, you mean to tell me you NEVER feel the need to express your stress?” I asked, fishing for his redemption. “I mean, you see Analise a couple hours MAXIMUM a day. How do you live with the guilt?”
“I mean, yeah, I feel like I miss out, but that is the sacrifice I knew I would have to make when I became a father, and I know as I grow in my career that there will be more sacrifices,” he replied.
I switched back to my bag of Smartfood Popcorn, and as I watched the white cheddar continue to accumulate layer after layer on my fingertips, I not only longed for the baby wipes we left at home but also realized that, although I wasn’t in the mood to admit it just then, his mentality is actually admirable, especially considering that the “voices,” no matter the role in the household, usually do focus on the negative. Sure I’m beyond exhausted and haven’t gotten together with friends in months, but would I REALLY want anything else for my daughter at this point in her life?
One year later, with even longer work days and more “Dada time” due to an increased number of students on my tutoring schedule, my husband still does not complain about his “role” in our family. Even though I have continued to share my part-time working mom voice (hence this blog post), our 4.5-hour conversation that day really inspired me to change my tone.