Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When the dream and the reality don't match

Do you ever have those plans that seem fabulous, brilliant, and down-right genius inside your head, but then are, well, not any of those things in reality?

That's how being a stay-at-home dad has been for Hubster.

When we started this whole journey, and I'm going way back here, back to just getting into medical school and still living in the west, we always knew there was a time that Hubster would probably not work and I would. When we knew we were moving to the Midwest and starting residency, it was an absolutely for sure thing. It made sense for our family. It needed to be done. And Hubster isn't one to complain. Ever.

I was so excited about the whole idea that finally, someone would be home with our children. There were many people who were envious of Hubster's opportunity to stay home. I was so thrilled (and envious myself) that I failed to notice that Hubster was not.

He's been staying home for over a year, and it's been difficult. First, it was just difficult for him. It was such a change of pace. He'd been working full time since he graduated high school. He'd been the provider. He'd had the social interaction that a job provides. And all of that just disappeared. So it was difficult.

Then it became difficult for me. I could see that he was unhappy. I could see that he was struggling. There was nothing I could do to fix it. I couldn't switch positions, no matter how much I might want to. And I so wanted him to be happy about being home, and the fact that he wasn't made me unhappy.

Now that Hubster knows he is going to dental school, now that he has something on the horizon, we've been able to be much more honest with each other about why things have been difficult.

Let me say that Hubster is a fabulous dad. He takes wonderful care of our boys. He does the dishes, the laundry, and most of the meals. But I could always tell that nearly every day was a challenge for him. And I've wondered why, why on earth should things be so difficult!

Now I'm going to go out and make blatantly wide generalizations here, but stick with me for a minute. As girls, for the most part, we assume that we are going to grow up, get married, have children, and run a house. Yes, we may have jobs and careers, but that is in addition to the traditional female roles. Growing up, everyone else assumes this. As females, we have an entire culture preparing us for those roles. Our mothers teach us how to cook, clean, organize, etc. We have bridal showers and baby showers were advice is given. There are entire magazines dedicated to assist and educate. We are surrounded by this.

For men, it's a very different culture. There are men who have mothers that teach them domestic skills, but it's more of a bonus than a necessity. Hubster was thrown into a setting that required a huge skill set that he just didn't have. Looking back, I realize how unfair it was of me to take him away from everything he knew, place him into a brand new role, and expect him to not only be happy with it, but to thrive.

Things are getting better. We're implementing systems. (Hubster cooks dinner, I do dinner dishes on days I'm home.) But to say that the whole thing has been this glorious thing would be dishonest.

It's not all bad, obviously. Hubster gets time with the boys. We've saved on daycare. I've learned a lot about being patient. Hubster's learned a lot about, well, being home. Like he says, "People think that being home is all wonderful, like a vacation. Actually, it's really hard work." Anyone can do this for a day, or even a few days, or a week. But it's the day in, day out, week after week, month after month that will get you.

Things haven't been perfect. And I'm sure that they are not just magically going to be. This is something we have to continue to work at. But we understand each other. We are there for each other. And we just ignore the dusting.


  1. It's not just men who feel this way about being home with the kids. I grew up thinking I'd be a SAHM and that I'd love it, but now that I've been doing it for seven years, well - I don't love it. It's hard, and it's challenging in certain ways and unchallenging in other ways (ways that I miss about working). That's great he'll get to go to dental school - I think women face more stigma when leaving mommyhood for a demanding career!

  2. Your writing keeps getting better and better—great post! I can totally relate to "it's the day in, day out . . . that will get you."

  3. "we just ignore the dusting."

    That cracked me up!

    I love that you and your husband have the kind of relationship where you can be totally honest with each other. I know people who wouldn't dare say how they really feel about certain things because they don't want to hurt the other's feelings. But that just builds resentment and causes all sorts of problems.