I’ve gotten in a few conversations lately with other Stay-At-Home Moms about what they consider their realm of responsibility. I’m still very new to this and working out my own personal feelings around this issue and how it fits with my family. Sometimes I feel very overwhelmed. Other times I feel like I don’t do enough. Talking to one Mom, she encouraged me to look at it from a different point of view. If my spouse came to me and said, “I want to stay at home with the kids,” what would be my expectations?
And here is when something Cagey said to me ages ago sticks out: The responsibility is to care for the children.
That is how I would look at it, if I were the working spouse. From the time I leave for work, to the time I come home, my spouse’s job would be to care for the children. Love them. Nurture them. Enrich their lives however they see fit. Maybe this just means coloring all day. Maybe it means baking. Maybe trips to the park or to playdates. Regardless what they would do, I would expect the first responsibility to be the children. Anything domestic that can be done in the same timeframe: Laundry, cleaning, etc – is all secondary. Would I ever want my spouse to put the kids down in front of the TV just so they can do laundry? No. I have no objection to TV for kids, watching TV together is fun! But, I wouldn’t want my spouse to be so worried about the domestic side of things that they would resort to using the TV as a babysitter. And do you want to know why? Because if the daycare I sent my kids to when I was working plopped my kids in front of the TV? I’d be livid. That’s not what I pay for. So why would I expect lower-quality childcare from their parent? No. In my mind (and we are all different) – the person staying home with the kids? Is there for the kids first. If they can do dinner, laundry, cleaning while the child plays? Then that’s a truly successful day. But if they can’t? What if they kid is sick or whiny or especially needy that day? What if there are fun activities at the park or with crafts that keep the parent from tending to the domestic side of things? That’s fine! To me (ME. I understand you may see things differently.) the responsibility in the job is with the child(ren). Everything else is bonus.
Now…the next question is: If the SAHM job description only involves the children while the working spouse is at work…how does the rest of the domestic responsibilities and the rest of the hours of the day play out?
To answer that, I’ll put myself in the shoes of the working spouse again. Everything after I get home from work? Divided evenly. If my spouse was able to get dinner ready? Then maybe I’ll do dishes. If it’s not? Maybe I’ll help with that while the stay-at-home parent tends to laundry. I would not come home expecting anything to be done. And whatever needed to be done around the house or for the kids, that would all be shared responsibility of both parents. I’ve never believed that being a SAHM/D means that all domestic responsibilities fall on you FOREVER. No. That is not at all how I describe the job or what I would expect if I was the one leaving the home every day. And from being a SAHM for a year? I know it’s too much work for one person. No. If I were working I would expect anything that needed to be done after work or on the weekends to be split evenly. This comes to childcare and domestic chores. I would not expect my spouse to be the default caregiver even when I was home.
NOW…do I put any of this into practice? No. I take on everything from bedtimes to mealtimes to lawncare. I recognize this as being a result of a huge flaw in my personality that would take years to write about. But the conversation started with another Mom by discussing what I would expect if the roles were reversed. So, that’s how I handled this blog entry. Did it show me exactly how off balance my own workload is from what I would expect from MrZ if he decided to stay at home with the kids? Yes. Completely. Will any of that change. Eh. Probably not. My personality flaws are pretty deep. Should it change? Probably. Maybe I’ll just use this to petition for a raise or more vacation time.
What about you? If you were working outside the home, what would you expect from your Stay-At-Home Spouse? Do you stay at home now? What do you consider to be your responsibilities? Is it more or less from what you would expect from your spouse?