Two Heartwarming Stay-At-Home-Dad Stories & One Cautionary Tale

Wanna be a stay-at-home-dad someday or encourage your partner to aspire to the same? Here are two adorable stories that exactly as heartwarming as you could want during these frigid, howling days. And then here’s a third story shaped entirely out of WTF.

First, from Slate’s recurring feature Best Laid Plans, meet the appropriately named Monica and Dave Mann. Monica makes the money while Dave manages the home front. They both seem awesome.

Monica: There are not a lot of women — and even fewer Indian women — whose husbands take on the role of caregiver. I am tremendously grateful that Dave and I have approached our life as a team and supported each other personally and professionally. …

Dave: Being a stay-at-home parent is very different than I thought it would be. At first I hated it. I think I went through a depression for about a year because of it. This could have been due to leaving Wisconsin, and all my extended family and friends. It wasn’t JUST that I’d left work to raise my kids. But it’s been six-and-a-half years now and I’ve definitely had my pity party, moved on and learned to embrace it for what it is.

Now I feel extremely fortunate. I’m beyond busy juggling everyone’s schedules. I very often come last in family priority order. But I also am present for everything and I know the kids better than anyone else on Earth. I know their friends and teachers and what they are having for lunch every day. So it’s better than I thought it would be even as it’s nothing like I thought it would be. My pleasure with my current role could just be a result of over-arching maturity setting in. I don’t know that I’ve developed a love for laundry or vacuuming per se. But it’s my job and it honestly doesn’t make me resentful. I like doing it well. …

I’m a very good illustrator. But it never paid the bills.

I’m also my own biggest enemy at times and my “career” as an artist wasn’t happening regardless of my wife’s career. The 9-to-5 I quit to become a full-time father was as a clerk/admin for a bank holding corporation. I was good at that job and I enjoyed it. But it was most definitely not a career for me and held no opportunity for advancement. So the idea that one of us might have derailed the other is a false choice.

In fact, I’ve done my best freelance work since taking a back seat to Monica’s career. I’ve learned how valuable time is. I’ve learned how to multi-task and complete several projects at once and to play the long game with regards to the kind of involved and complicated projects I typically pursue. Plus the tiny bit of admitted jealousy I have toward her success? It fuels me, both to keep our home running smoothly and to try and accomplish career stuff, too.

So many warm-and-fuzzies, right? Here are some more, courtesy of Ryan Park and the Atlantic: What Ruth Bader Ginsberg Taught Me About Being A SAHD. Park, a lawyer and former law clerk of RBG, fondly calls her “the Boss” (❤ ❤ ❤) and discusses at length the career challenges she faced as a wife and mother. Then he describes his own attempts to attack some of those challenges, head on.

As a man, when I speak of my struggle to manage my competing commitments to family and career, I’m often met with good-natured skepticism. There’s an underlying assumption that women and men have different visions of what matters in life — or, to be blunt about it, that men don’t find child-rearing all that rewarding, whereas women regard it as integral to the human experience. I do not think this assumption is true, generally speaking. I am certain it is not true for me. …

I was as happy as I’d ever been. Staying at home with Caitlyn reminded me, oddly enough, of the time I’d spent living in a foreign country. There was the same perpetual novelty, that intense awareness that elevates even the most ordinary moments. There was the same sense of triumph at completing simple tasks: ordering a cup of coffee, enjoying a brisk walk, just getting through the day. And there was the same sense of helplessness: No matter how self-assured I was at the beginning of the day, I was bound, at times, to feel like a complete failure.

I was discovering that this was real work.

You know who took paternity leave to (help) do that real work and failed miserably, as a parent and hey kind of as a human being? William Giraldi. Sometimes I wonder whether his writing is an attempt to discover whether words can cause ordinary people to breathe literal fire.

Anyway, back to Park. He notes that men doing this kind of thing is good for women and good for a society that values their contributions: “mothers’ incomes rise about 7 percent for each month that a father spends at home with the children. On the other hand, when men don’t have the opportunity to take parental leave, women’s incomes suffer.” When they are married to men like Giraldi I think the women themselves suffer too, but that aside for the moment.

Before Babygirl was born, Ben and I talked about various childcare possibilities, including the idea that we would switch off taking time at home: I would do one year, he would do the next. We decided it was impractical for us since, however much we love our daughter, both of us would go nuts being a FT parent. Babygirl requires so much energy, so much stimulation and attention and creativity, that going to work can feel like a relief. It was also impractical with Ben’s job at the (supposedly liberal) firm. The people there were not pleased by his desire to take all his FMLA time, even though he did it in two chunks. A new dad friend of mine, who’s a lawyer for a labor union (!) that itself works on FMLA issues (!!), was surprised to encounter the same disapproval when he brought up paternity leave.

Balance remains elusive, or perhaps just expensive. But it’s nice that we’re seeing progress in some quarters, and these are stories well-told.

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