While my husband and I fully recognize that our arrangement at home is less than traditional, we also struggle to believe that much follows suit with what once was believed to be the old school nuclear family; dad, mom, 2.5 kids, Labrador retriever, white picket fence—those days are all but extinct. Once we made the decision to go tiny and homeschool our son, we knew our little family wouldn’t ‘follow the rules’.
In our house (See: Camper), my husband is a stay-at-home dad and he ROCKS IT! Anyone who knows us probably isn’t surprised that he is the one who stays with our kiddos and I am the one working outside the home. I am motivated by communication and interaction with others. I am passionate about what many would deem ridiculous. I am a big and loud personality. I loved maternity leave with both of our kids, but I was antsy to get back to “the land of the living” when my time was up.
My husband is kind, caring, (usually) patient, and incredibly gifted at everything outdoors. With Spence at home, our little people might eat more food out of a package and I may come home to more of a mess, but I know that our kids were eating that bag of mini pretzels while riding bikes, climbing trees, and learning about flowers, leaves, and bugs while on a hike.
So yeah, we break all of the rules of conformity. Sue us! Actually, don’t do that. We survive on one income.
So here we are plowing through all of these major transitions for our little family and killing it, if I do say so myself. However, as I have adjusted to being back in the classroom and away from my little bundles of energy for the majority of the day, I have been hearing, observing, and feeling things that have given me an overwhelming sense of obligation to write a letter to those who stay at home with their kids each day.
My desire to pen this letter comes from both an intense love and admiration for your jobs at home raising the next generation of tiny humans as well as an undeniable urge to give voice to those of us who sneak out before those bed heads rise with our breakfasts and our briefcases (or hard hats, or tool boxes, or–in my case–old, coffee stained Thirty-One tote bags) and go do our 40+ hours to ensure that our babes get the best care possible (that’s from YOU!).
Dear Stay at Home Parent,
Your job is hard. I mean it is hour after hour, day after day of unforgiving, relentless need-fulfillment. You are not only tasked with keeping the miniature people alive by feeding them and making sure they are somewhat clean and disease-free, but many of you are simultaneously teaching them.
It cannot go unmentioned that you are doing all of this under the pressures of other glittery, Pinterest-perfect moms (or dads) who seem to never miss a school event or celebration; in fact, they organized the fundraiser, decorated with the skills of a celebrity wedding planner, had personalized shirts made, and hand-baked the tall red and white striped hat cookies with gluten-free, sugar-free, all natural farmer’s market ingredients for Dr. Seuss’ 67th birthday at your child’s preschool. (Because we all know how impressed our three-year olds are by whole food ingredients and airbrushed icing for a celebration that NO ONE in real life actually acknowledges.)
This is the battlefield and you are on the front lines. We salute you.
Those of us who leave the trenches with the sunrise to drive into town and answer calls, attend meetings, lead classrooms, or run machinery would never want to downplay your survival skills. You should wear your “Stay at Home Parent” badge with honor.
However, if we were being honest—I mean really, deep down, uncomfortably transparent—there are some things we wish you knew.
Keeping in mind that I am a mom working outside the home, it should be noted that we also have many friends who are dads working outside the home and these are our collective thoughts.
So, stay at home moms (and dads), go heat up the coffee you poured yourself 12 hours ago and were distracted from drinking while it was hot, change into your “good” sweatpants, and get comfy. I hope these truths will resonate with each of you.
- We miss you. I mean, we genuinely, sincerely miss you while we are at work. While you are wiping snotty noses, kissing boo-boos, and having to play tea party for the fourth time today, we are doing our best to keep our eyes open while the board of directors drones on and on; all we can think about is coming home to your smile and those grubby little hands that will hug us and wipe some questionable stickiness on the collar that you likely cleaned for us.
We look forward to hearing our overwhelmingly excited six-year-old tell us what he learned about space from you today and how you built a moon rover out of Legos, all while we eat a dinner that you (with or without our help) lovingly cooked (or ordered out because cooking is exhausting).
We have been thinking about coming home to a house full of your laughter (or crying or yelling—because anything is better than listening to Nancy tell me about her cats and their medical conditions one more time) since we left the office. You guys are the center of our universe and that is what we think about whenever our brains are allowed to wander outside of our lesson plans or driving routes or computer codes during our shift.
- We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t have to do it. Many of us live each month with a mental countdown clock to the next long weekend or family vacation because we don’t want to be crunching numbers or designing buildings as much as we want to be watching Moana for the 146th time or having dance parties in the kitchen or hiding from bad guys in a pillow fort. Even those of us who sincerely love our work would still rather be hanging with you.
Please know that your simple text or silly picture in the middle of the day is what keeps us going until 5pm (or 8:00 or 2am). It is the reminder we need to keep trudging along because you are why we are there in the first place. We cherish those little surprises.
- You look incredible. Seriously, whoever these 1950’s “women should be in the kitchen” soapbox speakers are who volunteer their unwanted commentary on how stay at home [usually] moms should wear makeup or fix their hair before their husband comes home so he can remember why he fell in love with her obviously weren’t married to YOU!
You look awesome and we love you. Seriously. The yoga pants (or gym shorts) look great; besides, who doesn’t want to be comfortable when they are chasing a one-year-old to the park and back?! To us, that Cheerio we just lovingly pulled from your hair is a sign that our kids were well-fed today and we hope you were too.
It is important to have quality time together as married couples, whether that looks like date nights on the town or binge-watching Netflix in your flannel pajamas. So if you are the dressed-up type, dress up for that type of thing. But please don’t feel obligated to reapply lip gloss or spend time changing into skinny jeans before 5pm unless it makes you feel better. We think you are killing it!
- You are rockstars and we are your biggest fans. For reals, y’all. There were days on maternity leave when I would meet Spence at the door as soon as he would come home from work. I would say nothing; just hand him the baby. I felt like I was good for nothing but feeding, changing, clothing, and cleaning up–like I was somehow less than an actual human.
It is hard not to lose your identity when you are momming (or dadding) so hard all day. Many of you are up with kids all hours of the night and yet somehow manage to pack lunches, drive carpool, make it to appointments, and no one dies. How do you do it!? Seriously, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies could take management and organizational notes from some of you stay at home parenting wizards.
We brag about you as often as our office friends will let us. You should see the faces of other women when I tell them that my husband stays at home with our kids and teaches our son. It. Is. AWESOME! It makes us feel like the groupie who got invited to the party after the concert when we get to tell a story to our co-workers about the super creative art project you did with our son or the killer way you save us so much dough at the grocery with your couponing skills. You could rival the crazy ladies with the binders who buy 42 dozen cans of Fancy Feast and don’t even own cats. You are incredible!
Bonus points here to stay at home peeps who parent children with disabilities or extreme behaviors. Staying how with our son is a roll of the dice every day. You don’t know if he will wake up Prince Charming or the Hulk. Regardless, you were chosen for your specific parenting duties for a reason so you are a professional; an expert in your field. As you manage meltdowns, change feeding tubes, or distribute meds, we are thinking of you and cheering you on. You are the stuff great parenting is made of.
- We try to speak your language. We know that you’ve had a long day, because….kids. If you were unable to escape the confines of the house, you haven’t had a conversation more adult than quoting Disney classics or trying to decipher your one year old’s nods and grunts. We feel honored that you want to tell us about your day and that you want to brag on the kids’ accomplishments from the afternoon or that you trust us enough to unload the ways they might have fallen short.
No need to tell us you are fine if you aren’t fine. We care about the fact that our boy skinned his knee riding his bike, but he almost has the no training wheels thing down to a science! We want to see how our daughter lined up all of her stuffed animals by color because she is so proud of herself. But we also want to know that you had to peel her off of the germ-covered floor in Target because she had a Mach-5 meltdown after dropping the popcorn that you only bought her so she might let you shop the dollar bins in peace for five minutes. We want to hear about the fact that, in an attempt to help the kids make stepping stones for us on our birthday, our son spilled half a bag of QuickCrete on the brand new deck so you spent their afternoon naptime researching how to Feng Shui around our new rock sculpture. We’re here for you. We are on your team.
Side Note: Fellas–if you are reading this and your wife stays at home, you should be making your best effort to speak her language. If not, get a book about it or call me. I will personally help you stop acting like a Neanderthal. She needs you on this one.
- We need you to speak our language too. After you tell us about your day, or as we are interrupted while you attempt to tell us because our four-year-old is sttttaaarrrrvvvviiinnnnggg and just can’t wait five more minutes, we need to take a breath.
It is hard to transition from corporate or construction mindset to playing dress up or cops and robbers. For some it is almost impossible to compartmentalize the deadlines were just given and the stress we are carrying to be sure we make enough money to allow us to continue as a one in come family when we are bombarded before we get out of our car with what that crazy lady said to you at the co-op meeting today or how crazy Brenda from church told you she was praying for you, but not before she had the nerve to cut you off in the Kroger parking lot and stole the last space in the Mothers With Small Children section.
We aren’t diminishing your feelings or trying to put you on hold. I promise that every detail of what you have had to deal with today is meaningful to us. Just try and remember that we are shifting major gears here and might need a minute to pump the breaks (and occasionally just flat out need one of those emergency runaway truck ramps).
I’ll admit that sometimes when Spence would go off to work in those later days of maternity leave, I was a little jealous. It seemed like he got to go on some glamorous daytrip to a land of adults where intelligent conversation and coffee with no drool on the handle actually existed; a magical land where I didn’t have to share my food with tiny people whose hunger never seemed to be satiated.
Now that I am the one gone at work, I see the look of desperation on Spence’s face some days when I get home. I know what that look means and I know that he needs me to listen—to really hear him. But he gets me too.
Starting this new job hasn’t been much of what I had expected. As a borderline crazy Type-A personality, I need to be prepared and feel like I am ready for (See: In control of) anything. The last three days I have come home so mentally exhausted that it was all I could do to smile, squeeze my kids, and attempt to emphatically respond to the endless stories of how much fun they had exploring our new city. All I could think of is how much I wanted to just crawl into bed and pretend the day hadn’t happened. I needed a do-over.
We all need do-overs some days. What will get us from one re-do to the next is the ability to rely on each other, to be transparent, and to help to pick each other up when we were knocked down by a bad meeting, a demotion, or that time our kid told the lady in the grocery line in front of us that she had a huge butt.
This is real life and it is messy. We need each other.
So stay at home moms and dads, keep killing it. You are some of the strongest people alive. We are here to support you. If you can, do your best to dust us off once in a while too because we miss you and we need you. We really do.