Would you trade places with your spouse?
I have been asking myself this question for the past several days after the Normal Mormon Wife and I visited Myrtle Beach last week. While we were at the beach I essentially assumed the role of "mom" for three days while the NMW got up early, put on business casual clothes and headed off for a full day's work by attending her continuing education classes.
What in the name of Mr. Mom is going on here?
This Myrtle Beach role reversal was a big change for the NMW and me because she has not really worked outside of the home since our son was born nearly eight years ago. She did work as a temp dental hygienist once a week while I was in grad school, but that's about the extent of her resume since 2001. In fact, we chuckle every time she receives her Social Security statement showing her lifetime earnings and the amount her social security benefit would be. Her statement this year said that she would be entitled to, "A McDonald's Happy Meal Toy" if she began drawing Social Security benefits today.
I am actively encouraging the NMW to claim her Happy Meal toy since Social Security will be nonexistent by the time we are ready to retire. After all, 'tis better to have the High School Musical 3 key chain than no key chain at all.
I am not sure that I have what it takes to trade places with my wife and be a full-time stay-at-home dad. I am a believer that women, as a whole, have been endowed with an innate goodness and an ability to nurture that most men just do not have. While I try to be a patient, caring, and understanding dad, the NMW just has an ability to love that surpasses mine. And I love and respect her for that. I hope our three kids realize how stinkin' lucky they are to have her as their mom.
Here is an example that illustrates how differently the NMW and I nurture our children. Every child in the world between the ages of three and six thinks they need a band-aid every time an object brushes past their skin. It does not matter whether the skin is broken and blood is visible or not - they just need a band-aid! And they won't stop crying until they get one! (The brighter the color, the quicker the tears stop, too.) The NMW handles situations like this in a way that our children feel loved and cared for in the end.
Me? I fantasize about creating my own brand of band-aids to use as an object lesson for my kids to toughen up. I would call them "Manned Aids" or "Whaaaaaa!'nd Aids." The exterior packaging would look exactly like a regular box of band-aids and so would the individual strips inside the box. But when my kids would peel open what they are expecting to be a band-aid, they would actually find manly fortune cookie-type quotes like, "Cowboy Up!", "Suck It Up!", "Walk It Off!", "Man Up!" or any other non-profane cliche that my little league football coaches screamed at me after getting my bell rung.
No band-aid for you unless you nick an artery!
Maybe it's a good thing that I'm working all day while the NMW shoulders most of the responsibility of caring for our home and children.
But then again, sometimes I am a bit envious of my wife's lifestyle. Our oldest son is in 2nd grade and our 5-year-old daughter goes to pre-school three days a week for three hours a day. At times the NMW is home with just our 11-month-old daughter who may either take a nap or just scoot across the floor eating anything and everything within reaching distance.
Seriously. Our daughter has the stomach of a billy goat. Legos? Yummy! Potting soil? Mmmmmm. Paper strips from the shredder? Bon appetite!
Some days I return home late from work after an incredibly busy, stressful or frustrating day and have the obligatory, "So how was your day?" conversation with the NMW. Smiling, she may tell me that she went walking with her friends, then went to the library, then took the kids to the natural science center, and finished her gallivanting about by dropping by the house of one her friends to just chat.
Meanwhile, I may have spent the previous nine hours on back-to-back conference calls planning a major layoff, or being told one of my key projects is being put on hold, or dealing with thorny employee relations issues that have no clear right answer. Sometimes the Mr. Mom thing sounds pretty appealing.
But then there are other days when I have a productive, rewarding, successful day at work only to return home to find out that the kids were difficult all day. They were fighting. Arguing. Talking back. Being ungrateful. Crying. Whining. Rolling their eyes. And amid all of that there was a mountain of laundry that needed to get washed. And then the NMW had to haul all three kids to Wal-Mart, which took an hour and a half. And just as soon as all of the kids are in their car seats ready to leave, one of them announces that their bladder will explode all over the minivan unless they can get to the bathroom in the next five seconds. The trip back to the Wal-Mart bathroom takes another twenty minutes.
In fact, there are a number of days when I count my lucky stars that I am working instead of handling the challenges of being home to handle the constant challenges presented by three young, active, demanding kids.
So, I'll ask the question to you: Would you trade places with your spouse?
While I'm still deciding about what I would do, please post your comments telling me whether or not you would pull the old spousal switch-a-roo. There is also a poll on the right for both both men and women to give their opinions as well.
Please participate. This should be an interesting discussion. It would be particularly interesting to hear from any stay-at-home dads out there who have already made this transition and have a good feel for the challenges and rewards of both roles, so forward this along if you know anybody in that situation.
As for me, I'm going to bed. And at least for now I am happy to let the NMW be the one to wake up before the sun rises to nurse our baby daughter.
Suddenly a few conference calls with corporate don't sound so bad, after all.
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