Happy Mother's Day...To Me?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

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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Danielle said...

I work outside the home while my husband takes care of our daughter. Sure, sure, he goes to school twice a week (we have friends and family help out, but it's finals week and he's graduating - woot!), so he does get a small break, but basically, he's with her. A LOT. He never complains, he never says it's hard, he just does it, day in, day out. It's not his ideal situation, obviously, and come August, he'll be starting law school, so the tentative plan is for me to stay home and he will go to school (and we will be poor! poor! poor!). Anyway, my husband is a rock star. My kid is the one that didn't sleep through the night 'til she was a year old, didn't get the hang of naps 'til about that time too... The guy has the house clean, the baby happy, and dinner on the table when I walk in the door (the majority of the time). I don't know if I will be able to as great of a job as he does, and if I do, I certainly don't know that I'll be able to do it without complaining - being a SAH parent is SO hard. On the other hand, being a mom that works outside of the home is hard too - so. much. guilt! And I miss my kid like crazy when I'm not there.

I kind of forget what the purpose of my comment was going to be. Forgive me.

10:29 PM
Danielle said...

P.S. So just for clarification, I answered that YES, I would change places with my hubs, but it would be so I would stay at home. Make sense? ;)

10:31 PM
Amy Btw M said...

I absolutely would not trade places with hubby. Reason 1: he has to leave for work by like 5:30 to teach early morning classes. Which brings up reason 2: teaching teenagers all day (no offense to teens, but not my piece of pie). Reason 3: I get to have wear your pajamas to work day, or should I say days. Yeah, I may be a frumpy hausfrau, but at least I'm comfortable.

11:04 PM
Angie said...

I don't think I would trade. Sure I get to deal with puke, blood, tantrums, whining, injuries, crying and all that fun stuff, but I also get to witness the amazing things my kids do and learn on a daily basis. I wish I could say I don't complain, I really shouldn't complain, but I do. However I don't envy my husband, who has to leave sometimes weeks at a time for work, and the things that he misses out on because of that. My husband got to sort of switch roles with me after I'd had a c-section, and after a week of watching all the hard work he'd done cleaning up, get destroyed by our little angels, I think he was relieved to go back to work!

3:51 AM
runningfan said...

I would not trade. As hard as mommy days can be, I am not cut out for the 9-5 corporate world.

4:35 AM
Anonymous said...

Currently, both of us work and we don't have kids. So... no I wouldn't trade places, mostly because I like my job better. :)

I have to admit, though, that the idea of her getting to quit when we do have kids makes me kind of sad and a little jealous.

Sad because she is SO good at what she does, and could likely be sitting in a corner office long before I would be - and jealous because I think I enjoy homemaking more than she does - cooking and cleaning at least. Who knows about wiping boogers and cleaning poop, though... maybe I'm not jealous anymore...

6:06 AM
Sandy said...

My husband and I did trade for a short time - our oldest daughter was born during the middle of the school year when I was teaching and he was still going to school. I took the maximum (unpaid) leave I could before I would get fired...then had to go back for the last month of school. I hated it. HATED. IT. I have plenty of days when I wish I could send my kids to the principal's office, or have the custodian come vaccuum for me, or get my little pats on the back and written reviews telling me that I'm doing a great job. But, I wouldn't trade staying at home for anything - I couldn't be at school dealing with other people's kids knowing my own were at home. And my husband is much more disciplined than I am - he can get up early, work long hours, etc. without batting an eye...when I taught, I had it down to the last second of when I could wake up, stick a clip in my hair and walk out the door with instant breakfast and make it to school just in the nick of time:) He also handles stress and separating home/work better than me. A more flexible lifestyle is way more my style, and I fully believe that families function better when one partner can "hold down the fort", instead of both running in different directions, you know?

And as the great irony of life, my baby daughter just pooped on my arm while I'm sitting here typing this. AWESOME!

6:26 AM
jojomynx said...

I have - and it sucks. It is an interesting life to be the breadwinner and a mom. The guilt is there (I'm with you Danielle!!!), and so is the missing out on stuff. My husband is also a rock star. Despite health issues, he does everything he can to make my life easier and enable me to play and spend time with my kids when I'm done with work. Working from home has its advantages when you're a mom and I know I'm VERY blessed. I love my husband, and I've already traded places with him. Would I trade back? In a heartbeat, but both roles have their advantages and disadvantages. I think I'd take the whining of a 2-year old at home over the whining of a 35-year old at work any day.

6:33 AM
mama cow said...

I have the best of both worlds! My hubby works from home so we get to see him way more then most dads. And he is around when I need some adult conversation. I refer to the home office as "adult world", and I like to slip in there in the afternoons just for the quiet. I am sure he would tell you it is not all great to work from home when World War III is raging right outside his door while he is one the phone, but every time he talks about getting an office away from the house I shoot it down right away. The fact is I am addicted to my husband and I dont think I could get through the day without him nearby!

7:50 AM
DeNae said...

I don't know that I would necessarily trade places with my husband permanently, but I would love to spend a couple of weeks working WITH him. He's a federal agent by day, and this kind, faithful unassuming guy by night. In my wildest dreams (and oh, yeah, they're WILD -- Vegas Housewives Unleashed!) I can't really picture him doing what he does for a living.

When our babies were born, he did the Mr. Mom thing, and it nearly drove him out of his skull. But since the MRS. Mom thing drives me in the same general direction, I can't say that any significant difference was identifiable by that temporary switch.

So, no, not trade. But fly-on-the-wall? You bet!

8:06 AM
Older and Wisor said...

You left out what I use with our four (pansy) boys: "Rub some dirt on it."

9:59 AM
Maren Hansen said...

Ironically enough, my daughter was just telling us about some fish that can genders partway through their lifecycle. Prompted the same discussion, of course. Both I & Dh agreed that we were quite content with our current roles (SAHM & university professor). However, we also both have days we wish we could trade. Like when Dh gets free yummy lunches (ALL the time), or when all the kids are at school and a satisfying morning of project completion has occurred. But maybe that's just our personalities fitting so well into the traditional stereotypes. What I cannot conceive of in my lazy brain is the women that work at home AND care for their children at home. That blows my mind. On the other hand, I'm about to leave hubby for a week alone to work (from home) and take care of all four girls (10 and under)... :) We'll see how much collateral damage there is at the end of the week...

10:00 AM
Erika said...

NO WAY! I prefer sleeping in (well until 7 or 7:30) and hanging out with the kids. But really, my husband is way better at doing everything than I am. He's just incredible. I don't know how he is so steady and capable. He blows my mind. :)

10:15 AM
Toni said...

I am jealous that my husband works outside the home for the following reasons:

adult conversations - I miss talking about great films, books,etc. Instead of discussing Toni Morrison, Shakespeare and Carson McCullers I get to dissect the Wonder Pets theme song.
Lunch - when I was working I got to go to some great restaurants for lunch and I also got to eat while it was still hot (gasp)
freedom - If I need to run errands I have a certain window of opportunity to go or I am hindered by her nap.

I do not envy my husbands job for the following reasons:
He works in the ER - I may get grossed out by Poo and snot but that is nothing compared to gunshot wounds and STDs
He works crazy hours - today it is 6am-4pm, tommorrow - 10am-8pm, and next week 8pm-6am, WHAT!?! At least I know that naps and bedtimes are coming when i get me time.

I love being a SAHM. I worked as a teacher for 6 years before I had Caroline and I can't imagine working full time for someone else's kid and only have a few hours for my own, but don't get me wrong. There are some days I am ready to sell her to the gypsies.

10:54 AM
Nelson said...

First I just want to say that I think it is funny that this blog was originally designed for guys, but when you look at the poll results it shows only 6 guys have voted and 41 women.

Anyway, I love my kids but I couldn't not handle being home all day. If I could be home with my wife becuase neither of us worked and we were just independently wealthy that would be great. Or if I was home every other day or something like that, that would be fine too.

11:15 AM
Alyssa said...

I would never ever want to switch roles with my hubby. We just had our first child in February, a little girl, and right now we are living the very traditional "man goes to work and woman stays at home" lifestyle. I have to say I love it! It is very hard work learning the ropes of motherhood and taking care of a baby all day. Sometimes I do get very frustrated when she has been crying for hours in the evening and he won't be home any time soon. But it is such a joy! I feel so blessed to be able to do what I do. My wonderful husband has to go out in the world and be away from his sweet little angel daughter (and loving wife). His current job is on an "on-call" kind of basis, so he never knows what his hours will be from one day to the next. And he works hard! All this time, I get to stay at home and play with my baby all day and spend time with her. I truly feel like I got the better end of the bargain, and I will be forever indebted to my husband for allowing me this life, instead of bugging me to get a job or something. In August we will both return to school full time and things will change a bit. So I am thoroughly enjoying this now. Yes, I am blessed.

3:07 PM
Amber said...

I wouldn't trade places with my spouse either. He's a professor and I hate public speaking, also he teaches Anatomy and there's no way I could talk as candidly about certain aspects of Anatomy with a group of college kids! I was raised better than that! Of course, my days are hard too. We had 4 kids in 4 years. Not that we were trying to one up on the Jones' we just popped out a set of twins there at the end. So my days are hectic and I'm usually dead tired at night but I wouldn't miss it for the world!

6:15 PM
Lindsay said...

I would not trade with my husband. He travels and is gone 5 days out of 7. No way could I be away from my kid that long.

8:19 PM

I'll trade places with my wife the day Joan Rivers passes up on a Botox injection.

As if having three kids under the age of six at home is not bad enough, my wife had to up and produce two eggs thereby allowing herself to be impregnated with twins. She keeps saying I had something to do with it, but I don't see how. This is what my wife gets for being as fertile as a Tennessee Valley.

I would rather shovel unmentionables out of the devil's outhouse than live even one of her crazy-busy-pukey days.

8:47 PM
Rebecca said...

I would not trade places with my husband! He's also content with his role. He's a Marine, and despite deployment and other times away, neither of us would trade places! I've told him he's not allowed to die, because I'm never dating or working again. I have zero desire to work.... ever. I guess its a little unfair that he does work, and still gets the Mr. Mom experience as well. When our 4th baby was just about a year old, he sent me on a Fabulous LDS Book Of Mormon Cruise (I went with my parents and LOVED not having to worry about my husband or kids while I was there), and he stayed home for 10 days with the kids! Now that's a Rock Star!! Did I mention that our kids are currently ages 2,3,5,7? He's also very good about staying home to watch kids so I can get away. I have a neighbor who's husband has never been alone with their 3 children. Lucky, Yes, I am! But do I want to work? No, not outside the home. I'm a Mom. My hubby calls me a Domestic Goddess and that's all I want to be. Sure, there' stuff I'm going to do when they are grown and gone, but a 9-5 job that I'm miserable with? No thanks. Poop, puke, kisses, "You're the best Mom ever", tantrums, sleepless nights... that's my life and I like it.

6:47 AM
Anonymous said...

Well, I had the "blessing" of changing places with "SherylwithanS" a few years ago (thanks WorldCom) for almost 2 years....surprised that the children are still alive and like you I realize that there are days that I definitely have an easier job managing a staff of 25 then she does raising four children.....though I do admit, I did enjoy spending time with my children...

8:57 AM

I had the opportunity several years ago to be a stay at home dad. Dude, it's hard! We only had one then, he was just under 2. We now have 3 boys, 1, 4 and 7. Currently I work 2 jobs, no days off, and 5 days a week I am up at 4am. I often work 12 hours a day, just to keep my wife home with our sweet boys. And I'll tell you what, my wife has it MUCH harder than me! I wouldn't trade for a billion dollars. Not that the boys are hard to take care of, but there is tons of work to keep a happy house running. That brief experience years ago was enough to scare me away from being Mr. Mom. I love my wife and my boys dearly. But the roles are set forever.

By the way Drew, you are the man. I greatly enjoy your blog. I share it with everyone, and brag that we were once friends. I doubt you remember me, which is why I haven't hit you up on facebook. Well, that and I read your post about facebook.... But mad props. Hope all continues to be well for you. - Jonathan Hinckley

10:35 AM
sondra said...

I've stayed home full-time with kids, stayed home part-time with kids, and worked full-time with an hour commute each way. It's all hard. It's hard to be a full-time parent and have no time to yourself (kids even join me in the shower), and it's also hard to work all day and then come home and try to squeeze all the chores and family time into the two hours before bed.

Another way to look at it is that it's all wonderful. It's an amazing blessing to spend time with the kids when I have the opportunity, and it's also a blessing to get a break from domestic life when I go to a job I enjoy--being away makes me appreciate home and my wonderful husband all the more when I'm there.

But I think the "women are more naturally nurturing" stuff is hogwash. I think women are often better at nurturing because we've been emulating our nurturing mothers our whole lives and because we're expected to be more nurturing--so we gravitate toward that role at a very early age.

11:00 AM
beth said...

My hubby and I are going to switch roles in 13 years when he retires from the military and i get to focus on my career. Until then I have to work part-time nights. Totally unfair because I get the little kids and the night shifts and he will get self-sufficient teenagers and get to stay home all the time. Plus, there's no sharing the pregnancy. :)

5:14 PM
Chad said...

Last year my Wife left for the weekend to visit her sister in another state, So I was Mr Mom for the whole weekend. No way would I or could I do that again. Every comment from the kids was relating to how Mommy does it different. "Shut up and eat your dinner kid!" The 3 days she was gone felt like 3 months. I am happy to escape to work!

5:05 AM
Katherine said...

My husband and I are in the process of switching roles. I've been the full time student while he has worked. I just got my first job and my husband is going back to graduate school. And between this, we do have two kids. Being the primary income has brought new stress that I didn't have before.

I guess my answer is that I wouldn't switch so I could stay home or not stay home. We just do what is best for the family.

3:23 PM