I am a working mom and a stay-at-home mom. Yes, my life is a contradiction of terms. I work from home as a copywriter and blogger, and I also am the main caregiver of my 16-month-old son. My husband, who is currently attending grad school and interning part-time, has been going to school for four years straight, without summer breaks. He also spent two years of his undergrad working full-time while carrying a full credit load. This makes me the sole breadwinner and child caregiver, my husband an insane workaholic, and our cute family spread a bit thin for the last 14 months. Only 8 months to go!
I've been thinking a lot lately about men and women, and their roles in today's world. Obviously, traditional gender roles have changed, and we hope for the better. It's like on "Leave it to Beaver"; she has dinner waiting on the table, she looks fabulous in her day dress and pearls, and the kids are all clean, well-fed, and dressed in fashionable and clean clothing. The house is spotless. He comes home for a hard day at work, and greets his wife happily, because now he can eat a good meal and relax while she bathes the kids and puts them to bed. Did I mention she has plenty of energy to take off his shoes and rub his feet?
But many of us have called the bluff that is the above scenario. TV families don't represent reality, and although most women once "knew their place" in the kitchen, times have changed. And thank goodness! But one thing's for sure: we're still figuring it out. Man or woman, we're just trying to figure out how today's changing gender roles fit into our own personal narrative.
What I like about things now is that every family is different, and hopefully each couple has the freedom and courage to choose what's right for them, together. Although this new freedom for women to have a professional life, as well as being a mother, is good, I've been thinking that sometimes we over-correct, or just lose sight of the forest by focusing on the trees. An example of this is that you always hear distinct terms classifying mothers and their relationship to professional work and where it occurs: "stay-at-home moms", "working moms", "stay-at-home working moms."
Although you hear the occasional "stay-at-home dad," you rarely hear the term "working dad" with the same connotations as "working mom." A working mom signifies a woman who is likely happy working outside the home, although she is still a loving mother who constantly thinks about her kids.
Despite women working more and more, a dad that works is comparatively insignificant. But why? It's just who men are, or so society tells us. Men go to work, and then come home. And the fact that many of them happen to be fathers is just, well, trivia. But when you realize that "working dads" are actually fathers who love and miss their children all day, it helps us realize how #thestruggleisreal for all of us: men and women, fathers and mothers, working and stay-at-homing.
Just like how a working mother misses her kids and thinks about them all day, working fathers do, too. At least, shifting gender roles are letting them start to, anyway.
I just know that my husband truly cares about our son, just like I do. He thinks about him all the time. And when he comes home, I can tell how much he has missed us while he was at work. Noticing this perspective helps me understand a little more what it's like for working moms--or for any type of working parent, really. When you're working, you don't just turn off your parent radar. They stay there, which sometimes is what motivates us to work so hard.
We, as humans, all struggle with the challenges of life, including balancing work and family. I guess my recent realization that working dads are actually also full-time dads (just like working moms are still full-time moms) opened my eyes to the fact that every parent wants the best for their child.