The stay-at-home question

Nobody asked me if I was going back to work. I wasn’t. Not for long, anyway.

Right before I became a dad, I sat down with my boss and a bigger boss for an annual performance review. It had been a bad year. I took an unwelcome job change in place of a promotion I wanted. The company’s latest round of layoffs had booted several of my friends, and the bigger boss used it to justify me not getting a raise. The company’s vision for my future: more copy-paste busywork.

Meanwhile, my wife was approaching triple my salary at her law firm, and she actually enjoyed a lot of the work. Her benefits included 12 weeks paid maternity leave, while I exhausted my vacation and sick time to spend nine days with a newborn Champ.

My choice to stay home seemed so obvious that I thought everybody at work saw it coming. Yet nobody grilled me about child-care plans while my wife had to reassure a lot of nervous partners that, yes, she was coming back to work.

As a Cosmopolitan editor points out, women get this a lot, and they’re sick of it.

I once asked a fellow law-firm husband if he stayed at home with the kids. His response: “I run a real estate agency.” I’m still a little embarrassed.

So stop asking. For anyone to be a stay-at-home parent, a lot of dominoes have to fall into place. You need financial security from your co-parent, and even then you’ll need to make sacrifices. You need to be willing to abandon your career or at least put it on hold. And you have to be cool with being a homemaker.

That’s right, I’m a homemaker. Bank of America told me this when I opened a savings account for my son. “Stay-at-home dad who blogs occasionally” is not on their list of occupations.

When a friend joked recently that he wanted my job, I shut him down in one question: “How do you feel about doing the dishes?” See, homemaker. I roll deep in dishes.

Some days hanging out with my kids is pure joy, and some days they’re just piranha plants that I have to throw food at before I can get anything done around the house. Yesterday and today I mostly cleaned up pee.

Lest my privilege go unchecked, you should know I get more breaks than most stay-at-home moms do. Cosmo cites a study that says women put more than 60 precent more time into parenting when both parents work. The survey didn’t include stay-at-home parents, but I doubt a lot of SAHMs spent Saturday at a beer festival. Or got a massage on Sunday.

Don’t judge me — there’s a lot of pee up in here.

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