Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about being a working mother — the responsibilities, the expectations and the stress. I’ve been trying to get my arms around the idea of giving our daughters daily chores and assessing how much of their own weight they can pull now that they’re 9 and 6 years old. I’ve also been fighting for a little respect from those girls, who don’t seem to understand that I have a career aside from what they see. As I stewed over all of this “me, me, me” stuff, a little voice whispered: Get over yourself, Katy. Mike is a working parent, too.
So this week’s blog is all about him, him, him.
Recently, MSNBC posted an article about the family duties of Dear Old Dad and the net worth of those household jobs. Unlike the “real” working world, Mom makes more money (theoretically speaking) — by nearly $40,000. Dad’s assignments typically include pest extermination, plumbing and sanitation, and odd jobs such as yard work. Mom’s jobs span nursing, crisis management, catering, interior design, and janitorial service. But according to Salary.com, Dad is most deserving of an imaginary raise since he’s been doing more around the house these days. Why? Because Mom has to work outside the home now, too.
At the end of the school year, I watched my own husband struggle and juggle. He was in the middle of a major engineering project that required extensive travel. Meetings were scheduled during the last weeks of school when every memory-making-milestone-moment takes place, such as field day, Donuts with Dad, and kindergarten graduation. Mike didn’t want to miss any of those events, but he had a job to do. I sensed his anxiety by the number of emails I was receiving, each one hinting that he was feeling guilty about being gone so much.
Now when is the father-daughter breakfast at school?
I signed up to do Career Day — when is it over? I have to leave by noon.
What time is Ava’s birthday lunch? 11:25 or 11:55?
Can you drop them off in the morning? I have a meeting at 7:30.
Usually, I’m the one who’s fretting over how to get everything done; how to be present for each social event, practice, lesson or ceremony. I’m the one who works before the girls wake up and after the girls go to sleep so I can be “there” for the things that occur in-between. But I realized that motherhood is often an act of self-centered behavior — we’re the ones who complain about all the laundry and dishes and cluttered rooms, and we’re the ones who rush and race to deliver lunch to faculty and forgotten homework folders. But fathers (ok, some fathers) are panicking over parenting duties, too. They just don’t talk about it.
Mike is trying to rearrange his schedule so that he can be home by 4:30 or 5:00 (instead of 6:30 or 7) to take the girls to the pool in the evenings. So far, it hasn’t happened. He’s just going into the office earlier and staying later. In his heart, though, he wants a part of the girls’ summer vacation. He wants to be here. He brings work home so he can be at the kitchen counter marking up drawings while the girls are clicking away on their video games from a nearby couch. On Sundays, he offers to make dinner and do the grocery shopping so that I can retreat to my basement office to pound out Monday’s blog post. Mike wants to share in the responsibilities of being an active parent, but I’m starting to see a shift in pressure: More and more rests on his shoulders aside from the mortgage, the cars, the taxes, the insurance, the retirement plans, the utilities, the yard, the cracked ceiling, the leaking faucet, the cat trapped under the staircase, and an annual “vacation”. Mike’s also trying to take the girls to swim lessons twice a week, Family Buck Night baseball games, and concerts on the Levee. He’s trying to get home for dinner — which we ate two hours ago. Time is not on his side.
Yes, I handle most everything that goes on in this house and I maintain a respectable book of writing business, but I’m not the only one who’s striving to make everyone happy. He’s trying to find that same home/work/life balance that mothers search for on an hourly basis. So the next time Mike is out of town and sending text messages at midnight to make sure I’ve locked all the doors, I’ll stop to remember that his job as a parent is really no different than mine. And, despite the distance, he’s always with us in one way or another.