When my co-blogger told me the news that her husband, Robb, would be quitting his job and taking care of their first baby, I wasn’t surprised. He is one of those guys that is great with kids, ready for his new life as a dad, and didn’t really care for his job anyways.
In my case, I didn’t decide until after my maternity leave that I would stay home. I was racked with indecision. I thought about studies that showed moms that worked had more independent and successful daughters. I thought about anecdotal stories of babies becoming aggressive from too much daycare. Was it better for me to stay home or for me to keep working? I didn’t really like my job. My husband loved his and made enough to support us, so I stayed home.
There are serious parallels why Robb and I stayed home (and then started working part-time after seven months). If I hadn’t mentioned that he were a guy, would you be able to tell? Did we approach things differently based on our gender?
Here’s a side-by-side of our experiences:
Worries about staying home initially
Robb: I was afraid I would break him. He threw his head back and hit the door of some cabinets and freaked myself out.
Me: I wasn’t worried about taking care of my daughter. I figured that would come as a matter of course. I was mostly concerned with budgeting more, curtailing expenses, and being out of the job market for an extended period.
Best part of being home
Robb: He slept a lot so I got to watch a lot of TV, kind of relax, watch TV, play video games. I could pretty much do whatever I wanted for the first three months.
Me: I liked that I didn’t have to divide my time between work and home. I could make my own schedule and get things done when I wanted to. I liked devoting all my time to home-making.
Worst part of staying home
Robb: It was winter in Chicago for most of the time so I couldn’t go anywhere with a very young infant that would be of interest to him or worth my time.
Me: Loneliness. Where do you take a tiny infant? Shopping? My friends were all at work. I knew that I should have made mommy friends but I didn’t have it in me. I was too tired. I could have slept for days and I could still do that now.
Going back to work part-time
Robb: (Online job, working from home) It was still pretty similar (to not working). I would hang out with him and play with him a bit. He would usually nap. He was doing two naps a day. So he would usually just be waking up or going to sleep by the time the sitter got there.
Me: (Public library) Going to a new job has been stressful. The job is great. I love it. Leaving my daughter in the afternoon and missing her bedtime routine is not. I keep my phone in my pocket so the sitter or my husband can text me for help. All I can offer is different ways to calm her. But as soon as I walk in the door, she is fine. She snuggles up to me and all is right in the world. I know she misses me and that’s why she is upset. It makes me sad to think I am the one causing her stress.
Housework during baby’s naps
Robb: I did dishes and cleaned what I could. In general I feel like being there with him so much, the apartment was in a pretty decent state most of the time. There weren’t many times when there were piles of dishes or the floors were in desperate need of cleaning. I couldn’t really vacuum.
Me: I felt like it was my duty to contribute more to the house cleaning because I wasn’t working. My husband still took out the trash or emptied the dishwasher but I did everything else. I set a schedule to get everything done and tried to stick to it. The hardest part was planning meals.
Working full-time again
Robb: I think I would have been choosier about jobs by the point I got a job. But because we had just moved and we needed the money, and we wanted to buy a house, it was something where I felt the need to bring in money. I felt like my wife wanted me to get off my butt, and I felt guilty not contributing.
Me: Only time will tell if I will. I want to stay part-time for a little while longer.
On doing things differently than a stay-at home mom/dad
Robb: I feel like I probably watched different TV shows, but I probably still did the same things as a woman would have done. My wife would have gotten out and about more, but I had no interest in taking an infant out in the Chicago winter.
Me: I was probably more stressed than a stay-at-home dad but mostly due to the hormones. At 3 months old, my daughter was having trouble napping, so once she fell asleep I just laid down on the floor next to her crib and passed out from exhaustion. And I probably cleaned more. But that is just me. I probably clean more than most.
On being a stay-at-home parent indefinitely
Robb: Yeah, that would be great if I could stay home hanging out with my kid all the time. I will probably stay home when we have a second child. I will probably even keep our older child home because we live in a neighborhood where he can get lots of socialization.
Me: No, definitely not. I love being challenged, having projects. I need to socialize and contribute financially to our family (for my own piece of mind). Plus, I want to have something of my own, especially once my daughter is all grown up.
If your partner wanted to stay home instead
Robb: I would freak out. I don’t think I would be able to support us (financially).
Me: I would be totally stressed. My husband is in a field with zero unemployment that is highly lucrative. I am a librarian. We would need to drastically change our standard of living to make that work.
Surprises about staying home
Robb: It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. It was a lot less stressful. I thought I would be worried all the time. I grew up in a small town, pre-internet, without the city/technological conveniences I have now; managing a house seemed a lot harder then. With a toddler, it would be more interesting but probably have more crying.
Me: Being so tired. I’m home all day and still exhausted even if I nap when the baby naps.
For Robb and I, staying at home was very similar. Our stories are anecdotal but the things you face being a new parent is pretty universal.
Tell us about your experiences. How’d you decide whether to stay home, have your partner stay home, or opt for a nanny or daycare? And what do you think are the major differences between stay-at-home moms versus dads?