“It’s Not Working”

“It’s not working!”

This is one of Thalia’s favorite phrases, equally applied to a toy missing a battery as to a shard of Granny Smith apple peel she can’t shake loose from sticky fingers.

So I hear her voice uttering those three words when I assess the admirable attempt at stay-at-home-daddom in our household over the past two years: It’s not working.

I have been remiss about writing about stay-at-home dad stuff for the past year or so, if you haven’t noticed. I even received some very nice letters from dad readers asking me to write more about it, please. My fault for using a SAHD tag on technorati. Mea culpa.

My reluctance drew from the fact that I knew our situation wouldn’t last forever. Too many issues. Like me wanting to work from home whenever possible, which drives Nate batshit. Or the reality that this just isn’t his lifelong dream. So I avoided the topic here, feeling unqualified to be any kind of poster child for working moms with dads at home (Despite this post, which I still stand by incidentally). Also, I think Dutch and Wood have beaten us to a bloody, shriveled pulp of a bloody, shriveled pulp in that arena. And Wood photographs way better than I do as far as posters go.

I have come to realize that a SAHD is not a SAHM with a penis.

There are myriad factors to support this theory, that warrant an entire essay unto themselves. I’m still too tired to attempt it, sorry. Let’s just say there are societal pressures and challenges that go well beyond that which SAH moms will ever feel. Perhaps the moms encounter an angry second wave feminist or two, insinuating you’re personally bringing down an entire revolution what with your atrophying brain and all-day nibbling of bonbons. But the dads who choose to stay at home, they have to address that raised eyebrow, that “Ohhhhhhhh?” every time they state their profession. To anyone. Anywhere. Even in fancy, progressive NYC.

Besides, checking off Homemaker on surveys and censuses and bank account applications is not real easy for the menfolk.

Homemaker With Tattoos would be a small improvement.

Consider that this is a society in which it’s perfectly acceptable to open cocktail party banter with, “So, what do you do?” It’s a very rare and very confident father who can answer “I take care of my kids” without either puffing out his chest and looking like a defensive wanker, or cracking a joke at his own expense to preempt awkward follow-up questions.

And so, as of this week, Nate will have a different answer to the question.

He will be back in the restaurant business until he finds the path he believes he was meant to be on. Because frankly, the path can get a little hard to see when your days are filled with peanut butter sandwiches cut into triangles and “Vamanos, Dora!” and making horsie sounds to a 2/4 beat in a Music Together class.

(And don’t we all know it.)

I think the child care options we have are going to pan out while I continue to work. But boy, there are some big changes ahead. Big scary changes. And potentially, big wonderful changes. For our kids. For our relationship.

Nate is an astonishly devoted father. This much has never been questioned. Now he’ll just be that devoted father with a second job.

A second job. Because all parents have jobs.

And we’re all full-time parents, no matter how we spend our days.


Just to add: Thank you all so so much for the great advice and concern regarding recent posts. Vague as I was, I realize a lot of you have it tougher than I do. I’m still tired and reserve the right to whine about it, but I’m grateful for both a little sympathy and a whole lot of perspective.


43 thoughts on ““It’s Not Working””

  1. Checking off “Homemaker” is hard for me too.I’m hoping the changes in the 101 family’s future are of the big wonderful kind.

  2. Good luck! I think it’s great that there are so many ways to make parenting work.For all those continuing SAHDs out there, though, I offer my husband’s answer to the “what do you do” question: “I retired after the dot com boom”. Shuts them up every time!

  3. Wow, I know that is a big decision in your household. I think that for any SAH Mom or Dad, there HAS to be some sort of outlet besides the kids, or you really will short-circuit. Nate is an awesome, awesome dad and that won’t change one bit.Good luck with your childcare stuff. Gosh, I expect to be reading some interesting posts in the near future!

  4. “Now he’ll just be that devoted father with a second job.”Nice. I wish everyone (mostly non-parents!) acknowledged that parenting is a job.

  5. Tough choice, but very brave of you guys to realize that it no longer worked for your family. And how awesome for Thalia to know that her parents put their monetary needs on hold until she was old enough to venture out into the world. Good luck!

  6. I can’t even think of checking off “Homemaker” on a form. I’d write in blogger or writer before that. Of course, I’m a lousy homemaker, so I certainly wouldn’t want to call myself one!No one ever said once a SAH, always a SAH. Sounds like this situation will work out the best for all of you at this moment. And if later on something needs to change, you’ll adjust accordingly.(And Cordy’s favorite phrase, used for any situation, is “I’m stuck!”)

  7. Changing our child care situation last year was about the end of me! I cried and cried and my head hurt from all of the decisions and options.And, as is so often the case, my kids didn’t skip a beat. Not one beat. We went from a part-time nanny to part-time preschool and just last week when school started again for the year I thought how glad I was it wasn’t this time last year. When my head really, really hurt!Point being, of course the changes will be more difficult for you than your girls 🙂

  8. I make more than twice what my husband does, and probably always will. Realistically we would be in much better paycheck to paycheck financial shape if he stayed at home with our twins and were able to drop our enormous daycare bill. He is a wonderful, loving and patient and devoted father. But psychologically he couldn’t do it, and I would resent him for being able to do what I would rather be doing. Its just a fact of our life.Congrats to Nate, and best of luck with the new situation. I get it. I totally get it.

  9. Michele, this is the story of our lives, to a tee. Thank you so much for articulating it perfectly.

  10. Good for him (and you) for making a decision and acting on it. Too many just sit passively, resenting their lives but doing nothing about it.It’s going to be great!

  11. I know how hard it is to live with a partner in career limbo. Good luck with all the changes, big, small, scary and wonderful.

  12. Kyle is better with the girls than I am, but he is not better with the house or the day-to-day minutiae. He may say that he’d like to be a SAHD, but ultimately he’s happier working outside the home.Congrats to you guys on making the move.

  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for that very last line. Could not be anymore true. Thank you!

  14. Mr. PunditMom is the one bringing home the bacon, tho’ I end up frying it in the pan between assignments and blogging and carpooling. So, I think this is the school season when my career (which used to be more equal, if one can say that) needs to be ratcheted up a notch, if only for my sanity and self-esteem.Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for the day-care and school arrangements.

  15. “SAHD is not SAHM with a penis.” Couldn’t have said it any better. Bravo for the whole post.

  16. I’m not crazy about “homemaker,” either, particularly since my home arts are lacking and since the term doesn’t require there to be children, just a home. Better than “housewife,” I suppose.

  17. I wish you great luck and hope it works out for you. It’s definitely challenging when both parents work inside or outside the home (or in general), but as you alluded to, you have good child care options and support each other through everything. The mutual support and understanding of each other’s career choices is really paramount to everything else, which will fall into place.

  18. Everyone, no matter their gender, needs to feel as though they are contributing and have value. Good luck to Nate, you, and the girls in this next phase.And even though you can’t talk someone into having value, for what it’s worth, I think Nate’s resume will look awesome with his recent previous experience.

  19. I still have a problem calling myself a SAHM, can’t imagine what it would be like for a guy.Good luck to Nate and to you as well. And of course with the childcare. Scary but exciting.

  20. Michelle hit it on the mark for us as well. (except for the twice as much part, I really only make slightly more) I have more earning potential than my husband but I know and he knows that he would never want to stay home with our son. It just wouldn’t be fulfilling for him. I would be overwhelmed with jealousy as well.

  21. yeah. it’s definitely tougher for guys, I think. Not the job itself, so much as the perception and the isolation. My own husband is about to go down that path, and it worries me slightly (ok. a lot).good for you guys, though. and let me tell you, daycare can be a tear-jerkingly wonderful thing. I know I felt that yesterday as my son bounced off the walls with Sunday boredom.

  22. Great post. It is amazing how adaptable and cool with everything kids are, when they know that at the end of the day, they come first. I worked outside the home and was a single mom for my daughter’s first 10 years (she is now 16). I had sooo much guilt about her being in daycare after school until 6:00 and then coming home with just me…it tore me up. But the day I told her I was quitting and would be home whenever she got home, no more after school care, her response was “But I don’t want to miss dodgeball.” Now I have a three year old and another on the way, and I have guilt because my son has to be sick sick sick of all mommy, all the time. But I take my cues from my daughter and know that he just has to come first no matter the circumstances and that is all it takes.(Also, “It’s not working” is also my son’s favorite, mostly employed on the potty, and once memorably followed with “I got to squish it!” Good times.)

  23. Congratulations on your new family arrangement. Change is good, especially when things aren’t working the way they are.

  24. My husband is currently at home–in “career limbo” as Mayberry put it–and our kid isn’t even here yet! So he takes care of the house. He’s a homemaker. And he has definitely run smack-dab into the nonsense that suggests that when men do something “womanly,” it’s lame, though when women do something “manly,” it’s <>awesome<>.Best of luck to all of you, and that last line couldn’t be more true.

  25. Good luck to both of you. Let me know if you need anything that can be delivered out of the Kansas City metropolitan area to booster your souls. We are going through a husband/daddy entrepreneurship ourselves these days.

  26. This is why we have an only child. When I was in my childbearing years (which to me stopped at 35. I’m not saying others need to stop at 35, but that was it for me), my husband was in school, or looking for work, and as we couldn’t live off of air, one of us had to be employed. That meant me. And the SAHD thing wasn’t for him. He did it a lot when she was little, and he was in grad school, and I could see it eating away at him…that he wasn’t getting things done that he needed to get done, because he had a full time job with the child.So, that’s how we ended up here. Had I been the one home, it would not have been a problem. Or, had he had the capacity to give birth, or the dream to have SAHD as a career.

  27. I think it’s so important for spouses to be able to support each other in their life goals. Your kiddos are lucky to have such wonderful parents.

  28. I never check off Homemaker.I always check off Spy or Longshoreman or Prima Ballerina.I get a more interesting assortment of coupons that way. Congratulations on your new adventure!Now, really…go take a nap.xxoo

  29. It is Hard, Liz. HARD. But you are right – every family finds their way. It may not be the right answer for every family – but you find your way..sometimes slowly and painfully – other times it all comes together with a fast rush and flourish.Just make sure to take time for You and Nate. Be gentle with each other, as exhausted as you are. As much as you love your children, it will be YOUR relationship – You and Him – that will see you through this.

  30. Good luck to you and Nate.Bruce and I tried the SAHD role while I was at school. He’s a great daddy. But he is a better daddy when he’s a happy daddy. And he’s happiest doing his thing outside the home.Luckily for us, I love being a SAHM who can do her ownthing while being home.Of course, I don’t have a baby attached to my boob while I’m trying to do anything and that makes me really happy. I’m raising my wine goblet to you both. Good luck.

  31. Congratulations. It sounds like an exciting time and like you have a great partnership.

  32. Sounds like you all are navigating strange waters really well. I never realized that becoming a parent would effect every aspect of our lives in such a deep way. I suppose I knew that some things would be changed forever, but the career stuff, and the self image stuff, I never expected. Here’s to patience, understanding and flexibililty as you get it figured out.

  33. Bossy decrees: “Homemaker” should be the term for Builder, and Builder should be the term for Stay-at-homes.

  34. Great post, Liz! So well said. My hubby and I had a conversation after I wrote that caregiver post where he said he could see SAHDs getting a lot of support from the other moms, but virtually none from other working dads. Too many hangups in our society. And being at home is tough enough without any added crap. My husband admits that he couldn’t stay home; he thinks it is “harder than going to work”. That being said, I was a basket case when we (mainly me) decided to try early preschool. But now, a month plus later, my son is really enjoying it! And I get extra time to work. Change can be great. Hang in there!

  35. Just like everything else having to do with relationships and child rearing, nothing stays the same for long. I think that’s much harder on parents (moms AND dads) then it is on kids. Thalia was lucky to have spent time with her dad with uninterrupted attention but now she (& Sage)will be lucky to meet new people and have new positive influences.Im in an “It’s all good” phase today and this is definately, all good.

  36. You guys have gotta do, what you’ve gotta do. And its just wonderful that you are both so supportive of each other. Wishing you the very best in the changes planned.

  37. All the best to you and Nate as you enter the next chapter of your family life. Good for both of you for striving to find a balance that works for everyone.

  38. I can’t even imagine how much better of a father and a husband Nate is after being a “SAHD.” It is the empathy thing that I am always looking for from my husband — and it’s really all I want. I just want him to understand what I go through on a daily basis (as a SAHM). Good luck to you both and I hope all is going well with the kids. I haven’t been reading that much lately as I am knee deep in my own two kid life … but I wanted to check in. Take care.

  39. I stayed home for 5.5 years. The past six months my husband and I made our schedules such that he was home alone with the kids 2 days per week. He is a good, involved dad, very patient, etcetera. But after the first week I came home one night and he looked at me and said, “I just don’t understand how you did this every day for so long!”Neither do I, I told him!And the psychological aspect is hard because the work is so undervalued. But for men I’m sure they feel that even much more so than I did.In other words, my husband and I both understand Nate’s need to do something else in addition to being a dad. Best wishes while you’re making the transition.

  40. Oronzo was a SAHD for the past 2 years, then he went back to work FT for about 4 months (a contract job he couldn’t do from home). Snuggle Bug has been in daycare for nearly 3 months now (we have 8 weeks to go) and it’s been rough on all of us. Good luck on your upcoming family changes. I really like how you emphasized that we’re all full-time parents, some of us with second jobs.

  41. “Perhaps the moms encounter an angry second wave feminist or two, insinuating you’re personally bringing down an entire revolution what with your atrophying brain and all-day nibbling of bonbons.”I laughed so loud that I woke my son…sleeping in an other room, with the door closed. It was worth it.

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