As the parent in our household responsible for going to work each day, sitting in front of a computer for hours and hopefully bringing home a paycheck a couple of times a month, I have a somewhat narrow view of what it must be like to be a stay-at-home parent. On the rare occasion where I do get to stay home, I tend to be ultra-productive. The kitchen gets cleaned, the bills get paid and, heck, I might even find some time to build a custom armoire in my workshop complete with inlays and dovetail joints. So why is my wife so stressed about this stay-at-home thing? What's the big deal?
Well for one thing, there's the parenting part. If I was a stay-at-home dad, my six-year-old would still be in diapers. My three-year-old would weigh about seventy pounds, after having been raised on nothing but pizza, crackers, and bag after bag of goldfish crackers. The two of them would be completely illiterate, but know every line of every episode of the Simpsons. Yes, being a stay-at-home parent is a full time career that takes a level of expertise for which I am totally unqualified.
This is the point of the story where I give my wife credit for the amazing job she does. She keeps us fed, she keeps us clothed (well, them, anyway - she doesn't shop for me). She's a brilliant teacher, as demonstrated by the fact that my six-year-old daughter's favorite word is pulchritudinous, and she even knows how to spell it. Okay fine, so I come home and the kitchen's a mess, but when my kids both graduate from Harvard on full scholarships, become successful doctors, and fund our retirements, we'll hire someone to clean the kitchen.
I was reminded of the massive responsibility and effort this parenting work takes only recently, at the tail-end of our major home renovation. We had several coats of paint to apply to various rooms, and I just didn't see how or when it was going to get done by me, working eight hours a day outside the house. I only half-jokingly said to my wife, "boy it would be great if I came home one day, and the family room was totally painted." After she was done pummeling me with her copy of Oprah Magazine, my wife proceeded to explain why I was completely off my rocker to think that there was even the remotest of remote possibilities of getting a room painted during the day with the kids awake. The conversation went something like this....
Lovely Wife: "How can you possibly think that I..."
Daughter #1: "Mom, can I have a snack?"
Lovely Wife: "Sure honey, let mommy finish first. So how could you possibly think that I..."
Daughter #2, yelling from upstairs: "MOMMMMM!!!!"
Lovely Wife: "YES????"
Daughter #2:"My unicorn is in on the shelf!"
Lovely Wife: "One second! ....possibly think that I would have..."
Daughter #1: "Mom, I don't know what I want for a snack"
Lovely Wife: "Well, when you decide, and when I'm done talk..."
Daughter #2:"MOMMMMM!!!! I need a tissue!"
Lovely Wife: "....think that I would have time to pa..."
Daughter #1: "Can I have goldfish?"
Lovely Wife: "No, you just had dinner. Have some fruit."
Daughter #1: "MOMMM!!!! I have a booboo!"
Lovely Wife: "Coming! I'm sorry honey, you were saying something about sending me to a spa?"