For the first 12 years of our children’s lives, I was the stay-at-home parent. I took care of every little possible detail from school lunches, to homework, to doctor’s appointments, to playdates. Bill had nothing to do with the planning and execution of any of it and I had nothing to do with his work life. It was kind of like “Mad Men” but with mutual respect and very little alcoholism.
Since June we have those reversed roles. I am now working and Bill is at home and because I am working 400 miles from home, sometimes Bill is the only parent for days at a time. And I have noticed some slight differences in the way we do things. And rather than scream or call child services, I thought I’d list them here.
1. What happened to vegetables? Apparently, when I went to work, the vegetables came with me. If you opened our refrigerator, you would see that there is nothing but wall to wall hot dogs. Sometimes there’s a package of ground beef. Sometimes there’s a half-eaten log of salami. But mostly, it’s just hot dogs. Morning, noon and night. I’m pretty sure the kids are all going to get gout.
2. What happened to bedtime? Having only one parent at home to put three kids to bed can be a challenge. Bill solves this problem by ignoring bedtime entirely. The kids just run around until they are so exhausted they fall over somewhere in the yard around midnight and Bill simply scoops them up and puts them in bed. Problem solved.
3. Is there a soap shortage? Until I started working, I didn’t realize I was the only person in our family that thought taking a bath was something that human beings did on a regular basis. Our kids have started to look like those people that hide in the woods to avoid the law. The bathtub is now being used as a play area for the hamsters.
4. So, it’s just ice cream and television? Why do our kids know so much about Donald Trump? And why is it every time I call the house everyone has just returned from a trip to get ice cream? Ice cream, Donald Trump, hot dogs… repeat… ice cream, Donald Trump, hot dogs… I guess not taking a bath really opens up a lot of space in the day.
5. Are my ears bleeding? When I come home, the music is on so loud that no one actually hears me come in the door. Not even the dog. I don’t know how any of them still have hearing. I thought we should all learn Spanish, but I think we’d better learn sign language. I don’t get it. Are we prepping our children for a Black Sabbath reunion tour?
At first, when Bill and I switched places, I was horrified. I thought all my years of hard work and vegetables and bedtimes were just thrown right out the window. But I had to let that go and say, Hey, the kids are happy, safe and alive. That’s the important part, right?
Plus, I noticed something amazing the other day. August had a soccer game and just as I started to go get his soccer clothes, August walked out of his room completely dressed for soccer. All by himself. Cleats and everything. If I was still the stay at home parent, that NEVER would have happened.
Because I hover. I helicopter. I do WAY too many things for the kids. Now that Bill is in charge, he is teaching them self-reliance — one of the most important things in life that I wasn’t allowing to happen.
And that’s a pretty awesome thing.
Some lettuce every once in a while might be nice, but hey, I’m grateful for self-reliance.