I’ve had several conversations recently with other working dads that have got me thinking. Like me, these men work in or around the local tech start-up scene. Like me, they are married with kids. Like me, they enjoy being a father. But unlike me, they have stay-at-home wives. What our conversations revealed is that, because of that, their day-to-day lives are so different from mine as to be unrecognizable.
In our conversations, I discovered that these men have almost complete control over their own daily schedules, while the family schedule proceeds almost entirely independently from them. There’s no negotiating over who does pick up or drop off. There’s no swapping back and forth of primary parenting. The lines of authority in their homes are much more clear cut. Their wives are completely in charge of the domestic sphere while the men are completely in charge of the work/earning sphere. While those spheres operate side-by-side in their homes, they are fairly independent. In our home, they are completely intertwined and a source of constant negotiation and, sometimes, friction.
My first reaction to these conversations has been “wow how peaceful and easy that must be – not having to negotiate every logistic of every day.” But as I’ve thought about it more, I realize that I can no more fathom what it would be like to live that way as I can what it would be like to be a seven foot tall pro basketball player or a mega-hit rock star. (As I type this and read it aloud, our 5 year old, who is sitting in my lap, pipes in: “but Daddy, you are a rock star!” Can I have that in writing for when you’re a teenager?)
Even as I fantasize about the simplicity of a black-and-white division of duties, I know that I chose this life. I knew from the second I met B that she would be a career woman, and that was one of the many things I found attractive about her. Like any major life decision you make when you’re young and inexperienced, I had no idea what that meant. Now that I do know, would I do anything different? The truth is, I can’t imagine what my life would be like with a stay-at-home wife. I certainly wouldn’t be married to B. I wouldn’t have the kids I have. So would more black-and-white be nice occasionally? Sure. Would I trade that for what I have now? I can’t even imagine it.
Have you ever fantasized about a different division of responsibilities in your home? What would you have to give up to make that a reality?