With the increase in visibility of stay-at-home dads, my husband has a hard time describing himself. A month ago, I went back to work 30 hours a week and he cut back hours at one of his two part-time jobs. This works out so that four days a week, he is at home with our baby, and three days a week, I am. To call himself a stay-at-home dad is not entirely accurate, but he’s not “baby-sitting.” He is part of a growing number of people who are splitting shift-work and child care between them.
I knew a couple a few years ago who split childcare between them by day and night. One worked as a night-shift nurse and the other was a daytime front desk manager. This basically meant they also took shifts sleeping. I can’t imagine how that played out in their relationship — but it can’t have been easy.
For my situation, we have the perfect “flexible” jobs that allow us to move our schedules around to maximize our incomes while not having to pay for childcare. It is not the payment itself for childcare that we have issues with, although that was a huge consideration for us, but rather that we feel our daughter is too young (ten months old when I returned to work) to be deprived of her one-on-one special parent time. So we have committed to having one of us at home with her while the other works until such a time as we feel she is old enough to be taken care of by other (for us, older than two).
The upside of this situation is that we found out that my husband IS the better stay-at-home parent. This could be because he really didn’t enjoy his “on call” job very much, or it could be that he hasn’t spent the last 10 months 24/7 with a little baby happily suckling his nipples, but he is happier at home, gets more done than I ever did, and our baby is a happier camper for him. Instead of me waiting for him to get home at question mark o’clock from his crummy job, he knows I will be back at lunch time for breastfeeding, then at 4:30 on the dot for more breastfeeding. We get supper on the table together, take a walk as a family, then both tackle bedtime together. Sometimes we even have time for sex.
And furthermore, neither of us is suffering from gaps in our resumes. We are both working part time at jobs we enjoy (his weekend job is awesome) that will hopefully blossom someday into full-time work. While we wait for that, we can budget our buns off and enjoy this special time with our little baby.
The downside is we have few entire days off together. When he was working two jobs he made sure to take at least one day off a week (after working himself into burnout). Now, with him working three days and me working four, well, no days off for the three of us (for now!). This means we miss each other and neither of us feel like we are fully getting a “break” of sorts, since break time is baby time. It means hanging out with our friends with the baby but not each other and it means we have to work extra hard to give each other special attention.
But all in all, having two part-time parents is working out well for creating balance in our lives — without a “stay-at-home” mom or dad.