A fellow ChicagoNow blogger recently wrote about a request to her child’s preschool that the staff evaluate their procedures for adults accompanying kids to the restroom as she was not comfortable with her 2-year old daughter being assisted by a male parent volunteer whom she did not know. This seemingly reasonable request, coming from a protective mother, caught the attention of a men’s group who accused her of discriminating against men (I’m being extremely diplomatic in my description of this group’s very vocal reaction).
Whether you agree or disagree with either the blogger/mother or the men’s group, it prompted me to reflect on my family’s own experience in this area. When my oldest daughter was born almost 19 years ago, my husband and I made the decision that I would continue to work fulltime, while my husband would stay home with what would ultimately be all four of our kids. While our suburb is full of single-income families, there are very few that I’m aware of that mirror our situation, and he has been referred to as “Mr. Mom” more times than we can count.
Soon after my oldest daughter started preschool, I worried that other moms wouldn’t be comfortable letting their kids play at our house. Those fears proved to be unfounded as my husband oversaw countless play dates at our house over the years. If anyone ever hesitated to let their kids play at our house because the father rather than the mother was in charge, I wasn’t aware of it.
While I am eternally grateful, in retrospect I’m actually rather surprised not to have encountered any hesitation. Maybe it’s because people saw my husband multiple times each week picking up and dropping off our kids at preschool, often with a toddler and/or infant in tow. Maybe it’s because they saw him coaching their kids from a very early age and felt they knew him. Or maybe the types of judgments I feared simply weren’t there.
The situation wasn’t easy for me either, however. I felt like I needed to work doubly hard to eliminate the image of the career driven working mom who put her job before her kids. In reality, I worked because it was what we decided was best for the family, and I went overboard being involved in the kids’ activities partly, I believe, because I was trying to overcome what I thought was the perception that I was not an involved parent because of my employment. Again, my actual experience was that no one ever suggested that I was less of a mom because I worked. Conversely, I acquired something of a “supermom” label because of my involvement at school and the fact that I worked, a label I hated because I thought I must be coming off as trying too hard. I just wanted to be thought of as a regular mom.
To be fair, my husband never seemed concerned about the perceptions of others. There were one or two moms at preschool who were unfriendly to him, and he decided that they didn’t like him because he wasn’t a mom, but they might have just been unfriendly in general, no matter what the gender.
I have concluded that my paranoia about our unconventional arrangement was more in my own head than in reality. The concerns I had of other peoples’ opinions of either my husband or myself because I worked and he stayed home ultimately seemed to be only my concerns. Maybe we lived in a town more accepting of the situation than we might have (although it has a reputation for being very conservative) or maybe we just gravitated toward people who were similar to us in their acceptance. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful that it was never an issue.
Filed under: Parenting