Rant r = new Rant();
I was raised in a socially conservative religious group, where it is the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) norm that women stay at home with the kids while men go forth and provide. As a product of a family where this did not happen, I have never really felt too strongly about the validity of that message. My parents both worked and we turned out alright.
Five years ago, my wife and I decided that she would attend Medical school. We agreed that it would be best that she be as educated as possible so she would have to freedom to choose the hours she would work to create a child friendly schedule for our family. We realized that her schedule would be crazy during school, but it would eventually be worth it. I had my Bachelors and, as a guy, it didn’t really matter what hours I had to work. I mean, that is what guys do, right?
Fast forward three years to the birth of my son. We had always planned to have our first child during the “Med School Years” and knew that while it would make things harder, it would be the right time to begin our family. My wife ended up taking a year off school (extending our “Med School Years” to five) to stay at home with little Jack. While she enjoyed having that year with the baby, she was ready to go back and finish starting this year.
So now she is interviewing for residency, looking at 50-80 hrs/week schedules for the next 4-5 years, and we are wondering how we were ever so stupid as to overlook the most time intensive part of medical training. On top of that, not all of the hospitals she is looking at have reasonable work opportunities for me. So now I am staring into a future where we experience a little role reversal, i.e. I might become a stay at home pop.
We have discussed the idea of women in the workplace vs. women at home. Due to our backgrounds, neither of us has ever felt that “women belong in the home” or “women who stay home are useless”. I’ve always felt they have the same choice (or should) that men do. Work or don’t work. In theory we have discussed me filling the role as the primary care-giver and her the provider (I sometimes jokingly refer to her as my retirement policy). Now with it staring me in the face, I view it a little differently. I wonder how it would affect me to not have a job. My little boy is a ball of energy and it is not easy to watch him all day. But while it would be physically demanding, I fear it would fail to challenge me mentally. At least in the ways that I am used to being challenged.
My wife feels the same way I do. She loves being with little Jack, but feels she would go crazy if all she did all day everyday was stay at home with him and not pursue her other dreams and goals.
Where we stumble is in thinking, “well, if we are both working, who in the heck is going to be with Jack?” Both of us would choose to be at home to raise him, but we don’t like the all or nothing choices that are reasonably available. We don’t want to have someone else raise our kid. We don’t want to give up our other interests (i.e., work) completely either. We don’t want to whine and complain about not having options, when we understand we are pretty well-positioned. Looks like I choose option 3.
It seems to both of us that what would be ideal is a non-trivial, rewarding, part-time work opportunity. I would gladly take half-pay for half time. Benefits would be a little more tricky, but the fact is we don’t want something for nothing. We want to be contributing members of both society and our family.
So I guess, what do the members of OmniNerd think? What are the benefits to women at home, women at work, men at work and/or men at home? Is wishing/searching for a middle ground approach as useless as I think it is?
Is our society really all that different today than in the 1950s or do we just pay lip services to ideas like gender equality? And do men get the short end of the stick, because the only articles I ever see are ones about the difficulty facing women when it comes to this issue (apparently men never worry about parenting)?
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