“What do you do?”
“I stay at home with my kids.”
That moment right there. It’s a moment my wife has to deal with every time we meet someone. A moment when some people think it’s okay to write her off as uninteresting or lazy simply because she stays home with our kids. It’s also a moment that I never have to deal with because I work full time.
And yet, most of the issues she deals with as a stay-at-home parent pass me by, unnoticed. The problem with letting these issues go unacknowledged is that I can start to get a warped view of what her life at home is like. I might start thinking to myself: It sure would be nice to sleep in a little longer. Or: I wish I could stay home and not deal with deadlines and stressful meetings.
And when I let these kinds of ugly comparison thoughts go unchecked, bitterness towards her starts growing within me; something I do not want and something she doesn’t deserve. The truth, of course, is that we both have our own set of issues to deal with at work and at home that rise and fall over time.
I’ve found that the best way to combat these comparison thoughts and to better love my wife is to intentionally think about (1) all those issues I don’t have to deal with that she does, and (2) all the benefits I get that she misses out on simply because I work.
Because I work and don’t stay at home:
I get to go to the bathroom by myself.
My colleagues don’t stand outside the stall door knocking on it. They don’t ask me questions, and they certainly don’t try to open the door on me.
I don’t have to constantly make other people’s food.
My wife has been in a constant state of making other people’s food for a few years now. Whether it’s breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, or dinner it is always and it never ends.
I don’t have to do chores at work.
My wife is constantly surrounded by dirty laundry, dirty dishes, scattered toys, and a whole host of other chores that call out to her all day (“Clean me!”).
I get to directly justify years spent in school.
Every day that I go to work, I get to justify all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into my education. My wife, who has an undergrad, graduate, and a specialist degree, is denied that same sense of justification while she stays at home (outside of the indirect benefits she received).
I get a relaxing commute.
I don’t have to listen to “Let it Go” or “Wheels on the Bus” nor do I get pelted with crackers. I sit, relax, and listen to whatever I want.
I get nice lunches.
“Hey babe, just got done eating at Ruth’s Chris with a client. What did you do for lunch today?”
“One of the kids sneezed on my cold pasta…”
People tell me I’m doing a great job.
Our kids never pull my wife aside and say, “You know what mommy, you’re doing a stand-up job.”
I don’t have to deal with other people’s body fluids.
I’ve never had a colleague ask me to wipe their bottom in the bathroom…
I get paid for what I do.
The things I do at work have been deemed so valuable that I actually get paid for them. Even though my wife’s work at home is extraordinarily valuable, she will never have the same kind of validation of her efforts that comes from getting paid.
I get to go to fun events.
Going to the playground with the kids doesn’t qualify as a “fun event.” I’m talking about actual fun things like going to the movie theater, Topgolf, or an escape room – all things my team has done on occasion (for “team building”).
There’s no crying.
We are all hard-wired to feel stress when we hear crying. Our kids get in cry moods sometimes. They wake up from nap and bam: It’s cry time. All this crying makes for a stressful day – a stress I don’t have to deal with at work.
I can run errands without a kid in tow.
I don’t have to apologize with my eyes to the people around me for my daughter’s impressively loud screams. I walk in, I walk out, I’m done.
People don’t talk back to me.
I’ve never had a colleague scream back to me that he didn’t want to fill out a spreadsheet. That just doesn’t happen.
I don’t have to stress about disciplining.
Time-outs, crying, lost privileges, crying. Discipline is stressful. The only discipline I have to face at work is convincing myself not to buy another bag of chips at the vending machine.
I don’t have to make the logistical parenting decisions.
I don’t deal with naptime scheduling, feedings, or play date issues.