A Father's Thoughts on Mother's Day
Changing the world, one family at a time
by Jake Frost
MAY 9, 2010 (www.faithandfamilylive.com) - My world is different now. I used to wear a suit and tie, go out to lunch, and travel. Now I wear spit-up, pick-up lunch remnants from the floor, and my travelling is done pushing a stroller around the block. I’m a stay-at-home dad.
For many years I worked in a number of different jobs, mostly as a lawyer. When our daughter was born I was the one with the 9 to 5 job and my wife stayed home. She was in grad school at the time. But one day she got a call about a job opening. She applied, she got the job, and then we had some tough decisions to make.
My wife had never had a “real” job and she wanted to experience the career she’d spent so long preparing for. So, with a five month old daughter, we moved across the country to a brand new city for a brand new job and I became an at-home dad.
It’s been nine months now since I traded in the 9-to-5 world for the 24/7 world. I won’t go into all the trials and travails of a stay-at-home parent. Many seem well known already. Things like the constant demands, endless rounds of cooking, cleaning, diapers, etc. Not being able to take a shower every morning. Perpetual sleep deprivation ...
But there are also some surprises. Like the benefits of dichotomy.
I didn’t realize how nice it was to live in two worlds, shuttling back and forth between them, until I inhabited just one all the time. When you have a job, you leave the demands of home behind when you step out the door each morning. You get a break and step into a new world.
I know work has its own demands. But they’re different demands. In a different environment, with different people. Most of whom are even grown-ups, speak in complete sentences, and let you go to the bathroom by yourself.Then at the end of the day, you get a break from work and step back into the world of home. I didn’t realize how refreshing those changes of vista are until I didn’t have them anymore.
The biggest surprise, though, is how dismissively the vocation of stay-at-home parent is treated. An at-home mom who is a friend told me the story of attending a work function with her husband. Someone assumed she was another employee and asked what she did.
“I don’t work here,” she said. “My husband does. I’m a stay-at-home Mom.”
“Well,” the person finally said. “That’s nice too.”
When I used to tell people I was a lawyer, I was received as an equal. Now when I say I’m a stay-at-home dad, I’m greeted with a certain glazed look in the eye that says, “Who else around here can I talk to?”
Like changing vistas, I didn’t realize the power of positive affirmation from others until I didn’t have it anymore. It’s like air: you forget about it unless you’re not getting enough.
The strange thing is that there’s no job more important than raising kids. I’ve worked for big companies, small companies, government agencies, appellate courts, I was a partner in a law firm, I argued cases before my state’s Supreme Court, and I’ve never had a more important job than nurturing the young soul (and another on the way) entrusted to my care.
All day long, I have a bright eyed little spark of smiley energy glued to my side eager to help with everything I do. I’ve learned to do an amazing array of household tasks with one arm. I can whip up eggs in the morning in 20 minutes with one hand, holding a baby in the other the whole time. And I didn’t even cook before we got married.
Just as I’m learning and changing everyday in my new role, though, I know our daughter is also learning and changing as she watches everything Daddy does. The task of helping her grow into the person God wants her to be is a tremendous charge—one our modern culture ought to honor as worthy of a life’s devotion.
This is where dads come in. We can’t change the world to make society value and honor life, family, and those who dedicate themselves to both. But we can change the world of the mom in our own family by letting her know how much we value what she does. No one else will honor her vocation, so it’s up to us. Knowing that we respect her work can make all the difference as she struggles to fight the good fight, day in and day out.
And who knows, maybe we can change the world ... one mom, one family, one child at a time.
View this article in parishWorld.net.
—Jake Frost is a lawyer, writer and stay-at-home Dade who lives near the Mississippi River with his wife and children. He comes from a large family in a small Midwest town and writes for Catholic pulbications around the country.