Editor’s Note: The New York Times ran a front-page article Sunday by reporters Jodi Kantor and Jessica Silver-Greenberg called “Wall Street Mothers, Stay-Home Fathers” looking at this growing, non-traditional family arrangement. Our Jason Greene, an at-home dad of three children, offers his perspective in response to the piece.
Before my wife and I were married, we dreamed about what our future would look like. In this dreamland of ours, my wife would be an attorney and I would be a star on Broadway’s stage. So, without knowing anyone in New York City but with plenty of confidence in ourselves, we packed a U-Haul with all our belongings and headed from Columbus, Ohio, to The Big Apple.
Then, during the summer between my wife’s second and third year of law school, our first son was born. For the next couple of years, we would hand him off to one another on the subway as she came home from classes or work and I would go to auditions or some job that I hated. When she graduated and began working as an attorney, we were finally in a financial position where I could focus on acting full-time.
A year later, our daughter was born.
We could have continued our old lifestyle stressfully carting our children around on the subway and handing them off to one another with barely enough time to give a hello/goodbye kiss to one another. If we had chosen this route, then not only would our children not have had a lot of time with both their parents, but my wife and I would not have seen each other that much either.
The choice was pretty clear for us. If we were going to have the ideal family life, then one of us would have to stay home. Since my wife was the one with the established career, the lot fell to me.
Needless to say, the front page New York Times article on working mothers and stay-at-home fathers was met with great acceptance in our home. Similar to the working mothers in the story, my wife has been able to prosper in her job in part because she is able to kiss our children goodbye in the morning and not have to worry about how they will be cared for throughout the day. She can rest easy behind her desk at work knowing that if she does need to work late, her kids will be well taken care of. If she has to suddenly fly somewhere the next day, we do not need to try to juggle a million things to make it work. Giving my wife that freedom helps take away stress and helps her to focus on her job. And also, like a lot of people who have a spouse that stays home with the kids, her employer does not need to worry that she will miss a lot of work to deal with sick kids or household emergencies.
We tossed out social norms a long time ago. You’re not going to find me acting like Ward Cleaver, looking over a paper waiting for the opportunity to throw out some fatherly advice. I’m both Ward and June rolled up in one. I’ll cook and clean up the house, help with homework, run the kids around, and teach them how to throw a football – and when they act up, I’m an active participant in handling discipline.
Sometimes our arrangement seems odd to people, but we really don’t care much about what other people think. Although we don’t care about how we are viewed, the conversations at parties or events can be a little uncomfortable. Often times, shortly after being introduced at a function, I’ll get the question, “What do you do?” After telling them I am a stay-at-home dad, there’s usually a pause. Depending on the mood that I’m in, I’ll milk the uncomfortable pause as long as I can.
Staying home has also allowed me to dive into community projects. Since I do not have a typical job, I have the freedom to be the PTA President at my kids’ school and take on additional duties within my church (I’m an elder and active in the youth group). The choice to stay home was a difficult one, but one that has allowed me to focus on my children, support my wife’s career, and take on a community role.
On occasion I can’t help but wonder, “what if?” But shortly after wondering, I get wrapped up in my three children’s lives and remember that there is no place I’d rather be.