Monday, March 17, 2008

An overdue role reversal

Last week when I was working, Mark invited two fathers and their children over for an afternoon of play.

While the six children (four girls, including our two, plus two boys) disassembled my house room by room played, the dads shot pool and (are you ready for this?) . . . baked brownies.

Yep, that’s right. Three dads. In our kitchen. At 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. Baking. Brownies.

I don’t mean to make fun of this event. In fact, I think it’s incredibly cool that right there in our little New Jersey town there is a growing contingent of families with, shall we say, modern work and child-care arrangements.

As you may know, Mark and I both work part-time and share child -care so whoever is not working on a given day has the kids. One of the other dads who was there works full-time, but in a hospital where he logs nights and weekends. He cares for the kids on certain weekdays while his wife works a part-time job. And the third dad is full-time stay-at-home-father. His wife leaves the house in the wee hours of the morning and does not return until dinner.

I find it cool and inspiring that these “alternative” child-care arrangements are becoming more common. It sure has taken long enough to get to this point. As little as five years ago, the scene that unfolded in my kitchen would never have happened outside of silly movies staring Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and that other guy whose name I can’t remember.

Five years ago, when Mark and I first started telling people what we planned to do the reactions were interesting. Everyone had encouraging words, but it was clear that not everyone truly felt enthusiastic. A fair number gave us a skeptical head tilt and a “that’s interesting” expression even as they said things like, “oh, that’s cool.”

Now when we talk about our arrangement, people zestfully praise us and often say something like, “I wish my company would let me do that.”

It really is a shame that more companies don’t allow flexible and untraditional work weeks. Because really, as long as the work gets done well and on time, who cares what time of day the employee sat down to do it? I bet there are lots of husbands out there who would love to bake brownies and hang with their kids on a Tuesday afternoon. And I bet there are lots of wives who would relish a job that allows them to think and talk to other adults for a few hours a week. Maybe someday we can evolve enough to let more of them do just that.

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Blogger ryssee said...

Great post! My guess is, most of those people were also thinking, how the hell are they gonna make ends meet? But you've made the whole thing work and it's an awesome arrangement. Sorry, cross out arrangement. I mean life!
I do still think it's funny they were baking brownies while playing pool though. But I bet they loved it and so did the kids!

6:47 PM  
Blogger Gone Crazy ~ Back in a minute! said...

Steve Guttenberg! I didn't realize you and mark had that set-up, that's very cool. Now please tell me that they also reassembled your house and they will be heroes for all Dads and Moms out there. :)

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Soup said...

As a wife of one of the 'Brownie Crew', I was certainly a little envious they were enjoying chocolate and fun while I was at the computer.

It has taken a while for my husband to say proudly that he stays home full time. With an MBA and 11 years of work experience, he sometimes wonders what he is doing.

Then one of our girls (who we call his 'duck') will run up to him for a big, sloppy kiss. The perfect payday!

It's an ongoing effort to balance this role reversal - for both of us. But so worth it in the long run.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

We've got that non traditional arrangement, too. Most people look at us funny, but it almost works. (Hubby has been unemployed)

4:42 PM  

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