When I started this stay-at-home gig, I always felt the need to tell my wife everything that happened during the day, and to discuss every major decision regarding the house and kids with her before setting out to do anything new or important. I think many people would think this a great way to make a marriage more secure with open lines of communication. I guess, for the most part, this would be fine. Everyone likes a little support when making big decisions, and it’s great to have someone else know all about the hard work you’ve been doing throughout the day as a homemaker. However, there have been enough times during my role as the stay-at-home where I’ve been given that ‘you did what?!’ look, when sharing a story about how something funny happened with the kids, or just the ‘I couldn’t care less’ stare when I just wanted to talk about my day. Also, there have been many decisions concerning the house and our kids that I felt both my wife and I should make together, but many times I had to submit to the veto power of the ‘one who has a job’ and let her make the final decision on her own. For a long time, I felt the unfairness of the situation, but I couldn’t stop myself from talking. I fought against ideas like “I shouldn’t keep secrets” and “these are her kids too, so she should have a say”, but then I finally had to come to the conclusion that I wasn’t being responsible in my duties as the stay-at-home by relinquishing my rights as the primary caregiver and homemaker over to my wife. I mean, I’m the one spending most of my time with our kids and I know how the house functions best, so why am I letting my wife make decisions that ultimately affect me more than they do her and limit my ability to do my job?
My recommendation to stay-at-home-dads is to talk less about your day to your spouse and make decisions on your own more. And please realize, this isn’t new advice! Housewives of generations past knew that they shouldn’t tell their husbands everything that goes on with their kids or let them be privy to every decision regarding the house. They knew that the working husband had no clue what it takes to run a household and would incorrectly apply his ‘on the job’ techniques to solve domestic problems. Unfortunately, new-age ideas about “healthy” relationships has vilified this sage advice and many married parents simply share too much information. Stay-at-home-dads, in particular, are ignorant to this bit of wisdom because they think their working wives are still more capable of knowing what to do around the house and how to raise kids than they are, but stay-at-home-dads don’t realize that they are the new experts. I’m just trying to pass on this advice to other house husbands, because I wish someone had told me about it before I had to bungle my way to the realization on my own.
There have been many times, even before I was the stay-at-home, when I knew that I wanted to parent differently than my wife. I have two rambunctious boys who love to play rough and be thrown around. In particular, my oldest son likes me to throw him ‘playfully’ onto the bed, over and over. It’s always so much fun, he loves it, and I think we bond pretty well over it. My wife can never witness very much of it before she tells me to stop, worrying that his brains are getting scrambled. I was a kid once too, and I know how much fun this kind of thing is and never did I feel my brains get bruised. However, as partners in parenting, I have to comply with her wishes. Right? Well, now that she is the one working, she’s not always around to get worried or tell me she doesn’t like what I’m doing. But, like an idiot, I’ve been telling her everything she’s missed out on while at work. Until now.
Recently, I had a breakthrough moment that just crystallized this whole concept of just not mentioning things to her. My oldest son is in kindergarten. This is his first time around this many kids everyday, since he never went to daycare. I’ve lost count of the amount of times he has gotten sick this year, and he’s on the school’s top ten list of most absent students. My wife is really worried about him not attending enough school and worries there might be repercussions. I, on the other hand, have asked the school and done other research to know that his attendance in no way factors into whether he advances to first grade and, besides, he’s super smart and has made so much progress despite his absenteeism. I’ve tried to communicate this to my wife, but she still worries.
Last week I kept him home on Monday because, once again, he got sick. This time he had a bad cough, but no fever. Even though he still had the cough on Tuesday, my wife made it clear she wanted him to go to school, so I sent him against my better judgement. He came home looking pale and tired but his cough seemed to have improved. However, on Wednesday morning, after my wife went to work, I was trying to get my son ready for school, and he just kept coughing so much that he started gagging on mucus. I almost called my wife to ask her if it was alright if I kept him home, and then I realized ‘fuck it’ it’s my call! I spent the day feeding him chicken soup and letting him rest, and by the end of the day his cough was mostly healed. What’s more, I didn’t tell my wife what I did either. She thought he went to school, and life was great!
I know I’m going to get the marriage counselor type people, who love to give advice, tell me that this is wrong. That I’m sowing seeds of discord in my marriage. I’m disregarding my wife’s rights as a parent. I’m being dishonest and obscuring the truth. And… Okay. Maybe I am. But I’m also taking care of business. I’m limiting the amount of cooks in the proverbial kitchen, because sometimes two decision makers is too many. And don’t go off the handle. I’m not making major decisions on my own like opting for circumcision when she might be against it. I’m just doing less than critical things like letting my sons play with the kids of the neighbors my wife hates because I don’t share her feelings about them and I don’t see what the problem is.
Like I said before, this is not new advice. As stay-at-home-dads we’re not transferring enough skills and wisdom from housewives of the past. It might seem shady that I’m telling you to hide things from your wife to have a better marriage and to keep you happy. But if you think about it, it works for other things like your porn addiction or the fact you know all the words to Frozen’s “Let it Go” song. You don’t let her know those things about yourself and life is better because of it. All I’m giving you right now is advice and you don’t have to take it. You might not agree with what I’m saying or you may not truly understand what I’m talking about yet. You might need to get to this realization on your own, and then I’ll get to tell you ‘I told you so’. But just remember I said it first.