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when mum is dad and dad is mum

(65 Posts)
sahdad2 Mon 09-Oct-17 09:41:43

all i mean by that is that mum is out in full time work and dad is at home full time with the (2) little ones

there's endless controversial stuff here about gender of course. of course men can do childcare and women can do work - that is too obvious to stress. i'm trying to say something about why this set up can be so peculiarly hard for both parties that does not depend on stupid generalizations about gender.

i think that if dad stays at home and looks after the babies he is going to need (moral - personal) support even more than mum will need when she does this - and i think that mum will be distinctively bad at giving it.

the other way round is true too:

mum - in being separated from the babies - will need more support from dad than dad would need from mum were he separated from them - and he will be distinctively bad at giving it.

why?

because dad has the very thing mum is pining for - constant closeness with the little ones (so she finds it impossible to understand why he's under so much strain)

and mum has the very thing dad is pining for - a role in the adult world of work (so he finds it much harder to appreciate why she is under so much strain)

the point of this post is to ask if others find this familiar

but also to try to provide some relief for those in this situation - the only thing that might relieve the distress caused by this combination of incompatible problems is if both partners can understand better why the other finds it so hard to appreciate what they're going through.

JohnLapsleyParlabane Mon 09-Oct-17 09:43:53

hmm

steppemum Mon 09-Oct-17 09:50:13

Ok I think there are two main things which make this harder than other way round.

1. I think as a mum I would find it hard to leave them in the early days, and I think some of that is biological, we are supposed to bond with our kids. Maybe that was because I was BF.
2. All the SAHP stuff is geared to mums, so it is bloody hard for dads to go along to toddler groups etc and meet people/find friends.

pretty much everything else in yoru post I would say applies whichever way round male or female SAHP.

sahdad2 Mon 09-Oct-17 09:57:39

well that's the point - as a dad one would not find it quite so hard to leave them in the early days etc. etc.

whether its biological or social is v. controversial (and not very important perhaps)

as a dad you will TEND to miss work more and find total childcare harder - so you will be under even more strain than mum would be - and mum will herself be under a kind of strain (being separated from them and in, e.g., an office) that will TEND to make it very hard for her to be sympathetic and supportive.....

Raisinbrain Mon 09-Oct-17 09:58:08

The answer is no, I do not find it familiar.
I work full time and my husband works part time and does the childcare. This arrangement is out of necessity as I am the higher earner but fortunately it suits us this way.
He doesn’t pine for work and I don’t pine for my babies.

sahdad2 Mon 09-Oct-17 10:00:30

both mum and dad will (tend to) need more support than if they were playing traditional roles - and both mum and dad will (tend to) be much worse at giving it than if they were playing traditional roles

that strikes me as a big deal - it helps to get it into words clearly - but coping with it in reality for the last four years has been very very hard

sahdad2 Mon 09-Oct-17 10:01:22

part - time is very very different from full time

but thanks anyway

steppemum Mon 09-Oct-17 10:08:10

as a dad you will TEND to miss work more and find total childcare harder - so you will be under even more strain than mum would be - and mum will herself be under a kind of strain (being separated from them and in, e.g., an office) that will TEND to make it very hard for her to be sympathetic and supportive....

totally disagree.
Why wouldn't mum miss work?
Why wouldn't dad miss being?
Why is mum incapable of being sympathetic and supportive?
Paints both as being emotionally one dimensional

steppemum Mon 09-Oct-17 10:08:27

sorry - dad being with kids?

Somerville Mon 09-Oct-17 10:08:30

Most people struggle at some points with being a stay at home parent. Many working parents struggle with that, too. And definitely it can be hard to support ones spouse when you're both in the thick of trying to raise small children and earn money and have some work life balance - however that is structured between the parents.

I genuinely don't see what biology has to do with it, once through the physical effects of birth, and breast feeding.

Part of the solution is seeking emotional support beyond just ones spouse. Part of it is recognising that children aren't young for very long, but that life is tiring and difficult for everyone to some extent while they are.

steppemum Mon 09-Oct-17 10:10:50

both mum and dad will (tend to) need more support than if they were playing traditional roles - and both mum and dad will (tend to) be much worse at giving it than if they were playing traditional roles

OK, society may not be as good at giving support. And as I said groups etc are more geared towards women.

But I just don't buy that they are automatically worse at giving the support.

Somerville Mon 09-Oct-17 10:17:36

Groups being geared toward women is changing. Maybe too slowly, but it doesn't mean men are excluded in the meantime. DH took DS to a baby massage class last week - he was the only father but was still told about the lunch the other parents go on after the session and invited along.

sahdad2 Mon 09-Oct-17 11:03:17

no appeal to biology - that was someone else

i suppose the reason a mum might find being separated from very small ones harder than a man would be that she had spent her early life expecting to spend a good deal of her life largely devoted to childcare - but a man would not have

certainly i'm a modern man - and my wife is a modern woman - and equally certainly whilst she has always been committed to having a serious career she has also always expected to spend a good amount of time engrossed in childcare. (that means doing nothing else but childcare for a decent amount of time i suppose)

i always assumed my life would be centered around work and did not expect (unconsciously) to spend long periods of time doing nothing but looking after children.

whether expectations/assumptions like this come from social or biological conditioning is not important (at least for the present topic).

the point is to say something about how these differing assumptions will impact a couple in which the man is at home FULL TIME and the woman is at work FULL TIME....

sure the stuff about groups is true - but i'm talking about the way the partners in a non-traditional family (FULL TIME parenting by dad; FULL TIME work by mum) will likely see each other. the idea is that they will each need more support because under greater than normal strain (bucking against their own assumptions about the shape of their lives) - and will each be less able to give it (because the other will have precisely the thing they are so conscious of lacking).

so i'm not talking about awkwardness for blokes in childcare groups (my experience there has actually been very positive) - but about something much harder and built into the partners relationship itself

Somerville Mon 09-Oct-17 11:19:06

I kind of get your point. But I think you're missing an important one that I and others have been making. Raising small children is difficult, whether one is at work FT or at home FT or doing a bit of both, or, indeed, doing all of both (in the case of lone parents).
And while struggling with one's own role, of course it's hard to massively support ones spouse. Part of coping with that is choosing not to compete over who is more tired/had a harder day. And partly, as I said before, it's about finding other people to get support from, and not expecting it all to come from equally knackered spouse.

I completely disagree that it is harder for married couples who have chosen for the wife to return to work and the husband to stay at home. Not on average - though individuals may find that harder than a 'traditional' role. Not from what I've seen on my friendship groups, or experienced. I think it's hardest for lone parents who are doing everything with no emotional support from a partner at all. Also my gay and lesbian friends, who still unfortunately attract attitudes of social stigma, so find it dofficult to access that outside-the-relationship support that all parents need.

ThePeanutGallery Mon 09-Oct-17 11:28:51

I think it depends on the couple. I certainly was never raised with the idea that I would ever be a SAHM, and my DH loves being with the kids full-time (although he recently started part-time work at their school). It's worked fine for us, no additional support...

ThePeanutGallery Mon 09-Oct-17 11:29:19

I think it depends on the couple. I certainly was never raised with the idea that I would ever be a SAHM, and my DH loves being with the kids full-time (although he recently started part-time work at their school). It's worked fine for us, no additional support...

sahdad2 Mon 09-Oct-17 11:39:08

of course its ALWAYS difficult

and i hope ALWAYS utterly fabulous too (there are children around!)

but there's a distinctive thing going on in non-traditional families as i have defined them - certainly in mine - and i'm guessing in others too

(and of course too it would be hardest if you were totally on your own with it all)

sahdad2 Mon 09-Oct-17 11:54:57

both mum and dad will (tend) to be finding it especially difficult fulfilling their roles - and both will (tend) to be badly placed to dig where the other is at

- if the man has not grown up just assuming that there will be humungous childcare at the centre of his adult life then he will likely be in very distinctive trouble if he finds himself alone at home with children for - say - 2 years or more

and trying to get his spouse to dig this when she is freaking out (way more than he would be were he in her situation) about not being with them anything like enough (because she HAS grown up just expecting to be fully immersed in childcare near the centre of her adult life) - is going to (tend to) be very hard

AND VICE VERSA

the reason this is interesting is that it really could be something (almost) everyone has to deal with if they have a non-traditional family (that is - if the man is not working at all and doing almost all the childcare - and the woman is doing minimal childcare and is out all week earning the money). because it really could be true that MOST women will grow up - even in modern 'western' societies like ours - expecting to have primary responsibility for childcare and MOST men grow up not expecting this.

i think the idea that there just is no tendency at all for it to be harder for men to stay at home and do early years care of children (for years) than it is for women - and that that there just is no tendency at all for it be harder for women to leave small children at home (for years) and go to work - is not just implausible but insensitive. it may seem hip to insist on this - but it will leave many people unable to understand their own distress. and that's poo.

ThePeanutGallery Mon 09-Oct-17 12:11:23

I think you need to speak for yourself. I have no issues being a working mom and my husband has no issues being a SAHD. I'm not distressed at all, neither is DH.

EvilDoctorBallerinaVampireDuck Mon 09-Oct-17 12:14:37

I think parent and toddler groups still shut dads out, we think maybe we can't share our more embarrassing birth stories with you, etc.

steppemum Mon 09-Oct-17 12:50:38

I do understand what you are saying, but I think really what you are describing is you and your partner's own expectations and how that has played out in youy particular dynamic.

I was a SAHP for quite a few years (by choice) and I found moments of pure frustration that dh was continuing his career and I wasn't. Times when I found it hard to support him when he came home tired because at least he had been out of the house when I was stuck in. Those moments are I think a part of doing SAHP full time, or being the earning parent full time. I know he got frustrated when the kids went to me not to him, and when I knew how to do stuff and he didn't and he would have loved to have had more time with them.
So I think you possibly have an unreal expectation of what it would be like the other way round!

Every family is unique and we can only describe our own situation and it is presumptious to extrapolate too far from that.

KadabrasSpoon Mon 09-Oct-17 12:54:59

We've found it completely fine. It's hard whatever you do.
Groups have a lot more Dads in since SPL came in so that is slowly changing.

Somerville Mon 09-Oct-17 13:07:34

i think the idea that there just is no tendency at all for it to be harder for men to stay at home and do early years care of children (for years) than it is for women - and that that there just is no tendency at all for it be harder for women to leave small children at home (for years) and go to work - is not just implausible but insensitive. it may seem hip to insist on this - but it will leave many people unable to understand their own distress. and that's poo.

I disagree with you OP.
Prior generations of women have been expected, by our society, to suck up losing their financial independence and cerebral activities in order to stay at home with small children. That's hard. It's hard for men too. But not harder for men because of the societal expectation - actually in some ways I think that expectation makes it harder for women to get sympathy and support when they find it hard as a SAHP.

And whilst it used to be difficult for women in the workplace once they had kids, with the high cost of house prices most couples with small children nowadays find they both have to work full time in order to pay the mortgage. So with fewer SAHP's around, and more parents in the workplace, there isn't a stigma like there was even 16 years ago when I had my eldest child.

My husband and I share care of our baby, because I've experienced being a SAHP and although there were things I liked about it, ultimately it doesn't suit me. And likewise, I acknowledge that he very much wants to spend lots of time with our baby too, and is upset when leaving him.
If you don't like your balance - get on and change it if you can, or make plans for the near future when youngest is at school and you can go to work again.

steppemum Mon 09-Oct-17 13:13:49

Prior generations of women have been expected, by our society, to suck up losing their financial independence and cerebral activities in order to stay at home with small children.

yes!
welcome to what women have been feeling for years.

SpaghettiAndMeatballs Mon 09-Oct-17 13:17:16

I'm not sure I get the point of this - I've always worked, I never thought I'd be a SAHM, so it was no problem putting my children in childcare so I could continue to work (once they were old enough) but it was a huge wrench staying at home rather than going to work those first few months while the baby was breastfeeding for me personally.

For DP, he's never been SAHD, but he looks after the kids enough, he's had time away from work before we had kids and rather enjoyed it.

We're both looking forward to retirement and being able to spend so much more time with the kids once they're a bit older.

I really think you might be projecting. I don't think any of this is as simple or as common to women/men as you're making it out to be

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