Many years ago, in the early days of our marriage, Dh and I talked of having kids. We both had jobs - he in the military, I in the private sector. He made only slightly more money than I did, though when you consider his was a 24 hour a day lifestyle, one could easily say he was paid far less for what was required of him. We both felt it was very important to have a parent at home with any children we had, and he was more than happy to be that parent if I wanted to leave the home for a job.
In the end, life had other plans for us, and I was the one to stay home. It was after our second was born that I was on a parenting message board and the topic of SAHMs came up. A woman rather indignantly posted the question of why is it that women were always the ones to sacrifice their lives and careers to stay home with the kids while men got to go out and have "real" lives.
I have to admit, I was stunned.
You see, I'd never viewed my staying at home with our girls to be a sacrifice on my part. I was the one who got to spend time with these wonderful, if sometimes difficult, children. I was the one to be there when they spoke their first words, took their first steps, feed themselves with spoon or cup for the first time, and numerous other firsts. I was the one who got to watch their eyes light up when some new understanding dawned on them. I got to watch them grow and play and develop into the interesting, intelligent and thoroughly enjoyable people they are today. Yes, there were difficult time - very difficult! But I knew full well that in today's world, the life I was leading was not a sacrifice, but a privilege.
If anyone made any sacrifices, it was my husband. He was the one who left for weeks or months at a time, to come home to a child that had grown so much, but no longer quite remembered who he was. He was the one who pushed and wheedled his way into a college course that technically was closed to new admissions so that he could get a job in the IT industry, after months of being rejected for even the lowest of jobs, sometimes because the companies needed to meet their "quotas" of minorities and females, and as a white male, he just wasn't considered (we didn't know at the time that he was Metis). He was the one who took sometimes less than stellar positions and commuting for many miles, so that we could pay the bills and put food on the table, even when it meant moving again and again.
He was the one who missed out on all those firsts on the girls' lives, because he was at sea, or sitting in an office with people he didn't necessarily want to be with, doing something he didn't necessarily want to be doing. It's not that he didn't like his job - he loves working with computers - but that given the choice between going to work and saying home with me and the kids, he'd rather have been at home.
If anyone made any sacrifices, it was my husband, not me. Especially today, when his health is questionable, he continues to work outside the home because he can bring in an income we can live on, while I continue my role as the SAHM as we home school.
In today's world, it's rare to find one parent, of either gender, at home with the kids. With more and more two income families, children are instead going to someone else for the bulk of the day, whether for childcare or schooling. When asked, I've read that anywhere from 63% to over 80% of women would gladly quit their jobs and stay home with their children, if they felt that option were available. In reading that, I found myself wondering if anyone bothered to ask the men, because most men I know would love to do that same! It turns out, I'm not the only one curious about that. Today in the news, I'm reading about a study that found men were just as likely as women to quite their jobs for family reasons. This is no surprise to me!
It saddens me to think that staying home is viewed as a sacrifice - as if it were some sort of terrible thing to be with our children. I've certainly had people try to convince me of that very thing, unable to understand that I actually *like* being home with my kids. I think it's time more thought was given to the ones who are truly making the sacrifice - the husbands (and, increasingly, wives) who leave hearth and home to work a job so that parents like me can have the privilege of being full time parents to our children.
Kudos to the every day heroes that make this possible.