Some people tell me I’m Super Mom. I have two year-old twins, a four year old, and a full time job as a physician. I exercise three times a week, take improv classes at night, and play with my kids every evening and weekend until I feed them a nutritious dinner and tuck them in to bed every night. My house is clean (enough) and my yard is mowed. But the truth is, I’m not Super Mom. I’m just married to a stay-at-home dad.
When I was pregnant with our first son as an Internal Medicine resident, my husband and I were acutely ignorant of all it was going to take to raise a child, let alone arrange child care. I figured at some point I would call up my hospital daycare, sign him up, and easily afford the monthly cost. When we finally paused to look around at our friends having kids, we realized how painfully wrong we were.
We watched them scramble for any daycare spot they could find, ending up with an inconvenient location with terrible hours and cost higher than rent. We saw the daily struggle of getting two adults and a baby out the door every morning and arranging who would leave a work obligation early that day to pick up the baby before daycare closed. We started to wonder how in the world we would make this all work. The anxiety of it threatened to overcome the excitement and joy we felt about welcoming our first child into the world.
At the same time, my husband excelled in his meaningful (though low-paying) job teaching art to special-needs adults and was promoted to manager. While this job paid more, he realized it suddenly had much less meaning and many more headaches.
At one point, he looked at me at said, “I want a job that’s really important to someone. I think I want to be a Dad!” Cue my heart melting.
As our due date approached, it became clear that my husband staying home would be the best option. We wouldn’t be able to save much money during my year as a chief resident, but after a few moonlighting shifts while pregnant, it would be financially possible for us to live on one salary.
We welcomed our son into the world, and I spent maternity leave with my husband right by my side the whole time. On the day I returned to work, I nursed my son, handed him over to Dad, and walked out the door knowing he was being cared for by one of the two people who loved him most in the world. I could call for updates whenever I missed them, stay a little late or come home a little early, and zoom out the door in the morning with baby still in a wet diaper and pajamas. My husband got to watch our son grow and learn every day and spend time on his own hobbies while the baby napped. If someone needed to be home between 8 and 2 for the cable guy, it was no problem. Our son barely even had a cold his whole first year of life, and I never needed to cancel clinic or meetings for childcare problems.
This is not to say there weren’t bumps in the road. Being home alone with an infant is no joke. My husband struggled through dropper feeding when Harrison went on nursing strike on my return to work, and fought to maintain the breastfeeding relationship I loved so dearly. Some days, dishes and laundry piled up as 100% of his attention was needed for the baby and we ate popcorn and ice cream for dinner (for the record, this bothered me not at all). The isolation of caring for an infant at home in a Connecticut winter was real.
This is not to mention the confusion his role apparently brought the rest of society. “So he works from home, what does he do?” “I see who really wears the pants in this family!” “So, he’ll be going back to work soon, right?” I doubt most stay-at-home moms encounter such bewilderment about how they spent their days.
When we moved for my first job as an attending, we talked about if my husband would return to the work force. Our son was thriving and would be nearing the age for preschool soon. I worried about the loss of flexibility and chaos that two jobs would be, but I knew it was time to support his choices.
Of course, surprise identical twin boys put a wrench in that plan before the year was over. Twin infants were a whole new ballgame, and having a partner by my side for maternity leave and return to work was lifesaving.
Our twins are now two, and my husband is still home with them every day. My older son is in full time pre-school, and I continue my full time work. Days are crazy, nights are crazier, but having a loving, capable parent at home gives us stability and flexibility. My life would not be possible without him. We have a saying in our house: Our life is not perfect; it’s better than that.
Megan Lemay, MD is a practicing Internist at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA where she lives with her three kids and stay-at-home husband. She is learning to tweet @MeganLemayMD.