Last summer Mike and I unknowingly scheduled our individual dental cleanings with our family dentist on the same day, one hour apart. At first we thought we had a child care conflict. Then we realized this arrangement would work perfectly. We'd meet at the dentist at 5:00. I'd bring the babies and their dinner and get my teeth cleaned first while he fed them in the lobby. At six I'd take the babies home while Mike got his teeth cleaned, and he'd pick up dinner on his way home. We did that six months later and then again today.
When I chatted with the hygenist at the start of my appointment today, discussing the twins, my summer off, and going back to work for a second time this fall, she made one of my least favorite comments. She said she really struggles with the idea of working once she has kids, but she knows she'll have to. "I'd rather stay at home so I can raise my kids. I don't want someone else to do it," she said.
While I certainly understand her unease, as she clipped the paper bib around my neck, I assured her that even working parents are raising their kids. A child care center, a nanny, or whoever watches your children while you work takes care of them. You raise them. "You'll see," I told her, a phrase that I try to use sparingly and positively as a parent talking to anyone are pre-kids.
When I returned to the lobby where Mike was packing up the kids' dinner gear, Michael and Sophie smiled up at me. I gave their yogurty faces some kisses, and the receptionist told me I was very lucky. I said thank you and that I agree. "He just impressed me so much, feeding both of them like that." Realizing she meant I was lucky to have Mike, I again agreed, saying I have a really great husband and that I couldn't imagine doing this without him.
It was later in the night that I let these two well-intentioned comments really get to me. I wondered why nobody ever asks a man how he can do it, how he can go to work and let somebody else "raise the children"? And why doesn't anyone ever tell Mike how lucky he is to have a wife who feeds the children, sometimes all by herself?
Why? Because it's ridiculous. And I'll leave it at that...for now.
EDITED TO ADD: I shared this post on a message board for working moms where I've gotten a lot of support in the challenge of merging career and motherhood. The comments inspired me to respond there with the following.
As a working mom and a mom of multiples, I hear a lot of stupid comments and am typically pretty good at shrugging them off. I've heard both of these statements before, but since they were said right after each other like that, they just got to me and made me think about what's expected of parents today.
It's sad to me that it's typical for a woman, particularly prior to having children, to perceive working as "not raising her kids." Sadly, it's also pretty common for someone to find dads like my husband literally remarkable for being equal partners in the job of parenting.
I guess we're just in a transition between the expectations that were on the last generation of parents and those that more appropriately fit parents of today and hopefully the future. Unfortunately I think those who feel much of the growing pains are moms of today while dads are held on a pedastal for changing a diaper or two.
I also don't feel my kids are "better off" at child care. Both stay-at-home-moms and working moms are capable of providing great childhoods for their kids, but being one or the other doesn't inherently make her kids better off in my opinion.