I have often wondered what our household would be like if my husband were Mr. Mom.
We’ve gotten a few glimpses of this Bizarro World this year, and to my chagrin, I have to admit that many of the changes would be positive. In fact, it took me several months to figure out any downsides.
One thing is clear, that the differences would be extreme. On the leadership spectrum, I’m closer to Albus Dumbledore, encouraging self-discovery and creativity. I’m always around to give a child a shoulder to cry on or a pat on the back. Michael is closer to George S. Patton offering regimented leadership, high standards and a kick in the rear.
Michael respects discipline, order and, most of all, efficiency. Under his leadership, the house would operate more like Fort Bragg and much less like the than the Montessori environment I’m currently running.
Our rooms would be uncluttered, and dishes would be put away immediately instead of becoming the teetering mountains of pots and pans I leave for days on the drying rack.
Toys would be only in the basement. The dirty laundry pile would never get out of hand, and every load would have fabric softener. (I always seem to forget that step.) Beds would be made, bathrooms would be tidy and even the dog would smell better.
The children would go to bed on time, rise on time and eat dinner at exactly the same time every night. They would bathe themselves in an orderly fashion and towels would always be hung.
Meal time would be very different. I’m a big believer in variety, and I love to get the kids to try new things. Michael would rely on a standard rotation of five or six healthy meals — mostly pasta, rice and chicken with fresh fruits and vegetables. He also hates waste so many meals would be leftovers.
At playtime, I like to bring a chair and a book into the backyard while the kids play. Michael brings sneakers, balls and is constantly inventing new forms of crazy competition. The other day, he was beaming all three of the kids in some kind of violent dodgeball that all of them seemed to love.
A Michael-run house would be efficient, tidy, healthy and fun if you wanted to play Daddy’s games, but I think the family would lose the creativity, excitement and sense of wonder and joy that I think we have with me home all day.
The markers and paints that the kids and I enjoy so much would be outlawed under a Michael regime. Play-Doh would be a No-Doh, and our sandbox would have never been filled. He’s not a big fan of kids experimenting in the kitchen, and a kid slopping through the mud can send him into a rage.
Michael wouldn’t expand the kids’ horizons and make them try new things. And, he wouldn’t be understanding when they were just kind of sad. Sentimentality is not his strong suit.
There would be no special birthday cakes iced and stacked to look like a giant Lego tower or an extra Elmo cake made a week after the baby’s birthday just because she kept saying: “Elmo cake all gone!” In fact, birthday parties, which I take pride in making unique, would likely be outsourced to the bowling alleys, pizza places or whatever company could do it efficiently.
While Michael would get the kids to school of religion or extra-curricular activities, he would make no effort to get to know any of the other parents or teachers. He would not be room-dad, nor would he chaperone the second-grade overnight zoo trip. And, those teachers, bus drivers and coaches would never get a present or a thank you card.
There also would be considerably more yelling in the house – more yelling to pick up their stuff, more yelling to do their homework, and more yelling to eat their dinners.
Holidays would also be less fun. Michael would do basic decorations inside, but no wreaths on windows, lights above doors or bows on the fence. He might fill Christmas stockings but Easter baskets would never be seen again. He particularly hates dyeing eggs and that plastic Easter grass that inevitably spreads all around the house.
The good news is the kids don’t have live in just one world or the other.
The kids can have their creative, messy time with me in the afternoons before Daddy gets home. I can make their holidays, birthdays and their childhood full of special memories. And Dad can help us be neat, orderly and organized. As a team, our strengths come together to make a pretty happy home for our family.
How would your house be different if Dad stayed at home? Could Dad handle all of the childcare and housework? Would he be neater or messier? Would he engage with other families or keep to himself?
(As more and more men are laid off around the country, some are choosing to stay at home. Features writer Helena Oliviero will be writing about this trend and how stay-at-home dads are affecting family life. Be sure to check it out next Sunday!)