On March 16th, 2020, my husband packed up his desk at work, came home, and replicated it in our family room “for two weeks.” Fast forward 15 months later, and he’s on a conference call down in our family room as I type this. He never went back to the office. He likely won’t return until the end of the summer. He’s been a work-from-home, stay-at-home dad all day, every single day, for over a year of our lives, and both of our daughters have thrived by having both of their parents home with them 24/7.
Now, that doesn’t mean we haven’t gotten on each other’s nerves plenty of times. We’re not the Brady Bunch; we’ve had plenty of “Oh my God, if I don’t get out of here I’m going to scream” moments because of course we have.
Despite those…hiccups, I’ve witnessed the relationship between my husband and our daughters deepen and blossom in ways that didn’t exist before he was home with us every day.
I’ve been a work-from-home, stay-at-home mom since my oldest daughter, who is now five, celebrated her first birthday. I’m used to doing it all by myself until 5 p.m. every day. All the spills, butt-wiping, endless snacks, changing of clothes, soothing tears, kissing boo-boos, toy clean-ups were all me, five days a week until my husband came home. While working myself. My oldest was so used to this dynamic that I was the “default parent.” It didn’t matter that her dad has always been empathetic, patient, loving, and fun—she always wanted me. (At the beginning of the pandemic, my youngest daughter was five months old. She always wanted me too, but mostly because I was the one with boobs.)
And then over the course of the past year or so, I felt a tectonic shift in our family dynamic. I didn’t have to do it all by myself anymore; someone else was here to grab the band-aids and stir the mac-and-cheese and handle the blowout diapers and find the missing Barbie shoes. Not only did my kids respond like little magnets to their dad’s presence, but I felt a dramatic decrease in my own daily anxiety.
It turns out having someone to share every minute of parenthood soothed my anxiety better than years of therapy sessions and fine-tuning my coping skills ever could have. Who knew? (Everyone. Everyone who has kids knows this.) Motherhood burnout is real when you’re the default parent—for no other reason than society has curated motherhood to be that way, but that’s an essay for another day.
Both of our girls wake up and get to hang out with their dad while he sips his morning coffee every day instead of rushing out the door while the house is still dark. If I’m being honest, I really like hanging out with my husband in the morning, too. They love going downstairs and playing with all of their toys while he’s at his desk. We get to go on family walks during our lunch breaks. If I have a meeting or a doctor’s appointment, I don’t have to move mountains to get someone to watch my kids or find something to entertain them without destroying the house.
The pandemic has robbed so many of so much. Our little family has been incredibly lucky so far, though we didn’t come out of it unscathed, either. But this past year has given my husband the gift of being able to be present for all the moments, big and small, of our daughters’ lives. It’s given him a deeper understanding of what I do and how I do it every day. It’s given me the ability to step back a bit and breathe.
With Father’s Day on everyone’s mind, my greatest hope is that employers everywhere realize the innumerable benefits that stem from allowing employees to work remotely, especially those with families. It’s not for everyone, I know. But it’s definitely for us—just ask my kids and their dad.