Department Of Blame It On Carolyn
Carolyn Hax, that is, my all-time favorite advice columnist.  I read her column every morning; a query in her January 7 column took me back to an issue of great interest to moiself …although, it was one of her reader’s responses to the column, rather than the column itself, which is responsible for this tangent.
The CH letter writer sought advice for this dilemma: her fiancé wants a big family, as in, six kids (he’d “settle” for four). But she wants two…maybe…at most. Is it possible to compromise on kids?
After giving her advice to the LW, CH posted a few responses from her readers to the LW. Here was the one that caught my attention:
Re: Kids: …have big talks about how said family will work. Does he expect to be a true 50/50 partner, as in baths/feeding/rule-making/following up with teachers/bringing to doctor appointments/helping with homework? Or does he just think a big family will be “fun,” not thinking of logistics?
We know from studies that women still, unfortunately, take on the bulk of emotional and household labor for families. I know plenty of men personally who want more kids but do far less than 50 percent. Of course they want more! They get the fun parts!
Ah, yes. Partnership; family logistics; division of labor.
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away  moiself began taking notes on the Stay-Home Parent debate. Because, apparently (sorry) there was one, and someone was making comments and/or assumption about child-rearing and household-running which I found…debatable.
Moiself does not remember in detail the instigating incidents; I *do* very well remember commiserating about the incidents with a woman who was also a SHP/trying to work from home. I took copious notes about our conversations and then tried to organize them into an essay/advice document for the next time some poor fool hopeful naïf solicited my opinion on the matter. I searched my computer files and found the document.  Lucky y’all – grab a tranquilizer of choice, here it is. 
So, you want to be, or it has been decided that you will be, the SHP – “stay-home parent?” Good luck with that.
There is a tendency to refer to this as a “privilege”….
…. when, in fact, it is a sacrifice.
In the following rant reasonable and thoughtful essay, I will use female as the default for the stay-home parent’s gender, as (sadly) it is still, overwhelmingly, the mother who assumes the pre- and post-weaning tasks of child and household care.
However, I must note that the stay-home dads I have either known personally or whose concerns I’ve read about (books, magazine articles, letters to editors…) list the *very same-exact-identical-equivalent* concerns and complaints. Gender has little to do with it; the sacrifices made and frustrations encountered by the SHP are part of the SHP “job description” – that which a parent of any gender will encounter when taking on the non-paying responsibilities of stay-home parent.
BTW, the issue of non-payment is a crucial one. Wake up and smell the Starbucks:  the person who earns the “real” money wields the ultimate power (whether functional, or veto) in the household.
Speaking of $$, the WAFHP (works-away-from-home-parent) may claim that because his entire paycheck goes into the family budget, everything of “his” is being shared. Thus, he may say he envies his SHP the “privilege” of staying home…
(1) even if he never volunteered for the job;
(2) even if both parents desired at least one stay-home parent and there was no other viable financial option for the family;
(3) even if he’s been heard to whine, “Gee, I’d love to stay home and take it easy.“
Except that if he does (3) he’s lying, to her and/or himself. He doesn’t envy her; not sincerely. Most men never *seriously* consider ditching their wage-earner credibility to assume the endless responsibilities and low social and economic status of homemaker.
This kind of a husband may begrudge any additional monies his wife may make from a home business or “projects” produced from the home, which she may keep “for herself” (the Olden Days ® term was egg money; e.g., the monies farm women earned from selling eggs, butter, etc., which they kept out of the general budget and hid away for household emergencies). He may think that since he contributes all of “his” money, his wife must give all of hers.
But, as Washington Post columnist Carolyn Hax so astutely noted to one such husband who’d written to her (to carp about the money his wife kept from her “projects”):
Can you see that thing that’s right in your face? That’s called the surface. Look past it, and you’ll see that you are* not* sharing so much more than money. So much more includes
-workforce connections and networking
-up-to-date technological skills
-income toward Social Security
-credits toward a pension
-and whatever else he’s accruing that I’m leaving out, equally or otherwise.
That and more is “his” “money.” The wife, in return for taking on an essential yet unpaid “career,”
-loses her place in her workplace hierarchy
-watches her skills erode or fall out of date or both
-lowers her Social Security income
-cuts her ties to benefits
-and, if and when she is able to return to the paying workforce, faces competition from candidates who didn’t take several years off, as well as the documented “mommy” prejudice and penalty (there has been no equivalent, documented “daddy penalty”)
Yes, perhaps she gets more opportunities to “bond” with the kids. But what if you leave her, or die?
And I didn’t get into self-worth, or that her “projects” could be construed as a second job. In practical terms alone, her pocketing a few bucks is a small hedge against total dependence on you, and no substitute for the workplace credibility you’ve stockpiled while she’s been home.
In addition to the above sacrifices that CH noted, there is the matter of the SHP job itself, and its Dirty Not-So-Little Secrets ®:
* Caring for children and running a household, tasks which are unremitting and indispensable to family and society, are considered to be low-skilled labor.
* Managing a household, however essential to familial and societal stability, is repetitive work, and involves a number of self-defeating tasks. As in, almost everything you do will need to be done again, and sometimes almost immediately. Imagine a ditch digger who returned to work every morning to find that the ditch he had dug the previous day had been filled in.
* SHP is a “career” with a limited lifespan, and no possibility for advancement.
Perhaps the dirtiest (open) secret of all: Children – yep, even your little darling sweetum oookie scnookums fruit-of-your-loins – are not fascinating and enjoyable at all times. They have moments of sweetness, and watching/helping them meet their developmental milestones can bring its own special joy. But telling the following truth in no way diminishes the love you have for your children:
Children are not adults.
No; really. Meditate upon these four words, the understanding of which is key to the emotional stability of (and the resulting cabin fever often experienced by) SHPs.
Children are not adults.
Their brains are developing; their interests and intellects and reference points are shallow, and (of course) childish and self-involved. Thus, they are not reliably appealing, or intellectually and emotionally stimulating and fulfilling, companionship for adults. The WAFHP parent will have at least some semblance of adult relationships and conversation at his workplace. The SHP will not, and will need to seek it elsewhere…yet another item on her to-do list.
This is the core of the dirty, not-so-secret secret: unless you are a Fascinating Womanhood ® devotee or possessed of an IQ smaller than your bra size, taking care of children is tiresome. It doesn’t matter that you love them – supervising and entertaining a young child for hours is mind-numbing as well as exhausting.
Now, most fathers find young children boring (another dirty secret, but one that some men will openly admit to). Husbands will often get more involved in (what just barely qualifies as) childcare when the kids become more “fun” to be around; i.e., taking the kids to their scout meetings and soccer practices. But few fathers voluntarily do the day-to-day, routine maintenance care, or offer to be the stay-home parent (even if their wife’s job is the one which brings in more money, and thus the logical financial solution for the couple, if they desire at at-home parent in the family, would be to have the husband stay home). Monotonous work with little or no monetary reward or social status – men avoid it, if possible. How many men do you know who are nannies or day care workers?
Also, there’s the complaining issue (read: telling the truth). Much of parenthood, especially being the primary care parent, is repetitive (which is why this bears repeating) and tedious, as is managing a household. Sure, you say, but lots of things are tedious. Mowing lawns for a living can be tedious. But if a lawnmower landscape maintenance technician admits that he finds his job unfulfilling, he’s simply telling the truth. Women who speak the truth about the boredom, frustration, and ultimate lack of job security in being the primary child/household care parent are often labeled as whiners who are unappreciative of their “privilege,” or, if they have the misfortune to come from a religious background, they can be diagnosed as dangers to The Divinely Mandated Family Structure®, or neurotics incapable of appreciating their “true” or “biologically based” calling and/or natures.
Okay. The task at hand: job description for a SHP. I am leaving out so, so much – and many tasks could be filed under several or separate categories, and I just had to stop at one, remembering, oh yeah, and there’s this, and then this…
Keep in mind that “manage” listed as a task is an all-purpose, all-encompassing term. It may refer to doing a particular task yourself, as well as involving, organizing and/or supervising family members in the task.
Let’s start with this one and get it out of the way: the term “Stay-home” mom (or parent) is a joke. You will be ferrying everyone, and everything. The last minute, emergency/unexpected trips will seem to consume as much time (and more emotional energy) as the planned errands.
Family events management
– manage family calendar, including scheduling/keeping track of
– social and school events;
– holidays, regular and school;
– conferences and appointments; following up with teachers;
– regular and one-time events, including visits from friends/family;
It is impossible to overestimate the amount of time this responsibility involves. It is daily, and unlike many other tasks, cannot be deferred. Unless it involves a really, really, stinky item (never underestimate the reek potential of any cloth you used to wipe up spilled milk or cat barf, no matter how thoroughly you rinsed it out), you can put off laundry until tomorrow, or the day and sometimes even the week after. But everyone needs to eat three times a day – or more, for infants.
– meal planning:
– consulting family calendar for dinner planning purposes, noting special days, events, exceptions;
– grocery list preparation and maintenance;
– staple items
– infrequent or one-items for particular meals, or that can only be purchased at certain times/seasons or at particular venues
– items for school lunch preparation
– grocery shopping:
-maintain knowledge of what stores carry what ingredients, best pricing for bulk, organic, staples, and any special items;
-maintain awareness of family staples specials, so as to be able to stock up when good prices appear
– meal preparation:
– includes acquisition, maintenance, and upkeep of cooking utensils, cookware and appliances;
– additional/unplanned/last minute trips to the store, when family members have used up crucial items and have neglected to add those items to the grocery list (this will be a constant thorn in your side);
– when you discover someone has consumed ingredients critical to the meal you are about to prepare;
– when you discover ingredients crucial to the meal you are about to prepare are spoiled or have otherwise gone bad;
– when guests are invited/just appear at the last minute
– clean/maintain school lunch bags and supplies/manage school lunch schedule
– mortgages & utilities;
– maintain (or memorize) schedule of what gets paid when;
– make special payment arrangements for vacations and misc. off/away times;
– keep track of and pay infrequent/interval bills, such as property tax and insurance premiums;
– check online accounts daily to check balances (and guard against ID theft possibility);
– transfer funds between accounts as/when necessary;
– balance checking/savings statements;
– balance credit statements, pay when due, and note payment schedule on calendars;
– manage on-hand cash supply, from which:
– regular or seasonal or one time cleaning services are paid;
– allowances are paid;
carpool drivers are reimbursed for mileage/gas;
– children’s activities (e.g. snack or movies with friends, bus or other public transportation costs) are paid/reimbursed
– arrange/manage cleaning services (from housecleaning to window-washing, regular or sporadic);
– arrange/manage family cleaning when regular cleaning service is on vacation, or cancels, or you must cancel due to upcoming vacation, schedule change or illness;
– perform said cleaning when family does not help/is not available;
– arrange/manage special items cleaning (e.g. furniture, drapes);
– gather and do regular laundry items on an as-needed basis (3-4 days/week);
– gather and do special laundry;
-bedding and linens on a regular/weekly basis;
-clothing/household articles that need periodic cleaning (e.g. cleaning towels, sleeping bags, blankets/comforters and other awkward sized bedding);
– arrange/manage other household care services (e.g. lawn care);
– arrange/manage perform periodic household cleaning:
– shampoo/steam clean carpets;
– clean wood and tile floors;
– furniture dust/vacuum
– doors and windows
– maintain supply of essential non-food items:
– toilet paper, paper towels, and other tissues;
– household personal (soap, shampoo, lotions, deodorants, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss);
– first aid supplies
– cleaning supplies
– emergency kit: (water, cash, other ER supplies)
– maintain supply of food and litter;
– manage feeding and other care chores;
– scoop litter as needed during day;
– change water ” ” “;
– manage cleaning of food and water bowls;
– schedule and take to regular vet appointments;
– schedule and take to emergency vet appts.;
– arrange for care during out of town/vacation days
Misc. child care
– regular transportation (providing and arranging for transportation);
– to and from regular school;
– for special school events;
– medical, dental and orthodontic appointments;
– lessons and other post school activities;
– kids’ friends “play dates,” etc.;
– on call transportation: pick up children from school and/or friend’s houses due to
– braces repaired or other orthodontic or medical mishap;
– lost/forgotten homework and/or lunches;
– wardrobe malfunctions;
– school emergency closures (e.g. sewage spills);
– last minute cancellations from other member(s) of carpool or previously arranged transportation
– provide on weekly basis, keep track of amounts;
– reminders to budget for charity;
– provide opportunities for charitable donation, which almost always includes transportation to said opportunities
– keep track of sizes (clothing, shoe and underwear, jackets and other outerwear);
– shop for all items when needed;
– specialty items (needed for sports, school camps, outings/events)
– schedule regular Medical and health-related appointments, including
– dermatologists and other specialists when needed
– schedule/transport to unanticipated/emergency Medical appointments;
– provide care when child home from school with illness or injury;
– misc. other appointments (e.g. haircuts);
– manage and maintain supply of medications, prescriptions (e.g. fluoride and allergy meds) and OTC vitamins;
– confirm the above gets taken as needed;
– maintain school schedule, including conferences, holidays, vacations;
– acquire/replace and maintain school supplies
– social life. This is way too complicated, but includes
– managing social calendars;
– managing birthday preparation for child, as well as birthday party of friends preparation (reminding/shopping for gifts);
– keep track of special needs of friends (e.g. food/pet allergies) when planning meals, play dates, etc.
General house management
– being the manager of all of this, which means that even as the children and spouse are able and willing to “help,” the extra job of being the one who keeps track of what needs to be done when, to teach and supervise (when necessary) said tasks. 
Reading it over…yikes.
Can you magine what you’d have to pay someone (else) to do all this? 
* * *
Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week 
One of my favorite fantasies is that next Sunday not one single woman, in any country of the world, will go to church. If women simply stop giving our time and energy to the institutions that oppress, they could cease to be.
( Sonia Johnson  )
* * *
May you ensure that, when it comes to home and family, you also get “the fun parts”;
May you reconsider your participation in institutions that oppress;
May you be cognizant of the “mental labor” you leave for others;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 And a damn good writer, as well.
 Actually, a little over ten years ago.
 In which Carolyn Hax makes another cameo appearance.
 The original document did not have the graphics present in this blog post.
 How can you not? There’s one on every corner.
 This is what psychologist Joshua Ziesel refers to as the “mental labor” of running a household. His essay, dealing with the iniquities of household labor where both spouses are employed, is a must read: “I wanted to be a better husband. So I planned my kid’s birthday party. As a psychologist, I knew men did less “mental labor,” but I didn’t see my own shortcomings.” The Washington Post, 6-18-21 )
 Actually, you don’t need to use your imagination. Economists and other labor scientists have studied this for years, and estimates range from $96k in 2012 dollars to 178K on 2019 as median salaries to have a person or persons be on 24 hr call – as are homemakers – to perform the services of a tutor, negotiator, nurse, chauffer, party planner, chef, nanny, housecleaner….
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, www.ffrf.org
 Author, activist, and feminist, excommunicated by the Mormon church for supporting the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.