Parenting is a job. Let’s not forget that. For some people, like myself, it is a primary job. For other people, like Craig, it is a secondary job. This is our arrangement. This is how we planned it. This is how we designed it. This is how we set it up. This is not to say that Craig, being the secondary parent, is any less valuable than myself, the primary parent. Both job titles are equally important, as there can be no primary without a secondary and there can be no secondary without a primary.
Craig, the secondary parent, goes to work to his primary job each and every day so that he can provide financial stability for our family. He is a Wealth Manager/Financial Advisor/Retirement Planner (there isn’t really one title for what he does.) He is extremely busy and very successful. There is an enormous amount of pressure associated with his job. Not only does he have to ensure the financial stability/growth of his clients, but he also has to continue to accumulate new clients. He and his partner are independent, so they juggle several different companies, often times being forced to spend too much of their valuable time on the phone dealing with silly, internal paperwork errors that their companies have made. Simply put, while his job can be very rewarding, it is can also be very stressful on any given day.
But, it’s his primary job. How could he expect it to be anything less than hectic?
His primary job begins every morning at 8:00am. It’s hard telling when his primary job ends, as it changes on a daily basis. Three days a week we might get to eat dinner with him. He’ll at least tuck the kids in four days a week. But his schedule is up and down, so the kids and I have learned to be flexible. We see it as a good night when Daddy is home, because we get to spend time together as a family. We also make it a good night when Daddy’s not home by cooking simpler meals (like hot dogs, mac n’ cheese, Spaghettio’s, etc.) which makes all 4 of us happy.
When Craig’s primary job is over, he comes home to his secondary job of being Daddy. He knows that the kids have certain expectations of him, and he knows that I, the primary parent, have certain expectations of him. It is a job. It is a working relationship. Because when he gets home, he walks into the middle of my primary job, which I take every bit as seriously as he takes his primary job.
Is he tired? Absolutely. Would he love to sit down and unwind? Of course, and I can’t blame him for it. But, unfortunately for him, he is not afforded that luxury. In order to keep the peace and order of the house, he must unwind in the small amount of time it takes for him to take off his suit, hang it up, use the bathroom, and change his clothes. When he is done with this, he has no choice but to return to us in Daddy-mode.
Since all three of our children are now in school all day/every day, I start the day with my secondary job as Mom-Maid-Wife. I spend my days in a variety of ways. As a Mom, I spend countless hours volunteering at the school. I love to be present to see the kids in their element, without them necessarily knowing that I’m watching. I see the things they are doing great on their own, and I discover the things that we still need to work on. This is invaluable for their social and academic growth. I also am on-call for the emergency moments, like when I have a sick child at home or when I have to run up to the school because someone has forgotten a lunch, or gotten stuck in the mud and needs new clothes, etc.
As a maid, I spend my time doing the laundry, picking up the house, getting groceries, organizing closets, making phone calls, scheduling appointments, etc. It’s the boring stuff, but sometimes it tends to be the key to making it all run smoothly.
As a wife, well…he’s pretty easy on me. Except for occasionally having to pick his pj’s up off the floor, or run a random errand here or there, he doesn’t ask very much of me at all during the day. I am very thankful for this.
Every day at 2:45, my secondary job draws to a close. When I pick the kids up from school at 3 o’clock, my primary job begins. And when it begins, it goes non-stop, 100 miles per hour, in all kinds of different and unexpected directions. The kids, especially my twin, 6 year-old Kindergarten daughters, are always exhausted. And, since they’re female, their emotions are usually all over the place for the first 20 minutes after pick-up. So from the get-go, my patience is tested. Gabe, my 8 year-old son, is pretty even keeled by now which is very much appreciated. However, since he is in second grade, his homework load has increased dramatically. On any given school night, he has 2 home-room assignments, 1 Spanish assignment, and an independent reading requirement. We can usually count on at least one hour of homework for him. Since he is also in piano lessons, he has a nightly piano requirement, too. He is also currently part of a traveling soccer team that practices two nights per week, with up to two games per weekend, and on a flag football team. (In the winter, the commitment will be basketball, and in the spring he will have baseball and hip-hop commitments.)
The girls now each have 20 minutes of homework per night, in addition to piano and swimming lessons. (In the winter they will start volleyball, and in the spring they will play baseball and hip-hop.) This is a huge transition year for them, which always requires patience times 2 because they are twins. We have two girls beginning to read (and being frustrated when they can’t.) We have two girls learning to write (and not wanting to be told how to do it.) We have two girls beginning piano (and not wanting to focus while practicing with them.) We have 2 girls who want to tie their own shoes every morning (even though it still takes them forever to do so, and often times we are on the verge of running late.) We have 2 girls who are still babies with their blankies in one moment, and big girls learning to blow-dry their own hair in the very next.
The speed of our lives after school is overwhelming. I deal with silly, internal problems of my own with the kids. Maybe Sydney doesn’t want to do her homework, or Taylor doesn’t want any help with her homework even though she has no clue what she’s doing, or Gabe has a project due that requires my full attention even though I have to oversee the girls at the same time. We have to sprint from lesson to practice, which requires getting all three of them to cooperate at the same time in order to get ready to leave somewhere with the adequate equipment packed and the correct clothing, shoes, coats, etc. on. Somehow we have to fit in a healthy dinner, even though they are starving when they come home from school and all they want to do is snack. All 3 must shower, have their hair dried, teeth brushed and outfits for the next day picked out before they go to bed. It’s a lot, anyway you look at it.
But, it’s my primary job. How can I expect it to be anything less than hectic?
Having said all that, yesterday Craig and I got into an argument. He (the man) said something stupid without thinking, and I (the woman) got defensive and over-reacted.
He said, “Aren’t your days more peaceful now that you don’t have the kids bugging you all day?”
I said, “Yeah, they are.”
He said, “Then how come it seems like you’re still uptight when I get home at night?”
We were both sprinting out the door, as I was already working my secondary job of Mom and had to pick up Taylor from school to take her to her eye doctor appointment. And he couldn’t be late for his first primary job appointment of the day. So, I suggested that maybe we not finish the conversation at the given moment, because it was going to take longer than either one of us wanted. In other words, I told him I was too mad to talk to him and I would call him after I cooled down.
So when I called him, I asked, “What is your day like around 11:00am on a daily basis?”
He said, “It’s usually completely crazy by then.”
I said, “Is it a ‘let’s skip-and-be-merry’ kind of crazy, or a ‘I wanna pull my hair out’ kind of crazy?
He said, “If I’m at the office, I for sure want to pull my hair out. If I’m out on appointments, then it’s hit or miss.”
I asked, “Would it be safe to say that 11:00am is usually 3 hours into your work day?”
He said, “Yeah…”
I asked, “And, if I walked into your office at 11 when you were in the middle of planning, directing, and putting out fires, do you think it would be fair of me to expect you to drop what you were doing, forget about your problems, and shoot the shit?”
He said, “No.”
I asked, “How would that make you feel?”
He said, “Annoyed and frustrated.”
I said, “I go to work at 3 o’clock everyday. When you roll in at 6/6:30, best case scenario, that is 3 hours into my workday. I have already been planning, directing, and putting out fires for 3 straight hours. So, I apologize if I don’t drop everything or feel like shooting the shit.”
He got really quiet.
I finished, “When you come home at night, you are walking in to my office at 11:00am.”
He got it. He said it was a good talk. He said he’d never thought about it that way before. And I made the mistake of assuming he had.
So for all of you secondary parents out there, we (the primary parents) don’t mean to be uptight. We are not trying to be impatient with you. We are actually very appreciative of you, even if we don’t always say it.
We are simply trying to get our jobs done the best way we know how. In a perfect world, we would have an endless supply of patience. But it’s not a perfect world, whether you work first or second shift, or whether you are a primary or a secondary.