Trying to Hang with the Boys in the Office

men working lateI could care less about the “Mommy Wars.” I do, however, struggle keeping up with the men in my office who have stay-at-home wives.

These men are not smarter or exponentially more awesome and strategic. Sorry guys!

But I can’t help but think they are leaving me in the dust. Why?

They schedule 5 p.m. meetings. They travel without worry. They come into the office on the weekends. They are relentless!

Most have children, so they bear the “parent” title like me, but all signs indicate their significant others are carrying the child-rearing load throughout the day and well into night too.

I suppose this makes sense, but in our household, I honestly feel like it takes the energies of both me and my husband to handle the juggle.

With three kids, we need to shuttle kids to multiple activities on the weeknights. Two of our three kids have daily homework assignments requiring some degree of supervision. And then there are just the basics of getting everyone fed, cleaned up and put to bed.

My husband picks the kids up from their respective schools relatively early since he is a teacher, so I don’t need to rush home for pick-ups. Still, I have a 45-minute commute, so wrapping things up in the office at 6 p.m. or later just won’t work for me. My kids are in bed between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., so we only have so many precious hours to accomplish a lot.

A fellow working mom can relate to the juggle, as can a working dad who also has a spouse holding down a career. But the working dad with the spouse at home full-time? My experience has been they can’t quite relate. Perhaps they feel they need to show even more commitment at work since they are the sole breadwinners for their families, or maybe they simply prefer the office. God knows coming home to kids in the evening can be stressful. Math homework, reading battles and sibling bickering wait!

Still, you would think a working dad would want to get home at a decent hour to spend time with his kids, but I seem to be surrounded by many who seem quite content to work into the wee hours of the night.

These men are willing to make sacrifices I can’t make. In fact, I don’t want to make them.

I’m happy to entertain late meetings occasionally, but sometimes I need to say NO – and when I say NO, I feel like I’m losing ground to these men.

I don’t know if there is a solution. I suppose I can’t compare myself to their situations. Every family operates differently – and my family needs me in the evenings and on the weekends, and I want to be there.

Many companies are making tremendous strides when it comes to flex-work options (mine included), but if dual-working parents are the only people taking advantage, it seems like we continue to lose ground to these individuals who dedicate all to the job. If face time, long hours and late nights remain the gold standard, then I have to relent – I am going to lose ground.

Can you relate? If you are a stay-at-home-mom, does your spouse feel pressure to excel at work? If you are a working mom, have you made similar observations?

Comments

  1. says

    I don’t know if my husband necessarily feels the need to succeed at work as much as he has decided that since I stay home, it is my responsibility to take care of all things domestic. It’s very frustrating. great post!

  2. says

    I can relate to this on every freakin’ level! Both my husband and I hold down full-time, high-intensity jobs. Thankfully, my husband doesn’t have to travel very often anymore, but I still pack up and head out on a regular basis. I hate it when I have to use the ‘mommy card’ because one of my girls is sick or daycare is closed for the weather or… The list goes on and on. I feel like I can never catch up, much less get ahead. My husband and I have a very equal division of labor when it comes to the house and the kids. Like you, I don’t know how one of us could shoulder the burden alone. Even with flexible work environments, it’s still a struggle to get it all done, at the office and at home. I’m so glad you wrote this, Kerry. It’s a conversation that needs to be had!!

    • says

      Thanks Nicole! Our households sound similar – my husband and I both partner and share the household and kid duties. Sometimes we need to manage things solo when work enters the picture with late meetings or travel, but generally we try to work together to shuttle the kids, help with homework and do everything else. I know your kids are a little younger – so the challenges might be different. Still, I’m finding this stage to be particularly challenging. The after-school sports, school projects and homework are exhausting.

  3. says

    This post is insightful. I stay home with our boys. My husband works long hours and has to travel some – in fact, he’s out of town this week. On one hand I look at the hours/travel as one of the sacrifices we have to make to allow me to stay home. He does work more hours than most people in his office, not for overtime since he’s salary, but I think he does it for job security. If the time comes where the company needs to cut, it would be catastrophic for our family to be without any income.

    On the other hand, it’s exhausting for the stay at home parent as well. His company offers some flexibility, which is nice, but the travel is the really challenging part.

    • says

      I would agree Rhonda. If you are trying to manage everything in the evenings solo, it’s exhausting. That’s why I think it takes two – at least I feel that is the case in our house with 3 kids. Of course sometimes we need to carry load individually, but the stress levels and tone of the house is so much better when we can both support the family at night. Thanks for stopping by! ;)

  4. Kristi says

    At my work I’ll occasionally see some men heading to evening meetings, and I’ll lament that I don’t have a “wife.” It IS totally different.
    But I’ve also seen many of the men at my work make it a priority to get home to be with their families. Maybe it’s because we work at a small non-profit, and we’ve already given up on some of the things that come with getting ahead.

    • says

      You’re right Kristi – I have seen men make family a priority and break away from the corporate meeting insanity – so it is possible. And I think corporate culture makes such a big difference. When leadership sets the tone for balance, the staff is more likely to follow. I work for a pretty large company, so I even see differences between departments.

  5. HeyBeckyJ says

    This is actually one of the reasons that I insist on working! Currently, my husband and I both have careers and do a fairly good job of prioritizing our family responsibilities. But I grew up in a house with a SAHM who bore most of the burden of childcare, while my father worked long hours. That’s not the kind of example I want to set for my children and I’m afraid of the shift in responsibilities that might happen should I decide to stay home.
    Still, I think this has more to do with a specific workplace culture than simply a working father with a stay-at-home wife. The same phenomenon occurs when you work with people (young or old, single or married) without children. I work with a lot of young, unmarried people, and my boss’s children are grown. They are fortunate to have the flexibility to work outside of hours that I can (or would want to). But, I think this reflects on the larger issue of people who don’t develop a life outside of work. Because regardless of whether you have children, or a spouse that stays home, for the sake of balance and well-being, everyone needs to disconnect from the rat race and find pursuits outside of work. And in our corporate culture, if your higher-ups aren’t doing this, it is really hard to do this!

    • says

      Great points! There has been so much research lately on how productivity drops after a certain period of time. We need to break away to recharge, get the creative juices flowing and rest. I think it comes down to corporate culture and personality. And you’re right – I have seen dads with SAHM wives break away and set some really healthy boundaries – so it is possible! :)

  6. says

    I’m not a mom but I see this happen a lot in my office. Most of the men have stay at home wives- in fact, it’s rare for them not to. And the women mostly have husbands who also work. It is a tough balance!

  7. says

    Both my husband and I do work full-time and I work a lot of hours, especially during the month of January. In prior years, it has been a struggle to even get the basics done at home during my busy time. This year my husband was laid-off January 3rd for the rest of the winter and I have to admit it has been wonderful having him home. Little things like not having to take our two dogs out one last time before I leave for work has lessened my stress immensely; not to mention having a home-cooked meal ready when I get home, the house cleaned and errands handled. Plus, I’m going to take care of things like my colonoscopy which is difficult to schedule when we are both working. Not having to think about these things has freed up my brain power to focus more at work and get more done.
    So yes, the men at your office do have a clear advantage. They not only have more time to work, their minds are clearer allowing them to focus more on work. Sometimes I think it is a competitive thing with men to put in a lot of face-time. I have a friend whose husband stays home with their kids – he is on permanent disability after an on-the-job injury working as a police officer. She doesn’t work a lot of extra hours because she likes being home to see her kids before they go to bed. Twice she was passed over for a promotion and both times she was told she doesn’t put in enough face time. I think she is missing out on networking opportunities by not working late. So yes you probably will lose some ground, but you have to do what is right for you and your family.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is when both spouses work, the female is treated more negatively than the male when they have to stay home with sick kids. And when the man stays home to help his stay-at-home wife when the entire house is sick he practically is awarded father of the year.

  8. says

    This is a perspective I’ve never thought about, Kerry. I am a SAHM and my husband makes every effort to leave work by 5:30 every day. When the kids were little, he would do work after they went to bed. Now he starts while the kids are doing homework, and is usually working until 11 pm or midnight. He could get it all done by staying in the office until 9 or so, but then we wouldn’t have any family time. However, if he does have a meeting in the evening, he can go without giving it a second thought – because I’m at home.

  9. says

    I can absolutely relate to this. I am an administrative assistant to a VP – he’s also a father to two. His wife recently left her job to stay home with the kiddos and he comes and goes as he pleases. I like to get in early because, like you, I have an hour commute, sometimes more if there’s any whisper of precipitation. The earlier I get in, the earlier I can leave and make it home before the roads get clogged and turn my commute into a two-hour ordeal.

    I’ve found the childless people of my office, not just the men, tend to balk when I leave nine hours after arriving. They all stay late – sometimes until 7 or 8 at night. They go out after work together. I definitely miss out on some of the comradery and even some of the large-scale decisions, like when to host a 500 person event or how much money we can budget for this year’s supplies.

    I’ve found the only way to combat the loss I feel is to remember work-life balance needs to be exemplified. Every organization I’ve worked for has touted this grandiose idea of “supporting” work-life balance, but then the execs are emailing each other all weekend….and texting late at night…..and setting up last-minute meetings on a holiday. It’s sad.

    I consider myself a pioneer for the right way of working – balance. I lived in Germany for almost 4 years and let me tell you, this crap wouldn’t fly over there. They worked eight hours – DONE. They never worked on Sundays. They celebrated a four-day holiday every month and genuinely lived their lives with balance.

    We Americans can absolutely do the same…but it will never happen unless we exemplify it and refuse to put ourselves in unbalanced work situations.

    • says

      I am with you – and the nation of Germany for that matter. There have been a few studies I’ve seen recently that show productivity, creativity and efficiency all decrease after 8 hours. We need to break away to recharge. But you’re so right, unless the execs in our organization live the work-life mantra, it’s not going to work. Thanks for sharing your insights!

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