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This drawing has absolutely nothing to do with anything.

A friend of mine forwarded me an article from the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Mom’s Time Is Different From Dad’s Time, Surveys find that men and women work roughly the same number of hours a week—yet they experience their time very differently” (You might want to read it before reading my response) She then asked:

I was wondering about your thoughts on this having recently become the “primary” caregiver. I often feel like dads who are the primary caregiver are not so well represented in this discussion. Does this ring true for you? Was this part of what resulted in you and Christine clearly defining your roles?

My response was long, and in re-posting it here, I’ve edited/added a bit for clarity:

I’ve seen this article floating around but hadn’t read it until now. It’s confusing because the title of the piece doesn’t seem to have anything to do with how genders perceive time. A more honest headline would be “Parents in different roles don’t necessarily understand what tasks their partners value” but you know, that’s less provocative.

I would say for sure that I identify more with the mothers here than the dads. I am also much more of a worrier/hoverer than Christine and for sure, even before kids, I would say we used our time differently. I think we came to this decision (me being full-time SAHD) because I am pretty terrible at multitasking, so if there is “work work” to be done that falls outside the scope of domestic duties, that would always be pushed aside if there were domestic things that were pressing. We kept thinking we could both solidly contribute financially, but I can’t work on professional things in the tiny margins of my day, I need blocks of time that are incredibly hard to carve out without other sacrifices we don’t want to make.

Meanwhile, the workaholic uber-productive person was being drained by trying to be available for parenting things that she really doesn’t have the bandwidth for, with everything else she has on her plate. Her work suffered, she wasn’t spending time with the kids in a “quality” way, she was angry with me for letting work slide, I was ditching the kids to try to cram 5-10 minutes of work done (impossible for me) and my stress at trying to earn and caretake made me mad at everyone.

Once we decided “You focus on X and provide me with the ability to do Y” the stress just lifted. I don’t feel like her time spent (working on projects that earn us money) is unfair to me, or that if she helped out around the house it would somehow make me feel relaxed. I do love and appreciate it when it happens, but because I’m prone to being anxious in general, I just don’t have a tremendous problem living in that space.

Treating my ADHD and having everyone be happy and peaceful goes a longer way towards getting me in a relaxed place than anything else I have tried so far.

I say I don’t worry about fairness now, but give it a few years, maybe I will feel differently. I largely try to view this particular role as stay-at-home-parent as a thankless one, which is a way of insulating myself from feeling somehow unappreciated, but I extend that lack of appreciation to everyone else and my kids. I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect Christine to appreciate everything that I do at all times and let me know that as often as she is able, but my neediness in that regard has always been there, long before we became parents.

As to whether or not men are under-represented, I am sure we are, but I do see that starting to change. It will take a while, but it will happen. It needs to, considering this article feels like it has very little to do with gender relations and much more to do with primary caregiver/primary earner relations.