My wonderful wife returns to her nearly full-time employment today, which is good for the family finances. (Having babies is not cheap.) It does put me into a position I find interesting, however. Since Ms. 8 was born, the Mrs. has done the bulk of the child-care. Since she got maternity leave to do so early on, and I did not get paternity leave, it made quite a bit of sense, and since my job pays me more than hers does her, it made sense that my work would be the work to continue in full force while hers was put off to the side somewhat. And for the past couple of months, we have arranged our work schedules such that I have been home when she is at work and she when I have been--which meant she was home with Ms. 8 most of the time.
Now, though, things are different. I am not working, as I have noted, although I am not out of work (my job resumes in the fall, and my paychecks are spread out across the year because I filled out the paperwork to get them to be so). My wife is working close to full time (she gets 38 hours a week, I think, just shy of full-time status as I recall), and I continue to be home to care for Ms. 8 when the Mrs. is working. I am, in effect, a stay-at-home dad for the summer, which is unusual for me (although not unwelcome). Given my upbringing and the systemic biases of the mainstream society of the United States, I had not before expected that I would be in the role of homemaker while my wife is out working (and even now, I pull in more money monthly than she does, rightly or wrongly). Yet here I am, with Ms. 8 in her cradle nearby, and the Mrs. off at work until early evening, and I have dishes and laundry to do, among others.
I view the situation as one from which to learn and grow. It is an opportunity to practice some of the skills that I have (I do generally keep a clean house, and my cooking is getting better), and I value that. It is also an opportunity to bond a bit more with Ms. 8, something in which I am invested; I love my daughter, and it is nice to be able to spend time with her. She smiles sweetly and often, and it is good to see her do so. And the situation offers me some limited insight into gendered standards that still undergird much public perception--limited because I know that the situation is temporary, that I will be returning to work outside the home in the fall, and so I do not have the specter of "being stuck" that many women have faced and still face in the United States and dare not bemoan ("You feel trapped by your kids? What kind of person are you?"). So I do not equate my experience with those of others--but I think I may be able to make a marginally useful simile, at least.