Mr. Mom, Emeritus.

Dear friends,

sinkfix

I dare you to find a maintenance technician with better legs.

In my world, when a distinguished colleague retires, he or she is awarded the title of “Emeritus” if — in fact — the individual’s service and achievements have been exceptionally meritorious.

It’s an honorary title, bestowed infrequently, to only the best.

So imagine my great pride — and melancholy — in telling you Mr. Mom is becoming an Emeritus Caretaker.

In other words, he’s retiring. From Mr. Mom-hood.

Which, in a weird sort of way, really means he’s going back to work. Outside our home.

The transition, which begins today, is more than bittersweet. I’m happy for him because he’s happy for him. He’s been toiling as our caretaker for nearly a decade and with Parker off to college now, there’s only me to care for.

(Not to make light of this. Everyone knows I require a lot of care. And feeding.)

But the last three years in particular have been difficult for him with the Mountain, and he needs both a distraction and an intellectual challenge that doesn’t involve case law or laundry stains. And there’s no denying that with two kids in college, the extra money will be great.

But neither of us made this decision because of money. We made it because — like the last time we transitioned our roles and lifestyle — our careful consideration led us to a mutual conclusion.

We both agreed if we hate it, he’ll quit. I don’t expect him to hate it. I’m not sure about me.

We live in a small town with a first-rate university, a well-respected medical system, and our fair share of manufacturing and scientific industry. It’s a great place to get a job if you’re highly educated. Not so great if you’re a highly skilled tradesman with no desire to work for yourself anymore. So Mr. Mom will be joining the millions of Americans who commute far outside their community to serve as a maintenance technician with a food manufacturing company located an hour away. He’ll be working second shift with a good deal of overtime, which means our evenings watching re-runs of Gunsmoke while enjoying a cocktail are coming to an end. In fact, it means a lot of his free time is coming to an end.

And I’m no dummy, but I think it means some of my free time is coming to an end, too, as we figure out how to divide up responsibility for things like laundry and housekeeping and grocery shopping and all the things he used to handle solo.

It’s weird when I think back about how personally challenged I was by our transition to the lifestyle I now relish. I wrote about it in this essay and, at the time, I really was confronting an existential crisis. (Giving up control of the laundry was a big deal for me, which I’m not proud to admit.) Now — it’s not that I dread stepping back into the role of housekeeper/errand runner, it’s that I’d be lying if I didn’t admit my life is comfortable and I enjoy having Mr. Mom’s full attention and energy. I’m pretty sure evenings at home alone will be lonely until I adjust.

On the flip side, I’m so proud of my mate. Once we made up our minds, he embarked on a job hunt with great enthusiasm, careful research, and impressive results. After being unemployed for what feels like a lifetime in today’s fast-changing world, he found a good-paying job with solid benefits in less than a month. He impressed his new employer on day one, while touring the plant for an interview, when he made several suggestions to improve production efficiency based on just a few tweaks to the equipment.

So . . . that’s my big news. I don’t know what to think yet. Like everything else we’ve tackled, we’ll play it by ear and adjust as necessary. I have butterflies in my stomach, which after 23 years of marriage ain’t a bad thing.

Oh — but there’s this! What in the WORLD will I call Mr. Mom now that he’s not Mr. Mom?

Maintenance Man? Hunk o’ Husband? Hot Legs? I’m at a loss for worthy pseudonyms and welcome your suggestions.

One thing’s for sure. He’s more than deserving of the title Mr. Mom, Emeritus.

With gratitude {for a life that unfolds just as it needs to, just when it needs to},

Joan, who loves that man of hers more than you can imagine

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Mr. and Mrs. Mom.

Dear Friends,

Image courtesy of Pinterest

I recently pointed you in the direction of a blogger named Glennon Melton of Momastery on my post about funny writers (of which we have well established I am not one).  Glennon has a serious side, too, and her article Friendly Fire was reprinted recently on the Huffington Post. In it, Glennon discusses the ways in which women criticize themselves and each other for their choices related to careers and family life. Her point is that we’re all doing the best we can and, despite our choices, we’re all conflicted about them at any given moment.  Witness:

. . . When you yell about how much peace you have with your decisions, it just doesn’t ring true. The thing is, if you’re yelling, I don’t believe that you’ve got it all figured out. I don’t even believe that you believe you’ve got it all figured out. I think your problem might be that you’re as internally conflicted as the rest of us about your choices. But instead of kicking your own ass, you’ve decided it’d be easier to kick ours.

I’m a working mother who’s worked my butt off and sacrificed more than I care to count over two decades to advance my career and reach executive status. I also am a woman who loves nothing more than to putter around the house, cook and bake, pamper my children and husband, and nest in every way I know how. To say I have been conflicted is to say the sunrise is reliable. But I mostly made my peace with my conflict nearly a decade ago when my husband sold his business and became the stay-at-home Dad I now call Mr. Mom on this blog.

I wrote an essay on our choice (and on our individual demons) that was published in a 2007 anthology of Oklahoma writers. I’ve decided to reprint it here for any new readers who didn’t follow me over from my former blog.

Here’s the point I continue to be struck by, both when I wrote that essay years ago and earlier this week when I read Glennon’s post: Our struggle is a foreign concept to men.  As women, we torment ourselves and others in a way that never occurs to our male counterparts.

When Mr. Mom became a stay-at-home dad, he had his demons to face, all right. Boredom, monotony, lack of adult stimulation, feelings of diminished value due to lack of earning power . . . all of these became personal struggles to confront. But never once did he suffer from what Glennon calls “Mommy Guilt,” that inner voice that criticizes every choice a mother makes — and then projects that guilt, as a coping mechanism no doubt, on every other mother she knows.

When we first made our transition, I used to marvel at how my husband could be so in-the-moment. He did the best he knew how, every day, for our kids and for me, without looking back and without second-guessing. Over time, he got better at juggling the home-keeping side of his job and now I marvel at how he manages to do so much.

Nurturing and loving a family is tough work, folks, and to tackle that while keeping  house is to excel at multi-tasking and to sacrifice your own dreams and desires for a good long time. I am acutely and reverently aware of what Mr. Mom gives up to make our lives easy and comfortable and filled with loving care. Why any human, female or male, would see fit to criticize another for doing this yeoman’s work is beyond me.  And why any soul would criticize themselves or others for choosing to be an earner for their family is also hard to fathom.

I’ve done it, though – beat myself up with the rest of the Mommy Guilt survivors. A few years ago I was bemoaning my failure to spend more time with my children in a lunch conversation with a dear friend. (Read: I was self-flagellating for being a working mom – even as I had a husband who stayed home!) I think I said something like “As a mother, I just don’t know what I’m any good at.”

And my friend put down her fork, looked me square in the eye and said, “I’ll tell you what you are good at, Joan. You are a provider. A damn good one! I know plenty of men who aspire to provide for their family at the level you do. Let go of the guilt and feel good about excelling in your role.”

I cannot repay my friend for her kindness. I took her words to heart and I have mostly released the guilt. It tries to creep in now and again, but I remind myself there’s no point in it.

If the man in my life doesn’t need it, why should I?

With gratitude {for the freedom to choose my path, a partner who signed on for the ride, and the good sense to hear sage advice when it’s offered},

Joan, who honestly digs the whole “happy housewife in an apron” image but is mostly content to wear that persona on weekends