Okay, people. Before you zip down to the comment section and rip me a new one for the title of this post, please note the quotation marks I used. You know why I used them? Because those aren’t my words. They’re the words of a “community columnist” from my local paper named David H. Howell.
Howell is presumably a smart man. At least that’s what I would gather given that he’s taught philosophy at Pellissippi State Community College since 1988. Howell is also presumably an in-touch man. At least that’s what I would gather given that he was a stay-at-home dad for two and a half years.
All that said, his “community column” read like a smugly written open letter to anyone who has ever complained about how difficult it is to be a full-time parent — its primary message as unmistakable as it is direct: “Oh, please. Get over yourselves, people.”
And such a message strikes me as neither smart nor in touch.
Howell’s title says it all: “Parenthood in Modern Times Really Isn’t Work.” As the father of four kids (with one on the way), I simply don’t agree. I just got back from a ten-day vacation with my kiddos and I can tell you this much for sure: the amount of work that Caroline and I did just to pull it all off was staggering.
However, Howell’s subtitle is this: “Children Shouldn’t Be Considered ‘Chores.’ ” And that, my friends, is a sentiment that I can get on board with 100%.
So which did he mean? After reading his column not once, but twice, I’d say the former. Howell seems to think that being an at-home parent isn’t a lot of work. At least not these days. Laundry? Back in the day when you had to go outside and hang it on the line? Tough stuff. Nowadays, he points out, all you have to do is “put it in a machine, press a couple of buttons, and then a while later fold it while watching TV. That [isn't] work. And so it [is] with most of the other duties.”
Hmm. Beginning to sound like someone ate a big heaping bowl of Superiority Flakes this morning, no?
Howell even goes so far as to brag about his refusal, as the at-home parent, to avoid the temptation of buying pre-made pie crusts, opting instead to bake his pies from scratch. Now, I could no more make a pie than I could make an NBA team (though I am money in transition). But I can tell you this: it’s so crazy around our house that we don’t even have time to bake a pie. Regardless of which way we’d decide to go on the crust.
Our biggest challenge these days is keeping our sanity. Contrast that with Howell’s biggest challenge — learning “how to not go out of my skull with boredom, since my new position (being a stay-at-home dad) involved practically no work at all,” and, well, his version of parenthood and ours sound like two entirely different experiences to me.
And they are.
Howell only has one child, and one would have to assume a pretty “easy” child at that. And Howell obviously managed (or, at least thought he managed) to give that child full-time care in addition to tending to all the household duties with relative ease. He also points out that his job as the primary at-home parent is nothing compared to being a single mom, and he’s right on the money.
Yet no one would ever argue that being a stay-at-home-mom is easier than being a single mom. But people would argue with his (almost arrogant) assertion that being a stay at home parent is easy.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad he found that to be the case. But what if his child had been a difficult one? Or what if he had multiple children to contend with simultaneously?
For him, these questions never mattered because he only had one child and his experience with that child was an easy one.
Which is precisely why his column doesn’t matter to me. Nor my wife. Because her experience hasn’t been so easy. She tends daily to four kids and three of them are certifiable handfuls. So when I asked her to read his column, I wasn’t surprised when she rolled her eyes after she finished.
“Who’s that guy and why did he just scold me? And since it’s so easy, you think he’d mind taking care of our train wreck for a coupla weeks?”
I dunno, honey. But at least he got one thing right. Children are no chore.
But they sure are a lot of hard work. And while that’s difficult to handle from time to time, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
To read David H. Howell’s column, click HERE. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, to you believe that it’s “practically no work at all”?