Happy Mother’s Day, Firewoodians! You may question why a firm represented by so many brilliant women—many of whom are working mothers—asked an almost middle-aged guy to write a Mother’s Day post. I know I did. But then I realized I had a perspective on parenting that few men share: I was a stay-at-home dad for seven years. And, at the very least, writing this post is one less thing a Firewood mom had to do this week.
I do not presume to speak for moms—and hopefully this post won’t come off as yet more mansplainery—but navigating the transition into parenthood during my time as a SAHD (worst acronym ever) was…a challenge. I needed resources to help me quantify and better articulate the value of the “unpaid work” of parenting. For what it’s worth, I thought I’d share three things that helped me gain some perspective on parenting and how much moms do every day.
1) Salary.com’s “Mom salary” survey. Each year Salary.com polls 15,000 mothers to understand what “their most time-consuming jobs are and how much time per week they spend” on them. Some would say that putting a dollar figure on the work of parenting isn’t possible. That may be true, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable exercise. Especially when you can rattle off some numbers over a cocktail after the kids are in bed. Last year that figure for working moms was $90,223—for the 59 hours they put in above and beyond their “regular job.”
2) The concept of ”kin keeping.” I confess, this is where I fall down. My wife is an accomplished professional with a demanding career and yet has always been, without question, the kin keeper in our family. It is a huge job that often goes unnoticed until the moment something is missed—a partner’s parents’ anniversary, show-and-tell day at school. And it’s not just moms, but women in general who do the lion’s share of kin keeping. The article validates what women already know: “Most people don’t associate sending anniversary cards, lining up dentist appointments or organizing after-work gatherings with work. But it is.” (Added bonus: you can imagine this piece being read in the accent of my favorite fictional working mom-to-be, Chief Gunderson from Fargo.)
Needless to say, it’s not easy. Parenting is the most hilarious, relentless ass kicking you’ll ever love. It’s the fast track to enlightenment through enforced humility. It also compels you to fundamentally re-evaluate how you use your time. All of it. And I’m not making this up. When the working moms of Firewood were asked if their approach to work had changed since becoming a mom, or if there was anything about being a mom that made them better at their work, what was the number one answer? Prioritization.
The skills required of working moms means they must become triage experts in every part of daily life. It’s the reality of momdom. However, it all comes down to realizing that no one can—or should—do it all. Which is why I try to remember to practice:
3) Good enough parenting. Long before becoming a parent, I did some child development and psychology work. Needless to say, there were concepts whose value only became truly clear after I became a parent. One of those things is the crucial ability to, as one Firewood mom put it, “let go of the little things I can’t control.” Although this idea has been around for some time, it seems like it’s all the more crucial in 2017.
These concepts and strategies did help me make some sense of the lunacy of parenting. But ultimately, when I returned to a full-time role, I wanted to be part of a supportive, progressive organization that understood and valued working parents. To me, one of the things that makes Firewood Firewood is the fact that a couple of working parents run the joint, and I have so many talented, even-keeled working parents as colleagues.
Happy Mother’s Day, Firewood moms! I will raise a glass to you all (after we put our kids to bed Sunday night)!