This piece originally appeared on Daddyshome, Inc. Republished with permission.
It has been two weeks since the 16th Annual At-Home Dads Convention and my head is still spinning. And it’s not from the Guinness at Union Street Public House or O’Connell’s or Murphy’s or Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper (best fish & chips place ever!).
It’s from what I learned about my wife.
Dr. Aaron Rochlen, associate professor of counseling psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, gave the featured presentation focusing on the wives of at-home dads surveyed by Rochlen and Dr. Marianne Dunn of Townson University. They asked 51 wives to fill out detailed questionnaires on why their husbands stay home and how it is working.
I was excited, and a little scared, to find out what my wife probably really thinks of me.
It was no surprise that “domestic deterioration” was among the most complained about issues. This has always been a hot-button topic at conventions, with dads asking each other things like “does your wife go crazy mad when you don’t make the bed?” or “does your wife vacuum the floor after you told her you just did it a few hours ago?” We dads feel that caring for and enriching the lives of our children is the priority over washing the dishes. It was not a surprise that our wives felt that the dishes should still be done once in a while.
One thing that did surprise me, though, was how much moms think about their kids and the home while they are at work. Our wives don’t stop thinking like moms while they are at work, according to Dr. Rochlen and Dr. Dunn’s research. They feel guilty about being away from the kids and feel more stress likely because they are thinking about what is going on at home. I had thought, for the most part, moms were relieved that we were home with the kids instead of some random daycare worker. Wrong!
I was also a little surprised that the wives viewed the arrangement of having dad at home more negatively than at-home dads viewed it in Dr. Rochlen’s previous studies. There was nothing specific they found that explained this, but I suspect it has to do with the combination of the desire to be home themselves with their kids and the fact that the house is a bit of wreck compared to the way they would like it.
Fortunately, Dr. Rochlen and Dr. Dunn found that despite some of the negativity, our wives overwhelmingly appreciate what we do and feel we do a great job with the kids. We, of course, would like a little more intimate appreciation, but that was a discussion Dr. Rochlen admitted was beyond his scope of expertise.
What I took away from all of this was a greater appreciation for how my wife feels about being away from her children. I need to work on ways to help her feel more connected to them, perhaps by sending more pictures of them while she’s at work or using Skype so she can see the kids when she is traveling.
Oh, and I also got the message to do the dishes more than once a week.
Al Watts is a nine-year veteran at-home dad to 4 children ages 9, 7, 4 and 3 in Omaha, NE. He is the President of Daddyshome, Inc – The National At-Home Dad Network whose mission is to provide support, education and advocacy for fathers who are the primary caregivers of their children. Al also writes a weekly blog on a popular mom’s website, Momaha.com.
Photo courtesy of Al Watts