I am replaceable: What’s it like to be a stay-at-home dad? Answer 6

During the chatting part of our appointment, our coolest-obstetrician-in-the-whole-world (seriously) mentioned that her husband is also a stay-at-home dad. “It makes a lot of sense,” she said. “He just loves to play.”

I smiled, because she’d named what I consider the job’s main prerequisite. But she followed up with a near-retraction: “I mean, I love to play with the kids, too. But with me working…”

The implication was clear — “I’d be just as good at this as he is” — and I’ve heard it said in many forms by women married to SAHDs.

And, of course, it’s completely true in our case: Working Mom would wipe the floor with me in at-home-parent skills. (Reminds me — I need to mop.) There are days when Boobaby’s diet principally consists of Goldfish crackers and birdseed out of the bucket.

Supermom I am not.

True or not, though, it’s a weird thing to say. Turn it around — let’s say you just told me how your husband is an expert apiarist because he loves to nuzzle up with all those friendly Africanized bees. And I reply not with awe at his skill with the stingers but rather, “Of course, I could do that just as well!”  Or — can you imagine a working dad saying to his stay-at-home-mom wife, “Yeah, I could so totally do what you do! I just choose not to!” and not winding up in the doghouse?

Of course not.

At some point, working moms with stay-at-home spouses have to face the expectation — from within themselves, sometimes or often — that they should be rearing those kids themselves. And while I totally get that this sex-specific burden weighs much heavier on the working mom who might be battling her own lifelong expectations, or her mother’s, or society’s generally, even so, we poor neglected stay-at-home dads suffer from the fallout: ergo, the whole “feeling invisible” thing.

Although, on the plus side, I guess that being invisible is sort of the point. Being a stay-at-home parent is sometimes like being an air traffic controller: we fade into the background when everything’s good. But when we screw something up — well, our mistakes are glaringly, painfully obvious.