The acronyms sound like something from covert operations.
"This is SAHD 1. Do you copy, over?"
"This is WAHD 2, I copy SAHD 1. Preparing for the drop at 0830, over."
"Copy that WAHD 2. Supplies readied, troops out the door. See you for coffee?"
Coffee? More like a sedative as I race around the house preparing to get my kids off for school with a cordless phone wedged between my chin and shoulder, pouring milk into a cereal bowl full of frosted mini wheat's.
"Dad what's a SAD?"
"You mean an SAHD?" My daughter nods her head, spilling a little cereal on her sweater.
"That stands for Stay At Home Dad."
"You mean like you?"
"No I'm sort of the special forces of SAHD, I'm a WAHD: a Work At Home Dad."
Both my daughters look at me as if to say so what. I look at my watch indicating that they have to hurry and point up stairs for them to go brush their teeth, wash their faces, and brush their hair into braids, a technique I'm still having trouble doing. This gives me two minutes of valuable time to load the washer, throw the driers clothes onto the couch, feed the dog, and shovel whatever uneaten food was left in my children's bowls into my mouth as they race and jump down the stairs, collecting their much to heavy book bags filled with today's snacks. Before we exit the house I fill the dishwasher, turn it on, and out the door, into the car and off to school we go, a model of domestic economy and time line management.
"Dad do you like working from home?"
I have mixed feelings about my answer and so do the other six or seven guys who do the same thing that I know. The general answer is yes and I say so to the relief of my kids. But the answer is more complicated than that as several replies stay sheltered in my mind. Thinking it through what I enjoy most is the immediate impact that I have with my children, the instantaneous feedback that I get from them being so involved in every aspect in their lives. I know my children infinitely better now than when I was flying around the Globe consummating deals as an investment banker. I get to witness the nuances of their life in a way that escaped me before as they make tiny strides in their development. I revel in their accomplishments and become moody in their defeats. I have come to understand that on the whole I am there to help balance the best and the worst in them. There is something that transcends words when you wake up your sleeping child carrying them into the bathroom in the morning, feeling the total security that they have for you. There is also the frustration in not being able to communicate effectively with your children as you try and teach them to pick up after themselves, after all I could clearly get my point across corporately with little problem. Unlike the corporate world I have learned that negotiating with your child requires a completely different approach, especially if they are defiant. It's not like I can dock their allowance in a meaningful way, trim down a bonus or threaten to fire them, I've tried it doesn't work. So the answer is more complicated. How can any of the over 2 million SAHD's in the USA and the 1.5 million estimated WAHD's begin to explain what working women and stay at home mothers have known for centuries. It is the toughest job in the world with sporadic moments of relief and recognition. Raising children is an impossible task of balance between the amount of time that you squeeze in chores and the nurturing needs of your children. That at the end of the day you are exhausted depleted of all reason, bankrupt of down time for yourself, and still needed for other tasks. Despite all the problems of the day that all it takes to win you over is your child's "I love you" or seeing them accomplish something important to them and all the trials and tribulations instantly evaporate.
"This is SAHD 1 what say you we go grab a beer, over."
"Copy that SAHD 1. That's a negative, have to cook dinner, do the wash, and check homework over."
"Roger that WAHD 2. Maybe Saturday, over."
"Negative SAHD 1, have soccer practice and kids party over."
"Roger that WAHD 2, I have the same."
What I can tell you is after doing this for three years I dream of going back to work full time like most people desire a vacation in the Caribbean (medical school in the Caribbean does not count for this). That corporate life was a cakewalk compared to raising a family. That I will never again view a mother the same way only marvel how they can continue to raise their children and manage to keep both their sanity and their personal appearance is beyond my comprehension.
"WAHD 2 do you copy over?'
"Go ahead SAHD 1."
"Remember we're covert ops so keep a low profile over."
With over 2 million of us out there, two new television sitcoms about SAHD's, and over 1000 SAHD/WAHD on-line sites that's going to be hard to do. For a long period of time I like others I have talked to were somewhat embarrassed that we worked at home and raised the children. But like the other SAHD's out there we are all unanimous in our belief that working at home and directly raising our families is the proudest accomplishments of our lives despite societies views and the questions that surround S/WAHD's. The most important and immediate question for us however is does anyone have a healthy 5-minute recipe for dinner?