The Easy Years
If my husband, Pat, or I had any passing thoughts that Mr. Momming might be emasculating when he took over the domestic reins from me four years ago, they were quickly replaced by the stunning realization that at-home dads are total chick magnets.
"Whoops. Sorry I'm running late. Nicole asked me to stay for a glass of wine," Pat says, as he walks in the door. Nicole is a member of Pat's mom-posse -- they all work and hang out together at our local cooperative preschool. Pat's just picked up our sons, Spencer and Murphy, from a playdate over at her house.
Now, he tosses the keys on the bookshelf, drops his backpack on the sofa, and ambles off to our bedroom where, if this afternoon follows precedent, Pat will lie on our bed, alternately dozing and playing Sudoku while the boys flop around him or chill out in their own rooms.
Most of the time, this picture of total domestic ease fills my heart with joy. On the occasional day that my work has been plodding or fruitless, however, this exact same scene will fill me with unfocused rage. Inglorious and unbidden thoughts zing through my head: Why does he get to lie around on the bed after having a glass of wine while I still have all these e-mails to answer? Why can't he hang his backpack in the hall instead of flinging it on the couch? Shouldn't he be cleaning or cooking something? What the hell does he do all day?
In truth, I know what Pat does all day because our roles were reversed for the first four years of our parenthood -- or as I call them, "The Hard Years" (Pat's subsequent four years at home are, of course, termed "The Easy Years"). During The Hard Years, Pat worked at an office as I managed our sons and household, stealing hours to write in the evening. After I sold a book idea, it became clear that I was going to need more time, so Pat and I switched roles. He stayed home with our kids, who were then 4 years and 6 months, while I sat and pounded out my book in a rented office.
The first year of The Easy Years was nothing short of enchanted. I wrote and Pat enjoyed his freedom from office drudgery. We embodied nouveau bohemia, making enough money from our art to raise our children in a lovely apartment in a cosmopolitan city. We were like John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Sean -- only without the mega-millions, floppy hats, or fame.