Focus on Fathers:
It Worked for Us
by Judy K. Cox
Hershey PA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 5, September-October 2000, pg. 170
Even before Scott and I were married, we knew we wanted children. We also knew that we valued having one parent stay at home with our children. To prepare for this, we tried to live on just one of our salaries so it wouldn't be such a difficult transition when it became necessary. When I became pregnant with Shannon, I had to be on partial bedrest and was only able to work part-time. Although we had planned for me to work full-time until the baby's birth, having only one full-time salary also helped us to adjust to living with a lower income.
All through our pregnancy we talked about who would stay home full-time once our baby was born. We both made comparable salaries, so money wasn't a factor in our decision. We wanted the full-time caregiver to be the one who was more suited for the vocation to care for our children full-time.
I stayed home with Shannon for the first three months. Then Scott and I shared Shannon's care. I went back to work part-time and Scott stayed home part-time. We used the Family Leave Act's parental leave policy; we were not paid for our time off work, but again, making that wise decision before getting pregnant presented us with options we wouldn't have had otherwise.
Scott was nervous about the idea of staying home with Shannon. He wondered if he could take care of her. What if she cried the whole time? Would he go crazy being at home all day? Admittedly his first day with her was rough - she did cry most of the day. I wasn't sure that I would get a second day at home out of Scott. However, day two went much better, and over time Scott learned Shannon's cues and became very comfortable taking care of her. Scott often talks about how having that time with Shannon helped her learn to trust him. It really shows in their relationship.
We continued sharing Shannon's care for the next five months. What a treat for both of us to watch her learn to roll over, crawl, and develop her wonderful personality! We called each other at the office whenever any new event happened so the person at the office wouldn't feel left out. We both felt it was such an honor to be home with her!
Knowing that I might need to be on partial bedrest for the next child, we decided that I would stay home full-time with Shannon. We needed to know one of us would be capable of getting paid 40 hours a week to support our family. It was a difficult decision to make - we both enjoyed being home with Shannon so much! Actually, we wished we could have continued each working outside the home part-time, but that wasn't an option with our employers.
We both cherish those months we spent sharing Shannon's care. Both of us learned many valuable lessons; we experienced what it was like to come home from the office very tired and have the other parent want us to jump in right away to care for the baby. We knew what it was like to give constant care all day to Shannon and count the minutes until the other would walk through the door to give a much needed break. We each learned about the joys of watching our wonderful daughter grow and learn about her world. The experience of sharing each "load" helps us today to remember the other person's needs. Shannon is 13 months old now, but it wasn't all that long ago when we were in the other's shoes.
I feel truly blessed to have a husband who was willing to take the opportunity to spend so much time taking care of his daughter. We feel very fortunate that we disciplined ourselves to make it on one income. Doing without more "stuff" is easier when we see the beauty of why we chose to not have certain things.
Scott continues to be very active in Shannon's care. He has figured out that on the weekends, if he is the one to get her up from a nap she is more attached to him the rest of the day. He loves that! He is awed by what she masters in one day while he is away, and he enjoys his opportunities to take Shannon out by himself to "show her off." Ever since Shannon was a few months old we would go out for family walks in the evenings. Scott carries Shannon in a front carrier. At 13 months old she's getting a bit big for the carrier, but Scott so enjoys carrying her that he's reluctant to use the stroller. It is a joy for me to see my husband be so proud and involved with our daughter. I feel blessed.