I recently had a conversation with a father when I was walking into King's Kids to pick up my oldest daughter, Journey. He had a look of total exhaustion of on his face. He had dropped his daughter off at school earlier that morning and he was now coming to pick her up. I was in the process of taking Justice out of her carseat and walking in beside him.
I looked at him and said, “This is quite exhausting, isn’t it?” He said, “Yes, it really is.” I said, “I know, I’m a stay-at-home dad and I’ve had a lot of other opportunities in my life do to a lot of other things, including playing college football, and this is the most exhausting thing I’ve done in my life.”
He went on to say, “I dare not tell my wife my job is more important than her job.” I said, “That’s a smart move, sir.” As we walked into the school, I began to think and reflect on this whole role reversal we’re in with stay-at-home Dads and more Moms in the workforce than ever before.
I know, for me and my wife, it has come with several challenges. One of the biggest challenges for us was setting expectations. My therapist once said, “Most of the world’s disappointments happen in the space between expectations and reality.” The thing is, I had a father of six tell me this at a men’s conference, “My real job starts when I hit the garage door opener when I’m coming home from work. That’s when my real job starts because when I walk in the door, my wife immediately wants me to get involved with what’s going on inside the house.”
I have a little bit of a different approach. Maybe I’m a little bit of a control freak, and I’m definitely a perfectionist, but I try to minimize any major distractions my wife is going to have when she gets home. I try to make sure our home looks presentable, if dinner needs to be made it’s taken care of, laundry is washed, folded and put away. She definitely doesn’t like having an unloaded dishwasher, so I put all of the dishes away. I don’t want to have a cluttered sink or things of that nature to contend with once she is home.
I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t have any expectations. If I have everything done when she gets home, the only thing I want her to do is to focus on spending time with me because I’ve been surrounded by little people all day and now I’m looking for some adult attention. Most of the time that requires physical attention. Like in Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages,” physical touch. With that being said, I’ve heard several women say the opposite. Their response is, when my husband gets home, the last thing I want him to do is touch me because I’ve had people touching and grabbing me all day.
I think that is one of the big role reversals for me. I actually want to be touched when my wife gets home because I’ve been yearning for some type of adult intimacy that doesn’t come from my children.
I recently heard this definition of intimacy in a podcast, the host said intimacy means, “into me you see.” That's what it means to be truly intimate, letting your partner into your world, allowing them to occupy your space. Truthfully, most children are conceived through intimacy most of the time. With that being said, the greatest intimacy killer in a marriage is responsibility. The more responsibility that is required the more difficult it is to become intimate.
With that implication, the thing that has brought the most joy in the world, which is becoming a parent, sometimes can suck the intimacy right out of a marriage. Children require a lot of responsibility, so it’s odd that that thing that we’re so happy we have achieved because of intimacy often takes our intimacy away when it comes to staying connected in a marriage.
Another key component that has worked well for us in our marriage is having a marriage therapist. The ability to think outside of the box, ask for help and have a mediator assist us and help us with our blind spots has been a blessing and a resource in helping us become a stronger unit rather than becoming divided.
If you feel stuck identifying what works best for your marriage compared to how society may view your marriage, I’d highly suggest hiring a counselor come alongside you to identify your spots. Raising your awareness of unfulfilled expectations can help you become more of a team versus individuals at odds with each other. I’m biased, we have the most amazing marriage counselor in the world. She is amazing.
These are some of the things I’m learning as a perfectionist. In my perspective of being a stay-at-home-Dad, it’s almost like a new day and age now. It’s a new norm, to see more families living with role reversals. I’m kind of like a unicorn in a town that’s not as big as New York, or LA or even Houston. If I lived in a larger city would I see more stay-at-home-dads? Probably so, but nevertheless, I’m here, I’m a man, I’m black, and I’m a stay-at-home-dad. It’s different but it’s not as unusual as it once was.
As a personal development coach, motivational speaker, author and a stay-at-home dad, Jonathan “J.O.” Oliver helps people attain success in the midst of facing some of life’s greatest challenges. He is happily married to Dr. Saran Oliver and together they have two adorable daughters, Journey and Justice. Being diagnosed with the gift of dyslexia and ADHD has allowed him to see what is possible rather than feel limited by his condition. Seeking to impact his passion to many, “J.O.” has authored two highly sought after books, “Joy In The Journey: 1st Year Chronicles From A Stay At Home Dad,” and “Impersonations.” His newest book, “To The Little Boy In Me: Learning with Dyslexia & ADHD” will be released in the Spring.