About a year ago, I was sitting in my living room with my husband after wrangling the kids into bed when he made the announcement. “I just got invited to girls night out” he said, with a little hesitance in his voice – like he wasn’t really sure if he should tell me. “Huh?” I said, sort of half listening as I zoned out to Access Hollywood, my secret indulgence that enables me to block out the craziness of the day. “I just got an email inviting me to girls night out in two weeks,” he repeated. I tore my eyes away from Billy Bush and stared at him. “So, what are you going to do?” I asked. “I’m not going,” he said, “you should go.” And we stared at each other some more.
This pretty much sums up the awkward relationship we’ve held with our peers ever since my husband and I decided he should stay home full time with our kids while I battled my way through my pediatric residency program. His teacher’s salary was not enough to compensate for two full time daycare slots and patchwork additional child care that we would have needed to piece together to keep our children clothed, fed and guarded while I worked ridiculously bizarre hours at the hospital. So, we decided that he would stay home. It was a great decision - one that has allowed me incredible piece of mind. Our children (now 5 and 2) have experienced a relatively “stable” life despite my unpredictable schedule. But it has not been without consequences.
For one, my husband is REALLY good at being a SAHD. I mean REALLY good. Painfully good. In-your-face-you’re-inadequate good. I am so thankful for all he does, but there is a small part of me that sometimes wishes he could be a little less good. About two weeks into his SAHD stint, he had arranged for a multitude of activities for our daughter – music class, playgroups, swim class. And he has kept the momentum going - over the past three years, he has managed to integrate himself and our children into a wonderful community of friends in our town.
Contrary to my anxieties, the other stay-at-home parents (99.99% moms) have welcomed my family into playgroups, playground meet-ups and a wide array of other activities. Hence the invite. I’m sure the email was intended to be inclusive of my husband in an opportunity to get out and socialize away from the kids. Instead, it paralyzed us in a moment of uncertainty. Did the women involved in “girls night out” want an opportunity to bash the working parents and commiserate about stay-at-home parenthood? Did they want an opportunity to gather with other women in the community, regardless of how their days were spent? Should neither of us go? Both of us? Do they think my 6 foot 4, rarely clean-shaven husband is a girl?
In the end, my husband and I gave up on trying to figure out the intention of the group. He knew that while he was able to finesse his way through a life of being a SAHD in a predominantly SAHM world, he could not stomach being involved in a “girls night out”. I realized that I wanted the opportunity to be with other moms – working or not - and to develop friendships despite inevitably feeling the occasional sense of being the odd one out. So, I went. And I have to say I am grateful to my husband for forging me a space in a great community of friends who are willing to deal with our unusual set-up. This works for us. Secretly, I’m hoping that his next invite is for a manicure and facial at the local spa…
Pedimom is a pediatrician in a private practice in New England.