A recent post on WSJ parenting blog, the Juggle, has me paying attention to the way I come home. In it, the Jugglers point to study that found that, in two career families, moms get a much warmer response when arriving home than dads. According to this boutique study of 32 couples, dads are almost twice more likely to be disregarded or barely acknowledged by distracted children than moms. Moms are almost twice as likely to get some information about the school day than dads.
The bloggers speculate that later arrival times for dads may explain some of this. Which makes sense. Whoever the kids see first will get the download. But does it hold that moms in two-career households get home earlier than dads? That would take some sting out of the report. Otherwise, men are behaving in some way upon homecoming that disinclines kids from interacting with them. And this deserves a closer look.
Are we doing something that keeps the kids at a distance? Are we allowing the coming home time to be structured in such a way that mom gets to enjoy all the good stuff?
In my house, I am almost always the first one home. I made the decision (and have the flexibiliy) to work 7:30-3:30 or 8-4, which allows me to get home first. The irony of our weird little world it that this does not mean I’m the first to see the kids. When the kids get off the school bus, they go to mom’s office — only a few steps from the bus — and check in with her. They do a little homework, then wander home to meet me.
I’d never given too much thought about my arrivals home. It seems like I get my share of “daddy!” exclamations and “guess what”s from the school day. But now I’m wondering what kind of greeting my wife gets. I’m reflecting on the times when she’s had bits of information about the kids day at school that I hadn’t heard about.
I can’t take the kids to the bus stop and get to work any earlier. Maybe I should insist that my wife take the kids to the bus stop a few days a week, so that I can make it into work by 7. That seems a bit nutty, but the last thing I want to be missing out on is a “window of opportunity” to bond with my kids because of something trivial. Like work.
One thing that I don’t have to worry about: The study observed that dads spent more time in the house “away from the family.” Our house isn’t big enough for that.