Copyright 2012 by John T. Reed

When I was a kid in the 1950s, all moms were stay-at-home moms. I do not remember thinking my mom was working hard, but she had a lot of stuff to do. Cleaning the house, washing, making meals for us, shopping, etc. It must be noted that back then we did a lot of stuff ourselves. My mom might have taken me to school a few times when it rained, but starting in kindergarten, I took myself to school, by walking or riding the bus. Also, there was a lot fewer organized activities for kids back then. And again what few there were, like Little League baseball, were things I took myself to on my bike.

Moms working outside the home since around 1965

Since around 1965, it has been common, then the rule, for moms to work outside the home. And since then, there has also been tension between those moms who remained in the home and those who had careers—to the point where it now takes moral courage to stay home. This most recently flared up when a Democrat party hack named Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney, who raised her five sons, “never worked a day in her life.” The previous Democrat hack making a similar comment was another Hillary—Clinton—dismissing the idea of her staying home as “baking cookies and having teas.” Among other things, to atone for that, she baked a tray of cookies.

I was a Mr. Mom

I stayed and raised our three sons. I was not a housewife. I am sure Ann Romney did a far better job than I did. But our sons are now 30, 28, and 25, all college grads (Columbia, UC Santa Barbara, Arizona). The oldest is married and has an 18-month-old daughter, a home, a cat, and a dog. Actually, he is also a stay-at-home dad, but he is a telecommuting computer scientist who has lots of telephone conferences with clients so he has to have a baby sitter help most of the time. And his mother-in-law babysits a lot. When we had small kids, in California, my mom and mother-in-law were on the east coast.

Our middle son works in Hollywood in the talent agency business. Our youngest just graduated from college last year and works for me.

I doubt I will get father of the year, but they could have turned out worse.

Banker and writer

My wife is a Harvard MBA who has a career as a banker and bank examiner. She works in San Francisco and commutes there daily on BART. She has been doing that or working in East Bay banks since 1977. She took maternity leave but generally shorter maternity leave than her peer mothers.

I work at home as a writer and, until 1992, a real estate investor. So I took care of the boys. I fed them and changed their diapers more times than their mom did. I also wrote books and a monthly newsletter. During my Mr. Mom years, I generally made more money at my business than my wife made in her career, but over the years it has been pretty even. Her career is steady. Mine rides the business cycles.

It’s not hard work

Women are always saying that being a housewife and parent is hard work. Specifically, it is now being said that raising five boys is hard work.

No, it isn’t. I did it. Now I do the same thing only without the boys. And I did the same thing, writing, before the boys.

I hasten to add that I was no housekeeper or cook. The stay-at-home moms who have no stay-at home business are typically also housekeepers and cooks and all that. I assume Ann Romney was that and I’ll bet she was great at it. But one one ever mistook me for Martha Stewart. I was more like Ted Kramer before he learned how to cook eggs.

How can raising three boys not be hard work?

Time-consuming, but not like working for The Man

I did it so I am not interested in arguing theory with anyone about it. Unlike most men, I do not need a woman to tell me what it was like. Nor will I be intimidated by a woman telling me how hard it was. I watched my mom raise three sons, and she was forced to work outside the home because my father was an alcoholic who hung around for the free food, shelter, etc. She actually was a sort of mom to him, too.

What she did, once she had to become the outside-the-home breadwinner, too, was pretty hard. My dad was a stay-at-home alcoholic after he stopped being able to hold a job, but he was no stay at home dad. I called the cops on him a number of times. At one point, they called me into the principal’s office at my high school and said they were considering putting me and my brothers into foster homes because my mom was not at home and my dad was an unfit parent.

And I raised my own three sons. Been there done that. Save the bullshit about how hard it was for the dads who never did it. I know a little bit about raising sons at home.

For one thing, stay-at-home parents are their own boss. That is infinitely better for the vast majority of people than having a career where you work for The Man. You get to make your own schedule. You can take naps when you need to. You need not Dress for Success.

Raising kids is time-consuming. Changing diapers takes time. So does feeding. Plus kids malfunction a lot and you have to take them into the shop (doctor, dentist, hospital). They also need some playground time and playing catch and disciplining and Disneyland and all that.

But they’re your kids! God made them cute because some little animal that poops and screams and needs a lot of meals would not last long if it was not cute. And God also created the paternal and maternal instinct that causes a mouse mom to fight a grizzly bear threatening her baby mouse.


And kids do all those firsts. My wife missed most of the firsts because she was at work. And they do also sorts of amazing stuff like learning how to climb over the gate that keeps them in their room or over the two gates stacked on top of one another that you put there after they learn how to climb over the first one.

And they are funny. We had a routine. Around noon, I would go down to the boy’s room and change his diaper and go out to lunch and run errands. Sometimes I had an appointment. Sometimes the diaper was just wet. Other times, it was dirty, which takes longer to deal with. My son wasn’t talking much, and I acquired the habit of salty talk in the Army, so I figured I’d better knock off the expletives at some point because he was learning how to talk day by day. I waited a bit too long.

Often, when I opened the diaper for the lunch outing, I was disappointed to find that it was dirty, not just wet. Especially when I had an appointment and was cutting it close. This would cause me to exclaim when I opened it, “Oh, Christ!”

Once, I was walking past one of my sons in his room when he pointed at his diaper and said, “Oh Christ, daddy.” And sure enough, it had a full load of Oh Christ.

Went on strike each August

Each August, I used to go on strike. For the summers, my wife would sign our three boys up for all sorts of stuff: summer camps, sports camps, horseback riding, art classes, gymnastics, etc. etc. Sometimes all three were at the same place, but as often, they were at three different locations. For some, they could walk or take a bus. But for most, I had to drive them. The amount of chauffeuring I had to do each day as a result got ridiculous. Maybe putting 100 miles a day on my car. I could not get anything else done. I would have to refuse to do some of it because I had to write and get my newsletter out and such.

Also, my wife and I had a running battle over chores. I became the guy to pick up dry cleaning, get papers signed, make deposits, etc. I repeatedly had to say, “Hey, the fact that you are not here to see my writing or changing diapers does not mean I am lounging in a hammock all day waiting for you to give me something to do. Lighten up on all these chores. Get your own damned dry cleaning on Saturdays.”

A great gift

I regard the time I spent raising our three sons at home as a great gift from my ability to make my living as a writer and to be a successful writing entrepreneur who could work out of a home office. There is no other way to live in my mind. I feel sorry, or maybe annoyed at, for the dads who had great careers in this or that but who missed their children’s Little League playoff games and piano recitals because of some “important” business meeting. The kid, now 30, still resents his dad missing the Little League playoff, but the father can no longer recall what the “important” business meeting was about.

Our kids each also got into a little trouble. My response was to spend even more time with them. Two were not doing their homework. I started taking them to school and picking them up such that I could talk to their teachers for about 15 minutes each day before or after classes started. That ended that little bit of “Oh Christ” pronto.

Another got into bigger trouble hanging with the wrong crowd. We instantly yanked him out of high school, canceled his car insurance and drivers license, and forbid him from ever being in a car not driven by either me or his mom. Essentially, he was back in his room down the hall from my home office all day, only now without diapers. Same routine though. At lunch time, we would go out to each at McDonalds or wherever and run some errands. His studies were monitored in what the local school district called Venture School. We would go in once a week and meet with a teacher. He would turn in his homework for the week, get back the last week’s homework and tests graded, and takes tests. I would sit at the table with him and the teacher for this session.

Teenage boys do not like spending all day ever day with their dad. He asked what he could do to go back to high school. My wife worked out a set of requirements regarding grades and other behavior. Also, when he went back for his senior year, he went to another high school in a another town to be away from his prior bad influences. No further problems.

‘He ain’t heavy…’

The one-time advertising slogan of the extremely wealthy Boys Town captures it quite well if slightly off point.

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

If someone had been watching me change one of my son’s diapers and commented it looked like hard work, I might have responded, taken aback and without thinking,

He’s not hard work. He’s my son.

Changing the diapers on someone else’s child? That would be hard work. If you can’t tell the diference, you are either not a parent or you are lousy parent.

The best fertilizer is the shadow of the farmer.

An old agricultural saying is “The best fertilizer is the shadow of the farmer.” Quite true. And our boys turned out well in part because they were under the shadow of one of their parents, and the amount of time they spent under the shadow instantly shot up dramatically any time they strayed off the proper course.

Which parent is not really the issue. That depends on the work skills of each parent.

But the notion that rasing kids at home all day is equal to outside-the-home work in a traditional work place is utter bullshit. it is time-consuming. It is frustrating at times. But it is a joy and a tonic. It is being a parent, not just paying the rent. You cannot compare the two. Only a Gloria Steinem type, “who never spent a day in her life as a parent,” would try to equate being a stay-at-home parent with working in an office or factory.

What about the kid—a real kid—not just an out-of-sight-therefore-out-of-mind fetus you can make into a political football?

Plus there is another bunch of bullshit in this debate: the notion that either the two-career parent couple or the one-career and one-stay-at-home parent are equivalent for the welfare of the child. Team Mitt and Ann did a better job of raising their five sons than Team Hilary Rosen and her husband did of rasing their four children, unless Mr. Hilary Rosen was a Mr. Mom like me. You say I can’t say that, that I wasn’t there? Yeah, I can say it. I wasn’t there at the Rosen house, but I was damned sure there at the Reed houses when I was one of the three sons and when I raised my three sons. I am not a freaking politician who is afraid to offend parents who outsourced parenthood.

The old saying refers to the shadow of the farmer, not the shadow of the nanny or the au pair. Many dual career couples are chagrined to hear their small child call their hired caretaker as “mommy” or indicate a preference for the hired caregiver’s company over that of the biological parents.

What’d you expect? Gloria Steinem may have decreed that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, but her decree that government day care is the equivalent of a stay-at-home mom or dad was bull and did great deal of harm to a lots of kids, families, and the country. And it should be noted that Steinem herself finally decided at age 66 that she needed a husband after all—unfortunately too late for her to be a mom—and as sometimes happens at such ages, her husband died three years after they got married. She aborted her DNA as far as reproduction and continuing the Steinem line were concerned. Meanwhile, her conservative rival, Phyllis Schlafly, “had it all” becoming a model, a constitutional lawyer, and raising six kids. (I am not sure how many hours per week Schlafly logged at home raising their kids, but it was infinitely more than Steinem did.)

The issue is not whether staying home is “never worked a day in her life and therefore does not know anything about the real world.” That was a profoundly stupid, partisan hack, elitist liberal statement. The issue is who did the better job of raising their children and enjoying their children and family life—Ann and Mitt Romney or Mr. and Mrs. Hilary Rosen. I say the Romneys.

It is a question millions of post-1965 “quality time” parents are uncomfortable about and would prefer not be researched scientifically. Tough. A Democrat brought it up. She and all her former friends and colleagues who threw her under the bus can lie in the bed they made. Hilary Rosen is described as a lobbyist in Wikipedia. Lovely. My mom the lobbyist. But give Hilary credit. At least she brought home the bacon, for her special interest clients if not her kids.

Rush Limbaugh read a lengthy account of the early days of marriage of Mitt and Ann. They were college undergrads with a baby living in a basement apartment that cost $62 a month. They could not afford carpet, but Ann bought a bunch of remnants and managed to cover the entire floor with them. She said it looked hideous, but at least it was carpet, not a bare concrete floor. She often studied for her bachelor’s degree with her baby in her lap. Ann and Hilary have the same education level: bachelor’s degree. The notion that Hilary Rosen is a higher form of life than Ann Romney is outrageous. Democrats are contemptuous of stay-at-home moms. They deny it, but it keeps slipping out, doesn’t it?

After my oldest son read this, he told me to watch this comedy routine on whether being a mother is the most difficult job on the planet: You should, too. But warning: fast forward through the Oprah network commecial at the beginning and beware of the “adult” language in the comedy routine.

John T. Reed