Second Act
Page 2 of 5

Mr. Mom
Michael Robinette '74

Michael Robinette '74 wields a wicked vacuum. And he doesn't want anyone trying to take over his job--especially his wife. After all, he likes to point out, she already works 60 to 80 hours a week. The house is Robinette's job. He cleans. He cooks. He does laundry. He chauffeurs his daughter Morgan, 13, to practices and chaperones school trips. He oversees homework and orchestrates bedtime. He is, in short, the ultimate Mr. Mom. And he loves it. But it wasn't always this way.

He remembers the day, exactly, that his life changed. It was Jan. 5, 1994, 5:45 p.m. Robinette took one last look around his office at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, where he'd spent nearly nine years as a hydrogeologist. And then he locked the door and headed home to start his new job--caring for his infant daughter. "It was one of those life-changing moments when one door closes and another one opens," he says. "The house and kids became my sole job. And my wife's job was to blast ahead in her career."

The change wasn't easy at first, says Robinette. He and his wife, Muriel Steenstra Robinette '74, had two older children, ages 7 and 10 at the time. Both parents were happy with their careers. Then Morgan came along. The couple considered child care. They calculated costs. They weighed the pros and cons of balancing two work schedules, family life and the demands of an infant. In the end, they agreed one of them should stay home. But who?

"It took me a good three months of thinking about it," says Robinette, "to arrive at the conclusion that I was the one. Finally, I just bit the bullet and said, 'I'll resign.' It was a big thing." Robinette is philosophical now, looking back. His wife, who works in the private sector as an environmental engineer, had the most earning potential, so it made sense for her to keep working. "The benefits of me staying home seemed to outweigh the negatives," he says.

There are, notes Robinette, many women who view his wife with envy: a woman with a successful career who comes home to a clean house and dinner on the table--prepared by her husband. For his part, Robinette gets a kick out of putting "homemaker" on the forms he signs. "The ladies in the school office love it," he says. But he takes his job seriously and is proud of what he's accomplished. Along with keeping the household running smoothly, he's completed several major renovation projects. He also spent a couple of years homeschooling his daughter. Most of all, he's developed a special relationship with Morgan. And he's aware of how the experience has enriched his life: "Raising children is an opportunity to grow, to be more empathetic and intuitive."

Not that Robinette is finished with the working world. He's kept his hand in his profession over the past decade as an active member of the New Hampshire Geological Society. And in the next few years, he envisions heading back into the work force, this time wearing a teaching hat. For now, though, Robinette is content with his career as a homemaker. And he's so busy he doesn't have time to miss much about the working world--except maybe going to lunch and hanging out with the guys. "But on the whole, I've been really happy," he says--the sign, perhaps, of a truly successful career change.

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