“Wednesday Evenings” aims to show there is beauty in every family’s evening, even if we need an outsider to see it. Thanks to a continued partnership with Allstate, I am flying lifestyle photographer Raquel Langworthy across the US to document the nighttime routines of 12 families in four different cities.
Shira and her husband Ariel live in Naperville, Illinois about 30 minutes outside of Chicago. They have three kids— Talia (7 years old), Oren (4 years old) and Sivan (2 years old). Shira works full-time as a corporate bankruptcy attorney and Ariel stays at home with the kids.
“When I was pregnant with Talia, Ariel was in the process of switching careers to be a teacher. He had a tough time finding a job that would cover day care expenses, so we decided he’d stay home once my maternity leave was over. Even though it wasn’t intentional from the beginning, Ariel has thrived as an at-home parent and it really has worked out for the best for our family.”
Shira described their typical evenings as “rushed, noisy and busy.” Like so many moms, Shira wishes she “had more time to enjoy being with my kids” while also feeling exhausted at the end of the day.
“So many nights, I feel like I’m dragging through the evening routine. And if the kids refuse to eat dinner or are being too loud during their bath, I get so frustrated.”
She entered the Wednesday Evening Series to highlight all that Ariel does for their family.
“People sometimes assume that my husband took the easy way out. But being home with the kids is hard work! He is on 24/7. If I compare a day I’m in the office to a day I’m with the kids, being with the kids is exponentially more exhausting!”
She also says that fathers often get portrayed as “doofuses” by the media and wants everyone to see “what’s possible when you put some faith in dads.”
When Raquel arrived Shira was not yet back from work. Ariel was cleaning up while the kids read and played together in the basement.
They headed upstairs when Talia’s piano teacher arrived.
“When Talia was taking a music class as a toddler, a teacher told us she had a gift for music and that we should encourage her. So once we moved into a house and got a piano, we thought it would be a good idea to start with lessons.”
Ariel starts dinner at about 6pm.
This is also right around the time Shira gets home from work.
Shira greets the kids and changes her clothes.
Then she nurses their two-year-old Sivan.
Shira nursed her older two children up until she was pregnant with her next kid so she’s been nursing consistently for the past seven years.
“I’m lucky I’ve never had any issues with breastfeeding. As long as I’m able to do it, I want to be able to provide that for her. Especially being away from her all day—pumping milk is something I can still do for her even if I’m not with her all day. And nursing her is something special just between the two of us.”
After nursing, Shira helps out Ariel in the kitchen.
“I never ever come home and say I’ve had a tough day at the office and just need to relax. I’m on 24/7 as well—sometimes that’s at work and the rest of the time, it’s at home.”
Dinner time is often complicated by their different dietary restrictions. Shira has been a vegan for the past 23 years and Ariel is an omnivore. They have struggled with how to feed the kids since Talia is very picky, Oren is allergic to dairy, and Sivan is also vegan.
“In junior high, I read about rainforest deforestation and animal cruelty. I wanted to do something, so I started cutting out meat. By the time I was 17, I was vegan. As for the kids, that’s a frequent point of contention between me and Ariel. Ariel fully supports me being vegan, but he feels that the kids will ‘miss out’ if they don’t eat like most other kids. Before we had kids, we agreed that the kids would not be raised vegan, but I’ve never really been comfortable with the kids eating meat, so when my youngest was born, I changed my mind and we’re raising her vegan right now. Sivan can decide if she wants to eat meat when she’s older. The older kids tell me that they are going to be vegan one day too. In fact, even now, Talia pretty much refuses to eat any meat. Except bacon. She says, ‘all animals should be free and in the wild, except pigs because I love bacon’”
At 6:30pm, they all sit down for dinner together as a family.
Shira talked about what it means to her to have Ariel taking care of the kids during the day.
“He takes care of everything: shuttling the kids to school and activities, grocery shopping and other errands, laundry, dinner. I don’t have to take a day off if one of the kids is home sick from school. I don’t have to rush home to pick kids up from day care. I never imagined that I’d be married to an at-home dad, but I also knew that I’d always have a career. My family is super important to me, but when I became a lawyer, I always intended to stick with it.”
She says even though she gets jealous of all the time Ariel spends with the kids, she thinks he’s better as an at-home parent than she would be.
“If I was home with them, things would be more rigid and the kids wouldn’t have as much fun or as many learning opportunities. Ariel is better at being flexible and letting go. He’s better at letting the kids take risks, even if that means they might get hurt. He’s also more creative than me. Anything I do that can be deemed creative comes straight from Pinterest!”
She also talked about the advantages of their kids growing up with a working mom and an at-home dad.
“I love that they see firsthand that gender doesn’t define what you do. Their mom is a lawyer who supports the whole family. Their dad takes care of them and is very playful and loving. Oren wears dresses sometimes and likes to twirl, Talia is totally into STEM and plans to be a scientist when she grows up and Sivan wears hand-me-downs from both kids and plays with trucks and dolls. Actually, sometimes we have to tell them that boys too can be scientists and moms can indeed stay home with the kids.”
Shira says the one big disadvantage is that their kids are sometimes limited by whom they can play with.
“Some mom groups simply don’t want to include dads, so my kids miss out on those opportunities.”
Even though Ariel felt isolated at first, Shira encouraged him to find other at-home dads which led him to the National At-Home Dad Network. From there, he found local groups of at-home dads for playdates and support.
At 7pm, dinner is over and it’s time to give the kids a bath and brush teeth which is usually Shira’s responsibility.
This gives Ariel his first real break, which he uses to finish his meal in some much-needed peace and quiet.
At 7:30pm, Ariel joins everyone upstairs to help get the kids changed for bed.
They put on their pajamas and brush their teeth.
Then they all settle in for a book.
And goodnight kisses.
While Shira nurses Sivan to sleep, Ariel puts Oren down, then Talia. He hums them each a traditional repetitive Jewish melody (the same one since they were born).
Then he heads downstairs to start cleanup.
Eventually Shira joins him to help out with dishes, making lunches and laundry.
At 9:30, they both sit down and relax.
Shira finishes her night by taking a10 pm shower (“there’s no time in the morning”) and pumping one last time.
I asked Shira what she thought of the photos.
“I loved them! It’s such a whirlwind once I get home. Seeing what Ariel does with the kids beforehand is like the calm before the storm. I also saw more smiles than I expected. And a lot more playtime than I always think there is once I’m home.”
She also said she would change her three adjectives from “rushed, noisy and busy” to “happy, fun and loving.”
“We don’t look rushed at all in our pictures!”
Because Shira really wanted to highlight her husband, I asked Ariel what he thought of the pictures as well.
“I think the photos are beautiful. It’s really special to be able to see all the stuff I miss because I am caught up in my routine and I’m wiped out, like that special time when Shira gets home or the details of getting the kids ready for bed. It’s interesting to see yourself outside yourself.”
I asked Ariel about his decision to wear the “Dads Don’t Babysit” t-shirt for the shoot.
“Frequently when out with the kids, dads get comments like ‘babysitting today, huh?’ or ‘giving Mommy the day off?’ If you’re a parent, you can’t babysit your own kids! We don’t get paid and we don’t get to walk away at the end of the night. Parenting is a full-time gig, not a part-time job until the significant other gets home.”
This post is part of the “Wednesday Evenings” series sponsored by Allstate. From bath time to bed time, every family has a special evening routine. This series aims to show the beauty in the day winding down. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding families to live the Good Life, every day.