Oh hey, where did this wall come from?

Can someone PLEASE help me explain to my husband how hard and exhausting and exactly like a job taking care of a baby is? How although on the surface it might look a lot easier than driving to an office every day, in the end you get to leave an office but you never get to leave a baby? And how even if you don’t really, truly, 100% believe that being a stay at home mom is work it is NEVER a good idea to accuse your wife of “playing” all day while you’re at your Real Job? And not just because when you say shit like that your wife might storm out of the house and leave you dinner-less, but because it really hurts her and makes her feel useless and unappreciated? Yes, please help me explain that.

(Sidenote for fairness: in my uncompleted posts queue right now is an entry about how awesome E was during The Great Sickness of 2009 and our holiday travels. He slept with the can’t-put-him-down-or-he-screams baby almost every night and did at least 50% of the daytime comforting. He’s also helping with the night weaning, which proves he cares about my sanity at least a little, as it doesn’t matter to HIM if the baby nurses all night. But yesterday I did not care about any of that.)

From the point of view of someone who doesn’t have kids, my day looks easy. Get up, eat breakfast, workout class, hang out with friends, lunch, some housework, errands, computer time, start dinner, serve dinner, clean up kitchen, watch some tv, do a little knitting and then bed. Yawn, a life of leisure.

But when you do all that stuff with a baby it looks like this: Up at 6 am with baby, nurse baby, change baby, dress baby, make sure baby is occupied long enough to go pee, rescue dog from baby, run upstairs to brush teeth and put on clothes, clean up baby spit up, get the baby a snack, clean up snack, clean up baby, change baby, eat an apple, nurse baby, get baby and all baby’s stuff in the car, take baby to baby-themed stroller workout class, take baby to breastfeeding group, entertain baby while trying to have adult conversation, put baby back in car, take baby home, try to get baby to nap, nurse baby, rock baby, nurse baby, baby falls asleep, jump in shower, start laundry, finally find something to eat…and that’s just before noon. I could keep going but I’m trying to finish this post before the baby wakes up from his nap. As you can see, baby-free time is precious around here.

Now from E’s point of view, at least 70% of that “work” is my own fault. I don’t HAVE to go to Stroller Strides. I don’t HAVE to go to breastfeeding group. I don’t HAVE to go to the store with the baby. I can stay home. I can run errands on the weekends. I could, quite easily, never leave the house. Like, duh, that’s why pizza delivery was invented. I could also quite easily go TOTALLY FRICKIN INSANE and end up babbling incomprehensibly about poopoo and diapeys and numnums and nappy naps. I’ve already used all those words at least once this week. The edge is near.

It doesn’t help my case that on the weekends I try to give myself as much time off as possible, so E sees me sitting on the couch while the baby naps and imagines that’s how I spend all my days. Never mind the clean socks in his drawer and the toys in the toy box and the milk in the fridge and the food on the table. Never mind the baby is dressed and fed and happy. Never mind my lack of a full night’s sleep for the last 9 months. Obviously if I have time to knit a sock mitten wrist warmer AND maintain a blog, taking care of a baby is cake. And since our not-ever-officially-negotiated-but-status-quo relationship is I’m in charge of the household, why should he have to do more work after his Real Job is done? What do I mean I can’t unload the dishwasher and watch the baby at the same time?

I know I have friends and readers who are thinking to themselves RIGHT NOW that I got myself into this and it’s really my fault for having such an old-fashioned, gender-stereotypical marriage. You’re thinking you’re way too smart to marry a guy who doesn’t have a truly feminist and shared view of parenting so you won’t ever feel like this. And I hope you’re right. But I think every parent in every kind of relationship ends up feeling unappreciated at some point, be it every day of their marriage or just for a few hours once in a while.

The hardest part of this whole thing is sometimes I feel like I DON’T do enough. I feel like since I don’t earn a paycheck I need to earn the right to stay home. I feel like dishes in the sink or unfolded laundry or a funny smell coming from the living room (which turned out to be BURNT CAT VOMIT from where the cat threw up on a radiator) are big black marks against me in my Wife & Mother Weekly Performance Review. I mean, there are moms who have three kids and a real job and a house and a dog and still manage to make organic, homegrown, vegetarian lasagna every night with time left over to volunteer at the soup kitchen. I definitely don’t work as hard as that mom. I don’t want to work as hard as that mom. I want to be happy. I just want to be happy.

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17 Responses to “Oh hey, where did this wall come from?”

  1. Mandy says:

    oh lady. i could have written this myself.
    one thing i’ve done is read, and then forced my husband to read, How to Babyproof Your Marriage. the book is awesome, and my favorite suggestion is leaving your husband with the baby for 2 whole days so he can see what it’s like to be the SAHM. i’ve also said everything you just said to my husband and he sincerely got better. tell him exactly how you feel, especially that what he said (p.s.? oh hail no) about “playing” made you feel unappreciated. then leave for as long as your boobs will allow and have fun doing something YOU want to do, giving no specific special instructions. yell “PEACE OUT BITCHES!” as you pull out of the driveway for dramatic effect.

  2. Amanda says:

    I don’t know what to say but I feel sad. I don’t know maybe smack him around a little? Hopefully he reads this and changes his tune. I have to say I am impressed with how often you do get out of the house with the baby though! If you ever need to bitch and complain you are always welcome at our house and I generally have coffee and a sort of clean floor to let the baby crawl around on!

  3. Audrey says:

    “I know I have friends and readers who are thinking to themselves RIGHT NOW that I got myself into this and it’s really my fault for having such an old-fashioned, gender-stereotypical marriage.”

    hahaha! I had to practically arm wrestle my husband into agreeing that I should take his last name because neither his mother nor his step mother took his father’s last name out of some sort of feminist belief about female oppression. And he practically begged me to be a stay at home mom and worry about working later, because he wanted to provide for us. BUT this is also the man who once said “well, yes, you’re a girl” to an argument about doing dishes because he didn’t like doing dishes and I retorted “oh and I do?” before we even had the kid. And I’ve had the “You sit on your but at a computer and play around all day while interacting with other people, I have to work 24 hours a day with no pay, no time off, no sick leave and almost no interaction with anyone over 3 feet” conversation with my husband on many occasions.

    My suggestion is to leave the house for a full day on his next day off and let him do all of the work from sunrise to sunset. Given you are breastfeeding this means having lots of milk stored for the day and having what you need to pump and dump while away. This usually reminds my hubby of how tiring a job parenting can be. For a while anyway.

  4. lalaland13 says:

    Oh dear. I want to give you a hug and offer to take the baby for a little so you can go ride a unicorn naked through the streets while drinking alcohol. But I’m not great with babies, and the unicorn rental place is closed.

    In sociology class, I think there was something in our textbook about how men think they distribute the work pretty equally, but really the woman does about 70 percent of the household stuff. And I may be making this part up, but it seems like even the most feminist couples can fall into the “Mother mothers, daddy brings home the bacon” trap. There’s just so many subtle and not-subtle messages out there telling people “This is how it is and how it should be and really, moms love every moment!”

    Ask him if this is what’s really bugging him, or if he’s moody because of work and just reacts badly when he sees you at home with your child. The grass is always greener, and such. Then maybe you do need to renogiate some stuff. Or at least get it out there. And you do plenty, dear. You really do. I also fall into the “It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, it’s what I should have done anyway” mindset. I guess that means we’re ambitious, but it also means we need to lean back and give ourselves a damn break now and again. And our husbands should really help us in this endeavor. Here that, Steve Nash, my husband?

  5. erniebufflo says:

    You’re right, I was being judgy until I got to the part about what readers are thinking to themselves, and then I realized that I don’t have kids, I’m married to a pretty equal partner, and I’ve still felt this way, usually when my hubs is overworked and overtired and I’ve been picking up slack and am feeling like OH MY GOD WHY DOES NO ONE AROUND HERE PUT THEIR DISHES IN THE DISHWASHER WHEN IT’S RIGHT EFFING THERE, HOW HARD IS IT TO PUT THE DISHES IN THE DISHWASHER WHICH IS ONE FOOT FROM THE SINK!?! And then I’ve burned dinner and suddenly I’m crying in the kitchen over the burned dinner but it’s not about the burned dinner at all. So yes. Even those of us who would otherwise roll our eyes and think “but my wonderful equal partner would never allow me to feel this way,” well, we feel this way. I hope you and E can talk about this (hopefully not while you’re flipping out over a burned dinner, because I’ve been there, and it’s not a great time to talk), and work out some sort of agreement on these sorts of issues. Hugs.

  6. afteriris says:

    All I can say is that I’ve been there, I hear you. Part of the reason I work 3 days a week is to have a break from my kids. Really. At work I get a LUNCH BREAK. Yes, you heard it right. Bliss. My husband and I divide home responsibilities fairly evenly these days and I still find it exhausting. You are doing a magnificent job.

    I second the suggestion to got out for a full day, or, better yet, a full day and night.

  7. Meghan says:

    I really think it’s a man thing. After my youngest was born I was going to leave for a few hours on a Saturday to go shopping with my mom and sister. My husband was going to be in charge while I was gone. As I was walking out the door he asked me when I would be back. I said I didn’t know but he could call me if he needed me. He then said “But…I would never leave you with both boys ALL day!” (keep in mind I am a SAH, homeschooling mom) My mouth dropped open and I just stared at him for 5 minutes. I think men think their wives and children disappear as soon as they leave the house. Even after I told my husband he left me alone with both boys M-F every week, he still thought those weren’t “real” days, like the weekend are. Still blows my mind. But, it brings up a larger issue that staying at home is hard. Redefining yourself by the standards and values YOU set in the day to day and not what will make you feel most significant at a 10 year high school reunion is hard.
    I would suggest a renegotiation of household and financial responsibilities. When my oldest was born, my husband and I decided that I would be full time child care provider and educator for our children and he would be the full time financial provider. All household chores however we split between us. Ie I do laundry, he does the dishes. I vacuum the house, he mows the lawn and shovels snow. I cook dinner, he cleans the pots and pans. That takes the pressure off of me to be superhousewife and be able to enjoy my days a little more without feeling like I am always failing. But, still I hope E gets a clue since he should remember how hard our mom worked raising him!

  8. Amy says:

    Have you started introducing a sippy/straw cup, yet? If he still won’t take a bottle, you might be able to get more of a break if Baby E could drink breastmilk from a cup. I think you are doing great. I still have my christmas tree up!

  9. Lee Anne says:

    Your post is very well-written. I feel like this a lot, and no matter how I try to articulate it to my (mostly wonderful) husband, I don’t think he gets it. Before baby, I cooked, he did the dishes. For a long while, DD got up at 5:00 every.single.morning, so I had at least a 14 hour stint alone with her every day, yet all the household duties still fell to me. Now, if I leave them alone together for any extended period of time, they end up watching TV together, which to me, doesn’t count as parenting at all. Sigh…

    The nursing situation will get a bit better! I’m still nursing a 27 month old, but it’s waaaay easier now schedule-wise than it was before she turned 1.

    PS – I found your blog in a very roundabout way through the nest, if you’re wondering!

  10. *hugs* I think as the above folks have said, this is totally standard. My dad told me when I started my first job that first you love it and everything’s awesome, then you hate it and it’s the worst, then it settles down into “This is all right” (if you’re lucky) and it seems to me that parenting/ motherhood are just like that. If you remind yourself that this job (fulltime mothering) is only 9 months old, it makes total sense that both you and your colleague in the home office are still adjusting to the shared responsibilities.

    When I was 9 months into my last job I was griping that all anyone thought I did was make check requests and fix the photocopier. Ups and downs are normal. And I LOVE the idea of leaving E with the baby for two full days (maybe with a list of the chores you WOULD BE doing in a standard two day rotation) or at least while you leave the house from 9-5.

    P.S. I laughed really loud at “burnt cat vomit” – you’ve got such great writing-timing :P

  11. Leyna says:

    All I can say is, I REALLY love your blog, and this post really spoke to me. Me and my husband just had gotten into a deep conversation at dinner about not understand the life of a mom, and I then I read this post, made him read it of course, and felt I had someone out there to back me up. So thank you! Seriously.

  12. AGreenEyeDevil says:

    Hand E the baby and stay gone for absolutely as long as your boobs will allow with your cell phone turned off – it’s time for a dose of TOUGH love and reality!

  13. bebehblog says:

    Thanks guys, you’re all awesome. Just knowing I’m not the only one who struggles with this helps enormously. Ernie, your marriage is one of the strongest I know so knowing sometimes you get out of balance makes me feel better. And MKP, comparing my “job” to a JOB somehow makes my complaints seem waaaay more valid. So thank you.

    I think I don’t need a break as much as an acknowledgment of my work. People outside the house get a paycheck and promotions and real validation. I’m lucky if E says “Hey dinner is good!” If leaving E in charge of baby, cleaning and cooking for a day will do that then great. But if he can just TRY A LITTLE HARDER I won’t have to threaten abandonment.

    Although you can bet your ass as soon as this kid is able to go two whole days without nursing I am OUT OF HERE for a weekend in NYC.

  14. E says:

    (It’s Suzanne. I’m in E’s comment, editing out the parts that were angry. So lets just say he’s pissed my “internet friends” have all ganged up on him. I feel sort of guilty for this post but we’re having a hard time talking to each other, face to face, with actual words and blogging is the best way I know to make sure SOMEONE is listening. We’re going to schedule a tv/computer/iPhone/baby free hour and hopefully do a little renegotiating of our priorities. Now back to the part of his comment I actually liked…)

    Whatever, it was a stupid argument that has somehow gotten completely blown out of proportion. i know that staying home with Evan is not playing all day. I know she cleans and folds my clothes, fixes my dinner, and cleans the house. She also does a great job raising and taking care of Evan. She does not do a great job of talking to me. She does do a great job of passive-aggressively typing crap on the internet.

  15. hello there! it’s been forever since i’ve commented! the reason being i ADORE your blog in i seriously relate to pretty much everything you write about here. then when i read new posts, i want to sit down and type out witty, thoughtful responses but HELLO guess what, i get distracted by the baby and suddenly it’s been weeks and SHIT i REALLY wanted to comment on your breastfeeding post AAAHHHH!

    hehe, well, this comment is actually for both husband and wife, if interested: we impart a pretty much identical parenting dynamic here in the bilbrey home – i am a stay at homer and my husband works all week. i am definitely the primary caretaker of all things baby: like suzanne, i do and always have done 100% of nighttime feedings/comforting/changing. i also prepare all meals (for baby myself and husband), and i do all basic household cleaning (although he does take out the garbage & kitty litter – sweet!) so we are, i suppose, pretty traditional, er, old-fashioned, er, whatever non-insulting description you want to go with. and i’m happy to do these things – i’m being the kind of mother and wife i want to be! but since our poppy arrived we’ve run into EXACTLY the issue you seem to be describing at least a handful of times. quite a few people have already commented with different perspectives, but the one thing i want to add is this: the times i have lashed out at d because i got my feelings hurt/felt neglected/felt insulted at the insinuation that mine is “less of” a job, david is the one who ended up with very hurt feelings. the reason being that he DOES think i’m an awesome mom, and despite what i may spend all day convincing myself of, the baby and i really are pretty much all he thinks about when he’s at work! we are totally his #1 priority, and for me to basically tell him, “you don’t care enough about me” is therefor extremely hurtful, because it’s insanely far from the truth. i can only assume your husband will completely relate to that sentiment! (;

    the top thing that has helped us overcome this issue (no really, it has WORKED!) is that i’ve become more forthcoming about my feelings. instead of just thinking to myself how much easier it would be if d would just DO something-or-rather for me (which i am soooo guilty of!), i ask him about it. and he is super happy to help! basically i thought up a few things he/we could consistently do that would make my days happier, and i asked him about them (for me, it was that he gets my coffee ready to brew at night, keeps in touch if possible while he’s working, and watches p for a few hours on one of his weekend days IF i need it and ask.) then i asked him if there was anything i could be doing likewise (food to eat after work was his only request! done!)

    seriously, a little honesty goes a loooong way. i literally smile to myself every morning now as i push the button on my coffee maker and it starts brewing, without me having to wrestle with the baby while pouring water and grounds all over the place! because it’s one part of my day that’s always easy, no matter how tired i am or what kind of night i’ve had. a simple reminder that d cares, and cares a LOT! i’m 100% positive that your husband feels the same way about you, lady, and i’d be willing to bet he’d make your proverbial “coffee” too if you asked him for it!

    anyway, i know this wasn’t exactly an eloquent comment, but i still hope you find that little nugget of advice helpful on some level. at least know that there’s another lady out there who totally gets where you’re coming from!

    hope you both (and baby evan too!) are having a happy 2010! cheers to all!

  16. Brigid Keely says:

    I do not do much baby stuff on the weekends. My husband does the diaper changes, the baby feedings, etc. I get some laundry done and take a shower and fool around on the computer and take a nap.

    And generally, around 5pm, he asks what time it is and isn’t it like 8pm? It’s so late! It feels so late. He’s REALLY tired, man. Wow! This has been a long day!

    Because taking care of a baby is hard work, and you don’t really get a lunch break or smoke break or anything, and even when he’s napping you still have to keep an ear out for him and also not slam doors or make huge loud noises to wake him up.

  17. Britni says:

    In response to E’s comment about you passive-aggressively typing on the internet, I see where he’s coming from and why he would want you to talk to him about these things instead of blogging them. However, I’m someone that can’t always articulate how I’m feeling verbally. For me, writing posts like this is cathartic, because I can get my feelings out, but it also helps you work out exactly how you’re feeling, too. And what this post will do is open up a dialogue between the two of you, which is exactly what E wanted in the first place.

    I see this post as a healthy expression of feelings. And your feelings are valid, even if you think they may be unreasonable. You’re allowed to feel however you want about things.

    <3

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