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.