I am a stay at home mom pregnant with my third child. This is my forth pregnancy. Do those 2 sentences tell you a lot about where I am emotionally? I had been mentally restless beginning in week 14 of this pregnancy, so I told my husband that since we had reliable childcare, I was going to get a second job for the duration of my second trimester (when women typically have more energy). Second job you say? But you are a Stay-At-Home-Mom. Yeah, motherhood is my first job. It is time that we remind those outside of the mommy world that this is truly a real job. So I got a second job, working forty hours a week as a billing specialist for a commercial air conditioning company. All the mental stimulation my restless mind needed, with very little inter-personal interaction (which I had a lot of at my first job).
Stay-At-Home-Mom for the Day
Typically during the work day my mother had charge of my two preschool aged children. She is a born educator, nurturer and general baby-whisperer whom my children adore, so this arrangement worked out well. Well she had already made plans to be out of two for two weeks, and so I made other childcare arrangements during that time. On two consecutive Mondays, my husband was the primary caregiver. We are generally egalitarian in our approach to home life, but since I come from a long line of educators (my great-great-grandmother owned and operated her own elementary school with over 100 kids in her care), and had spent my 20s knocking out my career bucket list, we decided I would be at home with the kids until they hit middle school. All that to say, he wasn’t used to the daily demands a SAHM has on her shoulders.
At the end of the day I asked him for feedback:
“The hardest part of the day was trying to prepare lunch in the kitchen while trying to keep an eye on the kids because you don’t know if one is going to get their foot stuck in a toy while the other one decides its time to hit her brother. Then at the table the older one wants to be the baby, but the younger one needs help learning to use a fork. Then after lunch the whole potty regression thing. And then once they’re sleeping you try to do grad school work and house chores, but you fall asleep. So pretty much the whole day has its challenges.”
Yeah that sounds like a typical day in the life.
But wait! He says:
“The best part of the day was in the morning, when they played really well together. They decided to build a block castle together, and helped each other. And even when the younger one wanted to be a wrecking ball, and destroy all their hard work, they worked it out, and enjoyed the whole process of start over. That was really awesome to see. They are each other’s best friend.”
The Lack of Respect Out There
Pretty confident that he had the whole at-home-parent thing handled, I went off to work on the second Monday. When I came home he went to the gym. When he came back, he was clearly irritated at a conversation he had had with his buddy.
“I tell my buddy at the gym and he rolls his eyes and says oh so you’re the stay at home mom for the day. Must be nice, you can take it easy while your wife is the bread-winner for the day.”
Was it rude of me to laugh out loud at my husband? My girl friends have been telling me for years about the struggles they’ve had with their husbands regarding what they do all day. The Who’s-More-Tired comparisons are legendary in my social circle. But the truth is, everyone’s tired. Because every parent works hard at their daily tasks. Especially when the house looks like someone took a wrecking ball to it at the end of the day.
It took more conversations to get it through to the gym buddy concerning the sheer scale of what mom’s do. Its not about doing “nothing” at home, or having it easy. Moms do a lot. Children require more work than pets. More supervision, more guidance and more interaction. Then there is house cleaning, laundry and, self-care. All of the cutesy, snarky or just I’m still here posts that people put on social media can be tongue-in-cheek but the reality is, Moms deserve more respect. And they often fight for that respect alone.
Let’s hear it for the boy!
The best thing to come out of my summer of work was my husband’s great awakening. Mom’s can stick up for themselves all day, but sometimes we need our partner to raise a toast and tell the world that we are doing more than eating milk duds and watching telenovelas. That kind of public validation does not make us a weaker human. It makes us relatable. It introduces empathy and understanding into what can sometimes be a misogynistic conversation. That kind of awareness brings people together. And you know what? Sometimes they’ll be shocked with the responses that they get. And that’s a good thing. Because part of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is learning about the running commentary the world thinks they have the right to make about some else’s life.
So what about you? Are you a stay-at-home-mom fighting for respect from those in your social circle? Are you a working parent who just doesn’t see what your spouse does all day long? I would recommend the remedy of having a freaky-Friday and switching shoes for the day. If you’re a working parent who really respects the work your stay at home parent does all day, I would recommended letting them know how much you respect the work that they do. I guarantee it will bring you closer.