Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: What do you do when you’re a harried SAHM … and your spouse is wondering what you actually do? Have your own question? Email email@example.com.
Dear Scary Mommy,
I’m a stay-at-home-mom of two kids, a three-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. As anyone who’s ever been a SAHM knows, I’m busy from the time my feet hit the floor to the time my head hits the pillow. I will admit, there are days when outwardly it doesn’t look like I’ve done much of anything. There are still dishes in the sink at the end of the day and clutter everywhere. But keeping up with two small children is a job all by itself! However, my husband doesn’t seem to grasp this. When he comes home and it looks like a tornado has swept through the house, he asks me (almost resentfully) if I did anything at all that day. It makes me so mad! How can I get him to see that what I do is actually work?
Oooh, I get ragey just reading this question. The petty (but satisfying, TBH) answer would be to just … stop doing it. Not to a degree that would cause your kids to be uncomfortable or in danger, of course — I don’t mean letting their diapers go unchanged or anything like that — but keep the toys exactly where they are on the floor, and the crumbs exactly where they fall on the counter, and let the unorganized chaos that you battle all day every day build the eff up and exist in its natural state. Then when your husband asks what you did all day, you can say, “Nothing. Can’t you tell?” Then maybe run screaming from the house and leave him to handle the mess.
Of course, I suppose this isn’t the most grownup way to handle the situation. I think the biggest concern here is the way he’s presenting it. Does he genuinely wonder? Like, is he asking out of curiosity, the way many people ask their spouses “How was your day” or something similar every evening? Or is he trying to make you feel useless and devalued by pointing out your perceived shortcomings as a wife and mother? If the answer is the latter, there are bigger fish to fry than just the stuffies strewn everywhere.
My suggestion would be to let him know exactly how this question makes you feel: like he’s implying that you’re not pulling your weight, that you should be doing more. Not angrily, just matter-of-factly. In response, one of two things will likely happen – he’ll either be surprised (and apologetic) that you see it that way, or he’ll bull up and defend his position that you should be doing more. In that case, you’ll need to take a step back and evaluate any other areas of your relationship in which he might feel “superior” or critical of you. Couples therapy can be useful for this, but he has to be willing to recognize that he needs to change. If he isn’t, some deeper evaluation of the partnership may be in order. Because chances are, his attitude is eventually going to spill over onto your kids, too.
Above all, remember this: you don’t have to earn your keep. And you don’t owe anyone an explanation of how you fill every moment of your day, not even your husband. You are raising children, and that’s plenty hard — and important – enough.