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Dear Scary Mommy,
Now that we’re both working from home and also parenting our children full-time (like so many families are right now), I’m incredibly frustrated — and my two small children have (almost) nothing to do with it! Nope, it’s all my husband. He shuts the door to our bedroom most of the day and only emerges when it’s time to eat lunch — his lunch. Not to prepare the kids’ meals or let me have five minutes to eat in peace. In between my own meetings, emails, and phone calls, I’m the one pulling out the endless supply of toys/art/crafts/snacks, wiping toddler butts, helping my oldest with her schoolwork, and trying to make sure my house doesn’t resemble a landfill. My husband spends his entire day completely separate from the rest of us while I’m barely holding everything together downstairs. I didn’t realize I married such a selfish as*hole, I guess, is what I’m saying. He’s constantly telling me that because his job is “non-stop” he needs his space to “get things done.” How do tell him that he should be non-stop kissing my a*s for all I do around here? I know we’re in the middle of a global crisis, but this is ridiculous and I can’t keep living like this.
Repeat after me: “My husband’s job is NOT more important than mine. My husband’s job is also that of a father and partner.” Repeat this as many times as you need to, as often as you need to. Because it’s the goddamn truth, okay? Look, none of us signed up for a national quarantine of indeterminate length. And, typically, no one works a full-time job while caring for their tiny children full-time, at the same time. But those two kids you have together? That was a choice. Getting married and entering a lifelong partnership? Also a choice. And your husband needs a wake-up call. STAT.
You do not owe him his own space during this time. You do not owe him an apology for existing in your own home, and you kids most certainly don’t either. I’m going to assume that his employer understands that your husband (and his colleagues) is at home, with his small children and wife. This is not a “business as usual” circumstance and the expectation that it should be is unrealistic and cruel. While I do not know the nature of your husband’s work, I do know that a vast majority of office jobs include a lot of dicking around and not nine, non-stop hours of endless work. Basically, it’s probably safe to say he can wipe his kid’s behinds and not have to worry about getting fired.
From now on, you two will trade-off the household and childrearing duties. Look at your daily schedules — when your husband has an important call, you take over. When you have a call or have to respond to urgent emails, he’s dad and he’s Downstairs Dad. You will trade off on meals — whoever has the least jam-packed morning that day is in charge of breakfast and morning snacks, etc. Dinner is a combined effort. Housework is a combined effort — now that everyone is home, the home is going to be more disheveled than usual. If your anxiety is increased by clutter, then Downstairs Dad can pick up as he goes just like you probably do. And so on.
We are in the midst of unprecedented times, a global mass casualty event, a national recession, and a lot of stress and uncertainty. Acknowledging the truth and severity of this moment does not and should not undermine women and the roles we play at home and at work. My husband and I agreed when he began working from home along with me and our two kiddos that when we’re at home, our responsibility is as parents first. That doesn’t mean we ignore our jobs or risk becoming unemployed, but it does mean stepping away from our computers to tend to the immediate needs of our kids and trading off when appropriate.
Do not let this disproportionately affect you and your job because your husband is lapsing into a harmful gender dynamic. He’s a grown, capable man who chose to be a husband and father. He’s not the only one “at work” while “at home” right now, and you need to say that to him as often as necessary for it to sink in. No more closed doors, no more ignoring his wife and children. He doesn’t think twice about letting you bear this burden, so I wouldn’t hesitate to force him to share it.
Stay healthy, stay home, and stay strong with your boundaries.
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