Being A Good Mom Is Making Me A Bad Wife

by Kate Parlin
Originally Published: 
Desperate mom covering her face with her hand while her daughter is sitting in the background

“I’m losing it. I’m trying to make dinner and they won’t stop demanding things and there are THREE of them and only ONE of me and I can’t get the fucking LIGHTBULB into the RIDICULOUS bathroom LIGHT!”

That’s how I greeted my husband when he came through the door last night. No hello. No smile. Certainly no kiss, but I hadn’t showered that day anyway, so he probably dodged a bullet there. Just rage and profanity and some nonsense about lightbulbs. It was me at my worst and that’s what he was met with the second he got home. He’s witnessed my meltdowns plenty of times before, but right as he walked in the door? It was a new low.

Things calmed down after everyone was finally fed. I was cleaning up the kitchen when he came in, gave me a hug, and said, “I’m sorry you had such a rough day.”

And at that moment I felt really terrible because the thing is that it wasn’t a rough day. It was a pretty normal day. There were good moments and difficult moments, but nothing all that stressful had happened for most of the day. The girls drew pictures and then we used their colorful creations to decorate their cardboard tunnel. They loved their lunch because it involved applesauce and cheese. And although the twins didn’t nap, the baby slept for almost three hours. So as a whole, the day could have been much worse.

It’s just that everything came down on top of me all at once.

I was sautéing mushrooms and stirring beans and microwaving rice.

The twins “needed” me to commune with them while they sat on their potties and insisted that I replace the bulb in our obnoxious old-house bathroom light fixture because it was apparently “too dark to pee.”

The baby ripped apart the pictures that everyone had so carefully colored and I had so carefully taped to their tunnel. And then screeched about it. So her sisters started screeching about it too.

The dog puked on the floor and that smell mingled with the smell of beans and spices burning to the bottom of a pan.

So of course all of that was going on at exactly the time that my husband was walking through the door.

He came home to a sweaty, angry wife and assumed that it had been a rough day. Once I had a second to think, I felt terrible because I realized something huge:

My husband never sees me at my best.

At my best, I’m witty, creative, and enthusiastic. At my worst, I’m short-tempered, grouchy, and cold. I can usually be found somewhere between those two, and although my kids often get my best, and my writing sometimes does, my husband just doesn’t.

I worry that this is how marriages fall apart.

I worry that he thinks I’m always stressed out and yelling when I’m home alone with the kids. Because I’m not. He doesn’t see me on a good day at about 10 a.m. when I’ve had coffee and the morning rush is over. Sometimes I’ve managed to clean the kitchen, brush my teeth, and maybe even sneak in a shower by then. That’s when we snuggle and have a book-reading marathon. Or we dance. Or I decide it’s a good idea to take out some pipe cleaners and glue and make a “craft.” That’s when I have fun with my kids and they get my best self.

But my husband? He sees me first thing in the morning when I’m groggy and up to my eyeballs in cups of milk and custom orders for toast. Then he sees me at the end of the day, when I’m just plain worn out.

There are weekends sure, but weekends with little kids aren’t very weekend-y. We get out for dates every once in a while, but not nearly enough.

I love that I can be myself with my husband. He honestly doesn’t care if I’m wearing makeup or anything like that. I know that he loves me. I know that he loves how we’ve created a family together. We’re partners and we signed up for this life together.

But I want to be fun and interesting and sexy when I’m with him, at least sometimes. I want him to know that I’m more than just a frazzled nutcase in an applesauce-covered Target t-shirt. And I’m sure he does know that, in a sense, but how long is he going to believe it without any evidence to the contrary? How do I give him my best? How do other stay-at-home-moms do it? Does he worry about any of these things too?

Maybe this is just a by-product of the baby-and-little-kid years of parenting. Maybe once I get some time to myself for things like reading, writing, thinking, and exercising, I’ll have enough energy to be my best when my husband is actually around. Maybe then I can stop yelling about lightbulbs and put on a clean t-shirt once in a while.

We both deserve that. We really do.

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