For the first time in two months, my husband had a full day home from work. We played endless rounds of Candy Land with the kids together, completed some much-needed cleaning around the house, he made steaks on the grill, and then we settled down between fresh sheets and watched a classic film.
It was wonderful.
At the same time, I was beginning to grow more and more restless as the clock ticked further into night. The anticipation of the next day weighed on my chest, bringing with it heavy and consuming feelings of anxiety. As I lay there holding my husband’s hand, I felt resentful of a tomorrow where I would be alone. Surrounded by four kids, of course, but still, feeling isolated, stressed, and therefore not the “fun mom” I strive to be. It would be a tomorrow that would look like my yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that.
My husband was right beside me, and already, I ached for him to come back home.
Despite spending most of my hours as the lone parent of the household, I am in no way a single parent. Even if more times than not, my husband is away from the home, I am grateful to have him as a major financial supporter in this family. Still, being a stay-at-home mom with a partner who works seven days a week isn’t always the luxury that some might make it out to be.
I bring in a small income to help support our family too. But, unlike my husband, I do it from home. I work into the wee hours of the night with zero energy, because not only am I balancing motherhood with a job, but I’m also juggling a million thankless roles on top of that all at once. I’m stressed from worrying about the dirty dishes, washing the laundry, homeschooling the kids, tending to what feels like a continuous and vicious cycle of the plague in our house, not to mention the countless other “mom things” on my list that have become the invisible norm.
I value my many jobs, especially when I stop to consider that I’m lucky enough to do them all from home with my kids. But since my husband is the breadwinner around here, sometimes, by both our faults, it feels like it is me who is placed on the backburner.
It’s easy to say where our relationship might be going wrong if you’ve never been there, but when it’s your partner working seven days a week, it’s difficult not to allow the guilt of complaining to run the show.
For the first time in our adult lives, we are gaining financial stability. We aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck anymore. For crying out loud, we have a damn comma in our bank account. We are finally looking toward the future in a way we’ve never been able to. And that is why we are both continuing to sacrifice so many bits and pieces of ourselves.
Considering the fact that my husband’s shift change is bringing us closer to our financial goals, I don’t always feel justified in telling him to take more time off. He’s working his butt off to provide, and I see it. So when he’s home, I don’t always push him to his fullest capacity around the house. Not just because he’s tired (Lord knows, I am tired too), but because I want to spend quality time together that doesn’t revolve around chores.
At the same time, I want to literally slap myself across the face for failing to see my own worth. Because in the process of looking out for him, I have to step back and realize that I’m neglecting myself.
It’s not a competition over who does the most and when they do it. We can objectively agree that we are both hard workers. And finally, we are reaping the benefits of that dedication.
Unlike him, or even most fathers, there are some things I do as a mother that neither of us will visually see until they haven’t been done. I carry the mental load. What that means is, if I’m not putting things into motion, they never get done. And if things do get done by some miracle, it’s because I had to ask for it.
Sometimes this means putting clothes in the wash at 11 p.m. for the next day. Other times, it’s ensuring all four kids are seeing their physician, dentist, and optometrist as needed. And, make no mistake, it is all of the little things that fall in the many cracks in between.
Whereas my husband has an opportunity to leave work every night and come home to a place where he can wind down, this home is my work. I can’t escape it. After the kids are tucked in for the night, that’s when his resting takes place. For me, my work — in all of its many forms — has just begun.
My obligations do not require set hours. I get to wear yesterday’s sweatpants and a top knot on the job. My co-workers scream for a different colored plate, and it better be pronto. Oh, and how could I forget, my t-shirt has various colors of stains from countless occasions where it’s wiped dirty little chins.
Nevertheless, I work seven days a week — just like my partner, and my needs are important too.