It’s been a loooooong time. But I have two excuses, both so dear to my heart.
1) The baby. Omg, I had no time for anything. I always wanted a wild, energetic child, you know? And I’m blessed to have one now. But to be able to catch up with him, I stopped cooking for myself (and was eating chocolate and nuts for lunch) for weeks? I only made dinner so we could behave like proper adults when my husband came home. Nuts and chocolate give great energy, by the way, and are the easiest things to eat, without being completely horrible to your body. But for the last few weeks, I have been back to my healthier diet (kind of thanks to this company We all need some inspiration and motivation to take that first step towards a healthier life! Use the code SUPER-IVY15 for a discount!). Anyway, I’ll be back for many more recipes, soon!
2) We went back home, to visit my family and friends, and to enjoy the gorgeous beaches. My mama took such good care of us. I mean, I didn’t do any housework. Nothing but taking care of the baby. He loved the sea, by the way. Loved it! And just look at where we were!
Back to reality
But now we’re back. It’s not that bad to be back! (Especially after a 16+ hour flight!) But there are some aspects of the reality of being a stay-at-home-mum which I have been meaning to share with you.
You probably know by now that I am married to the most incredible person I have ever met. There is not a single day I am not grateful to have met him. The guy is close to perfect. I mean, it’s surreal. But even he is no angel. We are all human, and humans make mistakes. We misunderstand, misinterpret, make tons of assumptions, break hearts, get jealous, envious- and all of this might happen even in a most endearing relationship.
And add kids to that scenario, and things get much, much more difficult. After our little one was born, I went to a mama’s group at Then Comes Baby in Oakland. After the new mamas shared their worries, concerns, and complaints about their relationships with their partners, the “leader” of the group had reminded us that “the baby is the enemy. Not your partner!”. Seriously, though, we and the partners- we are in this together. And the only way we can make this relationships work (well, any relationship, really, even the one with the little ones!) is through communication. And sometimes we don’t communicate and just assume that our partner can read our mind!
So I went ahead one day on Instagram and asked all the stay-at-home-parents what they wish they never heard from their partners. Below is the list of the most common responses I received. All the responses came from stay-at-home-mamas, but please let me know (on IG, FB, or comment below!) if there is a stay-at-home-dad among us who would like to add to this list. Here we go.
1. I Wish I Could Stop Working/ Let’s switch roles!
Okay, first of all, we, stay-at-home-parents ARE working. If anything, we are talking about more than a full-time job. It’s just that the domestic work is not interpreted as such. True, it can be exhausting to work out of the household. I know, because I have been there. But the thing is, I also remember the little breaks I used to be able to get, and which a stay-at-home parent rarely, if at all, gets. For example, that lunch break you hopefully enjoyed today. Most days my lunches are chocolate and nuts because the baby wants to be in my arms. Then he wants to be on the mat. And in two minutes he changes his mind and cries to be held again. Nope, that won’t do it, put me back down. And now that he’s older, he tries to grab whatever I’m eating — until I give him some of his own food, which he throws on the floor, so I have to clean it. Then he poops or spits all over his outfit. So I have to change him. Anyway, you get the idea.
Oh, and you were able to use the restroom at work whenever you needed to, right? Darling, that privacy in the bathroom thing is passé! I can’t even brush my teeth without the baby tumbling down the bathroom rubbish bin, or touching all over the toilet bowl, or trying to climb up the bathtub and (God forbid!) hit his beautiful head. Ay, it’s making me tired even writing about all that!
And forget having a little breath. Like, leave your desk-job, ok, and go grab a cup of coffee. I mean, technically, when things get overwhelming, you can do that, right? Well, we can rarely do that unless we strain the poor babies on a bed or something.
Listen, I get it. From my perspective, the partner who works outside is making a sacrifice for the stay-at-home-parent. My husband, for example, is making a sacrifice for me, for our little one, and for our family. It is thanks to him that I get to experience those precious moments (the first smile, the first words, the first finger food, the first steps) most of which my husband will only get to experience in photographs and videos. So I do appreciate that. But again, remember, we are in this together, and we all want to be appreciated and acknowledged. We all want our work, our labour, our energy to be valued. What makes a relationship stronger is the fact that both partners empathize with appreciate each other! So if at any moment I think that my husband is being unfair, I communicate my concern with him. And, bless him, he understands. He reads me so well.
2. I wish you contributed to the household income/ when will you have a real job?
Oh I hate this one. I repeat: We do have a real job (even when it feels surreal sometimes!). But also, often, staying at home with children is a more economically viable option than having both parents work, since one income would go exclusively to childcare. You might even wind up losing money by working, especially if you have multiple children! Besides, I’m assuming that both partners had come to an agreement about this, right? For example, my husband and I had long, loaded discussions about whether or not one of us should stay at home to take care of our little one. We both wanted our child to be raised by his mama, at least for the first few years. It took me a long time to get used to the idea that I would not be doing the work I am used to. It is a huge change, mind you- your whole identity shifts! And raising a child is not particularly intellectually stimulating. So it would be unfair to put this additional pressure on the stay-at-home-parent, out of the blue, as if they came to decide on their own to stay at home. On the other hand, if there never has been a discussion on this matter, or if you now are having doubts, do communicate these concerns with your partner, but without underestimating the work they do with your kid(s) and at home.
3. Stop venting/ You keep complaining!
One other common theme is that the parent who works outside of the house comes home exhausted and does not want to add more stress to their already stressful day by listening to the stay-at-home parent’s complaints. They just want to relax, sit and watch telly with no distractions, have dinner, and go to bed. You know, how many of my own friends have internalized this? What I keep hearing from my girls is this: “Well, he is right, too, you know? He does have a stressful job, and doesn’t want to listen to me whine!”
But, dear stay-at-home-parent, PLEASE don’t underestimate the daily stress YOU are under. Have a look at #1. Sounds familiar? I mean, I know it’s not brain surgery, but all of this I mention above, and much, much more, and all. day. long. How many people can tolerate a *constantly* whining baby, for example, and for how long? Well, sometimes babies get moody, too, and they whine. All. Day. Long. So the cumulative effect, day in and day out, just leaves the stay-at-home-parent completely drained.
But there’s also a more ”social” factor: We, stay-at-home-parents, rarely get to experience adult conversations. You know how important that is? These days, if I happen to socialize (by some miracle) I get so nervous and excited and overwhelmed or intimidated that I talk too fast and too much and get all shy at the same time. (I used to do that in high school, too, when I was trying to hide my social anxiety behind a cool-girl act).
So when you walk in the door, dear partner, you have no idea what has been happening all day. Please be considerate and nonjudgmental. Besides, most of the time, we don’t want you to solve any of our complaints, we just want to unload. Just listen (but really listen) to what we have to say, and show us that you understand, give us a hug, and also, please take the baby for a short while so we can use the bathroom in privacy!
4. At least you can sleep during the day!
Come again? I mean, I’m sure some little ones blissfully nap for hours during the day. But many of us don’t have such babes. Take our little one. Although it has already got way better than a few months ago, our night sleep is still constantly interrupted. On a “bad” day, not only do I keep waking up every hour to soothe the baby, I am unable to take a nap during the day because the little bugger won’t sleep for more than half-hour. So by the time I would be falling asleep, he is up and energetic and wanting to discover the world. Besides, plenty of mums I know work from home, so nap time is work time! I have to work on the book I am supposed to be writing, but also clean the house a little, wash the clothes or the dishes, and make food. So. Technically, I had a better chance to sleep in the bathroom at work than sleeping now in my own bed.
It’s not me, and it’s not you
Come to think of it, it’s not even the baby that is the enemy. It’s the system. Don’t close the page yet, hear me out. We’re almost done here. What I mean is, in this day and age, it shouldn’t be this hard to juggle our multiple belongings. You know, to find time for ourselves. This is true for everyone involved- regardless of the situation of your household unless you’re a zillionaire: Single parent, both parents working full time, both unemployed, multiple parents, larger families involved. I mean, the work outside of the household should be family-friendly so that everyone should be able to enjoy those precious moments while keeping some of their flexibility and independence. The only time I can be on my own is when my husband comes from work. We have two-three hours together to talk, eat dinner, and maybe watch something on Netflix, before going to bed. But sometimes, I leave him with the baby for half an hour or so (which he gladly accepts) so I can do my thing. This can be having a shower, exercising, just listening to myself a little, or taking care of some work. It’s not like I’m out clubbing (not the there is anything wrong with that). I am blessed with an empathetic partner, who does not shy from showing his appreciation. I am forever grateful for that. But it is okay to ask for more, and for everyone. Because everyone deserves appreciation.