I wrote this in the fall of 2010 and shared it as a Facebook “note”. At the time, my children were 5 and 2. Each time I have read it since then, it’s been a good reminder and still rings true. I hope it will help you as well.
Husbands of Stay-at-Home Moms or Work-at-Home Moms
I stay home with my kids. I do some different work projects, and I bring in some money, but my main focus is the kids. They’re my #1 job. It’s a struggle for most (all?) moms who are the primary childcare providers to (1) feel like others respect the fact that being a mom is a “real job” and (2) treat themselves as though they work a “real job” while they’re “just” staying home with their kids.
I am exceedingly fortunate to have a husband who totally respects, supports, and understands that being a mom is a full-time “real” job and that anything else I do at the same time (like housework or financially-beneficial work) is essentially bonus. He would support me completely focusing on the kids each day, in fact, but I insist on piling the other stuff up on my plate.
Allen is really great about helping out in the house. Sure, it would be amazing to him if the house were immaculate each day when he returned home from his job, with dinner waiting and happy, clean kids. But he totally doesn’t expect it, and he’s glad to do his part in the evenings with the kids, and on the weekends with the house and yard.
Like many men, he pretty much handles the yard work and taking out the trash (and replacing the bag in the can! I hate replacing the bag in the can!), and I pretty much try to stay on top of the dishes and laundry. The rest we share however it works out at the time.
Today, I mowed the grass.
Well, half of it. I’m hoping to do the other half tomorrow. This past weekend, my husband’s sweet grandmother passed away. (Actually she was really *our* grandmother – I’ve been around for 13 years now and she has always made me feel like her own granddaughter.) We had to leave town quickly and Allen was stressed about wanting to get the grass mowed before we left, because he knew it would be even longer by the following weekend, and hard on the mower.
In Florida, in the summer, you have to mow weekly. I told him to just not worry about it, that we could get the neighbor’s company to do it or something, and let’s just get on the road, and so we left.
So today, I thought it would be a really nice thing to do, to mow the yard. “For Allen.” Because it’s his primary responsibility and I knew he was stressed about it, since he’s working late nights this week and can’t mow after work, and it would be really long by Saturday (if he even gets to be off on Saturday.)
So I’m mowing along, and feeling pretty good, you know? What a nice thing to do, right? And then I hear some words that slipped out of Allen’s mouth a few weeks ago.
He knew I was feeling stressed about the house, because mothering the kids had been particularly challenging that week, and he offered to wash the dishes. “For me.” “Here, you go work on something you want to do and I’ll wash the dishes for you,” is basically how it went.
What do you think I said in return? Do you think I was appreciative?
“Thanks honey, that is so nice, I really appreciate that.” Ha. No. I was mad! Wash the dishes FOR ME? Am I the only one capable of washing dishes around here? You’re going to DO ME A FAVOR and do MY CHORE for me, huh? Seriously? Whew, I was mad. It hurt my feelings and made me feel like so many other moms out there feel, like they have all these jobs at home and their husband just has to work his out-of-the-home job and then come home and relax. And what a favor it would be for him to wash the dishes “for me.”
And then here I was today, mowing the grass “for Allen” and I was reminded of that exchange a few weeks ago. Obviously this is no accident. So I get a little pang of remorse for my outburst at the guy who was only trying to do something nice for me, to carry some of my load.
Is Allen the only one capable of mowing the grass? Obviously not! Yet here I was thinking that I was doing him a favor. It’s the same thing, right?
Oh, but wait!
I tried to hold on to my side a little bit longer. It takes me a lot longer to mow the grass! I won’t even be able to do the whole yard (front and back) at once like he does. He can practically run with the mower and do it in under an hour and it will take me that long just to do the front. Clearly this is not even. I’m doing him a favor.
But, no, it is the same after all. It takes him twice a long to wash the dishes as it takes me. I don’t even mind washing dishes, in general. I have a great system, it’s efficient, and actually feels good to accomplish it. He hates washing the dishes, finds it tedious and stressful, and it was actually going to be quite a sacrifice on his part to do them for me that night, just like I was stretching myself and mowing the grass for him, today.
So as I finished going around and around the last patch of grass in the front yard, I decided to come and share this little story with whomever cared to read it.
Most SAHMs and WAHMs will agree that being the primary childcare provider for your own children is not an easy job, and that doing the housework and any other work on top of it is very time-consuming and many days just too much for one person. Those of us who are lucky enough to be partnered with someone who respects and understands that are few, and probably even fewer are those of us who have partners who even happily help out when they can.
So this is a little “I appreciate you” for my husband. And I promise to try to not get offended when you are truly just wanting to do something nice for me.
Near the end of my mowing, my 5 year old came up and yelled a question at me. I didn’t hear it but yelled back to hold on, because I was almost done. “Are you almost out of gas?” he asked.
Yes, I was. The mower wasn’t, but I definitely was. LOL Hopefully I can do the backyard tomorrow.