We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Misunderstood Stay-at-Home-Mom

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

I’m a stay-at-home mom and my husband thinks just because I’m home all day with the kids that the housework should be done by the time he walks in the door and dinner should be on the table. How do I get him to understand that it’s not that easy?

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We can't all be like June! ©MCA Television

Sincerely, Mommy Not Maid

Amanda:

So you aren’t spending your days on the metaphorical couch, eating the metaphorical bon bons that everyone seems so fond of associating stay-at-home moms with?

It sounds like a conversation with your husband is overdue. And before you talk, try to see it from his perspective. I’m not saying he’s right, but think back to before you were a SAHM. What were the visions of your days filled with? For me it meant that every day we were going to have playtime and craft time and music time — after we reviewed the alphabet and numbers and maybe some beginner’s French. If the weather cooperated we’d go to the park. If not, we’d find something to do inside — making a fort out of the couch cushions or decoupaging. Then lunch and a nap for my darlings during which time I’d clean up (which wouldn’t take long because my house would be sparkling and completely organized). I’d do laundry and iron all of our clothes — even the baby’s. Then I’d make a gourmet dinner with recipes culled from my assorted cookbooks.

The reality? I’m home all day and I have no idea what I do. Certainly I’m not hunting down absinthe for Oysters Rockefeller. And I’m not tending to my cluttered, not neat house either. I’m wiping sticky faces and hands and cleaning Play Doh out of the grout in the kitchen tile. I’m handing out snacks and then finding them in the couch cushions. I’m folding clean laundry and then putting it back in the washer because my toddler dumped a cup of milk on it. And the older two haven’t even gotten home yet.

Being a SAHM means being ready for the next thing — which could be playing cars or cleaning up an entire bottle of spilled orange juice. It’s like being lost in the forest, wandering around in circles. You think you’ve made progress, but as it turns out, you’re just passing the same tree over and over again.

So explain to him that you get it. You understand that cleaning the bathroom doesn’t mean dumping bleach in the toilet and hoping for the best. And that changing the sheets on the beds should be done more than once a year. But those household chores aren’t the reason you’re a stay-at-home mom, the kids are. And they come first. And if you’ve spent the day doing nothing but read “Goodnight Moon” 54 times and building a block tower over and over again so your 2-year-old can repeatedly knock it down, well, then life is good.

And much more rewarding than eating something other than cold cereal for dinner.

Suzanne:

If that doesn’t work, find a “business” trip to go on and quick.  Maybe your sister is having triplets in New Zealand — sounds like a great time to visit.  Plan a stay-at-home-mom convention.  Anything that will get you out of the house for a few hours or a long while, whatever amount of time it takes for your husband to walk a day or more in your shoes until he gets it.

Luckily I never had to take these drastic measures, because my husband got it before I did. 

I was the full-time working mom who thought maternity leave (both the first and second time around) would be everything Amanda described.  A blissful vacation — with a darling baby along for the ride.  While I did master Beef Wellington for our anniversary dinner during my first week home from the hospital, it was far from a Martha Stewart marathon on most days. 

And that was OK, because my husband had already spent his fair share of time home with our oldest and was the first one in our family to discover the time warp that is a day home alone with the kids.  I remember walking in the door from work on one of those days (kind of looking forward to a hot meal on the table) only to be greeted by my harried husband, announcing that he had a newfound appreciation for stay-at-home-parents and would never expect his wife to actually be able to keep the house in order and have dinner on the table after spending a whole day with the kids.  Then we ordered pizza and he fell asleep.

That’s where your husband needs to be.  He needs to get through a day of chasing a naked toddler around with a diaper while the dog is eating Legos and the endless snacks, meals, and put-my-toy-together requests that leave you chasing your own tail.  If he dares to venture out for some much-needed distraction, he’ll know the joys of trying to find that magic window of time between lunch, naps, and afternoon meltdowns. 

If there is some way you could coordinate a few hours away (like six or seven) on a day when he’s the only person fit for the job (as in your mom is laid up in bed with a broken leg and his mom is in China), you might be able to make your point without even saying “I told you so.” 

Good luck.

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We said our piece, now it’s time for you to weigh in. What would you tell Mommy Not Maid? And if you’ve got a burning question that needs answering, drop us a line at advice@wearebothright.com.