Way back when my oldest was a fairly young baby, some probably well-intentioned, but know it all mom gave me a piece of advice I will never forget. Not because it was life changing and helpful, not because it was laughable… no this advice SOUNDED excellent, but sort of totally screwed me.
What did this kindly lady suggest? “Leave your husband with your baby for an afternoon and he will never take you for granted again.” So like the young fool I was I did that. I pumped three days worth of milk into bottles, meticously prepared, wrote lists..so many lists, and went off to do god knows what for an entire afternoon. Now let’s pause for some background- my husband is brilliant and exceedingly capable. I mean he was training to become a DOUBLE doctor, so I should have KNOWN this was a horrible mistake, but I was so sleep-deprived with a tiny Dementor for a child and I was so desperate for validation. But here is the thing you need to take to heart- Unless your husband (or non-stay at home parenting partner) is an utter moron an afternoon with a baby shouldn’t send him into a tailspin and sure as hell won’t teach him anything about the life of a stay at home mom.
Flash forward to when I come home. Secretly, I hoped to find everything covered in poop and feathers. I don’t know why I thought feathers would be everywhere; it was a mental image conjured by a sleep deprived nutcase. I hoped I would walk in and my husband would fall down at my feet and apologize for ever even implying my job was anything other than Herculean. I would glide and rescue him from the hell our daughter had inflicted upon him. As you can guess this didn’t happen. I walked in and the house was clean, laundry done, AND PUT AWAY who does that right away? The baby was happily bouncing in the bouncer and I think he might have made brownies. I will admit- had I not had such devious motivations in the first place this would have been awesome. My husband is kind of awesome, it’s why I keep him around despite his loud chewing and questionable music choices. Had I been in a different mental place walking in to half of my To-Do list being completed would have been bliss. Brownies= bliss. But I wasn’t damnit. I was annoyed and frustrated. (Here is not the place to get huffy and tell me off in the comments. You’re missing the point if that’s your reaction). He effortlessly tackled all these tasks and didn’t even complain. These tasks had been on my list seemingly forever; tasks that I could no longer muster the mental or physical strength to accomplish. Seriously, the nerve of him! Not only did he demolish this mental image I had, but I had never felt like more of a failure. If he could do it why couldn’t I? Why was it all so hard for me? What was wrong with me?
Truth was I wasn’t the failure. The plan (or plot…) was the failure.
Do you know why this was an utter failure? Because it really isn’t the children or the housework. Any baboon can do a load of laundry, but it takes the uniquely fractured mind of a SAHM to do the SAME load 3 times because she keeps forgetting about it and now has get rid of that mildewy smell. Anyone with half a brain and two hands can take care of a baby- not even a mobile demon toddler, but a stay where you put them don’t talk back baby. Heck, I babysat 6 kids when I was 12, which was kind of crazy if you think about it. The point is that it’s not the task– its the sheer relentless strangulating monotony of motherhood that no one can truly understand and certainly not after one blissful afternoon alone with a baby. You know what that is? A play date. Ok, that’s not really fair and I think it is really important that both parents have alone time with the kids while the other gets a “break”. However, an afternoon is easy, a day is easy. You know what is bone crushingly hard? Every. Single. Day. Everything being on YOU. You can work your butt off today and tomorrow is brand new day full of messes and things to do. Not just things to do. Everyone has an endless to do list. But it is only mom that has the EXACT SAME TO DO. LIST EVERYDAy. That pile of laundry? Sure, do it today but another one will just replace it tomorrow. Those dishes you need to scrub tonight? Unless you plan to starve your family that sink will be full tomorrow. And the kids… the endless repetition of parenting. We all know parenting has these moments of sheer perfection, we aren’t talking about that here. Parenting is the same book 10 times in a row. The same meal that frankly is a total crap shoot on whether your kid will it.. you LOVED peas yesterday, you little ingrate. Sometimes you feel like a robot performing the same mindless tasks, and like Sisyphus pushing that rock up a hill you look around and no one can tell that you accomplished anything. Or that you barely sat all day. Or that all you wanted to do was cry into a jug of wine …what? I mean MUG not jug, but instead you sang Old MacDonald and made every single animal noise you can think of because your baby giggles every time you sing it even though you know a lion on a farm is a horrible idea and you really have no idea what sound a hippo makes..
I get it. Other moms get it. It’s really hard because you do it every damn day with a smile (sort of) on your face. It is really really hard because you know when you crawl into bed exhausted that in a couple hours it will just start all over.
This is the point where other blogs will give you a list of “10 Ways to break out the rut” or at least a motivational quote. This isn’t other blogs. Day to day motherhood sucks sometimes and no list, no glittering fancy font quote will change that. And you know what? That’s ok. You have permission to not love motherhood every single minute and not feel guilt about. Don’t let anyone rip you from your valid emotions with ” but your kids are only young once” bs. You have permission to feel validated that this is all hard, so freaking hard. You have permission to lie to your toddler and tell them that the “Wheels on the Bus” is sleeping so you can’t sing it but that Sesame Street is wide awake. You have permission to leave a basket of unmatched socks in the hallway and let everyone fend for themselves. You have permission to leave the house and do something just for you. Just don’t expect to come home to a screaming feather- covered family who fall to their knees and praise you as the Domestic Goddess you are. Instead, tell them that coming home to freshly baked brownies would be nice.