Around the world, many families are cared for by a stay at home caretaker or housewife or husband. I am one by both default and by choice. I was unwilling to work only to pay for childcare so I am focusing on my writing career and blog and am in charge of our children and all things domestic. I’m truly proud of how good I am at this, but I get the feeling others may not be proud of their role as caretaker. And I understand that too. I get overwhelmed and feel powerless to add money to the pot.
The flip side is that I may make it look too easy. Which results in me feeling a little overwhelmed and under staffed. Unlike me, my husband is no way compelled to rush to my aid me as I’m cooking, handling a screaming baby, and directing my son through his chores before the school bus arrives. I feel like there’s an outdated unspoken agreement between he and I, maybe not too dissimilar to the ones made by other parents through the centuries, which states this is your job and that is mine. You do X and I do Y. This arrangement doesn’t always work for me. Our age, lifestyles, and head count have changed and the time has come to rewrite the rules for the roles. And separate the truth from the untruth.
The primary fallacy: If my man is bringing home the peanut butter and jelly sandwich makings, my downtime relies on his availability first. In other words, I would get little time off from the baby if he’s got work related tasks to take care of. He’s a freelancer and all of that working adds up to new jobs.
But, if mama doesn’t get some time off to do things hands-free like vacuum, dye hair roots, or even, dare I say, do something leisurely like get a manicure, this Momma feels resentful. Bad mojo Mommy means everyone suffers. I found myself beseeching him and justifying my request for him to have a baby day and that doesn’t set right with me.
My biggest misstep was in creating a situation where I won’t let go of care-taking everyone. And the second is in not asking for my needs to be met. This combination makes me a martyr and I don’t like the sound of that in the least. I’ve been a doormat before and here I’m recreating it with people I love? The spoiled are made by a spoiler. And since hubby can’t read my mind, I’ve got to shut off the closed captioning. Out loud or nothing changes.
So I have begun to change stuff up. I asked what sorts of breakfasts the boys would be willing to make for themselves. And they’ve been doing it. Next step is scheduling these on the calendar so everyone, including me, knows when and what Mommy‘s not doing. Lesson number #153, what you do for them, they’ll expect.
I once considered saying I was going out for milk and then calling to say I stopped by for my long overdue pedicure. Then I managed to jam this task into a stroller nap. In the end, it’s still my choice to give it to me. I don’t have to steal what I’m entitled to.
I am thinking I just need to get a little more honest and a little less codependent. When I get mad at something, I’m usually madder at myself for a choice I’m making or not making. How about I say, “Mommy’s off at 7pm so get your needs met before that“. Or “Tonight’s a leftover night, I’ll be upstairs soaking in the tub“.
I finally started booking time with the husband on the calendar for his baby care time. It helps that he’s not terrified of her anymore. Only took 9 months. Sadly, just when I started to enjoy a weekly babysitter for 4 precious hours, she’s off to college. Sigh.
Here’s to commanding, borrowing, and scheduling all the Mommy free time you can get. I always tell women, “You know your driving, right?” I believe we really are the family decision makers in many ways. And taking care of ourselves ensures that our family is better taken care of as well. Model self-respect and your children will grow up to respect themselves. A happy Mommy means a happy family.