“Happy together, unhappy together, and won’t that be just fine” – from “Come Rain or Come Shine ” by Mercer/Arlen
(Image courtesy of Google Images)
Another loving open letter from a man to his “stay-at-home” wife has gone viral recently. And it initially annoyed me beyond belief.
As I read through it, I found the post smacked of guilt, a false sense of superiority, and overcompensation-slash-ass kissing. But then I read the comments following these articles from other stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) that say things like wow, you totally get how I feel, thank you for showing your wife this kind of support, I feel so alone. Which makes my cynical soul feel that maybe, just maybe, I’m misinterpreting the author’s intent, and what I find pandering and saccharine might actually be making a portion of the population that has felt slighted feel better, somehow. Validated about their life choices. Which is actually something I find absolutely fantastic.
I realized that what irks me about these kinds of articles is that it’s from a man breaking down the list of tasks his spouse performs and putting a dollar value to everything his spouse does, or everything he thinks she does as a SAHM. And this where I get all grouchy about it; I do way more than half of what your typical SAHM does, but I don’t feel as though there should be a dollar amount tacked on to things like doing the laundry or putting my kids to bed, nor would I appreciate such a listing from my spouse. So, I guess, maybe it isn’t them, after all. Maybe it’s me, the one with the rolling eyes and the “Dude, please.” dismissive wave of my hand. And then there’s the whole “SAHM” thing; I actually can’t stand that term. Because it’s been my observation that parents who don’t hold down a 40-plus-hours-a-week salaried job, definitely don’t “stay at home”. They are doing the grocery shopping, the visits to the doctor, the playdates, the mundane errands, volunteering at the school, transporting kids to preschool and to after-school sporting events.
Families generally do the best they can to figure out what works for them. I know a woman whose husband works a crazy amount of hours during the week while she does not have a salaried job; they have worked it out so that she is the primary caretaker of their two kids and everything else from Monday-Friday. However, on the weekends, he is fully engaged in Dad mode. I know another woman who works a crazy amount of hours during the week and has to frequently travel for work; her husband does not have a salaried job, but takes care of the everyday for their four children, so that she can be fully present when she is home. I know other families where one or both parents work a reduced schedule so that they can split household and childcare duties, save some daycare expenses, and have more time with their kids. And I also know families where both parents work full time, and juggle all of the household and kid duties between the two of them. And I know single working parents who do everything, all of it, all by themselves.
So where are the love notes of appreciation for all of those people? Where are the letters from stay-at-home-parents, thanking their spouses for making enough money so that they could devote their energies to the household and raising their children? Where are the letters from dads who have spouses who work and still take care of more than half of the household/childcare duties? Where are the letters from working Moms who feel the same way?
Well, in order to be the change that I wish to see in the world, here is my open letter to my spouse who works full time:
Thank you. Thank you for having these children with me who are in equal measures intelligent, beautiful, challenging and compassionate. The time you spend with them is precious and how much they love you warms me to my normally bitter core.
I am sorry that you and/or I sometimes have to work in the evenings to make up for the 4 hours you/I/we spent transporting two kids to separate extra-curricular activities. It can be complicated and stressful, but we manage to pull it off, most of the time.
I am so relieved that you make the time to pay almost all of our bills as well as do our taxes. And I am happy that you have encouraged me to take responsibility for some of my own expenses.
Thank you for rarely protesting when I want or need to do something for just me, whether it was buying some new clothes, scheduling workouts at the gym or taking a solo trip to the opposite coast.
Thank you for doing the dishes all the time, like ALL THE TIME.
Thank you for being honest about not wanting to ever ever never clean the toilets. I knew that from the outset, so I apologize if I ever flung “If you would just clean a toilet every once in awhile…” at you in a fit of rage.
I know sometimes I shut you out when I’m feeling overwhelmed, and that I can be extremely dismissive to any personal turmoil or stress you are experiencing. I have a very limited amount of patience and compassion, and when the children use it up, as they do every day…well…I have none left for you. You know that, you recognize when I’ve reached that point, and yet, you remain here, steadfast.
I know that you think you do “more”, and I know that you know that I think I do “more”. But at the end of the day, I appreciate that we both begrudgingly agree that may all even out. And the fact is, we may be as nearly close to 50-50 as a working couple of young children could hope to be (except that I TOTALLY do more) (and if you wish to disagree, darling, you are welcome to write your own damn blog).
The times when I appreciate you most of all? When you tell the one child that won’t brush her teeth or put her clothes away or go to sleep without Mama by her side that I just left the house for a little bit, so that I can get a 30 minute workout in. When you deal with the vomit all over the carpet at 3a.m. because I just look at it and start dry heaving. When you say hey, just sit down for a few minutes and breathe. When you arrange our sheets and blankets so that I can have a comfortable sleep. And then remind me gently that I should really get moving on the laundry.
These children of ours have united and divided us in equal measures. I have practically clawed my face off wanting to escape from domestic “bliss”. I’ve wished you away, I’ve wished me away, I’ve wished our children away. And I know you’ve done the same.
But there we all are. Here. Together. Working against and with each other, every single day. There is pain, there is work, there is frustration, but that doesn’t negate the joy, the laughter, the pride and the love. We go through our days, we make our mistakes, we have our triumphs, and we go on.
This is our situation, and we are working it to the best of our abilities. Sometimes the days and weeks fly by and it seems like we do nothing but walk around each other and snarl. But then there are these other times, when we come together, united in how we want to deal with our jobs, each other and our kids. And those moments…when we both giggle uncontrollably at something totally stupid that one of our kids has done or at some total failed parenting moment…we both know our sick sense of humor is intact and that we do actually share the same goals and desires.
Because I respect your desire for privacy, I don’t post much about you on social media or within this venue. But you have to know, you need to know…that I’m not against you. I’m with you. Come rain or come shine.
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