The other day, I overheard my mother-in-law telling my husband, who is a stay-at-home dad, that it’s ok to hand the baby over to me as soon as I get in the door because I come home “refreshed” after working all day.
I have deep respect for stay-at-home moms and dads, and I truly believe it’s just as tough to do that job as to work a “regular” job. Still, I’m truly baffled by people who, in acknowledging that, start acting as though just because I now have a kid, regular work is somehow no longer work. When I was single and childless, no one ever acted like going to work was, secretly, actually a vacation. No one expected me to get home at the end of the day feeling energized from working my ass off for 8 or 9 hours.
Suddenly, though, since I’ve had a child, work is supposed to be my “downtime.” I’m expected to leave the office at the end of the day happier and more energetic than I ever did when it was literally my only responsibility besides brushing my teeth and doing laundry a respectable number of times per month.
I think the idea is that, because I don’t have to deal with a persnickety baby all day long, I’ll be more tolerant when I get home. And I think that’s partially true most days. Not having seen my son all day certainly makes me, on an ordinary evening, more tolerant than my husband of any baby moodiness that might strike, since my husband has had to deal with it all day. I only get to see my son a few hours a day during the week – I’m not going to waste them being annoyed.
Nonetheless, my job has not magically transformed into a magical fairyland of snuggles and relaxation just because I have a baby waiting at home for me. Nightmarish days are still nightmarish days. Last minute deadlines and petty vendettas from random colleauges don’t stop for birth announcements. If anything, my job is MORE stressful now because I’m trying to get the same amount of work done as always but in a more limited timeframe. No more evening and weekend work for me – if it needs to get done, it needs to get done before I’m home with my family.
So, yes, I’m happier than I thought possible to see my little bambino at the end of a long, hard workday. But, no, that day is not “refreshing” because I wasn’t hanging out with my kid and changing diapers and doing feedings all day instead. I am still as exhausted as I ever was when I walk through that door.
And that’s why my husband and I SHARE duties when I get home. He works hard all day and sometimes needs a break from being a stay-at-home dad. But I, too, work hard all day and need a break from being a working mom just as much. I am not “refreshed” after sitting through the latest 2 hour meeting figuring out how to deal with budget cuts or an incompetent, rude colleague. I’m stressed and exhausted and angry, and I try my damnedest to be over it before I pick up my little boy in the evening. Not because I’m refreshed, but because I’m his mom, and that’s just what we do.