I’ve always loved “mommy blogs.” These blogs, where writers discuss the (sometimes hilarious) ups and downs of being a mom, often validate how I feel – overworked, under-appreciated, and just really, really tired. When my kids were babies, mommy blogs were what kept me at my paid job when I thought I might quit. The things I read made me realize that most other moms felt like I did and that we were all just doing the best that we could.
But God, I can’t read half of them anymore. I just finished an article about a working mom in which the author discusses how she does so much more than her husband, even though he picks up their child from school, is home with that child all afternoon and also makes dinner for their family. A year ago, I would have appreciated her perspective because I would have seen the mother’s side – she still has to get her daughter ready for school and work a really long day and put her kid to bed at night after doing the dinner dishes. It’s hard to be a working mom. It’s really hard to feel like you do more than your spouse – I know, because I had some of those moments back when Shawn was alive.
But sometimes it’s just so frustrating to me. I get that it’s annoying when your spouse is taking care of your kid(s) and makes a huge mess, but all I can think is, “my God, her husband is with her kid every day after school!” They get that time together, and while maybe there’s too much TV or too many toys everywhere, the simple fact that this young girl gets to spend hours with her father every day is enough to make me sob with jealousy.
That’s not totally fair, of course. It’s not a contest, and if it were, I certainly wouldn’t have it the hardest. There have been a million women who have come before me with fewer resources and far worse circumstances. So I don’t expect the woman who wrote that article to think about her life in terms of how it compares to mine, or to someone like me. And yet, there’s a part of me that wants to scream, “look at what you have!”
I get it, I do. In fact, far before Shawn got sick, he and I would have conversations that began with, “what if I die?” and one of us would point out all of the things the other person didn’t know how to do. “Marjorie,” he would say to me, “if I die, you won’t know how to deal with our finances or work any of the technology in the house. You need to be involved in this so you know.” I’d reply, “well, what if I die? You wouldn’t know the kids’ schedules or the babysitter’s phone number!” We’d always laugh a bit at ourselves, but this conversation was our way of prodding the other person, just a bit, to be more involved in our own household spheres of influence.
But you know what I was thinking under all of that? I was thinking, “he can believe what he wants, but I do way more around here. He has no idea.”
Maybe I was right. Maybe I did do more. Maybe.
But one thing I’ve said a thousand times since Shawn died was that I didn’t give him enough credit for all of the many things he did. Our home renovation? He ran it. Our finances? He did them. Weekend pancakes and ball games? Again, all him. I could go on.
I don’t blame this author for being frustrated. I don’t know her situation at all. More important, I know I too felt this way at times before Shawn got sick.
I want to be clear. I know that in most households, and often in mine too even before last year, the mother pulls more weight in the chores and the organizing of activities and in a number of other categories. That’s real for a lot of people, and that’s something we need to work on in each of our homes, and in our society as a whole.
But, it’s still hard for me to read articles that disparage fathers. Shawn did so much for our family, and moreover, he spent tons of time with our kids. He wasn’t perfect, but neither was I, and we stumbled along like most parents do, squabbling over the stupid parts of our lives that caused conflict.
Maybe that’s why the article I just read bothers me so much. Maybe it’s not about whether or not mothers do more than fathers. Maybe I just want to find the author, tell her I understand her frustrations, but also tell her to thank her lucky stars each time she walks through the door into a messy home. Because on the other side is her husband. She gets that every day. And I never will again.
So maybe it’s just jealousy that makes it hard for me to read these “mommy blogs.” Maybe I should cut everyone some slack and remember that I too once felt, at times, as though I was the one who really mattered the most to the household as a whole. I was wrong, of course. Because what really mattered didn’t have to do with who was organizing the soccer pick up.
Shawn wasn’t some sort of secondary parent or partner. He was my husband, he was my kids’ father and he desperately loved all of us. He was imperfect, but I was too, and we loved each other anyway. Maybe that’s what I wish we had recognized more often. When he asked me, “what if I die?” I should not have said, “well, I’d figure out how to repair the furnace and hire an accountant.”
I should have said that I’d be devastated.