My husband, Pat, is the recipient of the blessed curse known as being a stay-at-home Daddy. To clarify, I say "blessed curse" because his daily tasks are equal parts a blessing and a curse. When the children are playing nicely together and he's able to achieve at least 3 out of 100 things on his to-do list, this is a blessing (believe it or not, 3 out of 100 is darn right miraculous at this point!). And when the children are stabbing each other with sticks and screaming at the tops of their lungs, this is a curse. This "blessed curse", however, works in the opposite direction for me, making it my "cursed blessing". For example, when my husband gets things done on his to-do list and then I come home from work and immediately have to take over with the kids (because his frazzled and harried expression means only one thing.... someone is going to literally die if he does not get some relief and alone time), causing me to get nothing done on MY to-do list, this is a curse. And when I'm getting ready for work and the kids have already started the next World War (complete with cardboard nukes and hanger machine guns), I get to leave them and go to work with severely mentally ill people, which is my blessing (yes, it's true that dealing with other people's "crazy" is just so much simpler than dealing with your own house of mixed nuts.)
Throughout the last year and a half, I've struggled with jealousy and a bit of bitterness towards my husband. How is it fair that he gets to work from home while I have to go to work all day? Why should it be him getting to be the Mommy, holding the baby all day long, going on field trips with the kids and enjoying outings at the park? Why does he get to bond with our children while I feel like a stranger to them half the time? Why why why?!?! Poor, poor me!!!
These are thoughts that I held inside for a time, before exploding them all over my husband in one big, nasty, emotional outburst (because, yes, I have tantrums). He listened to me whine and cry and then whine some more. He offered support and comfort. He did everything a dutiful husband should do... and then he gave me a little perspective into this fairy tale motherhood that I had devised in my head.... he talked about how he never gets to talk to other adults, how he's exhausted all the time, how he feels like he's drowning in a never-ending cycle of washing bottles and doing laundry and breaking up fights. After listening to each other (and actually listening, not getting into that "my day was worse than your day" mode that we as adults are really good at, despite it being a child's sport), we decided that life would be perfect if only we could go one week on and one week off, trading each other's schedules each week. I would stay home for a week and he could go to work, then we would trade. It would be the best of both worlds and solve all of our problems (minus World War III).
We smiled for a moment as we thought about how grand our scheme was before reality reminded us that we are stuck with the roles that we have, for better or for worse (hmmmm, I remember hearing those words somewhere...) and that we needed to support and appreciate each other's roles more. Such a simple idea, you'd think the therapist of the family could've come up with it long ago, but sadly, my brain turns to mush the second I walk through my front door.... I'm just one big, mushy Mommy for the rest of the evening.
So, I came home from work and grocery shopping, had a thousand bags to put away and dinner to get on the table. Cameron was already in his room for being a dork, and my husband gave me "the look". It was time. He needed to get away. He informed me that he had things to do in town, he'd be gone for a few hours, and that he would like to take a nap when he returned. "Sure!" I said, with great enthusiasm. I was feeling confident that my Mommy skills would take over and my mushiness would be at a minimum for at least a few hours..... as long as I had a plan:
Step 1) Make dinner.
Step 2) Eat said dinner.
Step 3) Feed baby while the older two get ready for bed.
Step 4) Play board games with the kids.
Step 5) Give the kids their vitamins and snack while they watch an educational t.v. show.
Step 6) Tuck kids into bed and help baby get to sleep.
Ten minutes into my "plan" I had already broken up two battles between Cameron and Taylor and the baby had puked on me. But, I was still holding onto my dignity.... afterall, these are the moments I just said that I was jealous of my husband for experiencing all day, so I need to rise to the occasion! A half hour later, Taylor was in tears, Cameron was in time out, and the baby had puked down my shirt for the second time, creating a pool of milky vomit in my sports bra. Awesome. At the passing of an hour, we had finally finished playing two board games (which, by the way is virtually impossible.... trying not to "Spill The Beans" while holding a 7-month old has to have it's own circle in Hell), Taylor was yelling at Cameron for doing anything (including BREATHING TOO LOUDLY), Cameron was intentionally breathing, and the baby was screaming each time I wasn't giving him my undivided attention, all while my phone is ringing and the dogs are barking at the neighbor dog with ferociousness (very loud ferociousness). Hour two was basically the same, with Taylor saying my name repeatedly as the baby is screaming and flailing, knocking my phone off the couch and sending the pieces flying in all directions, and Cameron informing me incessantly that he can see my bra.... BECAUSE THE BABY IS PULLING ON MY SHIRT!! OH MY GOSH, WHEN WILL PAT BE HOME!?!?!?
Thankful for Melatonin and it's ability to render my children unconscious, peace finally came. Isaac still fussed, but was able to receive more attention with the other two in a partial coma, so his squawking took on a much happier tone. And then I heard my husband's car pull in.... and I waited with baited breath as he entered the house. All I could muster was an expression that said, Help.... Me.....!! It was in that moment that I realized that our blessed curses and cursed blessings are best resolved when we have each other. We were not meant to walk this road alone and we certainly weren't meant to walk it bashing our most precious supports over the head for not getting the dishwasher started or for getting the wrong type of bread from the grocery store. He may get to be there for the fun outings and the baby's first steps, but I get to save their lives when he tries to kill them at everyday at 4:30.... so, all in all, we both win.
To all of you stay-at-home Daddies out there, a big hearty "Thank you" and "'Attaboy!" goes out to you. Your job is tough and often thankless. There are social stigmas, male ego issues, and "woman's work" that you face on a daily basis (to this day, my husband can still fold an amazing fitted sheet, whereas I lose my mind and end up throwing the sheet across the room 2 minutes into the process). And to my husband, Pat.... I love you for what you do. I appreciate your efforts, your time, and your sanity despite it all. I think God knew which one of us could cope with Them better all day, and it's you, hands down. I may still load the dishwasher better, but you soar at being the parent that I'm trying to be to our kids. Happy Father's Day, Baby.