...or a stay-at-home mum.
Essentially, running a household is a job. It involves deadlines, scheduling, completing tasks, organising projects, discussing things, executive decisions, etc. It’s no different from a job, except that the people who do it don’t get paid and we love the people with work for more than anyone else in the world. That doesn’t make it easier than a job that you wouldn’t do for free. It might make it feel more important than a job outside the home, or more natural than a job we need to undergo extensive training for. But neither of those things make it any more enjoyable. Whether inside or outside the home, work is work – they call it that so as not to confuse it with ‘fun’. It’s true that if one of you gives up their job entirely, the other is, in part at least, working so that the other can remain at home. But it would be just as true for the stay at home mother to say ‘I work really hard so that you can enjoy your time with your family.’ Because that’s what’s going on: hours and hours of work so that the quality time can be just that: quality time. The parent who has a job experiences the best part of it – even when it’s a difficult day, it is the easiest of the difficult days because there are two of you and it’s Saturday and you can solve everything with ice cream. So the ‘working parent’ can fall into the trap of imagining when they’re not there everything is just as pleasant and straight-forward. It’s not. It’s so hard. And if you don’t believe me, tell me why the vast majority of dads haven’t spent 12 hours straight alone with the children since that one time they spent four hours with them seventeen months ago.
2. ‘I’m sorry I’m late but I was working.’
This one is the one that makes me want to get a job, even though I think having a job outside the home as well as being a mother would be the hardest thing in the world. It just makes me think ‘if I had the carteblanche ‘work’ excuse, I wouldn’t have to stress about being on time for everything.’ Except of course if I were working, I would say ‘I’m sorry I can’t stay, I get charged extra childcare if I’m late to pick up the kids.’
3. There’s no clean sterilised bottles.
You can replace this with literally any comment regarding something that has yet to be done. I’ll use a workplace analogy to explain this one: in this case, being a waiter. Usually if someone asks a waiter for something – tap water for the table – they assume they are the only customer in the world with any requests and if the water doesn’t immediately arrive, or indeed if the waiter forgets, they indignantly remark ‘how hard can it be, it’s just some bloody tap water.’ Anyone who has waited on tables though, knows that that request is at the bottom of a long list of things the waiter is currently doing, whilst smiling and trying not to look stressed because part of the service they provide is a relaxing time for customers.
I hope the point I’m making is clear: if you notice something needs to be cleaned, wiped, purchased, put away, planned, insert verb here, just go ahead and do it yourself. Which smoothly brings me to my next point…
4. ‘I sterilised the bottles.’
Please don’t ask us to congratulate you on the 0.5% contribution you made to the household chores when it’s 10pm and we have just sat down to have the first and last uninterrupted cup of tea of the day. It’s tantamount to us going into your office and clicking save on a file left open, cheerfully letting you know we noticed you’d left a file unsaved when you went to the toilet so thought we’d help you out by clicking save, you are welcome.
5. ‘I think it’s because…’
Any suggestion on how we can improve things is unwelcome. No, the baby isn’t crying because we’re doing too much or too little of something. We’ve already tried those things – they were the second or third thing we tried in fact. We don’t need advice or solutions – just like you would hate them coming from us in your workplace. In fact, we want just two things:
- Admiration, and
- A break.
So all you really need to say tonight when you get home is, ‘wow, looks like you’ve had a long day/the house looks amazing [pick one depending on whether the house looks more or less like a zoo than usual] --you hero!’ closely followed by ‘let me take care of that so you can sit down for a few minutes.’