It’s 6:30 p.m., and the minute my husband walks through the door, I want to hand our baby to him like a hot potato and go hide out in the Harts Gas & Food parking lot. There I’ll sip Diet Coke and lick the frosting off the convenience store sugar cookies, turn my radio off, and enjoy five minutes of blessed silence. ALL BY MYSELF.
The one problem with this fantasy is that my husband, after leaving for work almost 12 hours ago, has a competing one: He wants to walk through the door, collapse on the couch, and eat in front of TV while watching “SportsCenter.”
Nowhere in his fantasy are four crying children and wife who is hiding from them at a gas station.
I think I have a pretty great marriage, but both of us legitimately believe our job is harder. This disagreement is a natural part of parenting, I guess. We sometimes feel our partners are off relaxing in greener pastures while we’re slaving away in the salt mines.
In my mind, my husband splits his days between rounds of golf and restaurant lunches, occasionally stopping by some gorgeous model home to give his approval on countertops. I’ve edited out the very long work hours, the cranky homebuyers, and the stress of working in the construction industry after the complete and total meltdown of the housing market a few years ago.
On the flipside, my husband thinks I spend all day lounging by the pool (even in the dead of winter). He’s picturing a day of outings and play dates, one with a free schedule and the time to do anything I please. In fact, I’ve found it’s best to start changing a kid’s diaper anytime my husband calls, just so I can report on what I’m doing.
Before my children were born, I first worked full time as a newspaper reporter. This career was voted the worst job in the United States in 2013, beating out lumberjack, meter reader and enlisted soldier. I had a boss who alternated between firing employees and making them balloon animals — I am not making this up — and a part of each day was spent answering calls from cranky readers who told me in stunning detail how stupid I was.
Still, nothing about that experience matched the demands of stay-at-home motherhood. I love this job and my kids with a fierceness that takes my breath away. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I just didn’t know it would be so hard. It feels as if no matter what I do, someone is always crying. Someone always needs a diaper change. And someone is always wreaking awesome, terrible destruction on innocent inanimate objects like ceramic vases and the newly repainted walls.
Because I got my fair share of balloon animals, I knew I was a decent reporter. But I feel like an impatient, incompetent mother much of the time, and on my worst days I am convinced that anyone in the world could do the job better.
Like my husband. He would be the ultimate stay-at-home dad. Sure, my floors would be topped with a layer of toys and unwashed dishes, and our kids would eat only cookies and corndogs. He would buy a dog to watch the baby, and a bunch of adult-sized ATVs to entertain the other three. He’d spend his day doing projects in the wood shop, and my 5-year-old would have his own saw. My kids would be the happiest, dirtiest children in the neighborhood, the envy of the entire cul de sac.
In this particular fantasy, I’d go to work full time, wearing stylish clothes (that I could afford!) and makeup I didn’t have to apply while holding a baby. I’m not sure what my career would be, but it would involve a lot of working out, shopping and lunch dates, because my obscenely large paycheck would depend on me doing those things. Of course, this kind of work would be exhausting, so after a long day I’d have the good sense to swing by a gas station for a Diet Coke and cookie pick-me-up before heading home, the Mormon equivalent of stopping off at a bar for a drink.
That way, when I walked through the door and my husband lobbed our baby at me like a hot potato, all I would do is smile … and open my arms wide for the catch.