By Matt Melone
A strong marriage is contingent on sharing the workload–not just in the house but everywhere. This past summer I worked as an intern at Google and had a long commute. I left at the crack of dawn most mornings and returned home around 7pm.
My wife, Rachel, on the other hand, is a stay-at-home mom. She took care of our 18-month-old each day. I think much of the “Lean In” thinking today would suggest Rachel perhaps had opted out of the workplace too young and taken an easier route. Those people have never stayed home with a toddler all day.. everyday.
Last month, I gave Rachel a weekend completely off parenting duties by going out of town with Jude. In those days, unsupported by any other caregiver, my son nearly broke me. He’s a fantastic kid, but he does get cranky, have trouble sleeping and can be as willful as any other 18-month-old. I was exhausted, and the experience gave me a newfound respect for all stay-at-home moms, and especially single parents (I don’t know how you do it!).
My point is that this summer when I was working, Rachel had it WAY, WAY harder than me. Too many working dads (and working moms, for that matter) don’t fully appreciate the sheer exhaustion of watching a cranky child (let alone multiple children) day in and day out.
Conventional wisdom suggests my wife should be grateful to me for slaving long days at the office and permitting her to relax at home. We’ve largely internalized the 1950s portrait of a husband coming home to be greeted by his adoring wife and a roasted chicken dinner as something ideal and fair–if not something we routinely practice.
When I come home, I strive to give my wife the chance to put her feet up. Cleaning up diapers, preparing meals, cleaning and responding to the beck and call of our son is a full-time job with no coffee breaks or pauses to read the news or check email.
A large amount of hostility also comes from moms working outside the home. Being a parent is challenging enough without us disparaging each other. When husbands and our society in general better value the work stay-at-home-moms do, we are all better off. That respect helps improve relationships, makes the parenting work feel a little easier, facilitates more equitable household divisions of labor, and accords the proper level of appreciation to motherhood.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you know full well the pressures of raising kids without extended family or good friends around. My wife and I created http://www.familygroups.org to match moms to other parents in their communities and help them find local family activities, groups and cool places. If you ever wished you had more support as a parent, check it out.