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I Don't Get to Check Out When My Husband Gets Home

Photograph by Twenty20

I was watching the clock the way a wild animal stalks its prey.

5:58 p.m.

He better get home soon.

5:59 p.m.

I’ve picked up the whole house.

6:00 p.m.

I did five loads of laundry and put it all away.

6:01 p.m.

Dinner is getting cold.

6:02 p.m.

And the kids need a bath but I’m not doing it. Once he’s home, I am off the clock.

This used to be me almost every night. As a work-from-home mom with a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old, I was always on the clock. My day started with waking up my daughter for school and maintained an exhausting marathon pace after that: drop-off, playing with my son, errands, housekeeping, meal planning, pickup, homework, dinner, bedtime, the bedtime battle, etc.

All that while earning an income from home.

I was always totally wiped out by nighttime, so when my husband walked through the door after his 9-hour day, I felt like I deserved to pass the children and their needs onto him. I was entitled to be responsibility-free for a while. I had worked hard and now it was time to rest.

If you think I sound like a spoiled brat, you are correct.

I was undervaluing what my husband had gone through during his work day: his commute, his co-workers, his work itself. I wasn’t giving him any room to breathe, to unwind, to even tell me about his day. The kids are his, too, so he should have to be in charge, be present, be a parent—right?

Wrong. At least in thinking about it that way.

Just because he works outside of the home and isn’t physically in the mess the way I am 24/7 doesn’t mean he has worked any less or is any more responsible for the children when he gets home. It was disrespectful for me to expect him to work at his full-time job and then come home and be fully in charge of the kids when he got home.

Looking back, I’m embarrassed not only of my behavior but of the attitude itself. I was selfish and unkind. I was trying to pull power plays instead of being a partner.

I had to begin seeing raising our kids as a joint effort—not something that one person is saddled with when they get home.

Having a husband and little kids brings the absolute worst out in anyone and I had to begin seeing raising our kids as a joint effort—not something that one person is saddled with when they get home.

I had to start loving him as a person instead of treating him like my scapegoat.

I began changing my tune. I began asking him how his day was when he came home rather than moaning how terrible the kids were and asking for an immediate reprieve. I really listened to him when he talked, too—not just give glazed over eye contact.

I also began asking him for help instead of just assuming he would take care of everything. If I was too tired to do the bedtime battle, I would ask him to do it, and then thank him for doing so instead of just brushing it off as something he should do.

Slowly, our evenings became lighter. Our kids saw us talking, touching and enjoying each other’s company, despite being burned out from our days. They now see a marriage that works because neither parent sees themselves as more important, and both of us are willing to be humble and do the work regardless of our end-of-day energy levels

I wish I hadn’t had to go through what I did. I wish I hadn’t been as selfish as I was, but I chose to grow as a person, and together, my husband and I are conquering this whole work-life balance thing better than ever.

Best of all, we’re doing it together.

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