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"Make sure the baby doesn't wake him," my
mother ill-advised me over the phone. It was the eve of my
husband's return to
work after six weeks of parental leave. He was going back to the office while I stayed home with our infant
My mom was telling me something I already believed: that my
husband deserved to rest because he had to work all day. Not just
that, though. I thought he
deserved rest more than I did.
I was home, I cared for our baby all day. I got a respite in the
evening when he came home. Then I cared for our baby all
night—handling all the night wakings. This carried on for several
night, I broke. With a crying baby in my arms, I called out to my sleeping husband, "You have to help me!"
Startled, he woke quickly. He
took the baby, and I heard her crying stop. That's when I
the first five-hour
stretch of sleep I'd
had in a long time.
inadvertently committed a big new-mom mistake: believing my husband's work
deserving of rest
than what I did all day. Because, hey, I was home. Because I didn't
my husband's work generated money and mine didn't.
of the strangers who, when they learned I was a stay-at-home mom,
would say things like, "Wow, what do you do all day?" Because
what I did all day was take
care of my baby, which is certainly
not "work." Right?
it is! It is work! Which is precisely what every stay-at-home mom eventually wants
to shout from the top of her
sensible minivan. Taking
care of a baby and a
all day long is work. A
whole lot of work.
because no one pays you doesn't mean it's not work. And
calling it work doesn't mean we
what we do.
We're just so, so very tired. My
was tired too, yes. But I was utterly and miserably exhausted.
works differently for mothers, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Playing with a giggling
for an hour is different from feeding and soothing a
newborn for an
hour at 3 a.m.
One feels like a moment in time, the other feels endless. Worldwide,
moms do more of the childcare. So
by extension, that means we do more of this endless and draining grunt work, too.
the night that proved too much for me, my husband started to help
wakings. Even better, we got into a routine of staggering our sleep
schedules so that we could each maximize uninterrupted sleep.
In retrospect, I should have asked for help when I needed it, not when I hit a critical point. I learned a deeper lesson too: that what I did all day
of rest and recharging.