"Awesome!" he exclaimed. "You're working again!" (Famous last words.)
It's been almost a year since I've had my current job—a job I'd been trying to create and spawn from my digital presence and pre-baby work as a TV host for almost six years. This past year, it finally happened. I was back on television, now as a parenting lifestyle personality. I was also simultaneously writing my first book. I pretty much wept (joyfully) every time I realized these dreams were real. I was slammed into working full-time hours with part-time childcare.
I don't think he realized what being a working mom really meant when he first said his 'congratulations.' As a mom, I knew what my return to consistent work meant from all sides, but I wasn't going to curse the excitement with a bunch of buzzkills about how his life would soon change.
A working mom needs a partner to fill in the blanks. Period.
Months followed and our house went through the usual adjustments that happen when a mom returns to work, either on a part-time or full-time basis. The house wasn't as immaculate as it had been in the past. Those piles of papers on the kitchen counter took longer to get through. We'd seem to be out of milk more often than not because I couldn't swing by the market in time. I was more tired than before. Our home-cooked dinners that used to happen four to five times per week went down to two to three times per week. He was suddenly in charge of bedtime on Wednesday nights (the nights I appeared on the 5 p.m. news).
"Can you start dropping off the girls at school on Friday mornings from now on?" I finally broke after my duties expanded to appearing Friday mornings as well. After trying to dart out of work by 7a.m. each Friday (after a 6:45 a.m. appearance), I realized how ridiculous my endeavor to get home in time to drop my girl off at school at 8 a.m. really was, especially since my husband was still home at that time.
"But you can get home in time to take her ... " he started.
"No I can't," I snapped back. "That's ridiculous for me to try and do when you're still here and are able to do it."
He didn't really have a response. He knew I was right. If he was truly happy that I was working, this additional inconvenience was part of the deal. A working mom needs a partner to fill in the blanks. Period.
"How inconvenient for you," I'd playfully mock. He'd half-smile.
And then it hit me: Does he see my work as an inconvenience?
The days of hearty dinners being ready when he got home became fewer (I guess the sandwich thing broke him in). The days of me "assigning" him duties (dropping off kids, picking up some milk, putting the girls to bed) became more. I started saying "no" more. His life changed with my job too, and I don't think he saw it coming when he exclaimed how "awesome" my return to work was.
"Do you like me working?" I questioned him one day, a few months in. "Yes," he immediately answered without looking at me. I'm not sure I believed him, but I wasn't going to question him. Let it ride, I thought.
More months passed, and our readjusted duties and schedules soon settled in. He now tells me how sweet our older daughter is when she jumps out of the car at school drop off Friday mornings. He tells me what offbeat and wack-a-doodle comment our younger one said just before bedtime on Wednesday night. He stops at the market periodically if he notices the milk carton getting dangerously low. Despite the true happiness that being a working mom brings me—and the extra income it brings our family—I do understand a certain inconvenience of it all.
I don't begrudge his subtle disappointment when I say we're having pasta for dinner again, nor do I apologize for it. This is life. And no one said having a happy, productive and well-rounded life is always convenient.