Monday, January 4, 2010

The default setting

Just as you expect the sun to rise at dawn, there are inherent expectations of a mother.

The day after my first birth my midwife told my husband that this was going to be an emotional transition for me. She wisely said that I may grow to resent all the changes in my life and that his routine will stay relatively the same. At the time, he seemed to understand the dynamic... I thought...nah! & here I am.

Her words ring so much clearer to me now than they did in the haze following child birth and I think of them often. I am the default caretaker... the one who hides in the bathroom praying for peace. The one who works all day but yet, accomplishes nothing.

Nobody recognizes that most days there is some laundry done, the kids are changed, the dinner is cooked, the myriad of toys that once laid on the floor are picked up, but of course, new toys or even the same toys are strewn across the floor. Some days no chores are accomplished because because one of them is teething or has entered the new milestone of separation anxiety. Showers become luxuries yet, if asked what I did today... showering just doesn't receive the accolade it truly deserves. How can I articulate this stress to him. He has never had to accomplish any task while caring for his children. He actually believes you can actually be on the computer all day while home with the kids.

The moment he walks through the door. Mommy needs a moment to regroup from the day, and at the same time, he needs to "unwind" from the day as well. It becomes a challenge over who deserves a minute of peace. If he is tired, he naps. If he wants a few hours in the morning, he takes it. I am the one who rises at the crack of dawn with two children who happen to not understand mommy is not a morning person. If he needs to get something done, he does it, but if I need something done, I need to coordinate it with his schedule. We're not talking about sitting on FB or writing this blog, but cleaning up after dinner. Men seem to have the freedom at will and woman are assumed to be the primary caregivers whose every job includes the addendum of caring for the brood.

"I worked all day for you. I just want a moment." So, do I. "I would love to stay home and play with kids all day," to any other mother this is laughable. Even as I write this I have one child on my back wondering what I'm doing and the other begging to be held and I am somehow doing it all, but yet, to some people nothing. There's no merit raises, paid time off or promotions. If you fulfill you job duties as a mother, you are doing your job. You can never excel because you are expected to be great. We are left to always perceived as being able to do more, unacknowledged for what we do and told how lucky we are to be in this role. So here in lies the perplexity of the job. The job of mother is inextricably tied to our identity and therefore, we ourselves are always struggling for recognition for a job that's taken for granted.

My husband is a superbly compassionate man who is a great father and wonderful husband. His perspective is quite valid. We both are struggling for a moment off from 24 hour a day jobs. I can only imagine how drastic this dynamic could become with a less compassionate man, but this is also proof of a new dynamic that parenthood brings in otherwise healthy marriages. However, as my husband walks in tonight and wonders what I did, I am going to take solace in the fact that I did what I could and did my job the best I could.

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