Mellissa is a stay-at-home mom of two boys under the age of 2 and frequently deals with the ups and downs that come with parenting.
Love and Marriage
I married a wonderful man. He is loving, attentive, and smart, and he fell in love with my child from a previous marriage. He came into my life when I was a single mother who had been a single mother for the duration of my marriage as well. I was looking for a partner and a friend, as well as a lover and soul mate. It didn't take long for me to discover that he met all of these criteria and more.
We were both working hard and bringing home decent pay checks when I discovered I was pregnant with our first child together. After some health issues that kept me home for the majority of my pregnancy, I resumed working and we both split the tasks: cleaning, feeding, shopping, etc. It was only 6 months after our middle child was born that we discovered we were pregnant again. This time, the costs outweighed the income from me returning to work, so we decided that I would stay at home with the boys.
A New Frontier
With our choice for me to stay home came more financial stress. While any income I would have made would go straight to childcare, we still increased our spending without increasing our income. It wasn't long after the birth of our youngest that my husband decided to find a better paying job. We live in a rural community, so the best jobs that can be found are in manufacturing and production, specifically wood mills and chicken plants. After a few hiccups, he landed a great position at the local feed mill. Things were looking up for us, finally!
His job kept him away from home 12 hours a day, which had me taking care of the kids by myself for the majority of the time. Now, I know what you must be thinking. "You're a stay at home mom. Isn't that your job?" Yes, it is. It is also my job, however, to keep the house clean, keep up with laundry, cook the meals, do the grocery shopping, pay the bills, and do all the other domestic duties. I had worked in so many high-stress, fast-paced jobs, but I discovered that leaving the workforce to become a stay-at-home mom became the most challenging job I have ever had. I operated on less than 6 hours of sleep a night, and I never got to take a nap. My life was a constant whirlwind of activity, and sometimes I wanted to smash the off button.
Green With Envy
On the other side of things, my husband received a full 8 hours of sleep, never had to shop by himself, rarely cooked dinner, never had to clean or do laundry on his own, and to this day has never had to take care of the kids by himself for more than an hour or two. While I am sleep deprived and frazzled, he gets to use the restroom by himself and even play a game while using the bathroom. Needless to say, I envy him. I know he works so hard for our family, but I can't help but feel like I got the short end of the stick.
In the moments when both children are screaming, my blood pressure is through the roof, and tears are streaming down my face as I consciously remind myself that throwing a young child is wrong. I find that I feel an emotion akin to hatred directed at the man that I love and married. I find myself saying that he has no clue how hard my job is, and that he couldn't do my job if he tried his best. I find myself angry at his opportunities for privacy, relaxation, and the ability to breath easy, and even angrier when he complains about the little inconveniences he experiences in a given day.
If you're reading this article, I'm sure that you have felt the same way once or twice. Relax, momma. It's normal. The best thing that you can do is be honest. I finally opened up and told my husband how I felt. He was sure to tell me that he knew that he could never do the job that I did and he told me how much he appreciated me. We discussed ways that he could help me and he let me vent and cry until I felt better. One of the ways he helped me most was to help me realize the impossible standard I held myself to, and that being "Supermom" didn't entail me heaping everything upon my own shoulders - I needed to rely on him as well.
Division Of Labor
My husband and I discussed how we could best divide the responsibilities so that all of the pressure didn't fall on me, which was a very difficult conversation for me; I believed that since I was a stay at home mom, sharing responsibilities was evidence of me failing at my job. However, I realized that I needed help, and so we came up with a plan. Since my husband works 4 out of 7 nights, we came up with a plan for the three nights off that he had per week. He only sleeps partial days for his "days off", which makes it easier for him to help me with the kids on those days. Those afternoons, he also planned to help me tackle any housework leftover from the rest of the week. Also, since he still stayed up all night when he was off, he took over the children waking up, allowing me to get much needed sleep, and he did the after-dinner dishes and any residual tidying up from bedtime preparations so the house wasn't an overwhelming mess when I woke up in the morning. I still made sure to allow myself the brunt of the labor (otherwise I would feel like I wasn't doing me job), but having help on those days was more valuable to me than he realized.
Ultimately, I could have avoided a lot of negative emotions had I been open and honest with my husband from the start. However, in order to do so, I needed to be honest with myself first, and that is where a lot of you are probably at right now. You need to know your limits, and know that you have the right to ask for help from whoever it is you have available. It does NOT make you weak or less of a mom to request help - in fact, it is a witness to your "Supermom" abilities to know when you need to ask. If you are having a hard time finding ways to start the conversation, I have included a list of things to ask for below.
How do I ask for help?
* First, know your limits. Make sure you are aware of your own needs.
*Begin by explaining your feelings. Don't be afraid to let your spouse or loved ones know how you are feeling. Chances are, they aren't aware that you are struggling. Make sure to use "I" statements (I feel overwhelmed when I am handling most of the work, for example). Try not to be accusatory, even if you are feeling angry or bitter. If the discussion turns to an argument, chances are you won't gain the outcome you want or need.
*Listen. Even if you don't like what you are hearing, give the other person the right to express themselves. You can always address possible disagreements when they have finished speaking.
*Ask for what you need. Whether it is a day off, someone to talk to, or more help around the house, be clear and concise about what you need and make your needs known in a respectful and assertive way. Don't allow yourself to tell you that you are not worthy of help, or that asking for help is weak. You are lying to yourself, and you need to stop it.
*Compromise. Make sure that you are willing to compromise. When all parties can agree, it makes it that much easier to find a positive solution!
Ultimately, just make sure that you have an honest conversation, and be open to solutions that are offered to you. I'm not promising a fix all - after all, I still can get overwhelmed 4 days out of the week. But those 4 days sure beats being overwhelmed for all 7, and that is a good enough start for me.