When I returned to work after Isaac was born, my husband and I created a chore chart—only it wasn’t for our toddler son, it was for us. We split the tasks evently: my foodie husband did the cooking and grocery shopping, and even though I hate cleaning and laundry those tasks fell to me. I was overly smug about having a husband who took on household and parenting tasks without complaint. Our division of labour was a perfect arrangement that stayed in place until the day I quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom after our second child.
Last week, a Reddit user shared the following personal experience:
My wife and I have an almost 1 year old daughter and she is the love of our lives. We’re first time parents and we are a “traditional” family (I hate that term but whatever). She stays home and I work. I don’t mind it but there are some definite drawbacks on both sides of the fence. My problem is that I’m empathetic to her struggles as a stay at home parent, but she is not empathetic of my position and thinks that I just live some glamorous life without a care in the world. We just got into it last night and she said some hurtful things about how easy I have it and how little I contribute and I’m just frustrated and needed to vent.
What I found interesting were the countless responses from stay-at-home moms who claimed their employed partners didn’t care how hard they worked and how it’s the hardest job in the world (for the record, I don’t think it is). Very rarely do you hear the other side of this story, coming from the employed parent. To be honest, I think it takes a lot of courage for the working spouse to defend themselves against the criticism that being a breadwinner is stressful. The perception (and I’m guilty of this, too) is that the working spouse gets paid to escape into a toy-free haven where they can drink coffee while it’s still hot. As the Redditor pointed out in his post, his wife didn’t factor in the terrible commute, stressful work environment or the mental burden of financially supporting their family.
So, who is right? As someone who has been both the breadwinner and the toilet scrubber, all I can say is that in fights like this, no one wins.
Last week, I found myself angrily vacuuming the house at 2:00 p.m. in my pyjamas. I was angry at my kids for leaving their sticky, empty bowls of oatmeal on the table. I was angry at my husband for leaving his towel beside the laundry basket. I was even angry at the dog for shedding all over the house, because didn’t the dog know how much I hated vacuuming?
But most of all, I was angry at myself because I hadn’t seen any of this coming.
That night, when my husband came home the house was spotless and dinner was on the table—but I was still angry. My husband and I don’t fight often, but we fought that night. I cried and complained that it wasn’t fair, this whole antiquated arrangement where he worked and I cleaned.
“How long have you felt like this?” he asked me, visibly shocked.
“It feels like years! Couldn’t you tell?”
“You know, you could have just told me you were unhappy,” he said. “But it’s not like I can leave the office in the middle of the day to do laundry.” And he was right.
Is it “fair” that I do 90 percent of the cooking and cleaning? It may not seem that way in a modern society that demands equality between the sexes in all facets of life, but with the kids in school full-time and only part-time work to keep me busy, the bulk of the household chores fall on me. But as a friend reminded me today, no one really loves what they do 24/7. I may hate being a housewife, but I do love being home for my kids when they need me—a luxury that also brings a certain amount of drudgery.
Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.