by Jennifer Cumby
Here's the thing about being a stay-at-home parent (FIFTEEN YEARS HERE, KIDS) — it's endless.
Working out in the world now, my work day begins and ends with regularity. I can count down the minutes until I'm officially free to leave my office and do whatever the hell I want. It's not like that when you're at home with kids full time. Instead, time oozes and blurs and rhythms are set not by the time clock, but by the infant clock, the toddler clock, the preschooler clock, or the school clock.
There's never enough time in the day because the day is endless. Like a man on the subway, it spreads. If you've never done that work, you really don't get the fuzzy, nubby, globbiness of it. There's no way you could. Often, stay-at-home parents catch the sharp end of their tired-ass spouses who are exhausted by being out at work all day and want to come home to a respite retreat and not a Betty Crocker nightmare. Yet, Betty Crocker nightmares happen. All the time. And when it's your spouse who stays at home to care for your kids, those messy nightmares don't just happen at the babysitter's house or daycare. They happen at YOUR house.
So, when I read an open Dear Husband letter to a man perplexed by a straw wrapper on the floor of his family home and asking his wife why it was there, I was bemused remembering when my husband used to ask me similar things. (He survived.)
First of all, have you ever even seen a child? Have you ever been alone with one for more than the time it takes your spouse to pee? Have you ever experienced one that's not strapped into a safety device? Because they are messy little fuckers.
Why is there a straw wrapper on the floor? A better question might be, "Why isn't every other thing in this house on the floor, honey? Because you've been at home with a toddler all day and like, damn, I love that kid, but he's a hell cat bent on destruction and I love you, baby. How do you do it? All day? What can I do to help? Or better yet, let's just say 'fuck it' together, get that baby to bed, you can finally take a shower, and we can watch your favorite British murder mystery on Netflix?"
Or wait, is it that the stay-at-home spouse's job is to also take care of you? Is that it? And why do you need someone to remake your world for you and shield you from the straw wrappers that life (and breezes) deposit at your feet? Maybe the problem isn't the straw wrapper. Maybe it's your wrapper. Maybe you're not well-wrapped enough yourself to keep your jangly bits inside where they belong away from the people you love?
There are seriously wonderful parts about being a stay-at-home parent, but like most things we do, there are other parts that suck a goat's janky ball sack. Stay-at-home parents aren't your beasts of burden (or your endlessly available volunteers, but that's another story). They are actual people doing actual things all the actual day and much of the night because of that ooshy-gooshy time thing. So, if you see a straw wrapper on the floor, don’t make-like-Republicans on the scent of some emails and relentlessly ask about it.
Pick it the fuck up. Asshole.
Jennifer Cumby is a writer and editor living in Virginia with her whole lotta kids/dogs/husband. She loves MaxMa with all her bitty bitty soul and is super good at kittens. You should totally send your kids to the college where she works. Totally. Your college-aged kids. Not your 4-year-olds. She doesn't want anymore 4-year-olds.