I knew, of course, he’d never admit to any sort of struggle. I’d prepared myself for the smug leer. The nonchalant shrugs. The repeated “it’s easy“, tumbling from his mouth as though he didn’t even need to consider his answer, when I asked him how it had been. But just because I knew it was coming, didn’t make it any easier to stomach.
When I swapped places with my husband for a day, I’d hoped for a bit more understanding. Instead, I discovered we’re not only on different pages, we’re not even reading the same book.
It seems silly in print, but I’ve shed tears over this. When all you’ve wanted for years, is someone to finally say “Thank you. I appreciate what you do.” But instead, you get someone telling you, “It’s easy, this life you lead.” It’s a little bit soul shattering. Every difficult day I’ve had. Every time I’ve wondered how I’ll keep on doing it. Each night that I’ve tossed and turned with the guilt of somehow always falling short. All of it withered and belittled and made worthless in one fell swoop. Of course, he doesn’t realise that. Doesn’t get it. Yet that’s what it did, that small sentence. It diminished five years of laborious motherhood, into nothing more than a long stream of days off.
I was tired when I returned from London that day. I’d been up since 5am and my train home didn’t hit Leeds until after 9pm. “Just a normal day for me,” he said. I didn’t want it to be a contest. I just wanted him to have the ability to empathise when there are days that sometimes, the moment he walks through the door, I need him to take over, just so I can breathe for a minute. I wanted him to see how lonely it can be. I wanted him to know that sometimes it’s hard. Relentless. Bone wearingly exhausting. I just wanted to hear “I get it, now. Thank you.”
“Just a normal day for me” were his words. Yes, it was tiring. It was a long and draining 17 hours. But it was also great. It was conversation with other adults. It was the liberating feeling that comes with travelling around, unhindered by small humans and armfuls of the paraphernalia that comes with them. It was people genuinely valuing the words that were spilling excitedly from my mouth. It was glorious.
Yes he works hard. Yes, he pays the bills. And maybe I ought to thank him more too. The difference is, though, he has other people that do. A wage slip at the end of each month; the tangible reward of a job well done. The handshakes and the dinners. The ingratiating mentions in the company emails. The gratitude and the appreciation rained down on him in the work place, because we praise and we value “work”; just not when it’s restricted to the confines of our home and family. For me and for others like me, it’s day after day after day. Long shifts, few breaks, minimal reward. And nobody there to tell you what a stellar job you’re doing. I look at my humans and sometimes, that’s enough. Knowing that they’re mine. That I made them and grew them and raise them; that’s all the reward I need. But other times, I yearn for thanks in this thankless task. I long for the day when he’ll say, “I couldn’t do what you do. It’s not easy. I’m grateful for you. For the sacrifices you’ve made, for the hours you put in and for the love that you give. Without you, we couldn’t do this.”
Somedays, I just need to feel, needed.