April marks one year since Husband and I swapped roles in the house. He was a stay home Dad while I earned or studied for Sophie’s first 18 months, then we switched over and he went back to work and I became a stay at home Mum. Whoever said that staying home was the easy option, the ”lazy” option, clearly has never stayed at home with kids.
When I was working, I got to travel to work – alone and with a newspaper. I got to have regular breaks from my desk – alone to make tea and coffee. I got to pee – alone. I got to travel home excited to spend time with my daughter…but she would already be in bed as I used to travel 90mins each way. Despite all the wonderful alone time I had while working, I didn’t get much time with Sophie. And I hated that. The guilt of not knowing her routines or favourite things properly (considering babies are fickle beings and change on a daily basis!) used to make me cry a lot. The general guilt that I had less patience for tantrums was horrible. I didn’t know her tricks like Husband did.
Of course, I am her mum and weekends were precious, but the small day to day things were a bit harder for me as I wasn’t right there in the thick of things. Husband did a fantastic job with Sophie, taking her out every day to softplay and to the park and also kept on top of the housework while I worked full time.
When I hit 20 weeks pregnant with Madeleine, enough was enough. I was exhausted and Husband was restless so we swapped over and I took over Sophie and the house. Learning the quirks and routines of a lively 18month old while pregnant was not easy. She had also hit the terrible twos nice and early – lucky me. I found the 24/7 of staying at home a heck of an adjustment. There are these wonderful women out there who never have a struggle and gasp in shock when other mothers say they find it hard (and let’s be frank, boring) to sing the same rhymes and play the same games and do the same things over and over. I’m one of those mothers. I like to try and keep things fresh and new to prevent boredom on my part and learn new things on Sophie’s part. At home, you are on from sun up to sun down. You share the bathroom with a tiny person or two while you pee and they throw things at you or unravel the toilet paper (true story). I find myself serving up meals and eating mine while fitting in the washing up while both are sat down and still. I need six arms and twenty seven eyes to get things done while keeping both kids happy and entertained. That is NOT easy. My washing machine works overtime and by the time I’m celebrating the basket being empty, it’s the end of the day and a new lot of clothes is shoved in. In between songs and games and reading books, I tidy and nappy change and supervise trips on the potty. We go out every day, sometimes twice, for walks just to get out of the house and to the park. I clean up puke and play dough and poop explosions. I kiss knees better and wipe snotty noses and tearful faces. I play I Spy until my ears bleed and listen to Bing and Toy Story until I wish for neither to exist.
After bedtime, I finally sit down for maybe an hour before the night shift with Madeleine begins. I do dummy runs and bottle night feeds and soothe nightmares. I wash up and sweep the floors and tidy the toys and debris in the living room. When all of that’s done, bring me the magazines and TV shows that I’m supposed to be sat around watching all day being lazy. If being a parent at home is a lazy option, then show me where? Being at home with kids is easy for some people just like being at work doesn’t carry guilt for others. I’ve had experience of both sides of the coin and personally for me, being at home is way more tiring and hard. For others, being at work is.
I am supremely lucky – I get to be with my girls and despite how much I may moan about it, I wouldn’t go back to work until school begins for Maddie if I can help it. It’s hard, and tiring, and sometimes boring and NOT easy. But wonderful and hilarious and full of cuddles and kisses. Maddie grabs my cheeks and tries to bite my mouth, and I’ve decided that she’s trying to give me kisses now. She smiles and commando crawls at top speed after her sister while laughing as she goes. Sophie has an incredible imagination and brings me pretend things and tells me they’re her jewels. Jewels – for a two year old. Amazing.
What I’m trying to say is if homemakers and working parents could give each other support and a little understanding, I wouldn’t have people saying ‘so when are you going back to work’ and then recoiling when I say not any time soon!