It’s interesting that these days, whomever is the parent that stays at home is the one who feels underappreciated. This seems to be common from what I’ve seen, and while in some cases I’m sure it’s true, I think it’s just as possible – and in fact, most likely becoming more and more common – for the person who works outside the home all day to be the underappreciated one.
Our society is really moving toward being sympathetic and understanding toward SAH parents or spouses/partners, which is definitely something we’ve needed for quite a long time, and it’s definitely a positive thing. However, as with most things related to humans, it tends to be one or the other with no balance. I really do feel for people – men or women – who stay home all day and take care of everything around the house, including cooking, cleaning, bill-paying, shopping (for necessities, not for leisure!), family time management, errands, repairs, etc. I know it’s a lot of work and it’s a job I don’t think I’d do well. But it’s also true that people who work outside of the home work hard, too, and are just as exhausted in the evening as the ones who stay home and chase after kids (or dogs, or laundry, or whatever!) all day.
The trick is in both parties recognizing that they are both working hard and contributing valuable, necessary pieces to the puzzle we call “family.” Once that recognition is accomplished, both parties need to agree that they BOTH need and deserve down time, and should take steps to ensure that happens on a regular basis.
Also – and this is important! …No score-keeping. “Well, I took out the garbage the last three weeks and you haven’t helped clean up dinner since last Tuesday. AND I’ve done all the laundry the last two weeks because you’ve been working late.” Or… “I sat through two committee meetings today and had to get my lunch from the vending machine. Plus I got a project from my boss that’s going to require way more time than he thinks so all my other projects are going to fall behind.”
Both parties should feel comfortable sharing how their work is going (wherever that takes place – home or office), but neither should gripe at the other one, expecting special treatment because their situation is “harder” or “worse” or “more exhausting.” And both parties should offer empathy for the stress the other feels about their work.
Now that Husband and I are working hard in different ways (up until Christmas we were both full-time office employees and now he is a SAH dad while I continue to work full time in an office), I’m trying really hard to make sure that I don’t act as though I’m more deserving of evening rest than he is, just because he’s been at home all day. And I won’t lie: It’s hard. Especially now that I’m in my third trimester and all I want to do when I get home is indulge myself in a lounge on the couch with a tasty beverage…and, if I was rich, I’d have a massage therapist waiting for me with a cushy table and lavender-scented oils.
But I have many friends who are SAH parents, and I’ve heard the stories my husband has about the energy-sapping activities in which he indulges Little Miss throughout the day. So as soon as I open the door when I get home, before I even drop my purse or kick off my heels, I immediately drop the “Professional Woman” title and once again become “Mommy.” And to be honest…I really wouldn’t want it any other way.