I can’t say it enough. Parenting requires a partnership of the husband and wife. Of course, it would be different in the context of a single parent family but here, I’m talking about families where there is a dad and a mum. Whether both parents are working or one of them is a stay home parent, it still takes two to parent the children in the family.
Speaking from my context, I would be talking on behalf of a stay at home mum.
My primary role, day in and day out, is to care for my children. I cook for them, wash for them, pack for them, discipline them when necessary, and do whatever else is required to care for them. My husband’s primary role is to go out and work and make sure our family is financially provided for.
Both my husband and I spend long hours at work. On most days, my husband wakes up and leaves the home for work while the rest of the family are still fast asleep. During busy periods, he comes home after the rest of us have gone to bed. For me, my duty begins when I open my eyes in the morning, and it lasts till I finally lie down in bed again at night. Some days, my eyes are forced open because my son will climb into my bed, crawl to me and pry my eyes open.
My husband and I contribute to our family in different ways. Yet, for the sake of our sanity and relationship with our children, it is also important to exchange roles on a regular basis.
No matter how busy or tired my husband is from work, he needs bonding time with the children. He needs to hear from children instead of adults and get into the children’s world to hear and get to know them. He needs to be part of the disciplinary team so that the children know that Papa expects them to follow rules too. He needs to get his mind off work and to relax by goofing around with his offsprings.
As for me, no matter how much I love my children, I need time away from them. I need to speak with adults and engage in conversations that do not revolve around Lego and arts and craft and packing toys after play. I need to get away from having to yell so that I can be heard or so that someone will listen to me. I need to be away from the naughty corner and the rod that is now often invited to have meals with us so that dinner goes on smoothly. I need to get my mind off my children and to relax by being away from them.
The amazing thing is, we sometimes don’t realise these are what we need until we are pushed to saturation point.
Recently, my husband has been very busy with work. He explains to me whatever is not confidential, so that I am aware of why and what he is busy with, and I appreciate that he shares. Because he shares with me about work, I can support him better and be more understanding about the hours he has to put in.
Expectantly, as his busy work period dragged on, I started to get very exhausted at home too. It was not only the physical demands of having to care for my two children, it was also the mental demands of having to discipline them while being mindful of their developments. It didn’t help that there were some weekends that my husband had to be at work too. With his weekends spent at work, it meant that I didn’t have any help with the children 24 hours a day, almost seven days a week. I knew I was going to hit saturation point, so I decided to talk to my husband.
I texted him and told him I needed a break from the kids.
Thankfully, my husband understood and told me that with his busy period at work coming to an end, he would take the children at night and settle bedtime. He asked me to go out and meet up with people if I wanted to.
So with that, I made plans to leave the children with him and to go out and just chill for a few hours.
For the first time in a long time, I went out without my children and went for ice cream with my cousin. We enjoyed dessert and had a long conversation without being interrupted. We talked about work, friends and family and laughed the night away.
All it took was one night, and I already felt 10 times better. I felt ready to return to my stay home mum duties and to take on my children again.
I am writing about this because this past few weeks have served as a reminder to me, that I need to let my husband know when I need a break. Likewise, my husband also needs to let me know if he needs a break.
It can be easy for the spouse who is the one working full time and earning money for the family to think that they are the ones who is more exhausted and need a break from everything. I cannot say that the stress and exhaustion is comparable, but trust me, the one who stays home with the children, no matter how much love there is for the children, can and will get tired too.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to communicating the needs and wants that both spouses have, so that both can have time with or away from the children. While the stay home spouse is expected to be understanding about the demands that come with working full time and working hard to provide for the family, the working spouse should also be understanding towards the needs of the stay home spouse.
Communication is key because if I had decided to keep it all in, my husband would not have known how I feel.
Working things out for the family takes two. Things pertaining to the children and the home should not always fall on the shoulders of only one person. Take turns, take responsibilities and take time to rest when need be.