Before leaving for work the other day, my husband kissed me on the cheek and said, “I wish I could sit around and snuggle all day.”
I know what he meant by that; he misses us and wants time to be a family and to hold his newborn child. I am lucky to have paid maternity leave, but my husband doesn’t get paternity leave and must go to work no matter how much he wants to stay home. But something about the words “snuggle all day” hurt my heart. Was he suggesting that I do nothing but sit around during the eight hours that he is not home?
Does my husband even know what I do all day?
My days all blur together with very little snuggling actually happening. There are no segmented periods of time separated by the perforation of a good night’s sleep. Instead, I am the one who wears down the floor boards in the middle of the night trying to soothe a newborn baby back to sleep.
The mornings are turbulent at best while I race around the house getting my three kids dressed, fed, and ready for whatever playdates or scheduled appointments they have that day. Our baby requires round the clock care for feeding and changings and so my job becomes trying to keep everyone quiet enough to let her sleep in between those fresh nappies and breastfeeding. When she sleeps I race against the clock to get the washing in, the dishes done, the house picked up, the bills paid, and dinner figured out.
This house does not magically clean itself. My children do not get chauffeured all around town by the grace of a magic carpet. It all gets done because I am home to do it. When my maternity leave is over, my husband is going to step in and take over where I leave off and I worry that he will be blindsided by the enormity of what it takes to run a household.
Someone once told me that you should never sit too close at the ballet because you don’t want to see the dancers sweat, for it will ruin the illusion of beauty and grace. Motherhood is like that. My husband sees a clean house, dinner in the oven, bills paid, and three kids who are relatively clean and always happy. I am in the background working myself to exhaustion to make all of that happen.
And there is not much snuggling that takes place during this epic production of daily chores and child rearing. But I wish there was. Some days I will call my mother-in-law and ask her to take my kids for a few hours so that I can clean the house in peace and quiet. On those days, with little interruption from my children, the house gets put back together quickly and I can breathe. Or bathe. Or make a phone call. I can stop and listen to the silence for five minutes and feel grateful for the chance to be a mother in the first place. But there is always something to do in this house of kids and pets and gardens. There are always messes to clean up and much chasing and yelling for everyone to quiet down and eat their dinner or else no dessert.
By the time my husband comes home, I feel too tired to participate in a full adult conversation. He sees order when he walks through the door where I see a never-ending list of things that must get done in order maintain the illusion of order.
I say all of this not because I am complaining or martyring myself, but rather, because the work of women in the home with children is so often invisible — even to the people who are closest to it. So, when my husband glibly says that wishes he too could sit around and snuggle all day, it hurts my heart.
I wish I could sit around and snuggle all day too.