In parenthood, it’s always the woman who ends up holding the diaper bag.
Not so much literally, since I do often force my husband to sling the pink bag of Elle’s things over his shoulder when in public settings. I’m talking figuratively. Women almost always are the ones to shoulder the brunt of responsibility when it comes to child rearing.
Okay, I know we live amid political correctness and women’s liberation and what have you, but the reality is, women still and will continue to hold the reigns when it comes to raising the next generation. That’s not to say I don’t believe that men are capable of taking the lead in raising a child. I’m sure there are men out there who do so. I just don’t know any.
Generally speaking, we’re the ones who butcher our schedules to a sliver of their former portliness in favor of caring for the baby. Moms quit their jobs, or cut back significantly on their work responsibilities, as soon as they realize full-time childcare is neither affordable nor very accessible (at least here in Telluride). I have heard of stay-at-home dads. Again, I have yet to meet one.
It also seems that mothers have the steeper hill to climb when it comes to carving out time for personal interests. Her yoga class goes by the wayside, and yet his poker night remains. She stays home on a Saturday night when you haven’t planned ahead for a babysitter – unless she’s planned way ahead for one of those rare girls’ nights out, which always seems to be such a grand affair (meanwhile, every other night out is boy’s night.)
Do I sound bitter? Probably. That’s because I’m home on a Saturday night when we didn’t plan ahead for a babysitter. I know I’m supposed to cherish motherhood. Tonight, I got to ruffle Elle’s hair and rub lotion on her thigh rolls. I got to rescue her when she got stuck under a chair. I got to read her The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I gave her her first taste of Hägen-Dazs Mint Chip. No, we didn’t put it into a bowl first and yes, we did mine for the chocolate chunks. You’re allowed to do that, by the way, when you volunteer to stay home with the baby whilst numerous parties rage in town. (I just made up that rule, but that’s the beauty of staying home with the baby – you get to make up all the rules.)
So if motherhood is so uplifting, if raising a baby is part of my DNA and what I was born to do, why am I eating my weight in mint chip ice cream on a Saturday night?
I think this Saturday night slump has more to do with my disillusionment about parenting in marriage, as opposed to my expectations of myself in motherhood.
Babies are cute and wonderful and bring lots of love into a household. They also bring stress and pointed fingers and frustrated teeth-sucking. I don’t wish to disenchant those couples eagerly awaiting their first child. Just beware that raising a child is most likely one of the hardest things you’ll ever do together.
It’s actually that lack of togetherness that tends to challenge marriages the most. When baby moves in, she is no doubt the center of the universe. The dog sure knows it. And you soon know it too, when you realize that you haven’t had a solid waking hour together with your spouse in weeks. Mom stays home so he can play poker. Dad takes the baby so she can go for a run. In the hunt for wholesome, fulfilling “me” time, you forget how much you need “we” time.
This weekend is Valentine’s Day, a holiday that makes cynics cringe since flowers and chocolate and decadent dinners seem to be what’s expected. I disagree. A few childless hours spent with your spouse doing something you both enjoy is, in my estimation, the best Valentine’s Day gift. And a good cure for a Saturday night slump. (Some French chocolates would sweeten any lingering bitterness about an unequal balance of parental responsibilities, of course.)