There’s been a simmering conflict within me ever since our first son was born. Its conflict that has arisen from the complete lack of understanding about just how much raising children is FULL TIME WORK (both to Mr Magentafrog and anyone without children of their own) and my complete inability to adequately convey it to Mr Magentafrog without sounding like a pathetic, neurotic no-hoper. I just want to scream ‘but it’s not fair!’ but I know it won’t change anything. I know he appreciates what I do at home; he just cannot comprehend the volume of it and what I do behind the scenes to make our responsibilities fuss-free and seamless (think always having towels in the bathroom so he doesn’t have to yell out for them when bathing the children and making sure there’s enough ‘lunch’ foods and making sure I have the pre-school roster and childcare routine down pat). He cannot understand just how quickly a day can turn bad and hours can evaporate in domestic mire without having achieved anything.It once took me all day to unpack and repack the dishwasher and wipe down the bench tops. I’m not joking. Someone without children might ask how can that be? Gee, you need to organise your time better. I’d like to ask those people over for morning tea to see how a typical day goes at my house, except it would take me 24-hours to prepare for it! How this happens is due to constant interruption – Masters 4 and 2 punching each other, jumping on the couch, squashing Master 1, running in the house, pinching, biting and requests for food. They are always hungry. The days are endlessly frustrating and then you step on a toy and hurt your foot! On those days, you could happily give the toys and your children to charity!
After a long day at work, my stories about the day’s trials and tribulations are entertaining to Mr Magentafrog and he can only see cuteness in whatever it is that the boys have done for the day. The fact that I am ready to neck myself goes unnoticed as he gleefully re-enters the household and starts playtime anew, getting them all fired up just before the running the dinner-bath-story-bed gauntlet.
We try to do family things in the afternoon like a walk to the park or run along the beach on a regular basis. But to be honest I couldn’t give a fuck about that, I want ‘Daddytime’ to be away from me. So help me I cannot be enthused about joining in and making things fun at the end of a tiring day with the spectre of what to do for dinner looming over my head. I just want to be left alone. I am no longer interested in their exploits when I have been exploited all day.
What is even more frustrating and compounds my conflict is that when a woman becomes a mother there are emotional, physical and mental changes out of her control that mean that she can have little to no personal interests outside of her children. Whereas when a man becomes a father, even an involved and very hands-on father – his life changes little. He is still a free agent. So there is not too much sacrifice – fishing, golf or sporting competitions and any other personal interests are still achievable.
This point was starkly illustrated when a girlfriend told me about the time that her husband had been working long hours away from home (while she worked a paid job and raised the children and ran the household), then on his one day off he was home just an hour before heading out the door again because he needed to ‘do something for himself’. We were in awe of his ability to say this straight-faced.
It’s similar for me when Mr Magentafrog offers to put the kids to bed before he goes out to do something he wants to do. He just doesn’t get it that while at least the children are quiet, I am still house-bound. My barely concealed fury is met with a blank, confused look causing me more frustration. Round it goes.
Poor Dads, they need their time out too. What is most hard to comprehend though is that they can only have their time because mothers are keeping the home in order and raising the children. Mothers only get time out if Dads (or family and friends) allow it. Yet there is a gaping domestic void that needs to be filled with acknowledgement and recognition from fathers to mothers and then some action; a willingness to take over so mother’s can do something for themselves on a regular basis. Ad-hoc and father-convenient arrangements (e.g. I’ll have the kids because I have nothing planned that day – heaven forbid they put themselves out) just don’t cut it. And, to the stay at home Dads, I salute you. I know there are always exceptions and everyone’s circumstances are different.
So I know I’m not alone and I don’t want to get into husband-bashing but knowing this doesn’t make it any easier.
Another friend suggested that domestic inequity is universal and possibly genetic. She said, “It’s not personal – they [husbands] are genetically incapable of seeing where you’re coming from”. So men have a fucking gene that gets them out of responsibility. I love it. It amazes me how well we women can make excuses for the selfish behaviour of our men.
Sigh. The conflict continues.