Have you ever sat at your desk, bleary-eyed as you gazed at your overworked computer and thought to yourself, "Man. I would give anything to switch places with my stay-at-home partner right now."? Perhaps you've thought these words in irritated, jealous frustration as a big deadline approaches. "How come they get to be home with our beloved children while I'm stuck in the seventh circle of hell that is my office?" I've been there and, yes, I get it. Thanks to decades of sitcoms and laundry ads, "stay-at-home mom" is an easy gig to romanticize. Careful though, because there are some things a grown-ass man never says to a stay-at-home mom.
My partner was a stay-at-home parent to our son for two years and then, after our daughter was born, we swapped: he went to the office and I've been home ever since. We talked a lot about the challenges of being on both ends of the spectrum, and so I thought I was in pretty good shape to know what was ahead of me. The reality, of course, was that I really didn't have any idea. The difficulties were very different from the ones I faced as a working mom. Some things were easier, like accommodating the kids' school schedules and appointments and the mom guilt wasn't as intense and I wasn't required to put on pants every day which, you know, is the dream. Other things, however, left me feeling completely lost. I didn't know how to deal with the overwhelming feeling that I had accomplished nothing at the end of the day, despite moving or working non-stop from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep; I didn't know how to deal with the isolation from other adults; I didn't know to manage a day of tasks with two little ones constantly underfoot, often undoing what I had just accomplished.
Fortunately, having done it himself, my husband understood my struggles and knew what I was doing every day and realized that while being a stay-at-home mom is different from being a working mom, "different" definitely doesn't mean "easier." He'd been there and he knew what to say and, perhaps even more importantly, he knew what not to say, to his stay-at-home partner: