My daughter just turned 2, and I just now had a conversation with my husband about how to fold her clothes so they fit into her tiny dresser. That's two full years of dressing her where he never noticed that the way he folds her onesies doesn't in any way match up with how they ended up laid out in her drawers. And that tiny, and arguably inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, example is perhaps emblematic of the things every mom wishes dads knew about the emotional labor of motherhood.
I actually didn't realize how much emotional labor I had taken on until our daughter was about 15 months old. I was a stay-at-home mom (and sometimes a foster mom to other babies) for her first 15 months of life, and I took on all the duties related to our daughter while my husband worked as a guidance counselor in a high school down the road. But after 15 months, I went back to work full-time and it hit me like a ton of bricks in the first week I was back: I was carrying almost the entire institutional knowledge of our daughter, from what she wore to what she ate and how many diapers she had left and what she needed the next time she went to see the doctor.
It has taken us the bulk of a year to get to the point where I feel less like I'm drowning under the weight of the emotional labor of motherhood. And yet, just now, I explained to my husband how to fold our daughter's laundry, and while he has zipped off to bed I'm about to change the laundry so it doesn't mildew overnight. There is increased parity, but there are still things I wish he knew about the emotional labor of motherhood, that I am going to go ahead and assume every mother wishes dads just knew:
It Never Turns Off
The emotional load of motherhood never turns off. I'm not always stressed about our kids and all their varying needs, but somewhere in the back of my mind I'm always thinking about at least five things related to making sure they have exactly what they need. When our kids go to bed, 99 percent of the time, the part of my husband's brain that worries about them shuts off, too. Mine never shuts off. And sometimes, once they're in bed and I don't have their daily needs to worry about, my brain into overdrive. The worries that were kept at bay by snack time and bath time and story time and all the attendant clean up have a lot more room to bounce around once kids are sound asleep.
There's Always A Next Step
There are definitely things my husband handles that I haven't a clue about, but the list of things I keep in my brain about our children is definitely much longer. Sometimes I wonder whether he would have ever noticed that our daughter was growing out of her infant car seat if I hadn't bought her new one and had it shipped to our door?
"Simple" Tasks Aren't Simple
I honestly wouldn't nitpick about laundry if I didn't think it was absolutely necessary. So trust me when I say that when you live in a 800 square feet apartment with two kids, that laundry has got to fit into the tiniest dresser that our kids now share between the two of them. Unless he wants to figure out a better way to cram their clothes into a tiny space, learn how to fold it so it fits!
Things that seem "simple" aren't simple when you're coordinating an entire household.
"Easy" Tasks Aren't Easy
Somehow, doctor's appointments have always and still do fall to me. I'm in charge of the scheduling (and inevitable rescheduling), the remembering that they have to happen to begin with, going to them, and consoling the sometimes terrified child afterward. All of it. And sometimes they take freaking forever. I wish my husband knew just how awful a doctor's waiting room can be with a newborn and a 2-year-old toddler, who has eaten all the goldfish crackers in the first five minutes.
The amount of planning involved makes even an "easy" trip to the doctor anything but easy.
Daily Decisions Require A Ridiculous Amount Of Time & Energy
I think it's a small mercy for mothers that our daycare always sends lunch boxes home empty and clean. Maybe some moms want to know what their kids ate and didn't eat, but honestly, that just sounds like a source of more pressure. I don't want to think about whether or not my daughter left the veggies in her lunch box for the umpteenth time in a row. I just want to take it off my list of things to worry about, so thank you, daycare, for allowing me that peace.
Their Clothes Don't Magically Appear Every Time They Grow Out Of Something
To be fair, if my partner was in charge of our children's clothes, they would constantly be mismatched and clashing and it wouldn't bother him one bit. But guys, it would really bother me. I dated a guy in college and lived with him briefly before meeting my husband, and he had a theory that if something bothered you, you should deal with it. I think the example was dishes in the sink. If the dishes in the sink bother you, you do them, rather than expect the other person to care as much as you do about washing them.
I actually really like this theory about chores generally, but adding two kids to the scene meant that way of thinking just wasn't going to cut it anymore. My husband can deal with a lot more mess and chaos than I can, but being the only person to stay on top of the chaos at all times was burying me. After all, the mess and chaos wasn't just impacting us anymore.
Just Because We Do It Better Doesn't Mean We Should Have To
There are things that I do better than my husband, which he has jokingly said are all things "newborn." But just because I settle babies better and don't panic when giving them a bath in the sink, doesn't mean I should always have to. Just because I do it better doesn't mean I want to do it every time.
Sometimes We Need You To Help Us Help Ourselves
Sometimes the emotional load gets smaller when you wrestle part of it from my white knuckled grasp. Parts, but not all, of the emotional load of motherhood have to do with control, and sometimes having someone else just take over and steal some of that control makes giving it up a little easier. I think I may have forced this earlier this year, when I just didn't have the energy to think about grocery shopping or the logistics of taking two kids to the nearest store. It was a natural place for my partner to step in and take control, and we are all happier for it.
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