To the delight of all of us caterwauling feminist harpies, women have made tremendous advances since the heyday of the sit-com mom of the 1950s. We're in more boardrooms, we're living longer, and the freedom to decide our reproductive choices (while under threat) remains in our hands. One thing that hasn't changed too much since the '50s, sadly and unfortunately? The image of the stay-at-home mom. Of course this airbrushed ideal never actually existed, and was largely pushed by Don Draper-style advertisers. Still, I say f*ck Mad Men, SAHMs need a grown-ass man, because there are things grown-ass men say to stay-at-home moms that everyone else should know about (and say, too).
I'll be the first to admit that things are getting better for stay-at-home moms in regard to being understood. Thanks to the internet in general and social media in particular, what was once a cloistered, out-of-the-public-eye job is getting attention. "Equitable division of labor" is a term a lot of people have heard on the news and in think-pieces in major newspapers and magazines. However, we're not quite there, yet, and in order to eventually get "there," men and women need to step up and proactively try to make things equal, fair, and more beneficial for everyone involved.
It's going to take SAHMs talking about their actual experiences, not just the picture-perfect ones, and voicing how they need help. It's going to take their partners asking how they can help. It's going to require a society that enables both parties to do these things without taboo or judgment. And, of course, it's going to take everyone truly realizing that being a mom (stay-at-home or otherwise) is not a woman's only identity, but rather an aspect of who she is.
To be sure, it's a tall order, but it's perfectly acceptable to start small and in one's own home. So, what are the things grown-ass men can say to their SAH-partners to speed along the glorious feminist revolution?
"How Was Your Day?"
Because communicating about the day's events is important for each of you in order to know what the other is going through. After all, just because the house and family might look basically the same as when you left, doesn't mean that things have happened. Oh, things have happened. Even the little things matter, since they might culminate into something bigger down the line.
A grown-ass man not only asks the question in the first place, but does so while actually listening and making eye-contact. It's not a formality uttered upon walking through the door, but a question he's actually interested in having answered.
"Do You Need A Little Time To Yourself?"
Stay-at-home moms have been the sole caretaker of a child or children all damn day. That's a lot of being grabbed, being pulled, cleaning messes, kissing boo-boos, figuring out toddler talk, breaking up fights, preparing meals, playing dolls, explaining why you don't want to play dolls right now, soothing a shrieking child who wants you to play dolls, and playing dolls despite just wanting to sit by yourself for three minutes. Oh, and an endless loop of kid TV shows. (Do you know how many times I've seen the same 15 episodes of My Little Pony?) Yes, they've been home all day, all day, but they've been going non-stop since whenever you left the building. A grown-ass man gets it, and offers her a few minutes to gather herself before she has to keep going.
"What Should We Do This Weekend?"
A SAHM has been planning child-friendly activities all week, so a grown-ass man will help her figure out the days of the week he has off work. This is especially relevant if the SAHM in question is an extrovert, who will likely be craving some social activity. Being proactive about how time, as a family, will be spent is a great way to communicate that you're in this together, and that you don't expect her to plan everything that involves children, seven days a week with absolutely no assistance.
"How Do We Want To Split Up Chores Tonight?"
A grown-ass man may have been working all day, but he realizes that the SAHM in his life has been, too. So, whatever is left to be done around the house after he gets home is done as a couple. Besides: many hands make light work, so it's not like it's even that big of a deal.
"Thank You For Cooking"
This one is actually inspired by my very own grown-ass man. Ever since before we were parents, whenever I cooked he would thank me, despite the fact that we had an agreed upon a calendar of who would cook and when. At one point I responded "Well, it was my job to cook tonight. You don't have to thank me."
"But I appreciate the things you do that make us work, which includes cooking. Thanking you for cooking is a way of showing that."
It was a total lightbulb moment. Like "Hey, yeah! Hell yeah!"
Remember in The Princess Bride when dreamy-ass Westley says, "As you wish" when he means, "I love you"? That's basically what this is.
"Do You Mind If I Take A Little Time To Myself To Decompress/Switch Gears?"
SAHMs aren't the only ones who have been working hard all day and need a few minutes. A grown-ass man isn't one who goes full-speed non-stop 24/7. Yes, he steps up, but he also knows when he needs to sit down. I know lots of guys who need 5-15 minutes after coming home from work to settle in and shift gears before helping his stay-at-home partner crank out everything that needs to be done for the rest of the day. This gives him time to recharge and be the best dad and partner he can be, and is an exercise in effective communication of needs.
"Let's Sit Down And Talk About Budgeting/Finances"
Just because one partner is bringing home the money does not mean that money matters aren't a very important discussion to bring up as a couple. A household budget is something that's important for everyone to be on the same page about, no matter who's managing that budget. Routine expenses are agreed upon and big purchases are not made until discussed (no matter who wants to make the purchase).
"The House Looks Great"
Too often, my fellow SAHM friends will tell me that their partner does not mention the state of the house unless it's something negative, like, "It's kind of a mess in here," or the slightly sneakier but no less obnoxious, "Didn't you say you were going to clean today?" A grown-ass man knows the power of positive reinforcement in buoying anyone's spirits, and so offers words of affirmation to his partner on a regular basis.
"How Are You Doing?"
I know what you're thinking: "You already said that." yeah but not exactly. Checking in on the day-to-day is important, but so is checking in on the stuff that might get lost in the shuffle of said day-to-day. Sometimes, it doesn't even strike a SAHM that things are off until she is asked to talk about how she's feeling in general. Bonus: it shows her that you care about how she's doing as a human being and outside of her role as a SAHM.
Here's the beauty of all of the things a grown-ass man does for his stay-at-home partner: a grown-ass SAHM will return all of this thoughtfulness in-kind. The end result is a relationship between two individuals who care about one another as parents, partners, and people.