It’s 9 AM on a Saturday morning and my daughter is draped around my right leg as I gather my things.
“Mommy, don’t gooooo!” she whines convincingly.
My toddler son has thrown himself on the floor in a fit of despair and is pounding his tiny fists into the unvacuumed carpet. My husband looks at me with the same eyes as our floppy-eared American bulldog gives me — eyes that say, “Are you sure you really have to go?”
But I don’t take the bait; not this time. Calmly, I slide my laptop into my shoulder bag, kiss the tops of my children’s heads for the tenth time, and promise to be home soon before scurrying out the door.
Witnesses might assume otherwise, but I’m not taking a solo trip to the islands. I’m simply going to work for the day and no one in my family is quite used to it yet.
As a work-at-home mother, my job as a writer happens between the walls of my home as children climb onto my lap. I’ve learned to become extremely efficient in 22-minute intervals (which is about the length of a Dora the Explorer episode), as well as accustomed to working after hours. Actually carving out time to desert my family and work without interruption, though? That has seldom happened.
Well, until now.
It’s all part of a new vow I made to myself — to value my work, while asking my husband to routinely step up with the kids. Though I’ve tried to make it happen in the past, things always got in the way; like my husband’s work, my own guilt, or the kid’s commitments.
But finally, I made a choice not to put myself last on the list. I told my husband that I’ve pulled double-duty for long enough, and the time away is now non-negotiable.
“You owe me all your Saturdays,” I said. “Every. Damn. One.”
And I meant it.
So today, I don’t plan on being home soon. I plan on taking my time, working from 9-5 and coming back not a minute earlier, to ensure my time spent away was worth the scene upon leaving.
I know it sounds harsh, but the truth is, a lot has fallen on me over the years out of convenience (for everyone else). I found that if I don’t remember to push back with the same consistency I’m desiring on my husband’s part, what often falls on me is a load too heavy to carry. Working from home really can be the best of both worlds, and I’m mostly thrilled that I get to do it. It’s financially savvy, in that we don’t pay for child care and that I get to be around to meet my kid’s needs while earning a paycheck as a freelance writer. I pursue work I absolutely love daily, while being present for my children and hanging onto all my earnings.
I am, to be a complete and utter cliché #SoBlessed, because I really do get to do it all. The only downside is, I’m really doing it all. (#SoOverwhelmed.)
The feeling that everything has fallen squarely in my lap is often unavoidable. I’ve grown accustomed to not only being with my children all day (which means keeping the household in order, fixing the meals, grocery shopping, laundry, dog-walking, etc.), but also meet my deadlines. I take care of all the “extras” — the playdates, the appointments, the lessons, and more — because I’m the one that’s here to do it.
Even if I wasn’t balancing part-time work, wrangling two small children all day until the evening hours would still be a relentless and exhausting task, but the fact is, like a lot of modern parents, I’m doing both.
As an adamant feminist, it’s hard to imagine how I became so firmly planted in my role as the person who meets all my kid’s needs. I never assumed the childcare would be a perfect 50/50 split, but I did imagine my partner and I would eventually come up with an arrangement we both felt comfortable with. I had this idea, before I had children, that we’d have a more modern arrangement, where co-parenting came naturally. But as my first child grew out of infancy, stopped breastfeeding, and became a feisty toddler, the weight never seemed to ease, not for a minute. My husband on the other hand, never struggled for his own work time or felt suffocated by the children.
I yearned for something more, and so I wrote at every given opportunity with the sheer determination that I would succeed in spite of how little time I had to do so. But no matter how much I earned, or how many connections I made, my husband’s work always felt more important. It always took precedence, whether it meant scheduling work events on nights and weekends and leaving me without help, or the opportunity to work, or missing dinner or bedtime.
All of this soon led me to wonder if balance, when it comes to child-rearing, is a total myth. I knew many mothers who felt its weight as heavily as I did. Lowering my expectations would’ve probably saved my marriage from a lot of hardship. I’ve thought about this often. But honestly, I don’t think I should have to. I’m too grounded in the belief that my work, my goals (both personal and professional), my experiences as a woman and a mother, and above all my happiness are equally as important as my husband’s.
I realized the pattern wouldn’t stop until I shattered it and formed a new one. Reclaiming my Saturdays is just the start, but already it feels like a pretty big shift in how I see our roles as parents, and our roles outside of parenting.
Having Saturdays to work without interruption makes me a happier mother and wife. Having a day to reset — to focus and to turn off my constantly multi-tasking mom-brain — feels good. I can go home and feel accomplished and also, ready to be present with my family, instead of bitter about all the work I’ve been slacking on and all the help I haven’t been receiving.
There was a time, not long ago, when I would’ve been overcome with guilt at leaving — guilt that kept me home almost every Saturday since my kids were born. But after years of letting someone else’s schedule dictate my plans, I’m finally comfortable walking out the door. It will never be a 50/50 split, and that’s okay. I don’t need to keep score. I just need what every mother needs to be — supported in my work and in my life, so that I can feel it’s one of my own making.
And I can tell you one thing for sure: Saturdays never looked so damn good.More On