As you know, I recently decided to step away from my job and stay home with our two children full-time. The reasons were complex and multifaceted and the decision was not an easy one, but as we have discussed, it is what is best for our family right now.
I realize though, that while we have discussed the practical realities of this choice—the financial ramifications, the feasibility of it—there is still so much that hasn't been discussed, so much I haven't been able to articulate. There are infinite and nuanced angles to this decision, and so much I feel like I need to tell you.
I am happy and content with my decision, but I am also scared. Scared that one day, not long from now, you will no longer see me. I am terrified that for you and our children, I will fade into the background, blend into the fabric and paint of our walls, become the set in which you lead your lives—no longer one of the featured players.
I know how hard this job of mothering is. I know that for all of its blessings and grace, it is also work—unglamorous, tedious, often lonely—work. I need you to see—always, really see—the effort I put in.
I need you to validate and appreciate it and not take it for granted. I need you to remember when you come home after a long day, I have put in a long day as well, only my work continues, through nights and weekends and holidays, through every second of my life.
It doesn't ever leave me, the mental and emotional burden of raising our children, the herculean tasks of keeping them happy and healthy and teaching them to be good and kind and responsible.
I need you to know that taking care of our children is my job, and that everything else—the cleaning and cooking and household chores—are secondary, tasks that should be shared between us.
If we had a nanny, we would not expect her to pay our bills, cook our dinners, run all of our errands, take care of the dog, and clean our house. We would expect her only to care for our children, keep them fed and happy and stimulated.
And so, if you come home and there is no dinner and the house is a mess, please don't wonder how it's possible I could be home all day, doing "nothing." I can't have you think that of me. If you need proof of my work, if you need to see the evidence, look at our kids. They are my beautiful, exhausting, sometimes impossible work.
Don't let the routine of our lives fool you into thinking this is easy.
Please don't say things like, "I wish I could just stay home all day." I feel like a statement like that is a casual devaluation of my life's focus and efforts—even though I know you don't mean it that way. A stay-at-home mom already carries a chip on her shoulder of her own making at times. Tell me you appreciate what I do, that you're proud. Give me positive feedback and encouragement, because most of the time the work of a mom is invisible.
As my husband, I need you to see what I put into this life. I need you to be proud of me, the same way I am of you.
I need you to remember that we are partners. You will see me caring for our children as their mother, and it will be tempting to start to see me in that caregiver role in your own life, but while I love you and will always look out for you, I am your partner, first and always.
We are meant to go through this life as equals, as two independent adults, and one of my biggest fears is that one day I will just be the person who cooks for and cleans up after you, who buys your groceries and folds your clothes. Remember the intelligent, capable woman you married. It will break my heart if you forget her.
I need you to care about the examples we are setting for our children. It is 2018, and I refuse to raise my kids with a retro vision of gender roles. Show them that there is no distinction between a man and woman's role in a household, that we both can be hands-on and involved.
I am not a 1950s housewife. You will never come home to me in a spotless dress and apron, waiting with a cocktail, roast beef, and plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies. When you get home, I will be exhausted and covered in food or spit-up. I will probably be in sweatpants.
I might seem harsh or distracted, and you will likely be disappointed in my lack of affection or attention. Just know that it isn't you. It is because I have literally spent my day surrounded by children, bottomless pits of human need, and my tank is empty.
I love you. I love our children. And I'm happy with this choice. I am grateful for the ability to stay home with our kids. But I am also so scared that you will see me differently, that the world will see me differently, that I will see myself differently.
This is why I need you, the man I married, the man who loved me long before I was a mother, the man who knows my strengths and capabilities and talents (and my flaws) to recognize the work I do for our family. Promise that you will always see me, whether I go back to work one day or continue to stay home with our children.
See me when I can't, my love. And be there if I need you to help me find my way back.