Q: I'm taking the year off to be at home with our new baby. My days are busy, but I'm pretty good about tidying up toward the end of the day so my husband comes home to a clean house. I'm not used to this level of domesticity, so sometimes things get pretty crazy around noon — clothes everywhere, kitchen dirty, etc.
He came home unannounced at lunchtime the other day, and the house was a customary wreck. I tried to laugh it off, but he's now "very concerned" that I'm getting overwhelmed at home and that we should rethink our decision. I can't wait to go back to work, but that's not why.
Would our relationship take a hit, do you think, if I "let" him talk me into returning to work and hiring a nanny without ever explaining that I'm not the slob he saw in action the other day?
A: If you're asking me whether you can use your husband's false impression as a way out of admitting the truth, then the answer is exactly what you think it's going to be.
I don't mean to sound like such a scold. It just keeps coming out that way when I read that you "tried to laugh it off," and may
" 'let' him talk me into" something you already want to do. Do you realize you are putting on a performance?
Marriages don't just "take a hit" when husbands and wives allow themselves to become strangers. They die.
Since this involves a topic on which biases run strong, please make no mistake: I'm not saying you should stay home or should go back to work. I'm simply saying you should be straight with your husband. About:
• What your days are like with the baby.
• How you feel during them.
• What he can do to understand his own family (hint: Next Saturday or Sunday, daddy cares for baby all day).
• Why you can't wait to go back to work.
• Whether it makes sense to revisit your parenting plans (along with anything else you're hiding, dodging or trying to shift onto him) — and, if so, whether a drastic change is called for, or whether an incremental change would do, like getting more support.
Somewhere between the cave and the gated community, being home with small children changed from a team sport to an individual one, with teammates replaced by gadgets, stuff and more stuff. I realize I'm projecting here — but if being "at home with our new baby" means eight-,
nine-, 10-hour stretches of just you, your baby and your stuff, then you'd really have to love babies or hate your job not to be dreaming of the office.
There's no one solution to this that fits all. However, before you start constructing elaborate new plans (or elaborate new deceptions), please consider that, even though you aren't overwhelmed, you could still be lonely, isolated and bored enough for these to be limiting your impression of stay-at-home parenthood. And if I'm right, letting your husband see life through your eyes, then engaging him in an honest discussion of what to do about it, will probably be a lot more productive than throwing this whole year out with the bathwater.
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