The period running up to Christmas was a pretty full on and stressful one. Like most mums I was flat out with buying gifts, wrapping them, keeping my 2 little people going until the end of term, managing family plans, as well as all the normal day to day stuff like washing, feeding tiny and big humans oh and working!! I was shattered!
It all came the Saturday morning before Christmas when I had kindly given my husband a much deserved lie-in. My brain was wide awake and running a hundred jobs at once so there was no way I could sleep in. Instead I got up, fed the kids, started packing all the pressies into bags to take to my parents for Christmas and writing lists of last min jobs that needed to be done before we left. My husband finally came down around 9:30am (I know right!) and said “wow, you’re always so on it at the moment, when was the last time you had a good belly laugh and just chilled out?”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so instead, I got defensive! “I’d love to have laugh darling but I have no time. You see, I’ve found out what everyone wanted for Christmas, bought all the presents, wrapped them and now packed them to take. I’ve been working, managing all the kids commitments and requirements for school and continued to run this household.”
This was met with “alright, alright, I was just asking when you last laughed, no need to get defensive!”. Oh but there was a need, a really big need. You see in him saying this, I realised he had no frickin idea of what I had been doing for the weeks leading up to Christmas. And if I needed any clarification on that, he then went on to say “all you mums seem to be killing yourselves for Christmas. I don’t see why you do it – surely it’s not worth it!”. At this point I explained to him that every mum I knew, including his own mother, did this because otherwise on Christmas Day there wouldn’t be a special meal to eat; there wouldn’t be presents for the kids to open; there wouldn’t be a sense of excitement and anticipation for the little ones that Santa is coming…and so much more. He once again tried to tell me to calm down but I’d had enough and I walked off up stairs and cried. It was a cry that was long overdue – a really big snotty, red faced sobbing cry – you know, the cathartic ones! I was angry he didn’t see how bloody hard I worked; I was sad that I didn’t get any acknowledgement for how much I flogged myself for my family but most of all I was upset with myself. Why? Well I came to the bitter realisation that if I didn’t value my time, my energy and my worth, why should anyone else.
After the tears and the snot subsided, I was finally able to communicate my feelings with my husband. I told him how I didn’t feel valued by him or the kids. It wasn’t thanks or praise I wanted, just recognition for how hard I work for them. I explained once again about the mental load a mum has. It’s a burden that is hard to believe if you don’t carry it – he started to get the idea though. He really listened and certainly felt suitably remorse for his comments. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t do anything overtly wrong and really I had in-part enabled this whole situation by taking on everything and not asking for help.
So given what had happened, things started to change. We identified the things that stressed me out the most in the week and my husband agreed to take on certain jobs. Some things so small and simple but that have made the world of difference, such as helping to get the kids dressed and fed in the morning….actually that’s not small, that’s huge but you get the idea!! He also does things like cook and feed kids tea one night a week so I can plan a weekly food menu and do the on-line shop. I appreciate he could have done the food planning and shopping instead but the chances of a well balanced meal would be drastically reduced!! And finally, I’ve started sharing all the school emails and letters home with him and asking him to take responsibility for 50% of them – this one is still a work in progress but we’re getting there.
The other thing that has changed is I’ve started doing more for me. I’ve planned in time to exercise in the week, that no one and nothing is allowed to get in the way of. I’ve started going to karate lessons – a bit random but so much fun and I’m starting feel like bad ass ninja mama (it’s only been 3 weeks but hey, I’m a quick and optimistic learner!!). I’ve also made time to see my friends and have some fun. I am such a social creature and that was one thing that has been very much missing from life and needed bringing way up the priority list.
So overall, things are improving. Our goal is to make me less of a “manager” and more of equal in the home. This is probably pushing the boundaries a bit but the important part is he’s recognising the impact he has on my mental wellbeing by doing a few small things. And with a few choice phrases thrown in for good measure such as “for everything you don’t do, I have to do” and “please respect I’m shattered too but I can’t stop for the evening until these few jobs are done so please can you help me”, life overall is improving. We have also made more time for us as a couple. Not just things like date night but also proper catch-up time, where we discuss what’s going on with us individually and us as a family. We make plans to do things and more importantly we actually do them!!
Us mums are extra-ordinary people. I recognise what you do everyday – other mums recognise what you do too…but it’s not us that needs to see and value this. We have to help enable our partners and kids to see our sheer epicness and, in the same breath, not just do everything because we can do it quicker and more efficiently. If we do, we can only expect to see the same behaviours from our other halves and children alike. Respect and value you – if you don’t, no-one else truly will.
Be strong mama and be awesome x
Thanks to Nicky, one of The Mummy Space founders for sharing this.