I Was Exhausted From Caring for My Baby but Everyone Expected Me to Do All the Work Alone
I recently came across an interesting story online. It was about a husband who wanted to bathe the baby in the evening and asked his wife to load the dishwasher while he did so. She refused, saying that she needed some rest. He was puzzled and said, “I thought spending time with the baby was your rest.” And I, like hundreds of other commenters, felt a sting from his remark.
The story, which the author intended as a joke, sparked a serious debate. That’s because the topic is not a humorous one. Women are fed up with having to explain why maternity leave, despite being called a vacation, is not one, why taking care of a child is not a leisure activity, but a full-time job.
And they also face double standards every time: if a man spends time with his child, it is seen as a heroic act, but the wife, who does it every day, is considered to have it easy. As one commenter put it, “If time with the baby is rest time, then let the husband, who is so rested after bathing the baby, load the dishwasher afterwards.”
I have experienced parenting first-hand, and I have also observed others. I had my first child relatively late, at the age of 27, and I thought long and hard before deciding to become a mom. I knew myself well — I could not stand discomfort. If I did not sleep or rest well, I would become irritable and moody. I would lose my temper, get angry, sulk and pout, and try to restrain myself from snapping at others.
This is what I discussed with my husband, asking him: “I will go crazy from lack of sleep, from not being able to eat properly and relax in the bath with a book. A baby is a constant source of stress. Is it fair for a baby to have an unstable mom? What did he do to deserve that?”
Well, I was not in a hurry, I was not ready yet. And in general, I think that every woman should seriously consider whether she is prepared to give birth, because it is a few years of living on the edge. I was not up for that, but my husband and relatives convinced me.
I don’t know what to say... My husband’s parents, who begged me to give them grandchildren, never even bothered to take the baby for a walk in the stroller. They just came over for tea and cake and gave me useless advice.
My mother-in-law would hold her grandson for ten minutes, and then she was done — she was exhausted. My father-in-law avoided him like the plague — he is scared of babies, apparently. When my grandson grows up, then maybe...
And my husband? Whenever I asked him to help me out a bit, or complained about how tired I was, he would say, “You’re a mother! How can you be tired of your own child?”
And he couldn’t help anyway. He had been to the gym the day before, and he needed to rest his muscles. But for me, who lugs around a chubby baby all day long, physical exercise should be good.
I tried to appeal to my mother-in-law: maybe you could talk to him, make him understand. But she said, “Do you expect him to come home from work and start doing chores? He earns money — he deserves to rest, and you are just playing with the child.”
And before I could say anything, she added, “You’re selfish. You resent your husband — a grown man of 30 for going to the gym and fishing with his friends. Why should he stay at home if you can’t manage the household? You chose to have a baby — deal with it yourself.”
When I confided in my own mother that my husband is not willing to watch our son to let me go to the pool once in a while, instead of words of support I heard, “You’re spoiled, living in the big city! He brings money, he doesn’t cheat — what more do you want? Do you know what kind of jerks we have to deal with here? Do you want to end up as a divorced single mom?”
I thought a married friend who has two older toddlers would understand me better and give me some advice. She told me, “Men are not really interested in babies. Think about it, what can they do with them? They don’t know how to play with toys, how to stimulate their development, how to dress them or feed them properly.
So the baby cries, and the husband doesn’t know what’s wrong. Mine was the same with the little ones, he didn’t want to deal with them, but now they can go to the movies together, ride bikes, and I can relax.”
What a lame excuse — “not interested”. As if women have a special mechanism in nature that makes us love all kinds of cuddling and changing diapers. And we go into ecstasy when we purée a zucchini and then get it spat at us.
We ended up getting divorced. Because I was exhausted by his attitude, and our marriage fell apart. My husband started to imply that I had changed for the worse: we used to exercise together, and we always had something to talk about.
He said I was not growing, that all my interests revolved around the child. He also said I had let myself go, and that I should lose some weight — it had been a long time since I gave birth. He said I used to be so beautiful and smart, but now I was a mess.
He even pointed out a woman he saw on social media — she had three children, and she was gorgeous and managed everything. That’s when I finally snapped.
A couple of years later, I got married for the second time, and my beloved husband started talking about having a child. He also promised to help. And I was already over 30, my son had just finished primary school, he was almost independent. I didn’t want to go back to that nightmare!
I came home from the maternity hospital. As I stood over the crib, I told my husband, “I gave birth to this baby, but remember, he should not interfere with my life.” He laughed and asked, “What will you do if he does? Will you push him back in?” I calmly replied, “No, I’ll just leave you. Either we are both parents, or you are not my partner but a burden that needs to be taken care of.”
And my wonderful husband started to help me as much as he could. But not everyone accepted his behavior. My new mother-in-law began to wring her hands and shriek, “How could you leave your husband alone with a baby in his arms? Why do you need a manicure? You are staying at home — who will see your hands?”
I didn’t apologize, but sarcastically asked, “Do you think your own son is an idiot? So I can figure out which end to put on a diaper, and where to breastfeed, but he can’t?” She, in my opinion, gritted her teeth in anger, but couldn’t think of what to say.
But my own mom really upset me again. I was chatting with her on the video call, and I was getting ready to meet my friends. I told her that today I would leave the kids with my husband for the night — the girls and I were going to a spa center out of town.
I was joking, saying it was time to relax and pamper myself. And she said, “What kind of mother are you if you abandon your children? You’ll push your wonderful husband away. He married you, a divorced woman with a kid, and what are you doing?”
My old friend didn’t understand me either. She said, “If you need to rest so much, then take the kids, go to the sea and have a vacation. How can you go to a resort without them?” That’s when I actually cried.
She is a mom herself, but she doesn’t realize that a child is a job, and you need to take a break from work sometimes, not drag it to the beach with you. And she knows that my kids see the sea often, and my husband can have a great time on his own — he loves skiing, and I’m not into it anymore. She knows, and still, she judges me. She thinks it’s not appropriate for a woman to act like that.
It seems that not only the older generation has the belief stuck in their heads that childcare is not much work. As if there is a law of nature: a mother cannot get tired of her child — he is her flesh and blood. It seems that she has nothing to rest from. And it is unthinkable to leave the father with the children.
The man can go away somewhere for a week, and the woman alone will manage, but if the wife leaves for the same period — it will be a disaster. Dad can’t handle what mom can easily handle. You don’t help your wife — it’s fine, everyone excuses you; you help — you are a hero, but your wife is to blame, and her mother is not good enough.
And the fact that a woman, when she takes care of the household and the child, burns out, loses interest in herself and her husband — that’s a minor issue. But I don’t want to be like that. And I don’t care what all the gossips of the world say about me — I also have the right to rest. And it’s not the time I spend with my kids.