By: Nadine Parker
My husband and I are a fantastic match. We balance each other and work as a team in everything we do. We are the co-founders of our family and the co-presidents of our household. We navigate our day to day with ease and support each other through all of life’s exciting and mundane moments. He is a wonderful husband and even better dad. However, every union has its break when the department heads need to come to the table and explain what is working and what isn’t. Especially when they have new colleagues in the form of identical twins during a global pandemic.
Five and a half months ago, our titles were extended from wife and husband to mom and dad. We took on a new role that no one trained us or prepared us for. I am proud to say that I think we’ve done a pretty fantastic job! We’ve tag-teamed the late-night feeds, conquered sleep training by 3 months, make time for ourselves and each other, all on our own. It’s a testament to our strength as a couple and our growth as parents.
My husband works in healthcare, therefore, is not working from home like many of my friends’ spouses. He is on the frontline battling the COVID-19 pandemic. He always asks if he can pick up something on the way home and never forgets the hug I so desperately need at the end of a long day. After he’s stripped naked and showered of course #CovidLife. His shifts are long (12 hours) meaning I am home alone with two infants from 7:30 AM until he returns at 8:30 PM. We also share one vehicle so during the week while he is at work I am restricted to our school bus of a stroller and anything within walking distance of our suburban neighbourhood. The weekends are my only time to fully escape. Where do I go? Costco. Because it’s the only place I can go. I stroll the aisles at a snail’s pace contemplating if I’ll ever need 5000 sheets of paper for the printer we have that doesn’t work or if I can eat 24 chocolate chip cookies before they go stale. It’s winter in Canada and there is a stay-at-home order in effect where I live and honestly speaking standing 6 feet away from our friends and family outside in -10°C doesn’t sound appealing. Costco is my refuge.
So what sparked the #MomStrike? The vacuum cleaner.
It was a Sunday morning, and like any other day off together we discussed our plan. I would run an errand that would have me leave the house for an hour and a half and when I returned we would go for a family walk when the boys woke up from their nap. I returned home from my errand to a rather cold welcome. My husband was cleaning and short with his responses. I thanked him for cleaning and asked if he needed help. Nothing. I offered to make him something for lunch and attempted small chat. Still not a great response. He was annoyed.
I finally asked what was wrong and if there was something I could do? Still nothing. So I pushed for a response, ‘have I done something wrong?’ Stating that he didn’t want to talk about it, I pressed and pressed for an explanation I knew would not play in my favour. He paused, and then announced that he had vacuumed the whole house very thoroughly because I had done ‘a half-assed job.’ I silently digested what was said. I didn’t say anything. Instead, I listed all the things I do in a day in my head that he doesn’t see.
Please don’t be mistaken, I was thankful that he so diligently vacuumed the house, but I wasn’t impressed. I do a million tasks a day while taking care of two infants. The things I do may not be newsworthy or even noticeable, but they add up. I thought for a moment that I should text him every time I do something just so he knows how much work I do at home. But that wasn’t going to work, that would just be annoying I thought. So it was at that moment that I decided to strike.
As I descended to our basement I asked, ‘are you going to wake up the boys from their nap now?’ I followed up the question with the statement, ‘I’m going to watch TV.’ He knew the line had been drawn and he was on his own. The picket line was not to be crossed. As I sat downstairs half-watching The Real Housewives of New York City and listened to the footsteps above I decided on the terms of my strike.
- Term 1 – I will not prep or wash any bottles for the remainder of the day.
- Term 2 – No diaper changes.
- Term 3 – If the boys are crying, he’s on his own.
- Term 4 – I’m not going to worry about dinner.
- Term 5 – Do absolutely nothing.
Was I punishing him for cleaning our house? Kinda. Was this petty behaviour? Sure. Was I out to prove a point? Absolutely.
As I lounged on the couch without a care in the world I could hear him packing up the boys for a walk. Not an easy task. It takes coordination, patience, and time management. Not only are you racing the clock so one doesn’t overheat while the other is still being dressed, but you also need to make sure you yourself are ready to battle the polar vortex of a Canadian winter. Snowsuits, mitts, hats, blankets, and carrying them out to the stroller one by one all on his own. As I mentioned previously we tag-team everything so under non-strike conditions I would prepare the boys and he would set up the stroller and carry them out once ready. Not this time.
I emerged from the basement and walked around the chaos to make myself a coffee without saying a word. The level of petty that I had reached at this point was beyond. They left for their walk and 10 minutes later I decided to go on my own walk. Podcast downloaded and no worries about being back for nap time I strolled our neighbourhood with a sense of freedom I hadn’t felt in months. As I made my way around the park I realized this was the first time I had gone on a solo walk for myself. The first time I was free to choose my own path without the obstacles that come with pushing a double stroller. It was glorious.
I returned from my walk to the beginning of nap time. I asked how their walk was and followed up the question with another – ‘What are YOU making for dinner?’
By the time the boys were down for the night, the dreaded #MomGuilt had hit me like a ton of bricks. I had purposely kept my distance to prove a point. A point that at this point seemed ridiculous. I kissed them goodnight and made my way to our dining room table for what I knew would be our discussion of today’s events. As we waited for dinner to finish we very calmly explained our points of view. In our almost six years together we’ve learned through trial and error how to approach a challenging conversation. We speak without raising our voice. We don’t interrupt the other person and most importantly, we listen. I am not someone who follows the rule of ‘never go to bed angry.’ I believe that sometimes you need to walk away and give the other person space in a moment of frustration because harsh words brought on by temporary emotions can have a permanent impact. Trust me, I’m a Scorpio.
We both apologized for our behaviour and even made jokes about my lack of assistance and the fact that dinner was one hour late compared to if I was making it. He acknowledged everything I do in a day and the challenges of being a pandemic parent with not one, but two children. I let him know how much I appreciate his constant love, support and how amazing of a father he is. I can also appreciate that we handle stress differently and that what was said, didn’t come from a place of hostility, it was frustration.
While our days may be very different, they’re both stressful in their own ways. I knew he had no intention of making me feel bad or implying that my vacuum cleaning was not up to his standard. Simply, he was not in a great mood, was stressed about the week to come and I pushed for an explanation of temporary emotions that may have had a permanent impact. The very belief I go against.
In the end, the strike was not about a vacuum cleaner it was about the statement of doing a ‘half-assed job.’ The role of a mother defined as a verb is ‘to bring up (a child) with care and affection.’ If there is anything I do with 100% conviction, it’s that exact definition.
I am a mother first and foremost. My only role during maternity leave is to raise our boys to the best of my ability. I don’t hold the official titles of housekeeper, chef, professional dishwasher, producer of breast milk, or house manager. However, we as mothers who have the luxury of taking a year of maternity leave have to be realistic and know that even though we’re raising our children there are other things that need to be done as well, like vacuuming.
So for me, if I am going to give any of these roles my all, it’s being a mother. If there is anything I am going to do ‘half-assed’ and not be bothered by, it’s vacuuming.
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