My husband quietly closes the door behind him. It’s such a soft noise—like the sound of breathing out on a cold day. Lately, he has been working from home, and what used to be our guest room is now his office. He’s a scientist and does a lot with computers, so the desk, once lined with antique glass bottles of all colors and a sweet little doily from my mother-in-law, now looks like NASA headquarters.
There are blinking blue and red lights, and charts and numbers and what is truly a different language spread across three giant computer screens. I imagine him sipping his coffee, glasses resting comfortably on his nose, nodding in agreement or gazing quizzically during his Zoom meetings with supervisors and colleagues, breathing calmly in and then out.
It is peaceful; it is quiet. Outside the trees on the hill behind our house cast the most brilliant shade of emerald green that filters in with the sunlight through the little window above the desk. Perhaps he glances from time to time out the window, as some restful classical piano offers a concerto to work to; or he leisurely checks his phone during short breaks, asking, “What’s going on in the world today?”—because he has the time.
And sometimes, I feel jealous of my husband’s apparent freedom, because meanwhile on the other side of the door…
This Is What a Day in the Life of a Stay-at-Home-Mom Looks Like
Two toddlers run crazily down the hall, laughing maniacally. We’ve just gotten done with “art,” which means someone tried to eat a glue stick and someone else has written all over themselves and their highchair with all the colors of the rainbow. After clean-up, which takes 10 minutes too long, we make our way to the bathroom to wash hands. On the way, someone trips and falls while someone else runs into the edge of the doorframe and starts crying. I check for blood. No blood—so we keep going.
Hoist one up to wash hands, and water gets sprayed on the walls and on me and on them. Turn around for the towel and someone else is in the bathtub, playing with an old plastic peanut container that is now a boat that just happened to still be filled with last night’s bath water. We need to change clothes. Go into the bedroom closet and search for something else; and again, turn around and some old clothes waiting to be donated get thrown on the floor. I turn to pick them up and hit my knee on the open drawer. Ouch.
Then there is wrangling, turning, squirming, and crying. “No pants, Momma!” So I get another pair, and then “Sparkly ones!” but I wrestle the black leggings onto her. “Life is full of not getting what you want,” I say, trying to take advantage of the teachable moments. Finally, got it. She is dressed. I look towards my son, who is hanging off the side of his crib holding his beloved plastic garbage truck filled with cereal that is now all over the floor.
And then I hear: “Poop.” In our house, a small word that usually means a lot of stink.
On to the playroom to change the diaper.
More wrestling and wrangling. Toys are thrown. My lower back twinges.
“Small poop, no hurt,” explains my two-year-old son.
“Yes, that’s right honey. Small poop.” Even though it might be the largest poop I have ever seen up close.
This Is What It’s Like to Try and Leave the House With Toddlers
We are finally ready to head downstairs for the grand production that is leaving the house during colder months: two sets of hats, mittens, coats, and boots. By the time I am done with one and on to the next, the other one starts undressing. Then the dreaded four-letter word again: “Poop.” Now it’s my daughter’s turn. Back upstairs.
At least we took care of this before getting dressed and loading into the van or the stroller. Sometimes they wait until the key is in the ignition to inform me of what is about to make us even later.
Once back upstairs, I start to get the diaper and wipes from the closet, and when I turn around they’re both heading down the hallway laughing. I chase them down and, while running, catch a glimpse of my reflection in the hallway mirror: hair in a messy top-knot (not the cute kind of messy), eyes sunken into the swollen patches of skin beneath them, little lines on my forehead, and a baggy sweatshirt. I smile. I have to. It’s only 9 a.m.
Some days I wish I could sneak into that guest room-turned-office with a cup of tea, put my headphones on, turn the music up, and sit by the window. I wish I could watch the birds jumping in and out of the bird bath on the hill or pull out my computer to write or call a friend I haven’t talked to in a while. I wish I could have conversations that don’t include the words “poop” or “puke” or “monsters” or some reference to a kids’ cartoon on Hulu. Some days when I hear that door close and my husband, in his dress pants and button-up shirt carrying his coffee, goes off to do all the adult things that seem to be more significant, my heart sinks just a little, and I feel that yucky feeling of jealousy.
We are changed, no one has to relieve themselves (I hope), dressed, and ready to go. I walk behind my two little ones as they each take their places to be hoisted up into the car seats and fastened in.
“Cars,” my son says.
“Park,” my daughter says.
“Yes,” I say, “we are going to the park, and we are going to see some cars, and it’s going to be amazing.”
This Is What Helps Me as a Mom When I Feel Jealous of My Husband
Before I start to back out of the driveway, I look in the rearview mirror and catch their reflections in the little seat mirrors that hang in front of them. My son looks excitedly out the window, his big brown eyes full of expectation. My daughter searches the area for her favorite toy, then smiles with her brilliant blue eyes when she finds it. I smile and imagine what it will be like when they are five or 10 or 15, and I am driving them somewhere, and I look back and their gazes catch mine.
This is a good reminder of the healthy way that I cope with the occasional feelings of jealousy toward my husband: gratitude. He might get to hide away in what appears to be the solace of his job on the other side of the door, but I get to be fully present as a momma, the best and most honorable job around.
I hope I never forget how precious and fleeting these moments are. I am so grateful—even on the tough days—that I get to be here with them for all of it: the poops, the boo-boos, the “I love yous,” the silly songs, and so many snacks. I’m so glad that I get to be on the side of the door where the magic happens, where my lovely babies are becoming themselves, and I get to love them and watch them do so each day by precious day.
Hey mom, you should give this podcast episode a listen: How to Raise Responsible Kids: Tips for Every Age – 087