Recently, I made the revelation that instead of becoming a mother, I wish I had become a father.
Fatherhood, in the stereotypical sense, is more suited to my strengths and abilities. It’s not the actual act of labour and delivery that I’m frightened of. No, I can handle the pain of birth, assisted with a bit of a gas and air or a well-executed epidural.
I’m not cut out for the demands of a newborn, for the needs of a sassy five-year-old, the way everything is either met with a hands-on-hips, I-triple-dog-dare-you challenge or an almighty, nerve-shattering strop.
I struggle with the necessity of routine and the way repetition pigeonholes you into a waltz of monotony. I crumble after long stints with too many tantrums and after too many diaper changes interrupted with bottles ad nauseam, punctuated by the whines of my eldest, who has a knack for waiting for the worst possible moment to ask for my assistance with building a time machine that administers juice on-demand or making his own book of artwork.
These are the tasks that define motherhood; these are the coloured batons all mums are meant to skillfully juggle in their own suburban circus. All while whipping up fish fingers, chips and peas with ketchup pools and steak and kidney pie dinners.
You don’t understand that although I stay at home with the kids and although these are my tasks and although all of this is work, none of this is my employment. The home is not my office. It offers no place to compartmentalise my life and schedule meetings and have quarterly performance reviews. There are no colleagues to bounce ideas off of at the water cooler; no one to make the next round of coffees. Hell, there’s barely time for coffee most days.
So when you come back from your long day at the office, remember that this is a home. Not a rung on the corporate ladder. Pitch in. Don’t flop on the sofa, unbutton your button-down and relax. At least cuddle a kid, change a diaper, build that juice-supplying time machine. And remember this isn’t my place of employment. All of the tasks that need doing haven’t been earmarked for me. This is our home, what our partnership built. These children are half yours. These tasks are half yours and while you’ve had a long day at work, I’ve had a long day working.