Ever wonder why your stay-at-home significant other mutters under his/her breath or gets agitated when you delve into work (or hobbies or gaming or ass-sitting) on the weekend or evening? This is free time, right? You work all week. What gives?
You’re right, this is unscheduled time to get accomplished — or simply choose to not do — what didn’t get done during the day or week. You’re right, you do work hard all week so the family can function and live. Yep, this is the case for both of you. This time belongs to both of you.
If one of you checks out to do work or rest, that firmly places the other parent on duty. So this means, if your work day is extending into the weekend or evening, so is your stay-at-home significant other’s. If you decide to pound out some work without telling him/her first, you’re saddling him/her with kid duty without warning. You’re making an insulting assumption that he/she is willing and available (in all capacities) to drop any and all plans to pick up your slack. But that’s the stay-at-home parent’s job, right?
Let’s make this easier for corporate minds to grasp. It’s the end of the day on Friday. You have been counting down the seconds until end-of-day Friday since 7:00AM Tuesday. Then, just as you log off, an email pings on your phone. Your colleague dipped out — either for a business trip or weekend plans — and dumped a project with a yesterday deadline on your lap. Was there a “please”, “thank you”, or “I owe you one” in the request? Nope, just task list and spreadsheet attached to a blank message. Curse words, right? A steady stream of them pour through your head. That colleague is now officially on your shit list. You have neither the time nor mental energy for this. Guess what? You’re that shit list colleague to your stay-at-home significant other when you wordlessly drop childcare duties on his/her lap.
As the stay-at-home parent, one is officially the default parent. The one immediately assumed to be one duty day and night. The one who must clearly communicate, “I’m not here” or “I need a break” to be temporarily taken out of the line of fire.
This parent is the one perpetually honing the running home to-do list, tending the kids’ schedules (from extracurriculars to school events, playdates to check-ups), preening the family calendar (vacations and extended family get togethers, outings and downtime), and running ongoing inventory for shopping lists, all while noting who’s gone potty or snacked when. Who’s watched too much TV or had a privilege revoked or needs to practice one skill or another. Who’s in a bad mood or who needs cuddles. Who’s in desperate need of one-on-one attention. Who asked for what playdate with whom and where haven’t we played recently. The mental load is an unending, ever-growing burden. It is a significant downside of the stay-at-home parent’s career path. But we all make sacrifices. As a working spouse, though, it’s worth the due diligence to be acutely aware of your partner’s taskload (if not for his/her sake, then your own.)
We all have stuff pop up. And you know what, sometimes we’re all selfish or tired or tapped-out or busy. It happens. We screw up. We take advantage of our significant other sometimes, but don’t be surprised when it bites you in the ass if the bad behavior becomes a pattern. Because it will bite you.
So, don’t want an angry partner or muttered aggressions littering your auditory space? Then don’t throw a grenade into your significant other’s day.
Communicate. Review expectations. Ask if this is a good time. You know, don’t be that shit list colleague. And if you know he/she is toast but you need to just get this one thing done or sit on your ass for a beat, own it and make up for it later. But expect a curse word or two. You can tune that out though, right? I mean, you do have kids after all… the ability to tune out is parental survival.
You can do this. I believe in you.