How My Husband Untaught Me My At-Home Role
In my household we’ve undergone a change in our previous roles.
At this point my husband’s main duty is to be the stay-at-home parent. My main duty is being the full-time student or as I’ve been treating it, the away-parent.
NGL, I totally struggled with this. My husband had completed a lengthy and arduous degree and had been applying for work to no avail. It felt right to be ‘my turn’ to dip into some studies. To indulge in some learning and career interests of my own. I thought this would be a welcome relief.
However, I continued to carry the mental load.
Well, still continue. I struggle not to think about the things the kids need to get done after school, what needs to be done at home, which social events are forthcoming with preparations needed, and things the kids are going through that I want to check up on.
At first, I felt myself doing this because my husband just was not taking it on. He wasn’t cleaning to the extent that I would or getting all the kids’ duties sorted. He was relaxed about a lot more things than I was. I felt that I needed him to be more aware and diligent.
But also, I needed to let him parent. I needed to give him the space to ease into it and at least begin by doing it the way that he does.
I had to learn to trust him to parent his way. I had to learn to undo the habit of keeping every home tab open in my mind.
I needed to because I needed to allow him to thrive. But also, I had to learn how to be the away-parent. I learnt this role bit-by-bit by following his example. At first, I was leaving home just in time to get to class, so I could be spending maximum time with my family before leaving. And it was not working out well for me. My husband, when he was the away-parent, didn’t do this.
I adjusted and I began to leave early. Leaving sooner allowed me the time to transition, to study before class as well as after class. It gave me some time to walk slowly through my campus and have quiet moments.
Another area which needed adjusting was study location. At first, I tried to do as much work at home as possible. I felt guilty doing it elsewhere if I was able to do it at home.
I thought if I was home, I could do some simultaneous management.
You know, like fitting in a little mirror wipe down or a kitchen spot clean in breaks of study. You’ve probably guessed that this wasn’t working; I was getting interrupted and getting in the way of my husband doing his at-home parenting. I had to begin to study elsewhere.
Another area of adjustment was moments of pause, moments of rest. At first, I was feeling guilty for any moment spent apart from my family. Especially if say I was elsewhere for study-time and I spent a moment scrolling Facebook.
I remembered however that my husband did this. He had these moments of pause. He must have understood that he needed mental breaks. That it’s not physically or mentally possible to be productive 100% of the time. Potentially something we all know on an intellectual level but perhaps I untaught myself when entering the never-ending workload realm of motherhood.
I’ve heard the sentiments of being gentle on yourself, of giving yourself space to breathe, of being okay at managing only that which you can manage.
And at the pace of a perfectionist parent I was missing the pause to take the sentiments on. Using the role model student my husband used to be as an example, I am beginning to allow myself to be that student too, a little. Sometimes small steps. Instead of watching the clock to send the husband reminders, I set up scheduled messages which then gives me the relief that I’ve passed on the torch for this moment, to give me a chance to focus.
I am beginning to be comfortable in the away-parent role, for the most part.
I am thriving at uni and producing things outside the home that I can be proud of. I mean, I’ll do it my way and be gracious to myself and not tear myself away entirely. I refuse to miss too much.
But I can do it.
Gabriela Antonini chronicles snapshots of her moments on her Instagram @g_and_tribe, in between racing one of her three lively children, sharing chocolate with her theologian husband, feeding her ever-hungry progeny or singing lyrics wrong with the hubs. She is often found with her nose in a book, at the beach, up a tree or carrying around a teapot. Born in Slovakia, a childhood spent in Melbourne, she now lives in Perth heartily appreciating its exquisitely mild weather.