I met my husband during his second year of medical school. I’d been a pediatric nurse all of six weeks so together we had a laughably small amount of medical knowledge. I worked pediatric ICU for seven years throughout his medical school and residency training. Now I am entering in my second year as a stay at home mom and my husband is in his third year as an emergency medicine attending at the only level one trauma center in the state.
Things have changed.
I am no longer a source of income, let alone the source of income. There’s a lot of mixed emotions in being a stay at home mom. Look to the social media account of any thirty something woman you know and you will see article upon article about how hard it is for women to work with kids, how hard it is to stay home, just how hard it is. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am beyond grateful of my ability to stay home financially and emotionally. My husband’s income, despite six figure med school debt, house payments, car payments, etc. provides us with a beautiful life. I will never be able to thank him enough for solely shouldering the burden of financially supporting us. But I would be lying if I said there isn’t a part of me that misses giving our family a meaningful financial contribution.
I don’t regret being present for every milestone, many of which he experiences via video. I don’t take lightly the weight of being there to mold our little people each and every day. I am additionally so glad that my kids have their father to look to as an example of tireless work ethic. He never ceases to amaze me by attempting to balance his life despite his insane hours.
Oh those insane hours.
I write this on a Saturday during naptime. Everyone including my husband is asleep. He is on his third out of five night shifts in a row. He is currently working as many if not more hours as he did during his residency. There are no weekends or holidays in medicine. A fact I thought I fully understood having a nursing background. It’s a bit of a different lens to be the one at home waiting to celebrate Christmas on the 26th of December. Or knowing Saturdays and Mondays might be exactly the same. I have to check my jealousy sometimes when I see families out together on weekends knowing they get that time consistently every week. If it feels this way for me, I can’t imagine how it feels for him.
Here are some things that I have learned on this journey:
- I have learned that it’s the quality of time spent together not the calendar that defines a holiday.
- I have learned that #itgetsbetter used to describe life once medical school, residency and other training are complete isn’t always true. You are still married to the same person and married people sometimes have issues. That’s life whether you can afford McDonalds or Mortons.
- When I have a hard day, he often had a harder one. This is not to pit us in some sort of competition, but to recognize the love that must be present if he can come home from a shift with someone else’s literal blood, sweat and tears on his clothing only to listen to me talk about block towers and sanctimommy drama.
- His family comes first emotionally and as the most important factor in decision making, but cannot always come first in the traditional sense. During the final weeks of both of my pregnancies we had to have contingency plans for our contingency plans in the hopes that he would not have to miss the birth of his own children while caring for strangers.
- This is not a career path for the faint of heart. The training process alone adds 5 to infinite years post college graduation. The debt accumulation for medical education is insane. The mental exhaustion is astronomical. You better love it.
I am so proud of how far we have come. From study groups to moving across the country for residency, jumping through hoop after graduate medical education hoop, and finally landing back in Oklahoma his drive has not let up. I am in awe of the difference he makes every time he goes to the hospital. He works with some amazing colleagues that challenge and teach him constantly. The emergency department is no picnic. He is often facing ungrateful and difficult people for ten hours at a time. And yet, he still loves it. Switching schedules, coding patients, and saving lives.
Special Thanks to Mary Cramer Photography for capturing my family! Marycramerphotography.com
I love being a stay at home mom. That does not mean I love everything about it. Especially recently, as I await the birth of my second child, I have been struggling with who I am outside of the definition of mom. I am a wife too. But what else? Where are the qualities that are uniquely me? These kind of questions are so important to ask, but the guilt and feelings of selfishness that come along with them are not easy. In a conversation with my sweet husband a while back, he asked if I would rather go back to work. A simple question that should have made me feel like the possibilities for our current arrangement could shift if that would make us happier as a family. Namely, my sweet hubby, was asking what can we do to make you happier? I should have been over joyed and called some sort of awards sales place to get his name etched on a Husband of the Year trophy. Instead, I got upset and offended. Am I doing a terrible job staying home? Is that why he wants me to go back to work? I could have an Olympic medal in reading into statements incorrectly. After some calming down and clarification. Ahhh clarification, the WD40 of relationships. I complained that while I loved being home for each of the milestones of our son, sometimes I felt like I wasn’t using my brain and didn’t feel as fulfilled as I thought I would being a stay at home mom. My husband in all of his brilliance asked, “Did you really expect to be fulfilled by dishes?? They call staying home a job because its work.”
Guys, I am calling the trophy dealer. He may just be a genius. I keep coming back to this statement of brilliance when I am having a particularly rough day. It’s work. But good news is, there is joy in work! A sense of accomplishment. Getting sloppy kisses from my son is a gift. That is not work and I don’t intend to take the flexibility of our situation for granted. It is truly a huge blessing that we can make my staying home work for our family. My challenge is the gratitude attitude. I don’t have to enjoy each toilet ring to enjoy being a stay at home mom. My goal this Thanksgiving season is to find an attitude shift in my top 5 least favorite household and mothering tasks. So here it goes:
- Waking up Early: I was a night shift nurse for almost a decade. I loveeee to sleep in. That genetic predisposition was not inherited by my offspring. 6:30am is a late check out at Hotel Redmon. Attitude shift: My son is always so happy to see me. I am very lucky to generally get to be the first person to hug him each morning. Bring on the end of Day Light Savings!
- Toddler Tantrums: This is a new phase for us. I think a lot of my frustration here comes from the fact that sometimes I also want to lay on the floor of Target and scream. I, however, have language skills. I am thankful that I can communicate my feelings (usually) in order to have my needs met.
- Laundry: Laundry is super gratifying once it’s all folded and put away. I have one (ONE) disciplined chore that I do on the same day every week like my grandmother (mother of eight!). I change my sheets on Tuesdays. I love Tuesdays. I feel accomplished even if all I do around the house is make the bed, I know I will sleep better.
- Changing Dirty Diapers: A regular child is a happy child. No one likes to be backed up. I will attempt to laugh to myself and think of the book “Everybody Poops”.
- Toddler Meals Spilled Purposefully onto a Freshly Cleaned Floor: This one is really hard for me. Thank goodness we have a dog without a discerning palate. The issue is several fold for me. I cooked the food and now you destroyed it, made a mess and are likely still hungry. Especially as the months get colder, I will remind myself to be thankful that I have a home to clean up and enough food to make another PBJ. He is only little for just a little while.
So I am not fulfilled by dishes? Oh well. I am still a good mother. As long as I try to shift my attitude to gratitude I bet I find more fulfillment than I thought possible in this work.
You are the absolute best man in the world for me. You are handsome, kind, an amazing father, and almost all of the time a fantastic husband. I know I am lucky to have you. Here’s the thing. You also drive me completely nuts. When you slap the beat of a radio song on my thigh as you’re driving or when you forget where the dishwasher/hamper is (again) I kind of wish they had a timeout for adults. Seriously, do I really have to find a grown man’s socks stuffed in the couch?
These little things make me mad. Sometimes more mad than the situation should warrant. Usually it’s not about a stray sock but about my own feelings of being overwhelmed or tired or hungry (Hangry is so a real thing). You have become my scapegoat. You and your socks/uncapped toothpaste/dishes. You are flawed. Some big ones, some small ones. But who wants to be with someone perfect? It’s boring. And I can’t even begin to think about the level of insecurity that would bring to my already self-conscious heart.
I am working on my flaws.
I am working on letting the synapses fully connect in my brain before words exit my mouth. This is a very difficult task for an emotionally extroverted, pregnant, toddler mom. You are worth the effort though. I see your patience and your love for me. It makes me want to be better. We all stumble on the road to being our best selves. Thank you, husband, for creating a secure enough love with me that I can struggle. I can get angry, blame you, fight with you and know you will always be there. You gave a speech at our wedding and in that speech you said, “I promise to continue to fight for us and to make sure every day you know that I love you even more than the day before.” I share in that promise. I will strive to be the best wife I can be to you.
With you I am safe enough to express my feelings even when I, myself, cannot name them. And you will forgive me. You will be patient as I cry over something that doesn’t make sense to you. You will silently help me as I nag you about how you never help. You care for our son with such passion that I fall in love with you all over again. Thank you for loving me through my weaknesses.
“The perfect marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.”
I may nag too much. Praise too little. And not always show you what you mean to me. But know this dear husband, I never want to pick up anyone else’s socks. These things are small potatoes compared to the life and love that we share. You aren’t perfect, but you are beyond perfect for me. Thank you for choosing to live your life with your imperfect wife.