I was slamming dishes around in the kitchen after dinner one evening a couple weeks ago, completely frustrated from a long day of kid-wrangling. It had been a school conference day and the weather was miserable and I was at my wits' end with children running around the house making their endless pshew pshew pshew noises and leaving piles of toys and socks and half-eaten yogurt containers everywhere they went. In the midst of my grumpy much-needed venting about my day, my husband said, "Wow, so you'd make a really great stay-at-home mom, huh?
And then? I killed him. No, really: I am writing this from jail, although I expect to be released any minute now because WHAT JURY WOULD CONVICT ME.
Let me be clear on this: my husband doesn't normally say stupid, shitty things to me. He's usually 100 percent loving and supportive, and only behaves like a Cro-Magnon occasionally, like for instance every morning when he leaves his cereal bowl on the counter.
I don't know exactly what prompted his statement, only that I suppose I did sound a little overwhelmed from one whole day of being home with both kids. The problem was, he seemed to have forgotten two very important things: 1) I am a stay-at-home mom, and have been for over a year, only I also have a job with daily deadlines to balance on top of all that stay-at-home-momming, and 2) that's the sort of thoughtless comment that earns a guy a LIFETIME ban on fellatio.
If you're wondering what sort of conversation we had after he said that, hoo boy, I can assure you it was lengthy. I told him he'd hurt my feelings, for one thing, and I asked him to imagine how it would feel if he was blowing off steam about his day at work and in response I implied it was because he was bad at his job.
I also reminded him of a conversation we'd had over three years ago, one that I've never forgotten. It had happened during a morning after I'd had a difficult night with our then-4-month-old. I was sitting in our bedroom trying to feed the baby while he thrashed around and fussed, and in a moment of exhaustion and great irritation, I told my husband that I didn’t have the patience to deal with children.
Without missing a beat, my husband said, "I know."
“Wait,” I said, stopping the rocking chair and putting the bottle down. “What do you mean, you know? You know the kids require a lot of patience, or you know I don’t have enough?”
“Both, I guess,” he said.
I think both of us were tired and cranky that morning. I was exaggerating for the sake of complaining, and he probably didn’t much feel like placating me at the time. Still, I felt like I’d just gotten the world’s worst performance review, made all the more devastating because the job was mission-critical.
I still feel that way, you know? The kids are older and my duties are different, but this is not a job where you fuck around, this is the job of caring for the people I love more than anything on this Earth, and if I am a screwup at this, then there is no hope for me at all.
It's funny how there are certain lines we cannot bear to have crossed. I don't care if a thousand Internet strangers tell me I'm a horrible mother, but it's the one thing I ask from my partner: do not go there. Not even if you're mad, or you disagree with me, or you think you're being funny. Just don't. Because if you do, the words will sink into my brain and I will never, ever, ever be able to erase them.
(I'm pretty sure he gets it now.)
Has your partner ever criticized your parenting, even as a joke? Were you able to brush it off, or did it sting?