After the birth of our fourth and (two years later) fifth babies, I received two of my favorite gifts since becoming a mother. After getting time off work to take over for me, my husband, Brandon, gifted me a few sheets of paper titled, “Things I Understand After Trying to Be Danielle for a Week” and “Things I’m Learning from Trying to Be Danielle.”
The pages were filled with notes he had taken while doing what I normally do. For those few weeks he took over running the household and allowed me to rest, recover, and take care of our newborn.
I loved reading his thoughts on being home full-time. I have been validated and buoyed up in my mothering since reading his words. The following list includes Brandon’s observations in his own words, and other mothers, in many different circumstances, will likely relate to the following truths of parenting:
- Being a full-time, “at-home” parent is hard. It’s also a misleading title. You rarely spend the entire day at home. Throughout the day you run errands, go to the library, fulfill church responsibilities, help out at your children’s schools, and much more.
- There is something fun and extremely cute about watching your elementary school daughters walk from the car to the school with their oversized backpacks and lunchboxes.
- I understand the inability to simply sit down at a computer and check your email. I also understand the benefit of quiet time.
- Running an effective household is hard. It takes planning, skill, and coordination. A household is its own enterprise.
- It’s really nice when your children ask you a question that you can respond to with “yes.”
- The time between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. can vanish if you’re not careful.
- I understand what it’s like to hear the same Frozen and Tarzan songs over and over and over again, but then still turning them on because the children keep asking so politely.
- It is possible to walk into a room with the intention of accomplishing something, then get distracted by something else in the room that needs to get done, then return to that same room hours later and remember what you originally sought to accomplish.
- Being asked, “What’s for breakfast in the morning?” at the end of a full day spent planning, preparing, and cleaning up food is not always the question you’re hoping to be asked.
- Washing bed sheets is not just a morning project. It’s an all-day project. Bed sheets should be made a few inches bigger. Putting bed sheets on the mattress of a top bunk should be an Olympic event.
- Sometimes you forget to do things that you should do, like go to the bathroom. As in, you intended to go three hours ago and then got sidetracked and forgot.
- You can pick up the same hair bow three times in 10 minutes.
- Costco samples keep kids and parents happy, except for the black bean patties.
- Three-year-old daughters do not understand when the Costco receipt-checking lady does not draw a smiley face on your receipt.
- I understand that we go through a lot of kitchen towels and napkins.
- The dishwasher is the center of life. It is either being loaded, waiting for more dishes, running, or being unloaded, with another pile of dishes waiting their turn. It’s like Splash Mountain.
- After putting in a full day’s work, you still work the night shift. Even though your coworker is also on-call for the night shift, sometimes he sleeps through a child’s attempts to wake him up.
- I understand that you don’t always get to pray for as long as you would like.
- A three-year-old daughter can be an absolutely delightful shopping companion and conversationalist, and yet I understand the challenge of taking her shopping, and the power of gum in helping her stay in the cart and be happy.
- There are a lot of little pieces in the laundry.
- I understand the compelling feeling to hurry and shower before kids wake up.
- Hearing your 21-month-old daughter say, “I hold it!” when she wants to hold the new baby never gets old.
- Sleep is a priceless commodity that only adults seem to understand the true value of.
- Dinner takes time to plan and prepare, and I understand the mental relief that comes from having dinner planned ahead of time.
- I understand the inability to sit down and start eating a meal until everyone else has received their food—not necessarily because you feel that you “have” to serve them, but because you want everyone to have food and be content and happy.
- I understand the desire to have dinner be more of an event than a consumption process—after time preparing and more time cleaning up, the actual dining experience deserves to be celebrated.
- Most days end where they begin: in the kitchen. I understand the large quantity of time that life seems to dictate be spent in the kitchen, performing a service that makes life better for everyone.
- Five seconds of eye contact with your 21-month-old daughter has an endearing and energizing effect on you, especially when those eyes are smiling.
- I understand the mental stress caused by wanting to get something done that you can’t possibly get done without completely neglecting the children and house.
- It is incredibly gratifying to watch your children consume tacos that you made. It is even better to have them ask for seconds.
- There is nothing convenient about kids needing to go to the bathroom in stores.
- Despite anticipating being able to do a lot of things during naptime, sometimes you still don’t have time to do them.
- There is deep joy and love that comes from watching our children: watching a child in the rearview mirror to see her smiling, singing, or talking; hearing her talk and describe songs and movies as she “sorts” laundry; noticing her enjoy every teaspoon of juice in a cup; greeting her as she comes home from school with vibrant energy; and watching her come up with some form of creative game.
QUESTION: What observations have you made about motherhood or parenthood that you would add to a list like this?
CHALLENGE: Take some time in the upcoming week to consider what an outsider might notice if they were to step into your shoes. Give yourself a pat on the back and cheer yourself on for all that you do well and are working on accomplishing in your family.
Edited by Lisa Hoelzer and Katie Carter.
Image from Shutterstock; graphics by Anna Jenkins.
This is AWESOME!!! I laughed so, so hard. Especially about the dishwasher being like Splash Mountain. You two are amazing. Thanks for sharing this!
Mirien Church says
What a gift, those observations from your husband! I can relate to it all, especially his realization that we spend much of our day in the kitchen, or at the store buying food to prepare in the kitchen. I often marvel at all the “extra” time I would have if we didn’t ever have to eat!
oh my…I know…sometimes just having someone validate this is all I need to feel better about all the time here. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!
Stuart Taylor says
Great post Danielle. Thanks for sharing! And way to go Brandon for the thoughtful insights about what it’s like to be Danielle and to understand what great mothers like her do.
These are sooooo true 🙂 my 3 girls never understand why they need to use the bathroom before we go grocery shopping! The last thing I want to do with a full shopping cart is to take 3 kids and a baby into those tiny store bathrooms 🙂 or that it drives me nuts when they ask for dessert after eating dinner before I even have the chance to sit down and take one bite out of my meal :-))
What a wonderful, insightful husband this lovely woman has! My husband was also a doer, would help out around the house, and often heard our son in the middle of the night when I didn’t. We were only blessed with one child, but seeing this through the eyes of another family was really super! I hope that you both always appreciate the little things and that you can continue to love sharing the “load”.
Thanks for your kind words! Yes I am a lucky girl!
Amy B says
What a great article! It must feel so good to have your husband validate all the little things you go through every day as a the Mom. My husband has a similar appreciation for motherhood, he just hasn’t written anything down yet!
This is fantastic. After the birth of our second child, my husband took 8 weeks of paternity leave following my maternity leave. It was an eye-opening time for him to realize what went into every day with an infant and a 3 year old. It certainly changed his perspective on how the household runs and he is a much more hand-on hubby! My favorite comment came my first day back to work. When I got home he looked at me with this shocking expression and told me he had no idea how hard it was and that he hadn’t been able to get a shower until 3PM when both kids finally took a nap!
When I saw my Inbox with this e-mail, I figured I might have something to add.
Just about 4 years ago my first wife passed away, after a late-2007 diagnosis of breast cancer followed by surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, the latter two of which probably killed her.
Still having two teens in the household at the time, I quickly became (trumpets trumpeting with a drum roll)…Mr. Mom!!!
Ummm…yeah…not really what I had planned.
About 18 months later I relocated several hundred miles away, taking only my younger of the two who were still home at the time their mother died. (The older one had turned 18 and moved out.)
So now we have new location, new setting (small urban to rural), new school and me with no job (my choice).
Then, two years ago this May, I brought to live with me full-time my oldest child, who has both Autism and Epilepsy. So I stay at home to take care of him, and I’m single.
So…yeah…I learned (and am still learning) why it is that football players NEVER say “Hey, Dad!!!!!!!!!”
Thanks for sharing part of your story!! Wow- what a great perspective and though this wasn’t what you anticipated, your kids are so blessed to call you Dad!
John Sharpe says
As an at home dad to 3 kids, i appreciated reading this. I had to laugh at how many I could relate to. This list more or less validated everything I feel about being a stay at home parent. I loved the one about Costco samples (my son does love the bean patties), Costco receipts, and especially the desire to make dinner an event to enjoy. Tell Brandon I said hello!