I'd suspected it for some time. When he got home at 6 p.m., he seemed happy and pretty energized, while I was double fisting wine and coffee. He got up early on the weekends, while I begged for a couple more hours of sleep. He wasn't annoyed by my daughter's 17th outfit change or my son's seventh poopy diaper of the day, while I was quick to snap at her and inwardly cringe at him. All signs pointed to my job as a stay-at-home mom being harder than my husband's. And our recent vacation confirmed it.
A week at the beach complete with glorious weather and your two adorable children sounds like a dream, right? In theory, yes, but when those kids are 1 and 4, it's still a lot of work, a fact my husband quickly learned. "Our life at home is a lot easier than this," he said on day two, when three of us woke up with terrible colds. "Well, ya," I replied. "At home, you're with the kids about 11 hours less a day." By the end of our trip — a good one by my account considering the kids had only kept us up for two of the seven nights and only one of the kids had gotten sick — my reasoning had sunk in. Caring for two little kids all day, every day, is tough work. "I don't know how you do it," my hubby said. "Your job is a lot harder than mine." Suspicions confirmed.
Listen, I'm not saying my husband's job isn't hard. I know how stressed he gets and how hard he works to not bring that stress home to me and the kids. His job is incredibly important to the health of our family (like, literally, he provides us with health insurance). He's a great earner, and because of that, I was able to decide whether or not I wanted to stay home or go back to work after we had our babies (for the record, I went back after number one and stayed home after number two). Our family's finances are all on him, and I know that's a lot to deal with . . . just probably not as much as a temper tantrum-prone preschooler and a 1-year-old who may or may not be trying to cause himself permanent brain damage by bonking his forehead on any and every hard surface he can find.
I'm also not getting into the whole SAHM vs. working mom debate. I've been both, and both seemed impossible on many, if not most, days. All moms, working in or outside of the home, have plates so full they're likely to occasionally buckle. In Jennifer Senior's excellent All Joy and No Fun, she states that moms "devote nearly twice as much time to family care (housework, child care, shopping) than dads," and that's whether they have a "real" job or not. So basically, ya, moms, including me, have it statistically harder than their husbands.
My takeaway from my husband's revelation is this: no more guilt for those moments I'm not being supermom. On Saturdays, when my husband gets up with the kids at 6 and I sleep until 8? I need those extra two hours. When he spends an hour putting our kids to bed while I'm keeping up with the Kardashians or fast-forwarding through the gory parts of The Walking Dead? Perfectly acceptable. And those nights he walks in at 6 p.m. with a smile, and I hide in our bedroom for the next hour? It's OK. I deserve a break. After all, my job is really, really hard.