Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s off to…(sob)

It seems that my working at home while Nate stays at home with Thalia adds up too many people at home in our not very large apartment.

Darn, I knew I should have come back in this lifetime as a person rich enough to own a four- bedroom West 10th Street townhouse between 6th and 7th with a private yard and an office on the top floor. Stupid karma.

But as far as this lifetime, Nate has expressed–fairly so–that he can no better manage the responsibility of day-to-day parenting with me venting to coworkers on the phone during Thalia’s naptime, than I could pour out Cannes Lion-winning ad copy while he and Thalia dance along to Mr. Noodle in my office. And so, several weeks ago, I agreed to go to work.

Go to work.

I am officially a go-to-work mom.

Whether or not I have a full day of work to do, I go to work. And Nate, in turn, stays home.

It seems less than extraordinary, I know, for a working mom and a stay-at-home dad to actually…well, work and stay at home. But it’s new for us. We’re rebels that way.

What is extraordinary, however, is that over the past several weeks, Nate–Master of boxer shorts on the floor, King of “I’ll do the dishes tomorrow,” Grand Archduke of saliva-encrusted sunflower seed carcasses that litter every available surface–has been put in charge of managing the household.

And managing is exactly what he has been doing. Splendidly.

Get out the ice skates, Beelzebub. We’ve got a date and the hot chocolate’s on me.

You can imagine my delight at coming home each night to a made bed, a bathed baby, a nicely chilled bottle of wine, and a spectacular homemade Oriental chicken salad with alternating orange segments and crisp asparagus tips around the rim of the bowl. To say nothing of the toasted slivers of almonds. C’mon, who doesn’t like toasted slivers of almonds?

There’s something wonderful about handing over the homefront. Something invigorating about diverting brain cells from shopping list-remembering to useless pop culture trivia-remembering. Something liberating about…


oh my God.

I miss it.

I can already hear your repsonses in my head: Oh, I’d looove not to have to pick up the toys from under the couch. Oh I’d loooove if my husband washed the bottles. You’re crazy, lady. Be grateful!

And I am grateful. For a million reasons. But I also have to tell you that it’s hard.

Not doing housework I hate is hard.

What’s not to understand? Stop looking at me that way!

How could I possibly miss any of this? Me, who didn’t know that there were mice living in my broiler for nearly nine months in my old apartment, because that was the last time I had turned the thing on. (And let’s just say that if you ever have mice living in your broiler pan, you might not want to preheat the oven. Especially not to 450.)

It’s not that I enjoyed cleaning or grocery shopping or cooking, none of which I did very often or very well. But it was my cleaning. My grocery shopping. My ordering Thai food in lieu of cooking. I think it was the control I loved. Over my environment. Because the only thing I hate more than doing it all is doing half. I’m not good at that at all. I’m going to need some practice.

And now Nate is doing half, as he should be. And he’s doing it well. He’s not even failing, just a little, so that I can come in and save the day, show him up, roll my eyes and say gawwwwwd Nate, don’t you know that’s not the right vacuum attachment to get the cat litter out of the corners.

I bet he’s doing it to spite me.

Like an amputee with a missing limb, I keep reaching to fulfill responsibilities that are no longer there for me, and I don’t know quite what to do instead. The strange thing is, I knew how hard it would be to have to ask Nate, “what’s the baby eating these days?” Or “does she need a bath tonight?” Hard and heartbreaking and probably an essay unto itself.

But I never imagined it would be so tough to have to ask Nate, “why did you change paper towel brands?”

He did, he changed them. Didn’t even ask me. Just went right ahead and tossed my lifelong loyalty to Bounty aside without a second thought. Bounty out, Brawny in. The bastard.

And so what I’m learning is that I can’t tell Nate to get the Bounty instead. I can’t tell him about the super absorbency and the handy select-a-size feature, and how you really do need two Brawny sheets to one Bounty. It’s his domain now. I’m trying to let him find his own path.

This weekend, Nate called to me from the kitchen while I caught up with my emails in the bedroom.

“Liz!” he yelled. “You left the milk out again.”

“Sorry,” I murmured rather unconvincingly from behind my computer.

“This is like the fourth time this week. I’m tired of putting it away for you every day,” he huffed. I heard him slam the refrigerator door shut in exasperation, and then stomp off to the kitchen sink where half a dozen soapy bottles awaited his attention.

“Sorry,” I said mindlessly shoving another potato chip into my mouth without averting my eyes from the computer screen. “Sorry.”

“And don’t be getting crumbs in the bed either!”

The transformation is almost complete.


68 thoughts on “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s off to…(sob)”

  1. I am in awe of you. I am not sure I could reverse the roles that we are in right now. Your family works the way it is, you excel at your thing and your husband excels at his thing. What rocks is that your daughter gets the best of all the worlds. Successful, caring, loving, nurturing Mom….Successful, caring, loving, nurturing Dad. You do know that a lot of kids do not get the Dad one!

  2. I envy you! It’s funny because in the good ol’ days when things were 50/50 here I didn’t care much about any of it, and now I’ve become a complete control freak about paper towel brands and the like… I really need to get back to work one of these days!

  3. I just have to say, I’m totally impressed with your husband’s domestic abilities, and it makes me even more aware of how little mine does around the house. There is NO WAY I could leave the house and kids in his hands all day and come home to a clean house, nice dinner, etc. Hell, I’m a SAHM and I’m not even capable of that!

  4. I have to echo what Stephanie t. said. WOW. Nate makes an awesome SAHD. I stay at home two days a week with the baby and NEVER have dinner ready, the house clean, etc. when my husband comes home. I always intend to, but I get selfish and spend too much time blogging while the baby naps.Also, I must second Chelle who said quite eloquently that Thalia is very lucky to have both of you. However the roles work out, as long as you guys are happy with how you work together as parents, then I am happy for you!

  5. Wow, your post sure rang some bells. SwingDaddy’s always pulled more than 50% of the load taking care of Q, but just today he working on something I’m used to being my responsibility – and it’s hard to let go!

  6. I’m quite I wouldn’t miss doing the housework. Or the cooking. Or the nappy-changing. I’m impressed that Nate is doing so well, but I wonder how long he can keep it up…

  7. This is a great story, Liz.I hope that Nate keeps it up (so to speak).And I have a feeling that you will indeed adjust. I’m truly enjoying my never-lift-a-finger lifestyle.

  8. Well, if it makes you feel any better, two adults in a four bedroom house with no children in it, is still too many adults in the house. Even when he is in his office, he disrupts things. So, to placate me, he only works at home two days a week. I was telling Kvetch not too long ago, that someone needs to invent tag team marriages, where one person works out of the home for one week while the other stays at home. Then they switch. See…I don’t want to work out of the home full time, and I don’t think my husband wants to stay at home full time, but it would be nice to have a change of scenery now and then. I can’t say I identify with your problem, but I can imagine. After 11.5 years at home, it would be hard to give up control. However, I think I could manage if it meant coming home to a clean house and a crisp oriental salad! ;?)

  9. Liz, this post made me cry.Odd? Yes. But I am SO struggling with this right now. I want to work again and yet I also want to “rule the roost” and raise my family. Of course, I don’t have a husband willing to help out as much either. I know I can’t do everything, but I think I may have a mental breakdown trying to. Ugh.

  10. It’s true, the morphping is almost complete. He will explode and become a nag in one great POOF! and then you won’t know what happened. I’m not going to say I’m jealous (I am) but I am going to keep one eye on the news, waiting for that great freeze happening around hell.

  11. I think while having it all might be a misnomer, wanting to do it all (and have it all) is common.Is it lousy of me to want to stay home with my kid NOT because I’m the greatest at it but because I wouldn’t want anyone else to do it? I struggle with that question everyday – thinking that I’m better at work than I am at home. But for now, I’ll be the one leaving the milk out. 🙂It sounds like a lovely arrangement – and I imagine it’s doing wonders for your sex life.heh.

  12. Oh yes – yes to all of it. My husband worked part time and stayed home with the boys part time, but he’s a teacher and since May, he’s been home with the boys full time. And dammit if he isn’t doing a better job with the domestic stuff than I ever did.I don’t actually have a problem with him cleaning the house, mind you. We tend to annoy the shit out of each other by rearranging the dishes in the dishwasher to suit our clashing methodology of best possible dish fit (not enough space for that rant here), but generally, he somehow manages to keep a cleaner house than I do.I was off on vacation for two weeks and the house was a shambles every single day, and the day I went back last week (sob) I came home to – well, this isn’t fiction so I won’t tell you it was sparkling, but at least you could get in the front door without tripping over everything we own. How he managed to do alone with the kids what I couldn’t do with both of us home is beyond me. But he’s cheaper than Merry Maids, so I’ll just go with it.The most painful part of handing over the stay at home mantle had nothing to do with domestic chores. It was handing over control of the boys’ medical appointments to him. It still kills me to be sitting in my office, picturing them in the exam room for even a regular check up, hoping desperately that Beloved remembers to ask about that spot on Simon’s elbow or the funny way Tristan lisps when he is tired. And he never remembers the exact measurements so I can write them on the calendar for posterity. Painful, I tell you.Oops – sorry about all this. Who me, issues? Nah, it’s just so comfy over here I thought I was at my place for a minute…

  13. i admire you! control is not something i can relinquish. it doesn’t matter if i hate doing whatever the chore is, i HAVE to have control over it. like laundry–i hate laundry, i love when my husband does it, but i can’t STAND the way he does it. i just can’t let go of that control no matter how much i hate it.

  14. That’s wonderful! And I totally know where you’re coming from.When our send was little my husband took a three month paternity leave while I went back to work. It was a real switch. He did great.And I’m grateful he did it. He <>truly<> got to experience what it meant to Stay At Home. And I have to say he gained a real appreciated for what it meant.Everyone should do it. It should be required by law. 😉

  15. Step away from the Brawny, Nate. Just step away.But Brawny or not, could I borrow him (Nate) for a week? I could use some oriental chicken salad. Mmmmm…. orange slices. That would almost make relinquishing control worth it.

  16. This struck such a nerve with me! My husband has been the stay-at-home parent for the last 9 months while I worked (soon changing as he goes back to school and we transition Sophie into daycare) and it was so hard to give up the control. I hate housework, but it was my housework to hate. You said it much better than I could.

  17. My husband and I are discussing potentially setting up our lives like this as well. We think daycare is too expensive and there is no way I am quitting my job. I read with total interest.

  18. I know that you know how lucky you are. Nate is not your average father. He is amazing.But I also can understand how hard this must be. I am such a control freak that I don’t think I could even begin to do it. No Bounty? Gasp! Not getting to be the one who knows where the socks go? Yikes! And forget how it would *feel*. But it sounds like the two of you understand and support each other with humour and honesty and damn that’s a good thing. You are already a wonderful mom … now get off to win that Lion.

  19. Here’s a nice soft Puffs. No cheaping out on the paper products.Family life <>should be<> about compromise and change. You are doing it right!!! Until it doesn’t feel right, and then you try something different. Together. With love.You’re an inspiration. (Please post more meal ideas. That’s the hardest part for me. Tired of mac & cheese.)

  20. Giving up control is near impossible for me. I complain about Victor not helping enough but then I can’t stop looking over his shoulder when he doesn’t get Hailey dressed “my way”. Victor’s right…I don’t know what I want.

  21. I totally get you on missing the housework. The course I’m teaching ended on Friday, so this morning I’m cleaning the house for the first time in weeks, and I’m loving it – brewing up a post as I work about the joys of housecleaning (but thinking that I’ll never actually post it because I would just make everybody barf).But you are joking about the toasted almonds, right. Right???

  22. Anytime John takes over a household chore and just does it on a whim, I take it a bit personally. I too, feel like he’s doing it to spite me. I get what you’re saying, for sure.

  23. I struggle with this all the time even though my husband doesn’t do nearly what Nate does. It is VERY hard for me to relinquish control. I’ve banned him totally from doing the laundry–yet I get annoyed after I’ve washed it, folded it, and carted it upstairs, his stuff SITS THERE for a week, never making it into his dresser drawers. I seethe to myself–I did EVERYTHING for you, and you can’t manage this last little bit? And then I remember–I did everything because I won’t let him do everything.

  24. How do you do really? I do struggle with the thought of going back to work and leaving MY children and MY domain to my hubbie. I’m sure he’d would a better job than I am too, but like you…I don’t ever to lose that control!

  25. A great post, even if it is a difficult transition. Good luck with the adjustments.Man… Asian chicken salad, eh? Any chance Nate is looking to take care of someone else too? 🙂

  26. Um, have you seen the Brawny guy? (Check the label.) He’s very manly. Mr. Clean meets Lumberjack, manly. The quicker picker upper can’t compare, in that sense.Give it a few weeks and a new natural order will be in place. Good luck.

  27. aha! I live this life pretty much too–and there *is* a control issue there that makes me miss it too. my husband is a domestic god, and I am not, but I want *name brand* graham crackers and dish soap, DAMMIT!laundry–laundry is my domain (because he sucks at it–he does it, but does not fold properly, and I spend half my weekend ironing effing t-shirts. SEE how I suffer???)Oh, and the going to work thing–good in the end (for me anyway) even if you have the space sometimes. I tried the work at home thing, and I felt like I was never properly present for either work or parenting. I like boundaries. And I like dinner cooked when I get home. (Frank does work, but less than I do right now).And trust me–the standards will slip soon enough (because who the hell can keep that shit up??) and you’ll be able to lord it over Nate when you wipe down the sticky surfaces or put cleaner down the toilet with a martyr look on your face. Then you will feel complete again.

  28. The mice. In your broiler. Heated to 450F. I’m really sorry that I literally cackled at your expense.I think you are right on about the control factor. It has taken me many, many years not to be in charge of absolutely EVERYTHING – not because Kyle wouldn’t do it, but because I couldn’t relinquish control over it.It’s liberating, but it’s still hard. Even when they make delicious chow for dinner.

  29. Great post!As a guy, I wouldn’t get Bounty. It’s the summer prints and fragrances that discourage me.If they smelled ‘more manly’, like motor oil and anti-freeze, guys would buy it.

  30. Could Nate send me his recipe for Oriental chicken salad? It sounds divine! Even though we have a house in the suburbs with its own office, I could never work at home. Too many distractions. You’ll feel right at home here—nothing but Bounty—the big packs bought at Costco. I could have no other.

  31. You said this perfectly. My husband is great about doing things around the house, but for some reason it secretly annoys me.

  32. sigh. i hear you. i have given much of my domestic power to a nanny/hubby split and it’s tough man. it’s partly a control thing (hey! that’s not where the measuring cups go!) and partly just a reminder that i am not the biggest, most important influence/teacher/care giver to my child for many hours a day. she knows tricks that i haven’t taught her; stories that i haven’t read her. and even tho there are so many good things in it for all of us, that is a hard, hard reality to grasp.

  33. Let me know when Nate starts giving classes on maintaining the homefront… I’ll be pushing my husband to the front of the line to sign up!

  34. I feel for you, Liz. It’s hard for me to give up control as well. Needless to say, there have been a few gatekeeping discussions in our house as well so I’m feeling some of your pain. But meanwhile? Excuse my language but…NATE is the fucking MAN! Any dude who dances with his daughter and Mr. Noodle while cleaning the house and cooking dinner is ok in my book.

  35. 1.) Toasted and sliced almonds? Damn, he is GOOD.2.) I don’t want to depress you, but I’m going to disclose this anyway: having been a go to work mom for almost three years after being the one at home for two, I can say that it’s never become any easier for me to accept doing half. It just is what it is, and we have to make it work because it’s “best for everyone.” Or something.

  36. I know someone who lives on 10th bet 6/7 …in a townhouse!! DAMN THEM!!I want to work at home and be a mom but at the moment, it’s IMPOSSIBLE! I’m lucky if I can take a piss without the kid calling for my attention. My true dream is to support the husband and bring home the bacon.

  37. Nate should be cloned because it sounds like he’s making it look to damn easy. I can’t relinquish control over the grocery shopping. Gold stars all around.I don’t even want to know what mice toasted at 450 smells like. Ick and I wouldn’t want to clean that up.

  38. You will get used to it. Or well hopefully you will get used to it. Both hubby and I work full time, but I used to do the housecleaning too, until the kids were born. Now we have a once a week housekeeper. And it never fails, when I am super pissed off at the world and need to scrub something like the stove or clean a bath tub or whatever, it is already freaking done. And that is sad. Nate does rock though. He should get an award.

  39. I’d say he’s definitely house broken…though if my hubby were left in charge, it would be more along the lines of broken house. He’d be great with the kids but the housework? I don’t just see him rising to the challenge like Nate. Kudos to your man!

  40. Well, Yes you have a great helpmate at home, but culturally we are brought up to believe that the home is the wife’s domain. The heath and home belongs to the woman. I have the same issues. I commute an hour each way. DH’s commute is oh, 10 minutes. He gets the boys off to school. He picks them up at daycamp. Currently I still do the grocery shopping and I plan most of the meals. It’s hard to let go.

  41. I’ve had to learn many of the same things you’re going through now. My husband cleans our house, unloads the dishes from the dishwasher, cooks dinner, and gets the mail. On top of all the house repairs and yard work. He slowly started taking things over when I would either do them wrong (in his eyes), or wait too long to do them and he couldn’t stand it anymore. And you know what? He’s better at it than me! (Seriously, I thank his mother for this regularly.)Since we both work, we share, and it was hard to give up the control for the tasks I traded him for when Gabe was born. I mostly take care of Gabe in the evenings now, but I do still cook about as much as the hubs does. And I still do the laundry and get the bills sent off. Basically, laundry is the last task that I hate that I still have, and I WON’T GIVE IT UP either. The guilt I put on myself for not doing enough already is too great for me to give up my one last hated chore.And I too miss my brand of paper towels, but I liked the Kleenex VIVA! towels. He talked me into Bounty because VIVA! is more expensive. But c’mon. Who couldn’t love a paper towel with such verve. VIVA!

  42. Okay…something’s wrong, because in a really twisted way, what you just said makes perfect sense to me. And for the record…I like Bounty.

  43. I have to agree with Andrea. Viva is THE BEST paper towel EVA made! They have the 3-1 too! Change it up on him again, make things wild!

  44. I know exactly what you mean. In a much more limited way, granted. When I left Kyle and WonderBaby alone for four days to go to BlogHer, I had no idea that I was actually giving him the keys to my kingdom, the domain over which I Have Long Ruled. I’ve ruled that domain badly, which made it worse to come home to opinions about better dish soaps and better strategies for managing laundry. Mr. SlobMeister stepped up when he needed to, and now it has been clearly demonstrated that if I were to curl up and die, he and WonderBaby would manage just fine and quite hygienically, thank you very much.This stings, a little.

  45. Well, make sure he doesn’t change tampon brands on you for christ’s sake!Glad things are running so smoothly around the MOM-101 household. Here? Not so much, no matter who is doing the work.

  46. Since I’ve gone back to work, no one is there to pick up the slack, and now my living room looks like a toy landfill for amputee Power Rangers. Piles of them, Transformers, and other boy-crap everywhere. We hired a housekeeper to come every other week, but I think she’s going to fire us any day now. It’s great that you both want to do the housework; in my house, neither!Very funny posting. I loved it!

  47. along with that delicious Oriental chicken salad with almond slivers, i smell another “perfect post” here!brilliant! (or <>brinniant<>, as i typed, in my stupor and or tears of laughter). still, no shorts on the floor? what’s <>that<> like? and, tho’ the “transformation” is almost complete, i fear you may have to insist on those Brawny paper towels… not only are they more absorbant, they’re much cuter, too. you’re not out of the woods yet, missy! xox

  48. I wish I had something meaningful to add. My hub has yet to buy paper towels, let alone think about them. Around here they just, you know, magically appear, along with the toilet paper, all the food and those goddamned q-tips he can’t live without. If he ever produced a fabulous salad like the one you got, I might think I’d died and gone to heaven. I’m easy like that 😉

  49. The grass is always greener, isn’t it? I don’t want to be a go to work mom exclusively, and I don’t want to be a housecleaner mom exclusively, either. I think I want to be a jet-setting millionaire mom but even that has its downside. Managing your household help can be very time consuming, I’m sure.

  50. Having had the fabulous career once myself, I know what you’re talking about. And I can tell you from the other side that I still get a secret thrill sometimes out of doing housework and grocery shopping- just like all the stay-at-home moms I used to see and envy when I was a career girl.You two have a system that works and I think that’s awesome.

  51. My sister and brother-in-law have the same set up and I am amazed by it. My husband and I both work so I never have any advice for her. They fight about the same thing over and over and it’s always appreciation. Hopefully, you guys won’t get caught up in this. On a side note my dh does most of the cleaning and I get yelled at all the time for leaving my coffe cups all over the house. I do the same mumbled, “sorry.” But, I’m never really sorry. 😉

  52. i think you’ve just outline my wildest dream. if i have to iron one more shirt, make one more nice dinner, and (this is the clincher) wash more underwear because HE can’t be bothered to check when he’s about to run out and put some underwear in the washing machine all by himself, I will need direct access to the psych. ward. He’s and ADULT, get it together and chip in. ‘I’ll spend the rest of my life making you happy ‘- my ass, or perhaps I wasn’t clear on what makes me happy. p.s. being a 1950’s housewife does NOT make me happy.

  53. “Grand Archduke of saliva-encrusted sunflower seed carcasses that litter every available surface.”Oh my GOD….you’re husband is a long lost brother to mine. I will find those little effing carcasses on my computer desk sometimes and I just scream!

  54. Sounds like you traded in Bounty -the quicker picker uper, for Nate – the super, duper, picker uper.

  55. You capture so PERFECTLY the dynamics of a working-mom-SAHD family. You could write The Book on that experience.And this speaks to most moms, too, in a more general sense. We want the men to do more, but we either get frustrated when they don’t do it the way WE do it, or we get bothered that they do it too well. So much of it is about control.

  56. J and I both work outside the home, but he’s the one that cooks (I do dishes) so we have similar “discussions” when I use up an ingredient he needs or misplace something in the kitchen. It’s still kind of weird to me, though I’ve gladly relinquished the short-order cooking duties, because I loved being the mistress of the kitchen. I don’t think it’s necessarily because it’s a “female” thing — more a control thing, as you stated.But I do still control the laundry.

  57. How cool to find another working mom with a SAHD! I can only relate to some of what you said in this entry, though, as I usually come home to find the house in shambles. But, sometimes, he cleans it top to bottom, and it’s nice that I can enjoy the clean without actually working for it.And I’m right there with ya on the hard and heartbreaking.And my name is Liz too!

  58. We don’t have a SAHD but we do have a GTWM here. And I always leave the milk out. Just once I’d like to complain about <>his<> shortcomings.

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