Us SAHMs (and work at home mums too) can be a queer lot. I know. My husband sometimes says that. Some days, you come home to a tidy home and a happy wife and everything's balmy. Some days though, anything you say seems to set off an explosion at home, and the house is a wreck (of course, experience has taught you not to say anything about that though!).
After ten years of marriage and seven over years of learning how to raise kids, I thought I'd share some tips on how to care for and understand that lovely person who is your wife and mother to your children (and hey, many of these tips will apply to working mums too!).
For starters, try imagining if your day at work involved dealing with three clients. Yes, just three. Now, you have to provide meals for these folk, and they all have different preferences. The youngest client likes to eat around the clock, and demands milk feeds every three hours. It doesn't matter if you are sleeping. The client is always right. Then the other two have decidedly different taste buds. What is yummy to one is yucky to another. So your interesting and challenging job is to figure out how to cook for, and ensure that all the clients get fed, PLUS clean up any mess that ensues.
Now cooking portfolio aside, you also have KPIs on providing attentive service: you need to wash butts when they get dirty, and you need to answer endless questions about everything and anything, You are not allowed to visit the toilet unsupervised, because a certain client needs to know how big your poo is and wether you are hiding in the toilet to eat something yummy that you don't want them to have. Your workplace is generally very noisy, and crying can be quite a common occurrence.
Besides having to be vigilant and ensuring your clients don't fight and will get along well, you also need to read many stories. Sometimes you have to read one story, many times. Again, the customer is always right, so don't try to get yourself off this duty. You need to mediate fights if they happen, and sometimes risk getting socked in the eye when you wade into the fray to separate your angry clients apart.
Speaking of angry, your clients tend to go a little berserk if they don't have a nap. So another important duty you have is to ensure they sleep. But for some strange reason, you'll find that getting them to sleep is akin to getting your clients to drink bitter medicine when they are sick: they declare they don't need it (though they obviously do) and will fight you tooth and nail about it.
Add all this to other duties, such as the laundry and folding clothes (if you don't have a full-time helper) and overseeing your clients to ensure they do their homework, and washing countless dishes and cleaning floors that get grimy after just one hour. And then take away any real adult interaction or conversations in person, and monetary renumeration, and any healthcare benefits and sick leave. This is more or less the "job" that a SAHM does, every.single.day. Which is why:
:: SAHMs tend to be very concerned about what time you are ending work.
No, we don't intend to lie in wait at the door at 5 pm to shove the fighting kids over to you and go off to watch TV. But when we are in the midst of trying to cook dinner with a baby in a carrier and a toddler clinging on to one leg, we can't help sending you a message with that question. It gives us hope. It gives us a time when we can be a little less vigilant, because we are no longer the only adult in the house. We know you are tired from work. Trust me, we don't enjoy having to ask for help the minute you step into the house. But we really look forward to you coming home, all of us do. And of course, we also look forward to the time where we are able to go to the toilet without a chaperone, and perhaps cook dinner without sweating buckets while carrying a baby.
:: You may be the first adult we really talk to at the end of a long day. So what you say really matters.
According to research, our brains are wired to have a negativity bias, and we remember negative comments more than positive ones. In fact, for married couples, it takes five positive comments to offset one negative comment! A SAHM who spends her day with the kids, who are usually not generous with praise and tend to pepper their conversations with "no!", "don't want" or "don't like!" might feel defeated by the end of a hard day, and encouraging words will always be really welcome.
:: SAHMs may need to rant to you about their day. But we just need a listening ear, not a solution to our problems.
After a full day of wiping butts and breaking up fights and trying to put a baby back to sleep after a screaming toddler woke him up, we usually need to do a little ranting to you to let off steam, and listening to us is the best thing you could do. In most cases, some reassurance that we're doing ok, or even some praise for a yummy dinner would help. Please don't overanalyze and try to offer solutions, we just needed to talk!
:: SAHMs may need some time to do some mindless scrolling of their FB feed, or engage in some random chats on Watsapp.
You see, many of us may not get alot of adult interaction in the day, and we spend most of our time talking to little people, who can be amazingly funny and cute... but they are still little people. Social media and our mobile phones becomes our base for connecting with other adults, never mind if it's not exactly real-life interaction. So please don't begrudge us that time.
:: For SAHMs who are introverts, we may be too exhausted and drained at night to chat with you.
It's not personal. It's just that being around little people all the time can be really draining, and we may need some alone to recharge those batteries.
:: Mess bothers us. Because we are the ones who usually have to clean it up.
Which is why we we do cry over spilt milk (whoever coined that term obviously didn't have kids), and why we are so insistent on clean-up time. And why we get really upset with you when you rummage through your drawers and rumple all the neatly folded stacks of clothes. And why we love it when you help out with the chores!
:: We may struggle with self-worth issues, and really need your encouragement.
It's a lot harder to be a mum in this age of social media. Pinterest posts scream at us that we need to make pretty bentos to be a good mum. Instagram photos depict picture-perfect homes with happy children, while we struggle to get past each day without the kids fighting all the time. It's silly and we know it, but we do compare ourselves with those we encounter on social media. Please help us, by being generous with your encouragement. Remind us that what we have now is real life, and our real life is worth living fully, not grudgingly in the shadow of someone else's highlight reel. Oh, and please buy us happy food (even though you think we need to lose a few pounds of our pregnancy weight)!
:: We need a day off occasionally.
It's probably difficult when the kids are younger, but a day off really works wonders for refreshing a SAHM's spirit. We know a day off for us is a day of "work" for you, but I think we do need that occasional break from the kids. Or if it's possible, rope in the grands to babysit, and then schedule a date night! I remember how much I looked forward to my Pilates sessions each week when I was expecting Baby J, it was just 3 hours away from home, but it helped so much.
:: You could pray for, and with us.
Because we always need God's grace, and we always could do with someone praying hard for us.
PS: I blog this from my viewpoint as a SAHM. SAHMs take a lot of flak: we get labelled as "tai tai" when our lives are anything but, and we get criticized about getting our degrees and higher education since it's apparently a waste of money. However, this is not to say the working mums have it any easier, and theirs is a different set of challenges (now for working mums, if you could write to your hubbies, what would you let him know?). I am thankful that over the years, the hubby has been a great pillar of support, and we are learning how to care for, and meet each other's needs better.