Moms, do you ever feel unappreciated at home? Maybe you get a grunt instead of a greeting from your husband when he gets home from work. Your kids are screaming for snacks or your baby only wants to be held by Daddy. Even the dog seems to be taking you for granted lately. In fact, it seems like they’d all get along just fine without you.
Don’t despair. I’ve got a solution for any mom who’s questioning her worth in the family dynamic. Try going out of town for a week and you’ll see that the world really does revolve around you!
Unfortunately, I had this experience recently, when I had to leave my home in Italy and fly to the U.S. to be with my father the week he died. It was awful to have to leave my husband and 15 month old daughter, not only because of the circumstances of my trip, but because I hated the idea of leaving my baby at such a tender age and leaving my husband Paolo with his hands so full. Yes, we have a lot of help—a morning babysitter and my saint of a mother in law—who, between the two of them, took care of Naomi during the week. But evenings and weekends and every night, it was just Paolo, the baby, the dog and the house.
We spoke daily on Skype, when it was already night-time in Italy, and Paolo regularly appeared at the end of his rope. He’d complain of having not slept the entire night before. “She cried ‘Mamma!’ all night!” All day long, Naomi would apparently look for me in every room, and say “Mamma!” every time the phone rang. When I spoke to her on Skype video, she seemed calm, but then every night the “Mamma!” cries would start again. Heartbreaking.
So when I came home a week later, physically exhausted and emotionally drained, it was clear that I was missed. I mean, of course they missed me, but it wasn’t just about emotional longing. There were countless other clues that the house had descended into near-chaos while I was gone. Here are some of the ways I was reminded that everyone needs Mommy!
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The Refrigerator: I left in a bit of a rush, so I had no time to dump leftovers or get rid of the head of lettuce that was already starting to look dubious. Apparently, neither did Paolo. Every covered plate, funky head of lettuce and moldy piece of cheese was still there, along with two cartons of expired milk.
The Dishwasher: My first night back, I opened the dishwasher to load a few things. The smell about knocked me over. No one had opened it in a week, and the few dirty dishes that I’d loaded before I left were still there, unwashed.
The Sink: The kitchen sink was empty except for a large cup and saucer. Paolo made himself his normal breakfast of cappuccino every morning, but ate every other meal at his mother’s house.
The Laundry Basket: Overflowing and threatening to take over the entire bathroom. ‘Nuff said.
My Boots: Right in the living room where I’d left them the week before.
The Dog: Shadowed me for three days until she finally felt secure that I wasn’t going to disappear again anytime soon.
And I can’t blame Paolo for not keeping up with dirty dishes or laundry or spoiled milk. He worked all day and had his hands full with a squirmy, confused toddler every night. The fact that Naomi was just fine when I got back—she just smiled sweetly at me when she woke from her nap and saw me for the first time in a week—is evidence that he and his family did a pretty good job keeping her routine as normal as possible in my absence. Sure, she was a little more clingy than usual the first few days I was back, but less so than the dog!
Still, as sucky as the circumstances of my week away from my family, I can’t help but take just a little satisfaction in the knowledge that my husband can’t do it all without me. Plus, I don’t think it hurts our spouses to be reminded of that every so often. Despite our little power struggles over whose turn it is to walk the dog or clear the table or change the poopy diaper, my family is a symbiosis: remove one element from the picture and things just don’t work right.
So the next time I leave town for a week, they’re coming with me (though we are getting a dog sitter).