The Second Shift in Motherhood

by Devina Gunawan

It is hard to comprehend women’s job at home. I remember back when my mom took few years off teaching to take care of me and my little sister when we were younger I would hear her say, “Being a housewife is such a pain!” in her thick european accent and I would say, “Daddy looks more tired.” Then she would say, “One day you will understand.”

Whenever dad slept the whole weekend and mom cleaned the house, I would tell my sister, “Daddy’s really tired, that’s why he’s not helping mom. He needs his rest.”

It was not until my mom returned to her full-time job that I started to respect her the way I did my dad. The moment she left and returned home the same hours dad did, and the moment my grandma started taking care of me 24/7, I started to think of my mom as a real worker.

Sometimes she would return even later than dad would; but I knew she would come visit me in my room even for a short period of time to ask: How was school? How was your dance practice? Is there anything you want to tell me? Have you seen any cute boy today?

I would find it annoying. I only saw her at night, and she acted as if she cared about my life. But somehow, I appreciated her trying to be a part of my life every night despite her looking as if she was about to collapse.

My dad would never do that—during the weekends once in awhile he would take me out for ice cream and lunch to spend ‘quality time’ together, but seeing him daily was almost impossible—unless he just wanted to get rid of work for awhile and return to comforting family.

He came back home looking awful, and went straight for dinner and bed. Mom looked the same, but she still cooked dinner for dad, did the laundry, and checked up on me and my sister. I admired her strength. It was as if she had an extra spare of battery. Even during weekend, she did the chores when dad would sleep or watch some shows on TV.

I never really understood how long and tiring taking care of a household was, until that one time during my sophomore year in high school when my mom had to spend two weeks in hospital and I was in charge of the house. I tried not to complain, I thought what a shame—mom rarely complained, and she had been doing it for so many years.

Apparently now I know how important mother’s job is in the family. I once recall when my mom said, “Being a mother is the most important job in the world. We mothers nourish new generation. We help build the future.” But then I started to get the idea of why my mom would never stop coming into my room at night to check upon me even though she had worked the whole day. I understood why during weekends she would drag me to Starbucks just to have a one-on-one conversation about what had been going on in our lives. I could relate to her concerns and her fear of not being able to get a good hold on me. Apparently taking care of children is the most valuable job in the world.

Reading Price of Motherhood was a comfort. It justified my beliefs that mothers had been mistreated, that their jobs were more important and harder than what men thought, and that mothers would willingly spend more time with their children than the fathers would.

It is true, that women’s job is not regarded as much as men’s. Who cares? We women just take care of the house and children. I really wish one day gender roles can switch and men will see what pain women face everyday. However men can be pretty inconsistent. I remember once my dad talked about how my paternal grandma was tired, and he sympathized because he said she had to deal with households all the time. He would say, “You don’t know how tiring it can be!” Ironically, when it was my mom being tired, he would question and say, “You’re always at home. You just take care of the house. I don’t think you can ever be this tired.” Is it just men and their mothers? Is it because they grow up seeing the mothers work at home that they appreciate their mothers more? Why don’t they view their wives in the same way? Why are they so inconsistent?

My cousin responds the same way towards my aunt and his wife. He says, “My mom takes care of the households. She keeps the house perfect. Give her some time out. Let her rest.” But when it comes to his wife he says, “She always stays at home. Probably having fun. And she complains about being tired! I wonder why!”

But in a way, it justifies the importance of mother’s jobs. I mean, look at the men I have encountered. They love their mothers, they look up to their mothers, and most will defend their mothers when the fathers blow upon them.

This shows that children are more fond of their mothers. They are more attached to their mothers and worry more about them. This is probably due to mothers’s always trying to be there for their children, their faithfulness to take care of their babies, and their willingness to sacrifice time and career.

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