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Friday used to be my favourite day of the week because it signaled the weekend. At 5pm on a Friday, I knew I could turn off my work phone and do whatever I wanted until Sunday night. The word ‘weekend’ doesn’t hold the same meaning as it used to though.
For many of us that have babies, the weekend doesn’t mean putting your feet up and relaxing. It doesn’t mean going to a nice restaurant for dinner. If you’re breastfeeding, it doesn’t even mean two glasses of wine in a row. Forget being able to spontaneously head out to see family and friends, and don’t even bother thinking about a sleep-in.
Instead, the weekend is largely a continuation of the weekdays. The baby sleeps and feeds and bathes at the same time. The washing still needs to be done and the baby still needs constant attention during waking hours.
Don’t get me wrong, I still look forward to the weekends. I love that they afford me extra time with family, friends, and Sam, which also means extra hands to help during the day. I love that the weekend means doing different activities than I do during the week. What is hard though is letting go of what weekends used to look like, and I’ve learned that if a couple doesn’t navigate this as a team, the mother will become resentful.
Before becoming parents, Sam and I had many conversations about our parenting plans. We agreed that I would stay at home with the baby and Sam would go to work. We talked about how we’d like to split the cooking and housework in the first few weeks of parenthood and beyond. We talked about millions of other things too.
What we didn’t talk about was our expectations of ‘the weekend.’ In hindsight, I think that’s because we viewed full-time work as being on par with full-time motherhood. Like many new parents, we were naïve in thinking that the baby would just slot into our lives and that the weekends would look much the same as always. We didn’t have the first-hand understanding that working life and motherhood are two roles that are very different not just in regards to hours, but in terms of their physical and emotional demands.
In one of my previous posts, I talked about how it’s not selfish for a mother to do something for herself. I identified that I need time to myself, even if it’s just for an hour on a weekend. I’ve been thinking about that post, and I’ve realised that asking for just one hour is ridiculous. Paid employees aren’t allowed to work 24 hours a day for days in a row and then just get a one hour break, so why should a mother do this? What a mother needs is chunks of time to herself during the week (even just to drink a cup of tea that’s still hot) and some time to herself on the weekend as well.
The chunks during the week are needed simply so that a mother can continue performing the role which requires her 24 hours, 7 days a week. A weekend, on the other hand, is ultimately about having a break from the things she always does.
For me, the weekend is about recognising that rest is as equally important as caring for Henry. It’s about taking time to reconnect with myself. It’s about mixing up the routines that can become so boring during the week. It’s about getting out of the house.
For Sam, the weekend is about forgetting about work. He often wants to just stay at home because he’s been out of it all week. He wants to do things he doesn’t have time to do during the week, like mowing the lawn. It’s about seeing friends and doing his hobbies, like fishing.
Sam and I can’t both ‘have a weekend’ without making compromises. No couple can. We need to have ongoing conversations about what those compromises look like, as our needs differ from week to week. Some weeks I’ve had barely any sleep and Sam needs to take the reins on weekends. Other weekends follow a massive week at work for Sam and I need to step up. It’s the lack of conversation and compromise that leads to resentment.
The baby stage passes so quickly and I don’t want to spend it grieving the ‘loss’ of my weekends. I want to focus on all the great parts of this stage. I want to make the best of the circumstances we’re in, and regular communication with Sam has given me the certainty that he’ll do the same.
Weekends look different when you’re a mother, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get one. It’s about advocating for what you need when the weekend comes around, and not feeling guilty about doing so.
I know there are many fathers that are willing to, and do, give the mother of their children a break. It needs to be said though mothers often find it difficult asking for a break and there are a million reasons why. If you're a father, do your partner a favour and don’t wait for her to ask for a break. Give her one, and she will do the same for you in return.
Parenting does not equate to a ‘loss’ of weekends. It just requires us to use them differently.
I'm married to Sam and I'm a mother to Henry.