My baby takes a massive dump as soon as my husband leaves the house to go to work.
Every single day.
My husband places our giggly, clean, morning-happy child in the bouncy chair in our bedroom so I can watch him while I go through my usual routine: put on leggings, discover leggings have vomit on them, put on another pair of leggings, try on five different shirts before settling on one that can fit a baby’s head through the bottom but also hides how uneven my boobs are from breastfeeding (I call righty “megaboob” and lefty “flappy flap”), put my hair in a bun, cry over how little hair I have left, use hairspray to shellack the shards of sadness sticking out all over my head, and decide the leggings I’m wearing are too tight and put on maternity pants (hello comfort my old friend).
All while clapping my hands like a happy drunk and saying “gaGAGAga!” to keep my son from having a meltdown over the injustice of being temporarily restrained.
My husband, a travel mug of coffee in one hand, will pop his head in the bedroom door one last time and say “Bye-bye, Sammy! Bye-Bye!” and my son will beam at him, squealing with delight and kick-kick-kicking his legs frantically.
Then my husband will walk downstairs, skip out the front door, and as soon as the lock clicks shut my son will look me in the eyes and grunt. His chubby hands will grip the side of his bouncy chair as he strains, his face will turn red and he’ll open his mouth in an “O” as if he’s saying “Oh! I’m pooping for Mommy!”
Then he’ll lift his hands in the air, which is both an act of triumph and a demand to be picked up, and I’ll take him downstairs to change his diaper.
Then the battle begins.
To change the diaper of a 10-month-old boy is to attempt to wrestle a baby alligator into submission, but with a lower success rate. Inevitably, the baby rolls through his own poop, ruins his outfit and mine, flutter-kicks me in the vahoohoo, and takes off across the floor like a greased pig – naked and smeared in shit – as I chase him around the room holding a clean diaper and pleading with him to please, please, PLEASE just let mommy finish changing him and THEN he can go play with all his toys.
He doesn’t respond well to reason, so I have to resort to brute force.
Once changed, I have to place my now hysterical child in the playpen so that I can survey the damage to my living room, which looks and smells like the port-a-potty at a summer music festival. I’ll scrub poop off the floor and off myself while the baby screams like I’ve abandoned him to be raised by wolves.
The baby only poops while my husband is at work. Sometimes he’ll even store it up over the weekend and treat me to a super-poop first thing Monday morning.
Why? Because motherhood isn’t fair.
I am lucky to live in a country that offers a full year of combined maternity/parental leave (in fact, we will soon be able to take 18 months). Unlike our own mothers’ generation, and unlike our neighbours to the south, we don’t have to go back to work just a few months or weeks after our babies are born. We have a full year to bond with our children at home; to let them feel secure in our presence as they grow from newborns to little people.
A full year. Alone. With a baby.
A baby that you are supposed to breast feed until he’s at least a year old, because you’re home and you have no reason not to do it. A baby that you’re supposed to take to music classes, and gymnastics, and play groups because he needs to socialize. A baby that should be able to feed itself strips of (organic, grain-fed) steak, and communicate his needs with sign language, and be able to sleep through the night, because that is what we’ve been told must happen. A baby that must play with chemical-free toys made from recycled materials and wear expensive mineral-based sunscreens and tick-resistant bug spray that you make yourself out of essential oils, because people keep posting articles about how terrible the alternatives are for your child’s health.
And you’re supposed to look good while doing it, eff you very much Instagram. God forbid we leave the house looking like the bridge trolls we really are.
It isn’t fair.
Even if you set aside all the unrealistic expectations social media has bestowed upon motherhood, this simple fact remains: if you’re a dual income household, and one parent continues to work after the birth of their child, the other parent (usually the mom) will likely spend a year alone with their baby.
A full year.
I love my baby. He’s my entire world. But I wouldn’t wish spending 10 hours in a row alone with him on anyone who wasn’t being paid handsomely. To do that five days a week for a year is crazy-making. Trust me on this, as my baby is ten months old and I’m about one more diaper change away from shaving my head and attacking people with an umbrella.
Sometimes I think about how every single day my husband goes to work for longer than I have ever left my son with him, even once. It’s not his fault. One of us has to bring home the bacon.
But he will never know what it is to spend an entire day alone with our baby while he’s still a baby. He will never experience the really hard stuff, such as what it was like to sleep train our son when he was still taking three naps a day and would cry for 30 to 40 minutes before each one. My husband would just come home at the end of the day – cupcakes in tow, bless him – and toss our delighted child in the air while I would mutter “the screaming, the screaming” and dart my eyes back and forth like a serial killer.
Even on weekends, when my husband does his very best to make my life easier, he’ll leave me in charge of the baby any time he needs to go to the bathroom. He’s a wonderful father, but he’s never had to take a dump with the door open while clapping and singing “The Wheels on the Bus” as the baby’s screams go from angry to frantic to pathological.
It isn’t fair.
My husband has never been so exhausted and desperate after a full day spent on high alert with a teething honey badger that he’s had to take the baby for a long walk just so he can strap him down in one place. He hasn’t had to circle the park over and over, sniffling and hating himself for not enjoying this precious time more.
Instead, my husband meets us at the park when he’s done work, arriving just in time to push our delighted son in the swing while he squeals and says “DADADA!”
But there are times when I’m showing our son the monkey decal on the wall and saying “OoohooohooohAAAHAAAHAAAH!” and he buries his freshly bathed head in my shoulder and giggles, that my husband smiles at us wistfully.
There are times when my husband tries to feed our son his dinner but the baby just whines and pushes food around on his tray until I lean over and whisper “did you ever see a Sammy, eating his HAMMY, down by the bay!” and then he cracks a smile and crams some hamburger in his mouth.
And most nights my husband opens the door to the nursery to find the baby falling asleep on my chest, one hand gripping a strand of my hair and the other pat-pat-patting my neck as I sing “You are my Sammy, my only Sammy, you make me happy when skies are grey” and we rock back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
And as I think to myself “I’m so lucky,” I’m sure, in those moments, my husband is thinking “it isn’t fair.”