I struggle a lot with self-respect, with recognizing my worth and requesting that other people treat me accordingly. This has been a big issue in my marriage; I am never sure of what I deserve and what I should expect of my husband. I am quick to give him what I know he wants, and rarely demand he give me what I need.
What ends up happening then, is I take on the brunt of the childcare and become the default parent, because I don’t value my own time enough to make my husband step up and do his share. I become the parent that handles 95% of the night wake-ups, who gets up with the kids on weekends mornings 9 times out of 10, who deals with all the baths and bedtimes, who attends all the doctors appointments and teacher conferences, who handles basically everything.
I do all of it because I believe it is my job, as the woman, as the mother. I do it all because I watched my mom do it all. I watched my mom devalue her own time and her own needs and do everything for us. I internalized that role and I took it on myself. And now, even when I find myself entrenched in resentment–and I recognize it’s my own doing–I don’t know how to have enough self-respect to demand my husband step up and do more.
I have a lot of amazing women friends who don’t seem to have a problem with this. Their significant others are much more equal parenting partners than my husband is. I’m sure this is partly to do with who their SOs are as people, but I also think my friends’ attitude contribute to their success in dividing the parenting more equally. They have the self-respect to know, deep inside, that they shouldn’t have to do it all, and they value themselves enough to demand their partners do their fair share. I watch them in wonder and awe.
Recently I found out my in-laws had blatantly disregarded a safety concern of mine and turned my son’s car seat around without telling me. I am certain they knew I didn’t want them to do that because they have commented many times that he seemed too cramped facing backward and I repeatedly told them not to turn him around, that he would be fine for the short trips he took in their car. And then this morning I took him down to help him in and found his seat turned around. I don’t even know how long ago they did it.
Evidently my husband saw it and didn’t mention it to me either. He says he just forgot about it after they gave him a ride, that he wasn’t trying to keep it from me.
I understand this isn’t a big deal, in the grand scheme of things. I get that he is 3 years old and most 3 year olds face forward in their car seats. But I’ve read articles about how there are vertebrae in their spine that don’t fuse until 4 years old and if a car is rear-ended and a toddler’s head jerks forward it can cause horrible damage. It just seems like an easy precaution to take, especially since he doesn’t seem to mind sitting backwards.
And honestly, I’m not so much worried about anything happening to him in their car, as I’m worried he’ll decide that if he doesn’t have to face backward in his grandparents’ car, then he shouldn’t have to in our car either.
The worst part about the whole situation is I probably will never say anything to them about it. I am not sure enough of my own stance to tell them how disrespected I feel, how dismissive of my concerns their actions were. I wonder if I’m over reacting, if I’m being too controlling. All I can think is that I ride my bike with my kids and surely that is more dangerous and how can I ask them to keep the car seat facing backward when I’m doing something as blatantly dangerous as riding around with my kids on a bike.
I know if one of my strong, self-assured friends were in the same position they would raise hell with their in-laws. I know they would stand up for themselves and demand that the car seat be turned back the other way. But I won’t do that. And I’ll feel that much smaller for conceding this to them.
Another example: For the last two nights I’ve been alone with the kids. After just two days away from their typical routines they are super dysregulated, and getting to bed has been a nightmare. Tonight, I informed my husband that I would be working out while he put the kids to bed. It is such a legitimate expectation after two nights alone with the kids, and yet I’ve spent the entirety of my time fretting that it was a bitchy thing to do, wondering if I should have helped, at least a little. I don’t know how to tur off that inner monologue, the one that tells me I should do more, should help others, should put the needs of those around me in front of my own.
I know this is work I have to for myself, but I have no idea where to begin. Self-respect can be hard to come by.