The book fair is over today. I can’t wait until it’s all packed up and I walk out of that room until spring.
Yesterday I had big plans to work out this morning, but in the end I was so tired I gave myself permission to get a good night’s sleep. I was passed out before 10pm, with my daughter asleep next to me-and besides one wake-up with my son, I didn’t get up until 6am. I really needed that.
I still wanted to post though, so I decided to put up an email I sent my husband a little while ago, when things between us were frustrating me. Since this email our marriage has been great. I don’t give the email all the credit, but I do think every time I send one of these, we inch closer to where I – and we, honestly – want our marriage to be. I also think I’m handling a lot of things in different ways, which is also helping. I definitely take responsibility for the negative I bring to our marriage.
So here is the email, which I’m posting because I always find it gratifying to see reflections of my marriage in the marriage of others, especially when I know the couple is find ways to improve their dynamic.
For some context, I sent this email during the 2nd week of my school year, when I was a total wreck trying to juggle the demands of my new schedule, with the responsibilities of managing my daughter at school. I had so many events in the evenings that my husband was doing way more than he usually did. We had very different takes on that arrangement.
I have been wanting to talk about the last two weeks, and how uncomfortable it has made me asking you for increased assistance. You ask me what you can do to help me manage the stress of the beginning of the school year, and then when I do need help, you seem overwhelmed, or even resentful.
What is most distressing, is you perception that right now you are doing everything and I am doing very little. Honestly, to me, our current set up seems more “balanced” than what we normally do, but it seems clear you don’t see it that way.
Of course the big thing here is bedtime, which I am guessing you think we used to “split,” and I felt used to fall more on my shoulders than yours. My perception of bedtime (before this week), was I got (our son) ready – made his leche, had him pee, got him out of his clothes and then into PJs, read a book to him, brushed his teeth, and then snuggled. You did the same for (our daughter), but from what I tended to see, a lot of that consisted of you sitting on the couch and asking her to do things for herself (get on PJs, brush teeth, pee), and then reading with her, and then helping her get everything into bed, and then me coming in a snuggling until she fell asleep. In my mind (which I admit, is surely skewed toward me doing more so can’t be entirely accurate) that was me spending a lot more time on bedtime than you, especially when you take into account the 30-45 minutes I lose lying next to her with my arm over her body in a very specific way, until she falls asleep. And yes, I know many times you have to deal with (our son) during those minutes, but it’s not as all-consuming or consistent, as lying next to her for that time. I would trade helping him pee/poo getting him water or changing his music with lying down with her every night any day. I’m guessing you’re not as interested in making that trade.
I know you do the dishes. I know that is A LOT. I know EVERY NIGHT you have to go into that disaster of a kitchen and make it usable for the next day. I know that. I see that. I appreciate it. The problem is I don’t think you really see or appreciate all that I do. And it’s frustrating that when you take over more of what I do, you still fail to recognize how much it is or how it equates to how stressed I am.
I feel like you don’t really see or appreciate the 15-30 minutes that I’m up before you every morning, getting both of them leche, starting the toast, finishing her lunch and packing up her backpack, buttering and cutting the toast, and then lying with (our son) when he wakes up. Just the stress of knowing I have to be the one to get my ass out of bed every morning on time is stressful. You go to sleep every night assuming I will be on it and when you get up, a bunch of stuff will already be done. I go to sleep every night panicked I’ll sleep through my alarm, or just get up late enough to fuck the whole morning into a frenzy.
I feel like you don’t see or appreciate the fact that I get up with (our son) 95% of the weekend mornings. Even if I just have him pee, make him leche and lie with him for a while before putting him on the pad, that is still 30 minutes, and a much earlier wake up. And whenever you do it, I feel like I owe you or something, which just doesn’t seem fair. I know you’re not a morning person, and I know it’s hard for you to get up. That is why I do it every morning. But I would also love to just sleep through some of that stuff once in a while, or just stay in bed while someone else does it. Today you said you were giving me some time, but that meant having both kids in bed with me with a loud radio play going. Would that feel like some “time” for you in the morning?
I ALWAYS get less sleep that you do. My sleep is ALWAYS more interrupted. And yet you seem to lay claim on being the most tired. Maybe you are more tired, despite getting more and better rest. Maybe you aren’t sleeping well because of your snoring. Maybe you just need more sleep. Any or all of those things could be true. But I feel like the fact that you are so tired makes you unable to see how much less sleep I’m getting, and how much more I do before you even get up every morning.
I also feel like you have no idea, and don’t appreciate, how exhausting pick up/afternoons are. Yes, I know you have more time with (our son) at home every morning, but I spent more time picking them up and then being with both of them before you come home, than that time. Pick up is fucking exhausting. Everyone is tired and hungry and expecting some candy in the car (an expectation that was created elsewhere and now we need to manage). If I get to (our son) by 4:45, I’m still not home with both of them until 5:45 because somehow it takes over an hour to drive one mile, find parking, get out of the car, find (our daughter), gather all her things and make sure nothing was misplaced, coax her away from her friends (or a movie if it’s Friday) walk back to the car, break up an argument, get them both in their seats and buckled, and then get them home. Then I have to get HW done (which involves SERIOUS emotional management for (our daughter) (and me quite frankly), deal with the backpack, make dinner, and manage TV expectations (both what they watch, which is alwyas a flight, and how much they get to watch). Pick up alone is totally depleting, the hour afterward is hard too. And then you come home and see me on a chair or on the elliptical machine, and have that tone in your voice and/or look on your face when you hear they are watching a third show, and I can tell what you are thinking, or even if I don’t I know what you’re thinking, I know it’s NOT, oh I’m glad she’s getting a minute to sit down or work out.
I won’t even go into all the invisible mental energy I expend dealing with her school and making sure everything is turned in and that our family is participating in an effective way (and I’m not talking PTA, but just paperwork that needs to be turned in for her, and meetings that needed to be attended as a parent, not a PTA officer).
I know I’ve had a lot of stuff going on in the evenings and you’ve had to take over bedtime and it’s hard, but surely if we tallied every night either one of us has been alone for bedtime, even just since (our son) was born and not before with just (our daughter), I’m still behind you by a lot. Which means I’VE had countless more of those incredibly tiring nights, and that has just been the expectation. There was no, oh I can’t wait for it to go back to normal, because that just was normal. (I also think those nights are so much more exhausting for you because on a night where we “split” bedtime, I’m doing more, which means you taking over my “half” is more depleting for you than when I have to take over your half when you’re gone.)
And that is really where I’m at with all of this. It’s not the whole set up, because I know that is never going to change. I’m always going to be the one doing pick up every day (except when one of our parents take it on), and I know I’ll be the one to get up first every morning, and I know I’ll be the primary parent at school. It’s just the expectation that I will do those things, and the lack of acknowledgement. It’s that, when I’m not available to do everything I usually do, there isn’t a thought of “holy shit she does a fucking lot and must be exhausted,” instead it’s I can’t wait for it to go back to being “fair.”
I wish so badly we could actually change places for a month so each of us could better understand where the other is coming from. I’m sure I would better appreciate how overwhelming everything feels for you, and I’m sure you would understand better where I’m coming from. But we can’t do that. Instead we have to fall back on empathy. I try to be empathetic. I do. I believe you are doing the best you can, and that is a big reason why I step in and do what I do, in the mornings, in the afternoons/evenings, and at school. I do it because I really do believe our family is better off if I just get that shit done. But I feel like instead of getting empathy back, what I get is an expectation that I will do it all, and frustration and resentment when I can’t.
I know we’ve had this conversation a million times, especially when I am overwhelmed and can’t keep up with all that I normally do. I know the actual dynamics aren’t going to change, I’m just hoping our attitudes might. Please let me know where I need to clarify my own understandings and perceptions, because I know they can’t possibly be accurate – I’m a human being and not a machine. Hopefully we can figure out a way to better support each other, because this year is going to be really stressful for me, and that could really upset things at home if we’re not tackling this stuff proactively.
Sorry for the long email, which I know you hate. I figured it was better than a hostile conversation, which I know you hate more.