Trudging Onward

Thank god it’s Friday. Not that the weekends provide much respite, but at least I don’t have to wake up at 5am for two days. Of course we lose an hour on Sunday morning…

Yep, it’s finally light when I show up at work now, but after we spring forward it will be dark again at 6am. That is probably for the best. I’ve endured a few moments of complete panic when I thought I had looked at my watch wrong and was going to be late for work, all because it wasn’t pitch dark outside when I opened the garage door.

Things are looking up a bit at home, with my daughter. That really bad month was clearly her working through a big cognitive jump and now that she’s on the other side of it, things have calmed down. Her tantrums have been less intense, mostly in their duration, and she has even managed to pull it together to earn something she wants. We have settled on what I believe are developmentally appropriate dinnertime expectations–take one “no thank you” bite, share her good news and bad news, and listen to our good news and bad news, then she can be excused–and that has defused some of the stress in the evenings. She’s still having nightmares, but much less frequently. She’s also handling it better when I’m away, maybe because I’ve been careful to only go out once during the work week evenings.

At school she is eating her lunch again, and some days she even naps.

We saw our therapist at Kai.ser yesterday and even though my daughter was crazy hyper and bouncing all over the place, he felt confident that she wasn’t displaying any of the signs of ADD or anxiety, which is what I was most worried about (the anxiety, not the ADD). He didn’t really have any great tips for what to do at home, but I appreciated having a professional tell me that all her challenges fall within the realm of “normal.” I’ll be calling him to follow up next week but I don’t think we’ll be doing too much more at Kaiser. If things get really difficult again I have the number of a place that does kid/parent play therapy that is supposed to be really great. It’s expensive as hell, but at least we have somewhere to go if we need it.

Things at work are crazy. I’m totally underwater trying to get a million papers, tests and projects graded before the end of the trimester next Friday. It’s hard because I have to take time away from my family (or sleep) to get this shit done, and being away from my family is hard on everyone. I probably should be grading papers right now, instead of writing this.

I’ve been feeling really… unsatisfied in my marriage lately. My husband and I are just such different people, with such different needs. We were able to navigate those challenges well enough before our lives became so frenetic with kids and work. Now, when our daughter is finally done coming out of her room at 10pm, we have no time to even sit together before we go to bed. Even when we do find a moment to be together, my husband wants to sit with his headphones on, doing stuff on his computer, while I want to talk. If he does humor me by putting his computer away, he still doesn’t participate much in a conversation. I usually end up going to bed feeling lonely and angry.

We also have this horrible, underlying current of resentment flowing between most of our interactions because neither of us feels the other appreciates what we do. We’ve had an ongoing fight about who has a harder day, and I finally decided to be the bigger person and just concede that it probably is harder for him, even though he does less with the kids, because being with them is more taxing for him and leaves him feeling more exhausting. He accepted my concession, but said nothing about all the insane amount of shit that I do for everyone. It pissed me off and I’m not saying anything about it because I know I will sound like a total bitch if I do, and then he can just feel like he’s the bigger person. Maybe that is true.

I honestly can’t figure out why I get so upset at the idea of him not validating, or even acknowledging, what I do for our family. I know it has more to do with me than with him, but I haven’t managed to tease the many tangled narratives–social, cultural, personal–apart well enough to understand my own feelings. The truth is, he may validate me quite frequently, but he’s clearly not doing it in the ways I need. If I can’t figure out what I need him to do, how can I expect him to do it?

Of course, there are things I have figured out that I need him to do, like hug me every once in a while and engage in a meaningful conversation with me, and he doesn’t do those things either, even though I’ve told him over and over again how important they are.

I have been thinking we should go to therapy again, because I’m so SICK of having the same interaction over and over again when nothing changes, and now that it’s so hard for us to have a meaningful conversation, I feel like we almost need to schedule it with a third party to make sure that it happens. He would hate that idea, and so I don’t even want to bring it up. But then knowing that he doesn’t want to do it makes me think he doesn’t care, or that he doesn’t care enough to do the work. I know it’s way more nuanced and complicated than that, but when things feel this hopeless it’s hard not to see it in black and white.

This weekend I have a baby shower for a good friend and I’m going to be spending the whole thing not talking about how parenting has mangled my marriage and left me feeling a haggard mess at the end of each day.

Yep! Congrats on the new baby!

How are you feeling these days? Do you feel your marriage is negatively affected by parenting? How do you remedy, or avoid, that?

11 Comments

  1. I identify with a lot of what you wrote about marriage. Things are (somewhat) better these days. It helps that the kids go to bed by 8:30 most nights (though L still wakes up multiple times & comes to our bedroom) so we have SOME time for ourselves or each other, but we both want different things, and though I’ve discussed what I need (and very specifically) over and over for YEARS, it still isn’t really happening. And I’m tired of bringing up the same thing over and over again and getting nowhere. And I do feel lonely some nights, when I’m not too tired to care. I get caught in this thing where part of me wants to just figure out how to be happy despite these issues and part of me things “that’s not fair! he should meet me halfway!” and wants to discuss it again. Eventually that second part wins over and we have a big “discussion” (fight) and things may improve for a few days/weeks and then the cycle start again. Yet again, I GET IT.

    1. “I get caught in this thing where part of me wants to just figure out how to be happy despite these issues and part of me things “that’s not fair! he should meet me halfway!” and wants to discuss it again.” THIS! THIS!!!!!! I was just thinking that clearly I just need to figure out how to be happy in this marriage because he obviously can’t change. But then I think, why should I change?! Why can’t he?! It’s so frustrating. I’m just so tired of doing this over and over again.

      Thanks for making me feel less alone on this. I wish you weren’t going through it too, but it makes me feel better knowing I’m not the only one who has these issues.

  2. What a lovely remark about his not validating you as you would want him to. Such perspective involved. This period in parenting and marriage is simply tough on everyone. Just like your daughter moved through a very hard time this part of marriage and young children and working will also move through and change.
    Clearly the two you need a break and time together alone…. think a weekend. And then come back to reality and I don’t see how that could happen. But realizing how powerful it would be is a good way to remember the positives in your marriage and the amazing achievements you two have accomplished.
    Life simply isn’t equality and recognition/praise for what we do; we culturally still condition girls but not boys to acknowledge others and this is one of the points in life where this pattern trips us up.
    Being single I sometimes thing marriage automatically has the green grass and I sometimes forget the grass isn’t really greener but just different. This time I got it
    Hurrah for the positive news re your daughter! Ruling out big problems is wonderful and then seeing her move forward developmental is frosting on the cake.
    I am so looking forward to your summer vacation from work. Know it will be grand even with it being a long slog away from Right Now.

  3. There seem to be many parallels between your daughter and g. He also goes through pretty regular cycles (his amazing preschool teacher called them periods of contraction and expansion). During the times of contraction, everything is affected (eating, sleeping and, especially, coping skills). From your telling it seems that your daughter may somewhat more intense but I understand the struggles. It helps me to remember that the difficult times pass but it’s not always terribly effective when we are deep in it.

    And I guess it’s obvious that I feel you on the effect of children on relationships. Sometimes parenting feels like an impossible undertaking!

  4. Would it help if I suggested that what you’re going through is a natural stage? Parenting at this point is physically draining and relentless. The physical demands eventually recede as the kids gain abilities and independence (and then you get different kinds of stressors, yay!). This, too, shall pass.

    Also, regarding validation, I’ll share something profound from my teacher: anything emotional you’re expecting from someone else? Give it to yourself. So if you need an atta girl or a thank you or a sense of satisfaction or appreciation, give it to yourself. If you look inward, you’ll get your needs met and the relationship may be under less strain. Like so many things, it’s simple but not necessarily easy.

  5. Have you tried date nights? Getting out of the house together sort of forces interaction. I know, I know, spouses should WANT to interact together. However, with young kids, you’re often so drained that you both rather relax in the evening in front of a screen of some kind — computer/TV/tablet/phone etc..

  6. All I’m going too Say is YOU DO AN AMAZING JOB and deserve to be supported x And that I’m pumped isa is totally normal x

  7. I totally had a moment a few hours ago where just a “thanks for all you” or “I really appreciate you” would have really helped me. My husband is great with the kids but I truly think he just doesn’t have a clue about how much work I do. I go back to work full time on Monday and I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe, he’ll notice it then. But probably not. I agree with the comments above. I think this is all pretty normal and (hopefully) a stage that we need to get through! You’re doing an amazing job with juggling everything. We all are.

    1. Sometimes I say the “thanks for your hard work” out loud to myself if my spouse is belittling what I’ve been doing (this is relatively seldom but more lately since I’m home so little and the time I am here, I’m pretty wiped out after the 3 hour drive home for the weekend so I congratulate myself for even the smallest accomplishment). There was a time when the kid was younger (I think about 2 but she could have been 4) where I had the bulk of kid transport for about 8 hours of me driving her places and I resented it to no end. Then on days I felt fed up, I thanked myself within hearing distance of my spouse, and miraculously the hint was taken and my spouse also started thanking me! Now I’m in the spot to be saying thanks often so I try to be responsive and acknowledge all the work that goes into making things happen. I’d say that with one who is in school it’s a lot easier to feel like we have a relationship and not just “hang together or hang separately” roommate relationship so hopefully this phase passes quickly for you.

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