I feel I’m about to say something a bit controversial here, but I also think I cannot be the only one who feels it.
Babies are so much easier than husbands.
Not that kids are easy in general by the way, just easi-ER. The role I play in raising my babies and developing a relationship with them is pretty clear to me. And courtesy of a really quite fabulous undergraduate degree and also a 10 year career working with children, I feel pretty confident in child development and generally looking after little people. So while it hasn’t always been a breeze- it’s been totally manageable for me so far.
But men? Grown up men? Them I just don’t have a really good idea about. And I rarely understand my role in a relationship with one. How does one effectively love and nurture a grown man?
Despite coming up on 13 years with my husband, including the 5 years of marriage- I still don’t really know what to make of him sometimes. And with children in the picture these days, the clarity on this is only getting worse.
Honestly, I really can’t tell if the way I am is the right way to be in a modern marriage. I often hear that I’m pretty easy-going/ accommodating. Actually more often I hear that I am too easy-going. And it’s very true that I usually am pretty comfortable that my husband does whatever he wants. After all- why shouldn’t he? He’s a grown up. I set this precedent pretty early in our relationship however. Before babies it was easy- he did his thing and I did mine and so it seemed to be. I was vaguely aware at the time that other women in straight relationships were often seemingly a bit more assertive than I was. Clever women. But early on all I needed from him was a bit of fun and companionship. And I just wanted him to be happy. Actually I think his feelings and his happiness were very much linked to mine. Still are really. So while I was always pretty clear on my feelings and when communicating what was going on with me- I really don’t think I asked him for all that much and just went on my merry way.
But as our lives have become increasingly intertwined up to the point now where they are virtually fused together, what he chooses to do has a much more profound effect on me and how I function. And since really- in some ways- we are both so different, it’s not always clear what the rules should be on this stuff.
Lately it’s been a really intense time for both of us. And sometimes it’s just really hard living with someone who is unhappy, disappointed, perpetually tired or worried. That probably sounds quite selfish, but it’s true. He’s been having a really hard time I think, especially with work. And since he often works upwards of 10, 12 or 15 hours a day- putting in all this massive effort with less return that is sought- is bloody exhausting for him. And sometimes I think quite depressing.
Yesterday, I’ve got to be honest with you, contrary to how I might’ve been in the past- I simply didn’t have the space to care about his concerns. I was so buggered from a night full of feeds and broken sleep and overwhelmed by an insurmountable load of housework. I’d done the nappy wash, the grocery shop, made dinner for everyone and of course packed the same toys and books away 3 times across the day. I was also feeling pretty snowed under with my own work prospects for next year. And as is very often the case- he missed arsenic hour and bedtime. Both girls crying, completely spent from their big days being tiny people. Me trying to keep my shit together, negotiating baths and bed time stories and all the rest of it. Completely forgot to do the teeth brush after the baths. I knew he’d had a hard day, but could I spare a thought for him when he walked in the door as I’m just finishing tucking the bigger girl in? ‘Fraid not. I’d done a butt tonne of work and dealt with child-sized rampages and I’d still managed to find some sense of accomplishment in all that, and keep my rosy disposition. I didn’t have the energy left to hold both myself and him together.
But still, I feel a strong sense of duty to help him. Followed immediately by total disempowerment and not being able to offer a solution or really even adequate support in my sleep deprived state.
The thing is- the way he operates professionally I think generally makes him quite content. But it’s not always easy on me. It usually means I do an awful lot of the child care, housework and social calendar planning on my own. It means a lot of nights spent solo, a lot of toddler tantrums handled by just my two hands while they’re also not allowed to put the baby down. When I’m feeling overloaded, it often gives me this kind of tunnel vision of each day. Just pushing through from one day to the next with the blinkers on.
I want him to be happy. And I frequently pick up a fuckload of slack and hard work so that he can do what he wants, as has been the status quo for most of our relationship. When we were younger it would have been fine because there was not all that much slack which needed an up-picking. But now, if I don’t do it- mostly- it doesn’t get done. And thus, when he actively complains about the nature of his work or seems to lose direction with it, I can just find it really difficult to be sympathetic.
I feel like a bitch. But there it is.
But then last night he was talking about how hard things have been, the toll it is taking and I was suddenly reminded that I do love him dearly and that’s what it’s all about. My heart hurt for him and his sad face. I was even more intensely annoyed than usual that I couldn’t just up and fix all the shit that’s going on for him.
Suddenly I remembered all the slack he’s constantly picking up so I can stay home with the girls. How difficult it must be for him that in order to support that fact- he works stupidly long hours and rarely takes proper care of himself. I realise that another core element of how he works is in order to steadily benefit our whole family. We’re all working hard. And when it all comes down to it- this time of life is a little bit bat shit crazy.
It’s not a clear cut system anymore.
He doesn’t just work 8-5, bring home the bacon while I stay home being a (sub-par) housewife, having a glass of wine at 3pm to dull out my boredom. Nope. We’ve both had careers and there’s no stock-standard hours in this household. Plus, most of the time at the moment we are some sort of combination between flat mates, allied soldiers and sleep-deprived, coffee-fuelled squirrels just passing by one another frantically a few times a day. And obviously zoning out to Netflix and scrolling through Facebook beside one another on the couch each night. It’s a fucking romantic image I know.
I work so that he can work so that I can work. I want to be a stay at home Mum right now so he facilitates that and he wants to always be his own boss so I do my best to facilitate that too. And I’ve got to tell you- it’s not as simple as this, but- I’ve got to try to keep that thought as the main image in my tunnel vision. Because life spent with another adult when you are raising little kids just is not easy. I have to constantly remind myself that it does get easi-ER. That by the time my oldest was 18 months old- we occasionally went on dates again, generally slept in the same bed again and were finally making actual eye contact and even laughing together again. We’re not there yet (which shits me to tears). But I’m pretty confident we will be once again, given time.
He’s not like me. And honestly, half the time he drives me bloody crazy with how nonsensically he seems to behave. How completely he seems to believe that shit gets done around here because the pixies come and sort it out. But he’s a good person and puts up with my shit too. And if anyone hurts his feelings or makes his life hard, I’m pretty much set to go to war. I still don’t know how to keep a husband. But I’m certainly intent to try.