Truly Equal?

7 Jan

Oh my, dear lovies. I know I don’t come here nearly as often as I should. Going back to work has been a total clusterfuck. For reals.

Luckily, the holiday means that things are just now starting to gear up again, so miraculously, it is Monday at 11pm my time, Shmerson is asleep (long night with a fussy Bunny), Bunny is (thank FSM!) asleep. Dishes are done. Bottles are sterilized, and I for once have an empty inbox.

Miracles do happen.

A lot of posts have been brewing for quite some time now. But I think it’s time I pull this one out.

Let’s talk a little about marriage and equality, shall we?

Not marriage equality – though I’m all about that! The other stuff. The man-woman-in-a-post-feminist-world stuff.

So let’s start with this: Anybody who reads this blog knows I have a very happy marriage. You also know that Shmerson and I have been through the ringer more or less since the moment we got married.

I admit – having gone through all the shit we’d gone through – I thought we were made of steel.

Nothing like a baby to make you think twice.

Don’t worry guys – spoiler alert: We ARE made of steel. But it took a while to circle around back to it.

Let’s break it down like this:

This month marks six years since Shmerson and I got together.

Up until Bunny was born we had exactly 4 big fights.

Yep. Four.

Since Bunny’s birth we’ve had… I think it’s been 7 but I may be off by one or two in either direction. For us, relatively speaking, that may as well be a million.

Man – a baby changes things.

The thing is each of those fights has been exactly the same: I feel overwhelmed. Shmerson doesn’t help. I get pissed off. Shmerson gets pissed off because he feels like he is helping, and what the hell am I so angry about? I explain that I don’t only need practical, physical help. I need him to be more active and present. He kind of gets it. Then it happens again and we realize that he only kind of got it, and I’m being unfair and unclear. And on and on it goes.

It was starting to feel like a never ending cycle. I’m going to unpack that cycle for you guys, in the hopes that it helps someone out there. I’m going to go into some mundane detail, but bear with me. This has a point.

The fact is, that I spend more time at home and with Bunny. I work at home 3 days a week. Shmerson doesn’t. That makes me the “primary caregiver” for all intents and purposes.

That also makes my life very very VERY hard. I work a full time job. My day starts at 7am, and most nights ends at 2am, with interrupted sleep because even though she generally sleeps through the night now, Bunny still has her moments.

The thing is, it’s nonstop. 5 hours of sleep (on a good night) after NO TIME to do anything. Ever. When I’m not taking care of Bunny, I’m working. Or running errands. Or taking care of dinner. Or working. Or working.

Yeah – I work a lot. But I kind of have to. It’s a full time job. I have NO TIME during the week. NONE.

This is a sucky situation. Nothing can be done about it at the moment because Shmerson has a 4 hour commute every day, and Bunny is still too young (and it’s way too winter) to go to day care. I know I will have an easier time once she goes half days to day care, so I’m powering through till March. But I am spent in every sense of the word.

When Shmerson comes home in the evening we split things very evenly. He gets home, spends a bit of time with Bunny and then we both give her her bath. That’s quality family time. Then he dresses her and puts her down for the night while I get dinner ready. We have dinner, and put something on the TV for an hour while Shmerson does dishes, sterilizes bottles, and takes out the dog. I usually spend this time answering emails and working. Four nights a week I take night duty – which basically means giving Bunny her dream feed and waking up to her in the middle of the night as needed, and Shmerson gets the other three nights. Weekends we try to give each other time to unwind. I usually do the shopping because it gives me some time to decompress, while Shmerson takes care of laundry and other household chores, pays bills and watches Bunny. I almost always have to catch up on some missed work. On Saturdays, he lets me sleep late, and I let him get in some afternoon naps.

So really – we’re as even as we can get right now in terms of housework and taking care of Bunny. I have to do more just because I’m home more. But Shmerson really tries to make up as much as he can on the weekends. We’re planning on moving closer to where we both work to make it easier on both of us – but that’s still far away (we need to find time to house hunt. Not going to happen until Bunny is in day care).

So in the middle of the week I’m spent. But it’s as even as it can get for the time being when it comes to the workload.

But for months, I felt like everything was on my shoulders. Everything.

Shmerson and I truly do strive for an equal partnership. But when it came to raising Bunny, there were two factors impeding this:

1) I’m a very pro-active person who likes making quick decisions, and Shmerson is generally non-confrontational and doesn’t like to argue.

2) I carried Bunny and gave birth to her.

Look – I know how that second one looks. I know that’s a wonderful thing that I should be and I am very grateful for. But when it comes to equality – it’s a huge issue.

Here’s how it breaks down: I carried her, which makes Shmerson have to “work” a little differently than me to connect to her. He connects beautifully. He’s an amazing father. But it’s a different experience, and it makes him feel “less than” me. It also fucks with his confidence when it comes to dealing with her. He’s not “less than” at all. He just feels that way because he didn’t carry her. Does that make sense?

Add to that the fact that – let’s be honest – I make most of our decisions. It’s not that Shmerson doesn’t participate. I just “drive” more. And Shmerson really likes it that way. He’s very much a “go with the flow” kind of guy. It’s a win-win. I get to be a control freak, he gets to enjoy the ride. No harm, no foul

Here’s the problem: Now there’s a third person in this equation. A whole life which WE – not I but WE are responsible for. If I’m doing the driving, and Shmerson isn’t even looking at a map, it’s on my head if we get lost.

And that’s the kicker. That’s a whole lot of weight on my shoulders alone.

Health. Education. Well-Being.

Sleep training. Feeding. Medical decisions. Watching out for developmental milestones. Vaccination schedules. Deciding what we have for dinner. Figuring out what to do with the dog when the neighbors complain. I was doing it ALL.

And it was killing me. The pressure. I felt like it was on me wholly. That Shmerson was along for the ride. Not ever driving. Not ever giving directions.

So the first fight – we realized that he was insecure. At that point I backed off and made sure to leave him alone and let him take care of Bunny as he saw fit, so he understood that I trusted him. He acknowledged my lack of time and was more respectful with taking Bunny off of my hands when he got home from work so I could have a bit more time.

Second fight – we realized that there was just more stuff that I knew. In the no time that I had I was doing research. Reading up on what to do and when. Talking to people. Shmerson didn’t know where to start on that one. So I told him to go read a couple of books to get up to speed. He started reading.

Third fight – we realized that I was making all of the decisions, and not allowing Shmerson his opinion. I started discussing things more with him, and he started coming to the table armed with information so that our discussions were informed and didn’t end with “do your research and you’ll know I’m right”.

Fourth fight – I was still making all of the decisions, though now there was informed discussion. Shmerson was more informed, but he still wasn’t “getting it.”

Fifth fight – I finally managed to put into words what he wasn’t “getting.” The fact that apart from being the primary caregiver, things were all on me. That I not only needed him to make decisions with me and to get informed, I sometimes needed him to be the one to start the conversation. To come to me before I came to him. To be active in the process of raising our daughter. He needed to initiate conversations sometimes. Make decisions without being asked (or sometimes begged) to.

The next morning, when I walked into the kitchen, I found salmon thawing by the sink.

Shmerson had decided what we were having for dinner. Without me having to ask him to decide.

I wanted to cry I was so happy. It was one less thing to worry about that day. And that’s a HUGE deal.

But there were still a couple more fights to come. We wanted to be truly equal parents. That’s effing hard when one of us is the one home more often. The one with more confidence. And let’s be honest -a complete effing control freak.

I needed to learn to let go and he needed to learn to take control. Things that are completely against our natures.

Then last night – I had my trumpets of triumph moment. I finally felt like we made it to the other side.

Bunny has been acting “off” for a couple of weeks. She’s going through a major developmental leap and is becoming way more aware of herself and her surroundings. I also think she’s started teething early because she wants to CHEW ALL THE THINGS all the time. The last week or so, sleep during the day has become a battle. She won’t go down for naps, and by the time bed time rolls around, things are insane. We’ve been using the Baby Whisperer method but no matter what I’ve tried – nap time is a nightmare.

So I’ve been at the end of my rope. Putting her down for a nap, and getting her to sleep in general has been on the verge of traumatic for me for more than a week now. It’s just effing hard. I know we’ll get past it. But it’s hard.

Last night, at 4am, Bunny decided it was time to wake up and play. She’s usually a champion sleeper at night. Last night it was a freaking circus.

It was my night, so for over an hour I tried to get her back to sleep. At 5:20 am I woke Shmerson up and told him that I need to sleep so I’m doing the worst thing ever and bringing Bunny into bed with us because I’m spent.

Then Bunny decided she didn’t like being in bed with us either and started to cry. At this point I was mechanically patting her on the back and literally begging her to sleep. That’s when Shmerson took the reins.

He grabbed Bunny and ordered me to sleep. He took her to her room and spent the next HOUR AND A HALF getting her back to sleep. By the time she was asleep it was time for him to leave for work. But I got 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep after that, and woke up to a happy Bunny. We both got to sleep late.

And when I walked in the kitchen, there was chicken thawing by the sink.

At that moment, I understood that we made it. We were equal. Finally, Shmerson took the wheel when I was too tired to drive. And I didn’t even have to ask. He just did it.

And I knew I was no longer alone.

Tonight, Shmerson came home to an early dinner and a calm Bunny (it was a miraculous day today. Naps were had). I let him go to bed early and I’m taking the dream feed even though it’s his night. I also took a break from my inbox to walk the dog and sterilize the bottles, so he could get a bit more sleep.

Because he got only 3 hours of sleep last night. And I got to sleep in.

Tonight – it was my turn to drive.

And that’s ok because I know he’ll be back at the wheel when I need him to be.

I know we’ll still have hiccups. This is a huge learning process. But I think we’re finally starting to hit a balance. We’ll never be 100% equal – things will always sway back and forth because it’s life, and that’s how life works. But the weight is now starting to be on two pairs of shoulders instead of one.

And that makes all the difference in the world.

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20 Responses to “Truly Equal?”

  1. JP January 7, 2014 at 01:02 #

    How wonderful!

  2. Courtney January 7, 2014 at 01:49 #

    FABULOUS! You guys got there much sooner than we did. Kudos to Shmerson for figuring it out (with your help, of course).

    B is cooking dinner with Matthew right now. He is only happy with fancy meals, and I just don’t have time for that shit. I told him a while back that dinner is his gig if he’s not happy with grilled meat and steamed veggies. So he’s taken dinner over. Hooray!

  3. nickeecoco January 7, 2014 at 02:01 #

    I love this! It sounds like you have an excellent marriage, and you work hard for it. I hope things continue to go well for you, Shmerson, and Bunny.

  4. Suz January 7, 2014 at 02:28 #

    This. Is. Awesome. I’m so happy for y’all!

    Why is it that figuring out what’s for dinner is so darn complicated?! Hubbs and I have that same conversation all the time.

  5. Amy January 7, 2014 at 02:49 #

    OMFG, I could have written some of this! Well, the first part of it. My DH doesn’t step in to help. He is very non-confrontational, which doesn’t help b/c I am so fried and exhausted and stressed I could kill him six ways to Sunday right now. Sometimes I feel like he never will get it. My son is a horrible napper and is getting worse, and now getting him down at night is such a battle I dread night time. My house is a sty, I can’t accomplish the simplest task without interruption, and I feel ineffective at work and home. I’ve contemplated asking for an increase in my Zo.loft just to help me cope. All decisions and appointments truly are on me, and since Asher is in daycare 3 days a week he’s had 3 ear infections, bronchiolitis and a case of hives in the last 2 months, so all missed work time is on me, too. I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack some days. And then I feel like an asshole, because *this* is what we strived for all those years, all that money and those precious lost twins and all the grief and heartache. :(

  6. Nisha T. January 7, 2014 at 03:29 #

    Yup, we had the same fight over and over too. Totally normal and you do eventually get there (with some backslides along the way)!

  7. Theresa January 7, 2014 at 04:12 #

    Love this!

  8. Jennifer January 7, 2014 at 04:41 #

    Love this blog. I’m sure you’ll have more fights, but it’s great that you’re finding your flow. My husband and I started fighting more after our daughter was born as well. I never, ever called him a name until I was sleep-deprived and mad as hell about something I can’t remember, and out came the “jerk” and whatnot.

    Raising a child is just so.much.work. I think that is the fundamental problem. It just never ends – or maybe it does when they go to school?

  9. Esperanza January 7, 2014 at 06:15 #

    Your relationship has always been a source of inspiration but now I am incredibly impressed. I’ve always hoped for a relationship like the one you are working towards (and have now, it looks like, achieved) and while we’re closer than we’ve ever been after having a second child (out of necessity more than anything else) I don’t think we’ll ever really be there. I think it’s awesome that you guys have made it. I will look to you for further inspiration as we try to make our relationship more equal. I hope some day, we can get there.

  10. Esperanza January 7, 2014 at 06:29 #

    Oh, and can I say that I GET IT about how much pressure it is to be the one who makes all the parenting decisions. I try to make my husband understand how difficult that is but he doesn’t. And he never reads anything and he never has ideas for how to make challenging situations better. It drives me CRAZY. It’s a really big problem in our relationship. I think it’s awesome the S is willing to read and do research and learn so that he can help you make the big decisions. THAT IS AWESOME. I’m quite envious of that.

  11. Angel January 7, 2014 at 06:38 #

    This. This is exactly what we went through. (Are going through, whatever)

    Good news though- after a rough wonder week developmentally, they sleep. A lot. It’s bliss.

  12. Alissa January 7, 2014 at 07:33 #

    I am so happy to hear this. The ‘equal’ parenting thing is one of the HARDEST balances to come to. In almost every case, the woman ends up doing more, especially when the mother is nursing. Mike and I are still attempting to get it right after a year. I think we are close, but the communication needs to be better. You two are awesome.

  13. psychsarah January 7, 2014 at 13:45 #

    Thank you for sharing this! It took me rushing back to when my son was born and reminded me of what to try and avoid when my daughter arrives any day now. DH and I have been together for 16 yrs now and I think we’re fairly equal and have a good marriage, but the first few months with a newborn got fairly ugly at times for many if the same reasons you described (I was home more, exhausted, kinda controlling, etc.). I now shake my head vigorously when people talk about having a baby to save a relationship! As if! Sounds like you two are working it out, which I think is the sign of a good marriage-it’s not that you never have issues, it’s that you work together to figure them out. Glad you’re both getting some sleep too. I saw a quote the other day that Im attempting to sear into my brain as we have a newborn again, sleep deprivation turns us all into tall two year olds. I’m hoping this will remind me to bite my tongue when necessary (I get super irritable without sleep and a wee but if time alone) to avoid the stupid fights where possible :)

  14. pjsarecomfyn January 7, 2014 at 18:53 #

    It is definitely an ebb and flow of equality. I had a much heavier plate before Jack turned 1. But toddlerhood, especially while pregnant, has swayed a lot more to Andy having more work. I decided early on that it wasn’t going to do either of us any good to try to keep track, which believe me took a LOT of effort. There are times I feel resentful when I am doing more to get ready for baby #2 and the splitting of housework will never be equal no matter how hard I push (I need it cleaner than he does), so i’ve just had to let that part go. But he gets way more of the rough stuff. If Jack is sick and has to stay home from daycare or if daycare is closed, Andy doesn’t sleep (since he works nights). We are struggling through a time in our lives when vacation and personal time is being hoarded for maternity leave, so as much as I want to, I can’t stay home with him.
    Basically what I am saying is there are times it is equal, there are times that it is not, and there are times when it is impossible to tell. My only advice is try to be as patient and understanding as you possibly can to eachother. You are in it together. Ask for help as gently as you can (I am terrible at this) and show grattitude and praise when he gives you what you need.
    Also the fact that you know the number of fights you have had is ridiculous! The longer you’ve been married, the better you get at fighting….I know being good at fighting probably isn’t high on your list of marital priorities, but believe me, it’s important to know when a fight is warranted, how to be efficient about it, and how to fight in a manner that doesn’t leave one or both of you ready to storm out/file for divorce/etc.
    I am glad you are “to the other side” and I know how hard this time can be. You guys are made of steel, you’ll get through anything.

  15. robin January 7, 2014 at 20:55 #

    So good that you are finding a balance!!!

    We also had a lot of trouble with feeding ourselves. What to do for dinner became a nightly agony. We ordered in a lot because we were too tired to make decisions. Then one weekend I took a few hours and made a very detailed meal plan. Now there are no more decisions, and my husband does the grocery ordering (online), and he cooks our meals while I cook for the babies. The meal plan included things like, Monday night turkey loaf (husband cooks), Tuesday night kids have turkey loaf (mommy reheats). So the whole thing fits together like a puzzle, with leftovers and new food being cooked at regular intervals, and shopping lists, and shopping schedules, and so on. Once this happened, LIFE CHANGED. Then it became easier to reassign some of the other tasks, because “deciding / making dinner” was no longer much of a task. Ahhhhhhh….

    • Mo January 7, 2014 at 21:07 #

      Good tip Robin! I might just try that…

  16. SRB January 7, 2014 at 21:53 #

    OH MAN. We have those kinds of fights…daily. So, that’s embarrassing to admit. I feel very resentful and ANGRY a lot of the time. I also am starting to realize that I like the martyrdom too so… yeah. Another BIG problem I have is “Help without asking me what to do, but also don’t do it wrong!” Round and round we go. Thank you for talking about this and laying bare how it is shaking out. Helps me be more serious about getting my shit together.

  17. Geochick January 7, 2014 at 22:22 #

    I hear ya. I’m the so called cruise director in my relationship. It’s hard because all of the sudden it becomes clear that if I fall apart, everything falls apart. It’s like you have to relearn how to communicate when all of the sudden someone else is wholly dependent in the both of you and you can’t eff it up! Slowly, with hiccups!

  18. oopsie23 January 8, 2014 at 22:44 #

    Omg. This made me cry. Because I feel all f this…ALL. THE. TIME. And my husband is amazing and wonderful and we had this same relationship pre-babies (we now have a 19 month old and a 7 month old. And yes. I’m going nuts.) and I just don’t think he will ever “get it”. I’m so glad that you guys are making it work better. Holy Cheesus, I hope the hubs and I can get there SOON.

  19. NewMom January 20, 2014 at 01:07 #

    My husband and I went through this, but maybe worse. My husband almost shut down when my son came home from the hospital. He worked 7 days a week just to not be home. I felt totally alone. But slowly things got better… and honestly things didn’t get “equal” baby 2. Now my husband is “super dad” as I call him. It’s a learning curve for sure! But he got there and reminded me why I married him in the first place!

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