Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You don’t understand how hard it is

I’ve commented a few times about Moms who say “you don’t understand how hard it is” as a refrain on their stories of raising children. And I realize that I’ve probably sounded overly harsh and should amend a little. The thing is – I didn’t understand how hard it could be to be a Mom. I probably still don’t understand how hard it can sometimes be, as I’m extremely lucky to have great balance in my life by working part time and a great support system / wonderful husband. I was thinking about it the other day and realized that I really wasn’t sure how I’d manage to handle any other version of my life – be it working full time and having to spend so much time away from my baby (watching her be raised by her grandmother – though she’s a wonderful woman, I think I’d always envy (maybe resent?) that) or be it staying at home all the time and never getting a day “off” – every day looking exactly the same. Into eternity. (Keep in mind that I’m the girl who refused to add extra pages in my day planner (yes, it was actually paper, not electronic) for anything after college graduation because I didn’t have a job yet and I therefore had no plans. Nothing. What exactly was I doing with my life? Yeah, I’m a little type A to exist without a schedule.) So all I can say is that I understand that I don’t understand.

That said… I have to share the most recent “you don’t understand how hard it is.” This one came from – my husband! Because of his shift work schedule (24 hours on, 48 hours off) and my part time schedule, we share child care responsibility. On days he works, I watch the baby and vice versa with his Mom watching her 1 or 2 days as well. There are many advantages to this, but one of the great ones is – never once has my husband come home from work to see that the laundry isn’t done, the house is mess and nothing has changed and asked me – what do you do all day? (Note – just to be clear, he has come home to undone laundry, a messy house and no progress made! He just doesn’t ask that question. Because he KNOWS what I do all day.) The sad reality is that I do sometimes ask a question something like that… (Holy 1950’s role reversal, Batman!) Ok, so before you are ready to string me up, let me give context! Some days he gets through EVERYTHING wonderfully – errands have been run, the baby is fed and possibly even bathed and dinner is made. Those days are pretty darn impressive! But some days, the baby has only been given a bottle all day – no cereal, no veggies (which I’m trying to get in consistently every day because we’re trying new ones and watching for allergies). And I admit it – those days I start to head down a path of 1950’s husband (I stop short of asking why my martini isn’t made – though, as an aside, wouldn’t that be awesome? I don’t know how many people referenced the pregnant women drinking martinis in Mad Men when I was tee totaling during my pregnancy…). This may not be entirely fair – as I know some days she can be nearly impossible (have I mentioned the teething recently?). But there is a little more to it…

What he’s actually said isn’t just “you don’t understand” – as that wouldn’t make sense. I’ve spent days home alone with this very child and therefore should actually understand reasonably well. He’s said – “you don’t understand how hard it is for me, as a Dad. You’re a Mom. It comes naturally to you.” I’ve tried to argue that it doesn’t actually come naturally to me (I’m not sure I believe in “it comes naturally” for anyone anymore.), but he’s not buying it (I must just make it look so easy – ha!).

At first I was a little annoyed by the argument – ‘it’s easier for you’ sounded like an excuse. But then… well, then I started to think about it and realized, maybe it is easier for me – NOW. It wasn’t easier for me or more natural. But maybe the fear and frustration he’s feeling now are akin to what I felt in April – those first days and weeks doing it on my own when my Mom had left and he was back at work and I had no idea what to do / what I was doing / how to do anything. There were days then that I cried a lot. I’m not sure he knew how much I cried – and I guess truly internally I was saying quite a lot of ‘you don’t understand’s to him, even if I wasn’t vocalizing. We were having a lot of discussions about whether I’d go back to work those days and I was gripped with fear from every angle – going back seemed awful and scary and staying home seemed really pretty darn scary too – those long days of my uncertainly stretching into infinity…

There are still days where I feel amazing frustration or fear or, let’s face it, boredom, now. But because I was at home everyday on my own for weeks on end in the spring, a single day here or there doesn’t bother me as much. I can usually make up some vague errand that “needs” to be done or something to get me through the day (to actually leave the house and see other adult humans!). What’s kind of funny to me is my husband can usually make up a lot of excuses to leave the house too – they’ve gone to museums, they meet me for lunch, they run errands. Maybe he’s actually TOO good at making up those errands – explaining why other stuff doesn’t get done!

So now that I’ve let that all out… where was I going with that? Basically, I guess there are lots of things I wanted to say – first to apologize for where I’ve been overly critical of others’ complaints (though I know I’ll probably do it again!), but second to come to some understanding of my husband’s complaints and his side of the argument – and hope that he’ll understand mine.

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