My sister-in-law sent this article around our family a few days ago. I have many thoughts about it, but haven’t had a chance to share them. I’ll do so here.
This article may be true for many couples. But I’m not sure it can be accurately said of mine. I think my husband’s job very likely meets if not rivals mine in stress and intensity. Interestingly, we are both in service occupations, and caring for people is difficult. Both of us have been thrown into jobs with little direction, and on site teaching. Both are required to do tasks we’ve never done before. Both of our actions poise potentially life threatening consequences. Okay, maybe my job doesn’t qualify for that statement, but I’ll admit to constant worry about the long term consequences of my actions. Both of us deal with sleep deprivation- he, more so these days. Both are forced to multitask. So, as Ms. Senior says, “Its about the perception of equality.” At least when comparing careers, for me, we are equal- if not, he wins out on the more stressful, less-desirable front. Granted, I have only two children, and they are both perhaps on the “easy” side. And Tom is in the most intense year of what is already a grueling residency. I may have to revisit this article in, ahem, six years.
That being said the article did confirm that I am not alone on two fronts:
I loved this description of an emotion I feel often:
“Being compelled to divide and subdivide your time doesn’t just compromise your productivity and lead to garden-variety discombobulation. It also creates a feeling of urgency—a sense that no matter how tranquil the moment, no matter how unpressured the circumstances, there’s always a pot somewhere that’s about to boil over.”
And to go along with it, the final kicker:
“They found that while leisure time went a long way toward relaxing fathers, it did far less to subdue anxiety in mothers. So what, you may ask, did calm the mothers?
Simple: Seeing their husbands make a bigger effort to reduce the pandemonium in the house.”
I’ll admit to feeling both comforted and annoyed by the realization that I’m not alone in wishing my hubs would assert himself more in the maintenance of the house. (He’s fabulous about caring for the kids! He always puts the boys to bed if he’s home.) When I let my negative brain kick in I started to feel the “Uh! Men!” slur arise. Which I quickly released, because I believe polarization is damaging. (Did you read the Pope’s speech?) But I was reminded of the many times when I’ve tried to suppress (usually unsuccessfully) frustration when Tom requested his day off be a “fun family day.” His desire for relaxation is always justified, and his intent to connect meaningfully with our boys is admirable. But more often than not I feel overwhelmed by the mounting list of tasks that our home requires. And the thought of once again tackling them all single handedly, almost brings me to tears. Wait, who am I kidding, I always have six hands tackling these tasks. Oh, that’s the problem! Somehow research proving that I am not alone in finding “relaxation” less than relaxing made me feel less like an uptight nag, and more of a normal woman. (Though logically I can appreciate this strength of men. Letting things go, relaxing.)
All this being said, there was a day or two there where these thoughts simmered and made me a little angsty. And then this happened, because, well, I married a saint: Tom called to say he was going to come home early. He could listen to his lecture at the library. I suggested he watch it from home, while the boys were doing their quiet time so I could run errands, etc. He watched his lecture, took the boys to Tae Kwan Do, and to my greatest delight made sure that Scotland attended to his chore of picking up the basement, and then made dinner. You better believe that that night as we watched “Cinderella” as a family (fabulous movie, if you haven’t seen the new one.) I was as relaxed and as present as could be. It was one of those idealic family evenings. The love was plentiful, and I did my best to etch it in my memory forever.
What made for the success? Two things. First, I was clear about my needs and expectations. “How about you come home so I can run out alone.” and “Scotland has to complete three things before he can watch a movie: 1, 2, 3.” And second, Tom was sensitive enough to catch my sincerity when I said “I’m feeling overwhelmed;” and willing enough to respond- not only by caring for the boys for the rest of the afternoon, but also by taking care of of the pressing household tasks. I’ll say it again, I married a saint.