I had lunch with an old friend (our kids went to the same preschool but I haven’t seen her since we left 3 years ago). She has two boys, ages 7 and almost 10. She suffered from infertility and decided that adoption was her path. She adopted her younger son, first, as an infant, and the birth mother decided some time later that she could not parent the older brother so my friend adopted him, too. Her older son suffers from anxiety and a form of ADHD and takes medication for both which has helped him immensely. I know that getting the dosage right has been stressful and she posts on FB a lot from a group called “Easy to Love but Hard to Raise”. What struck me most during our lunch was how zen she was. She is a full-time working out of the home mom. She has a challenging parenting situation with her older son, they are months into a huge home remodel that has them living in 2 rooms of their home, yet, she was so relaxed.
And it struck me because I feel far from that. I feel frenetic and angst ridden and antsy and out of sorts and not any of the things I thought I’d be almost 7 months post partum having achieved what I consider to be my life’s biggest dream, being a mother of two. In one very important way, I do feel settled and at peace and that is with my post-infertile self. I’m at a loss in describing just how much life space (head, heart, soul) not being in the trenches, no longer struggling, not having to figure out how/when/if there is going to be a child or another child in my life has been freed. Battling to create and complete our family took up the better part of my waking life for eight years. Eight years is 17% of my life. Still, I am grateful, grateful, grateful. Other than living through the death of my brother, nothing has been more life affirming than being on the other side of and having lived through infertility.
Beyond that, though, I am unsettled. My marriage is strained. The demands of having two children so far apart in age has us almost single parenting each boy. Because of baby’s nap time (and because he is not good at sleeping on the fly in his carrier), one of us is with our older son at his activities and the other is home with baby. We do get out as a family, mostly for dinner or on the weekend between nap #1 and #2, but there is a new rhythm and monotony to our life now. And, since I usually wake at 4 (sometimes 5 if I am lucky), I am dead dog tired by 8 PM, and sometimes am asleep before our older son goes to bed. As discontented as I am about the family dynamic, I’m won to do anything about it.
Most men aren’t intuitive parents like women are, nor are they adept at noticing what needs to be done. If my husband doesn’t set a reminder in his phone to do one of the myriad household chores that are his domain, they won’t get done, despite the fact that he’s been doing them for a decade. This alone creates a lot of stress between us. The trash cans need to be put out every Wednesday evening (which means that the household trash should be collected prior to putting the cans out). The dog poop needs to be picked up several times each week. The dry cleaning needs to be taken in/picked up weekly. When the dog food container is nearing empty, new food needs to be procured. These are the predictable tasks that are his responsibility. No one ever has to ask me to: go to the grocery; plan or make meals; pick-up/clean-up messes; do the laundry; do the dishes; make doctor appointments; clean the house in between bi-weekly visits from our cleaning lady; pay the bills; make sure our policies are up to date; buy clothes; get prescriptions re-filled; schedule our older son’s activities; schedule baby play dates, etc. Why do I have to mind him?
I know this may seem like a gripe-fest. The issue is really that if we can’t partner in the running of our household it creates resentment issues in our relationship. In order for most long term relationships to work, there has to be balance, however that is defined and achieved by the parties involved. It is beyond burdensome for me to have to manage my husband, too. It is up to him to bring something to the party, so to speak. It is a long standing bone of contention between us and I am fully aware that the bitterness and resentment it creates is what chips away at the foundation of our marriage.
And, it’s not that he won’t do things. My husband is actually very good at doing them, without complaint. From early in our relationship, if I gave him a “Honey-Do” list, he would make his way through it happily. It’s that he doesn’t think to/remember to do things and it is up to me to constantly remind him. And, now, with the baby, I can’t be responsible to. And, I like order. I was raised that chores and responsibilities come before leisure and I believe that and hold myself to that standard. And I feel that my husband should do the same (but he puts leisure first, saying ‘I’ll get to it” (whatever ‘it’ is) and then ALWAYS forgets). Before he gets on his computer for 5 or 6 hours, he needs to check-off his list so that I don’t wake up in the morning and find his disarray from the night before.
Ugh, I sound so whiny and I KNOW that these are first world problems, but it creates such discontent in our house (and, believe me, I have other contributors like my inability to lose weight, my not knowing what I’m going to do for work, the upcoming change to our older son’s school, the estrangement from my family and how I’ll handle upcoming invitations to both my nephews birthdays). I’m not sure what the answer is and it goes in fits and spurts (like, when my husband senses I’m “done”, he is much better at chipping in, funny how that works). I’m taxed by it and it contributes, in large measure, to my feeling of angst. The grease in our wheels is where we are both contributing and I am not the task-master. We need some grease.