Scene: My kitchen. Time: Early morning.
Infraction #1: There are spatterings of coffee grounds strewn over the sink and counter.
Infraction #2: Some sort of eggy man-breakfast detritus is clogging the drain. (Does he really think that disgusting SOG just evaporates? The sog fairy is ME! I do it! I’m the one who scoops up the vile mush and throws it away.)
Infraction #3: There is a dirty spoon sitting on the counter
Infraction #4 (really the most grievous): I open up the dishwasher and am APOPLECTIC that Hubs’ coffee cup is on the RIGHT side. (It goes – as should be totally obvious, thirteen-plus years later – on the LEFT side. Where I move it to every morning after Hubs incorrectly loads it.)
I am irrationally furious after seeing this kitchen still-life of perceived and imaginary offenses.
It should be noted that my morning brain is totally ignoring the fact that he:
– makes my coffee every morning
– unloads the dishwasher every morning
– is often waking at 5 am just to get a few more hours of work in.
Instead, I am ANNOYED to the point of almost physical pain. Because my husband is not doing EXACTLY as I would do.
I once heard a funny slash tragic quote: Marriage is having someone police your behaviour for the rest of your life. That’s just so sad. Even more so because I can see how it can be true so easily especially if you have kids and all the work and fatigue they entail; how if you’re not careful, you end up policing or being policed and forgetting to, you know, actually enjoy this human being who presumably you love and are amused by.
And in this case I know I should just leave it. That Hubs’ general greatness far outweighs some coffee grounds and eggy bits, but I am so very tired and my back hurts and I don’t know what to do about my career (or total lack thereof) and maybe it’s actually all Hubs’ fault because he CAN’T CORRECTLY LOAD A DISHWASHER.
So of course he walks into the kitchen and I say something caustic and then he gets defensive (ahem, perhaps understandably) and says something dick-y and then I legitimately don’t like him and he, me.
I don’t recommend this as a way to start a day.
So many of my friends with young kids are struggling in their marriages right now. For a few it may be serious, but for others it’s probably just a shallow patina of ire and annoyance that will burn off as the kids grow older. Still, ire and annoyance suck. And they are corrosive to general familial happiness.
To simplify and generalize (my favourite tactics when writing about something meaty like marriage), the moms – at home, working part-time, working full-time – complain bitterly that the dads don’t do enough, don’t know enough, are hapless. The dads, if I was privy to more dad complaints, I’m sure would bleat out a list something like this: the moms are bitchy, they don’t have as much fun as they used to, their standards are too high.
I keep banging on about this here, but a lot of this is because parenthood is just so goddamned hard these days. The expectations of ourselves are through the roof. The media brays at us a near-constant litany of childhood perils and parenting fails. Money seems to evaporate. Careers need tending. Or not. Who know what the right mix of work and home is right for parents and for kids? I don’t. I know it’s changeable and different for everyone. But that great big question of early childhood also looms over marriages. Who will stay with the kids, if either parent? How much? The stresses on young families are giant and the weakest link in the family – mom to dad, not dad to kids or mom to kids which nature ensures is ironclad or we’d eat our young – bears this weight.
The triplet demons of fatigue, busyness and high expectations, also create a dynamic in the parents of young children where we are constantly on the look out for who is shirking their duty.
Hubs and I call it the “martyr-off”… the extended competition over who had the toughest day, who slept the least, who needs an hour to themselves OR THEY WILL RUN SCREAMING INTO THE STREET the most (the last one is pretty much always me). And this constant watching to see who’s getting away with some light shirking is tiring and tiresome.
So I’m trying to change a habit.
Tomorrow when I walk into the kitchen, I’m going to ignore the coffee grinds and the eggy bits in the sink and the, um, creatively loaded dishwasher.
I’m going to take the coffee Hubs has made for me and I’m going to just say…