I’m struggling with time constraints. Specifically, trying to balance out the demands of family versus having a life of your own. Actually, what I’m struggling with is trying to understand my beloved husband’s struggle. I’ve worked out my own struggle. For well or ill, I value family demands over my own. My children are only little a finite amount of time. They’re only tiny and nursing exclusively for six months, where I am the only source of food. So for at least the first six months, I don’t really go anywhere without toting a little one with me. And even after that… their physical need for me might be lessened by the introduction of fruits and veggies and diluted juice, but in Sam’s case, at least, his emotional need for me was still just as high, so I didn’t really leave him. Jess was certainly easier, she was more comfortable with other people, so I’d go out occasionally without her, but for the most part, I stick around my kids. Now that they’re older, I can drop them off with friends, leave them home with Marc and spend time doing my own thing, but my first priority is generally to spend time together as a family. Which is to say, if Marc’s not working and at home, that’s where I want to be.
I’m good at saying no. Nope, sorry, I can’t make that meeting. No, I’m sorry, I can’t be there, I’ve got other responsibilities at home that take priority. I tend to, if anything, to spend too much time at home, I have trouble sometimes separating my identity as Mommy with my identity as Melissa. It’s obviously complicated because I’m a stay at home mom, I don’t have co-workers that see me just as an adult. I’m in charge of my kids 24/7. It hasn’t always been without sacrifice – I’ve lost friends and am nowhere near as close to my family and friends as I once was, but I figured out early on that if I didn’t put my kids first, nobody else would. And they deserved that level of committment.
My husband, who I love so very much – lives a very different life than I do. He’s got a full time job and is not home from about eight thirty to six thirty Monday thru Friday. He’s got diabetes and his health is dependent on regular workouts, so he’s at the gym one to two nights a week. He’s become super involved with the synagogue we attend, and has been at meetings several nights a week. And he’s got a little group of friends that try to get together a couple of times a month to play dungeons and dragons.
All of this means that frequently the kids and I don’t see him for what feels like days on end. And I don’t get that. I don’t understand how that’s a livable situation for him – I’d be miserable in that type of lifestyle. It’s hard not to resent it as well – because when he’s not here, I’m here by myself, and it’s frustrating to be the one doing all the housework and childcare – I’d so much rather have him here with me. I’m sore and pregnant and emotional, which doesn’t create a situation where I’m super patient and loving and self-sacrificing. Most of the time, I’m bitchy and grumpy and unhappy and resentful – it’s not a far walk from being mad that he’s never here to hurt because he must not want to be here – I mean, he’s making the choice to do something else. Other than work, which he has to do and working out, which with a diabetes diagnosis, is also not negotiable, but at some point, he has to think to himself, I’d rather go to the gym than go home and go for a run with the kids. I’d rather attend this meeting than stay home and eat dinner with the wife and kids. Which probably isn’t the way he’s looking at it, but again – pregnant, super emotional and resentful – that’s how I see it. Which, as you can imagine, does not make for a happy family. Especially because my kids are super attuned to my mood, and when I’m unhappy, they don’t know quite what to do, and resort to screaming and yelling at each other to get me to focus on them and not on my own issues.
I’m not sure how to resolve this – especially because it’s not really a situation I have any control over. I can only control what I do. How I feel (and with hormones all over the damn place – I don’t have much control at all at this point) and how I react. I suppose I just need to accept it for what it is – he just doesn’t look at it the same way that I do. And just because he perceives it differently doesn’t mean that he’s wrong. Maybe it’s biological? Maybe he’s really not capable of focusing on family the way that I can. In the same way that he’s not capable of getting pregnant and nursing. Maybe biologically, he’s not capable of attaching the same way, having the same sense of responsibility and obligation. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t love the kids as much as I do, just that he’s not as involved with their health and survival on the same level that I am. In the same way that he was able to go back to work after each one was born without feeling as though he was being ripped in half. Even now, seven years later, I know that the first day I left Jessie with a sitter and went back to work was one of the worst days of my life. I know that Marc loves the kids as much as I do, that they matter to him as much as they matter to me – but there’s something different there that I’m struggling to understand.
Certainly, most people who know him would argue that he’s a phenominal father. Involved, focused, attentive. He works so hard at a job that he hates to provide for them. He derives enormous pleasure from spending time with them, he delights in their accomplishments, never complains about the drudgery of parenting, is happiest when they are with them. He’s a far better father than any other I can think of. He snuggles and talks and spends as much time with him as he feels he can. I know a lot of his friends think he’s the pinnacle of what a husband and father should be. And most days I agree. I know that he’s a great husband, I know he loves me, I know he loves his kids. I just wish he was around more. Having a great husband and father for your children isn’t much comfort when it feels like you’re the only adult in the house all the time.