I am a mother of two kids – 6 months and 2.5 years old. I stay home with the kids, always have wanted to be a SAHM, and for the most part, it’s very good all around. But I keep feeling jealous of my husband’s “freedom” when he goes to work, particularly when he’s sent off on a work-related trip. He says he misses us all, but I can’t believe he’s not at least a little bit happy to have a full-night’s sleep, getting to wake up when he wants to, seeing a new place, and planning his day around whatever he wants to do. I am happy to be home with my kids, but I miss the freedom of getting to take a trip or see a movie when I want to. He offers to take the kids some weekend afternoons, but when I return home I find complete chaos and it takes a good day or two for things to get back to normal. I’m snapping at him, doubting his sincerity when he tells me how much he misses us – I’m just reluctant to believe he’s not secretly happy with his end of the bargain.
–Feeling unequal in Northwest
So what if he is “secretly happy with his end of the bargain?” Would that information actually change anything? From the tone of your letter, I can surmise that Husband might feel guilty about that particular perk of being the sole breadwinner. Can you ask yourself why he wouldn’t want to admit that part to you? Maybe because you might use it against him while ignoring what’s really going on here: the fact that your arrangement might not be 100 percent working for you right now.
We’ve all heard the adage that marriage isn’t fair all the time – neither is parenting, making a living or life in general. If this period of dissatisfaction is just a blip on the radar screen of an otherwise happy life, I urge you to let this go. If, on the other hand, you are struggling with some long-term challenges of balancing his work with yours, let’s take a closer look at that part.
It sounds like you might be feeling like a prisoner to your daily routine. That’s the unfortunate part of being a Good Mother – you know that a regularly-scheduled day makes for happier, healthier, and, blessedly, sleepier kiddos. Just because this cycle is good for them, doesn’t mean you won’t feel chafed from time to time – particularly when Husband is texting you from the latest Tony Award-winning corporate-sponsored Broadway musical. Or Austin’s Restaurant Week. Or (Lord help him if he does this) the beach.
I sympathize that there may be chaos when you return from an afternoon out, but am wondering what yardstick you’re using? Is Husband really letting them set up the sprinkler inside and shred the drapes, or is he just choosing to do things differently than you would? If it’s the latter, let’s take a deep breath and remember what you’re getting in return. The opportunity to be child-free for a few hours just might come at this cost. But if Husband truly lets the kids go wild, perhaps you need to talk about how this makes you feel when you get home. This is a person who keeps telling you how much he misses being part of the family when he’s away – maybe he’d been open to hearing what being a part of the family actually looks like to you.
I am the mother of a 4-year-old. My husband and I are in negotiations about having a second child, but we’re both torn. We had the typical life-explosion that happens when DINKs [double income/no kids] decide to become parents, and have just recently hit our stride in terms of taking care of ourselves, our relationship, and being good parents to our adorable little one. I always thought I’d have more kids, but on some level it seems totally impractical. I’m just now feeling better about my career decisions, and another maternity leave feels like it might be devastating. Then again, when I see friends with new babies, I feel this aching inside. Do you make a life-changing decision based on aching inside? My husband seems to be just as on the fence as I am, so I guess we’re lucky that no one is feeling pressured either way. We just need some advice.
-Going for Two? in Glover Park
Dear Going for Two:
Ah, you’ve emerged from the Terrible (Terrifying? Troublesome? Treacherous?) Toddler Years and are now enjoying predictable sleep, fewer temper tantrums, and the typically wide-eyed wonder of the 4-year-old. Why on earth would you want to go back to measuring your life in 2 hour feeding increments? Why would you want to deal with more diapers?
Well, because you always thought you would have more children. And because you love babies. And because you know so much more now and think you might be able to actually enjoy the infant period this time around. I’ve heard these arguments numerous times in my office…and in my own home…so I completely understand. Many of us wrestled for years with the initial question, “when is it time to have a baby?” only to be caught off guard by the logical follow-up: “Should I have another?”
It’s great that you and Husband are both on the same, albeit confused, page. I’d recommend that you look back to your decision to have Baby #1. What was that experience like? Were there lightning bolts and sirens urging you onward (unusual)? Were you feeling unsure, even as you were trying to get pregnant (normal)? Did you have “yes” days and “no” days? I’ve encouraged clients to take some of the pressure off by taking their daily temperature: “Do I want to have another baby today? Yes or No.” Mark your calendar with the results and then set the discussion aside. Give yourself a few months and then take a look at the data. If you have more Ns or Ys and you still feel disappointed, your gut in that moment might reveal what you really want. There are many other ways to come to a conclusion about this, but as in all big choices, overthinking rarely gets us where we want to be.
Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is TherapyGeorgetown.com. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.