Saturday, August 22, 2009

Slack

Epu and I have been fighting a lot lately. When this happens, I always think it's happening because of something he's doing or not doing. I'm angry because he turned off the shut-up machine TV when I put the kids in front of it so they wouldn't mess up the house until I got done straightening it up; I'm angry because he's heading into hour two of Facebook while the baby is sleeping peacefully in the swing, and every mom knows that when the baby doesn't need to be held, you should be up enjoying the freedom of loading the dishwasher.
Am I right, or am I right on that last one? But that's not the point.
The point is, we're not fighting because I put in one or two extra hours around the house a day while Epu relaxes. Sure, there's a leisure gap between husbands and wives, I've known about it for a decade, and in calmer times I've moved on from it.
We're not fighting because of the leisure gap.
We're fighting because we're incredibly stressed out. And why wouldn't we be? We have a newborn baby, and although he's been (I hesitate to type this but here goes) a pretty easy baby, he has had days when he's fussed for hours. He has round-the-clock needs.
At the same time, one kid is on summer vacation, the other has decided that afternoon naps are optional even though they're the only thing that keeps her from turning into the Abominable Baby after 3 p.m. I've been working from home more than in the past now that I'm blogging for ChicagoNow.
How normal is it to have a strained relationship at this point in our lives? Only 38 percent of mothers with infants say they're highly satisfied with their marriages.
I say all this not to garner pity -- I'm glad we had a third kid, I'm glad I'm working more, and although I'm not glad my middle child is in the Terrible Twos, it happens to everyone, even people with dimples. I'm also aware that the majority of women in the world have more difficult lives than I do.
I say this because a) So many people have told me I make the new baby thing seem so easy, that I'm not missing a beat, and b) I think the way to bring more happiness and less anger to our house right now is to cut myself some slack.
For a), let me go on the record saying that, while my enjoyment of our new baby is not an act, balancing little Toth's needs with the other two kids and my responsibilities has been anything but easy. So if you're not finding your own parental challenges easy, don't worry -- as long as your baby is pink and DCFS has not yet arrived at your door, you're probably doing fine.
Point b) is more difficult to dispense with. Slack, yes, it sounds great. Let's cut it. But where to find this slack to cut?
I think it exists, here and there, and I need to be more forthcoming with my slack scissors. Like this week; my parents were stopping for takeout for their own dinner on the way to our house, just for dad, because I'd told them I was making a zucchini casserole and my dad is a finicky eater who didn't think he'd like it. I had just dragged the kids outside after much doing for a rush hour trip to the grocery store because it turned out we were out of a major ingredient for the dish. When my mother called to say they were on their way, I just came out and asked if they could bring us some dinner so I didn't have to wrangle the kids to the store. Another night this week, a neighbor offered to bring by dinner, and I said yes, please!
Between those gifted meals and a frozen pizza I served tonight, that casserole -- Epu eventually finished it and served it to the girls while I was at a meeting at Nutmeg's new school -- was the one of the only meals I had to cook all week. It's probably no coincidence that Epu and I got along much better in the past two days. There was a tiny bit of slack.
These are small things. They're not going to get me 8 hours of sleep in a night or make the girls stop playing the annoying kittycat game they love to play. But maybe with the time I don't have to wash dishes the next time someone brings over a pre-made meal, I can sit down and try to find more slack to cut.

6 comments:

Bert said...

Congratulations on the slack! As I understand it, it's not an easy thing to do... especially with three little ones (and a big one) needing your attention. Excellent job! And thanks for the tip on point a). Good to have as a reference. :)

Kori said...

For what it is worth, on Friday, when we were at the aquarium, I marveled at how well you did, especially on little sleep what looked to be little lunch.

I had a moment while the girls and I were up at the main tank watching the fish and you were nursing the baby at the bench behind us when I thought, "I love that I love all these kids." This thought sounds kind of weird typed up in a comment, but what I mean to say is, there is almost nothing better than knowing that your kid is with people who won't just watch her, but actually love her, and as I was hanging out with Nutmeg, EJ, and Pebbles, it was hitting me how I just love them all and was happy to be able to hang out with them so you could have a non-worried moment with the baby. I know that when EJ is at your house, she feels that sentiment, too. Maybe that is part of the gap missing for all of us---the spreading out of families doesn't just mean less hands on deck, it means less hands of people who adore your kid around, too.

All that said, why don't WE bring that zucchini casserole over to your next week, 'kay?

Sara said...

this post made me tear up. i am at this point as well, where i feel as though i am constantly fighting with aaron, but that a big reason i am so pissed off all the time is because i can't cut myself some slack. i can't just let the house be a teeny bit messy or let the dishes pile up in the sink for a while. i can't say, "no, we're not having the kebab-a-thon this year because it's too damn much work." i feel like i have to give 100% of myself to my kids and my husband 100% of the time, and there is just nothing left at the end of the day.

being a mom and a wife is hard, plain and simple. learning to cut ourselves a bit of slack is vital to the survival of our sanity, i think.

here's to both of us finding that slack to cut in our lives. your kids are wonderful and thanks for sharing them with us yesterday. we loved seeing you.

Sara said...

oh yeah, and you're soooo right on the facebook point (sorry, epu). there are times when i wonder how in the HELL aaron can spend 9 hours a day in front of a computer at work and then come home and spend 2 hours on facebook, etc. to quote the bloggess, it makes me pretty "stabby."

Abby said...

Aw, bless your heart, Carrie. I'm sure you're doing an amazing job. And, since having a baby, I have RARELY (if ever) turned down a free meal - brought to my home or eaten out or whatever.

If the food is free AND someone else is going to clean the kitchen afterward: I. AM. SO. THERE.

Jeevita said...

Hmm..I thought I'd commented on this post but obviously my computer/browser goofed up again..

Anyway what I meant to write was that I had no idea there was a word (leisure gap) for this thing that drives me crazy every day!! Somehow I feel better now.. :-)

Hope you find yourself more bits of slack here and there..