By: Stacey Ellis
My husband and I had a fight. You’re probably thinking, “So what?” Well, we never fight. Really. We’ve been married three years and I can recount the two times we fought. The first time was actually the day we were matched with our birth parents. Our adoption happened so quickly – three weeks after we turned in our paperwork – we weren’t sure we could even accept the match financially. Seriously, adoption is expensive and had been told six months to a year. Three weeks was not in our “budget”. As he tried to explain the math to me, I just couldn’t get it. I’m not a math person. I’m a writer. He increasingly got frustrated and raised his voice at me to which I yelled back, “You know I don’t process information like you!” And a few words later, doors were slammed and I was crying in the bedroom for a half hour.
This one wasn’t much different. This time, I was really pissed off. REALLY. PISSED. OFF. Let me preface this with, my husband is an AMAZING husband. And he’s an even more AMAZING father. When he’s talking to, playing with, or engaged with our daughter, he is beyond incredible. He’ll feed her, change her diaper, and do everything and anything I do with her. He takes her out for daddy – daughter breakfast once a weekend just to be with her alone. Household-wise, when dishes need to be done, he’ll do them. He’ll help pick up her toys and he’s definitely the “fixer” in the house when something breaks. Now that you realize he’s one of the good guys, I can tell you why I was pissed off.
I still feel like I do 90%. How can that be you ask? I mean, I just told you how wonderful he is. Well, he is…when he’s present. My husband is a man and I truly believe men are trained from the time they are little boys to let their “mommies” and then their “wives” handle things. I’ve asked my male friends from time to time, “What are you doing this weekend?” Every one of them answers nonchalantly, “I have no idea. My wife will tell me when I get home.” I used to think that was cute. What is not cute is my husband disappearing to take a nap on a Saturday while I do the usual – feedings, changing, playing, entertaining. He wanted to take a nap, so he did. He has done this before and I have always been like, huh? How come I don’t get to take a nap?
Granted, I probably wouldn’t lie down in the middle of the day. It’s not my nature. I’m a doer. If I have time on my hands, I’m going to work out or accomplish something – organize cabinets, food shop, plan her first birthday party. And my husband, when he has time on his hands, he likes to watch TV, relax, hit golf balls, play on the computer. So why does he have “time on his hands” and I don’t? How can he sit and watch TV for a half hour? How can he read The Daily on his I-Pad for an hour? How can he take this nap?
The nap set me off. I was done wondering how he had “all this time” that I never seemed to have. So when he showed up from his nap, I lost it. Okay, my tone was very off. And he stated he had a splitting headache (didn’t tell me this before the nap, and yeah, he’s had naps on weekends before). And he said he “thought the baby was asleep.” I was trying to put our daughter down for her afternoon nap and she wouldn’t go down so the afternoon marathon continued – feeding, laundry, diaper changes, dishes etc. Within seconds we were screaming at the top of our lungs at each other – neither willing to budge. He screamed at me, “If you need help, you should just ask!” I screamed back, “I shouldn’t have to ask, we have a child!” The worst part was my daughter was right there, in the middle, hearing it all. I was conscious of this but I was so angry I couldn’t stop, until I did. I picked her up and walked out of the room and then played with her in the other room, pretending like it didn’t happen. Then I went to her room to try to get her down for that afternoon nap she simply would not take. She wound up sleeping on me and I had no interest in putting her down. I never felt so alone. I wanted her on me. I wanted the comfort. I wanted the love. I wanted the snuggle.
My husband and I have always gotten over “tiffs” by just going about our daily lives – like I mentioned, we’ve only fought twice and none of the little tiffs was as bad as this. The tiffs were mostly someone used a tone – the other one calls that person out – there’s silence, and then someone will inevitably break the silence with, “What do you want for dinner?” Or some other benign question. This one wasn’t so simple. I was fuming.
I fumed for three days. We weren’t silent, but I was not bouncing back like normal. On Day Two I even recognized I was slightly depressed, probably from thinking about it for two days. He tried instant messaging me that he loved me and I wrote back I loved him too. I do love him. That doesn’t change with one fight. But my emotions were going crazy. How could we adopt another child? I feel like a single mother already at times on weekends. I certainly don’t want another one “by myself”. How could he not see that I put everyone else first and he needs to at least put her first? When one piece of toast is burnt, I take it. When there are two pieces of chicken and one is smaller, I take it. When she wants to play and he’s tired, I play with her. How could he not get that I was not his mother ready to step in at any moment and take over so he could do what he wanted? I had to say something – but every night, I just wasn’t in the mood. I also wasn’t done stewing in my own mind.
Then it hit me. I had to calmly explain how I felt. This couldn’t go one more day. So I did. I explained that before we had a child his weekends were full of golf, naps, playing on the computer and mine were full of organizing cabinets, baking and cooking, and writing screenplays. I said, his weekends haven’t changed that much but mine haven’t been the same at all – I never get to decompress my way. I explained that he is a wonderful father, when he’s engaged. But he checks out when he wants to and I never get to check out and “do my own thing”. And even if I could check out, it’s not my nature to check out. I am never going to ask for help because technically, I don’t really need help. Just like when I’m not home, he doesn’t need help. That’s right, I could go on a business trip for a week and he’d be totally fine. It’s not about the help, it’s about the partnership and about being engaged fully when she is awake, sharing in the laughter and the chores.
He got it. And I learned something – the message gets lost in the tone and sometimes you need three days to know what that message should be…if I took those three days before saying I was pissed about his nap, I may have come up with the right words…I hope I will do that in the future so my daughter will never hear us raise our voices again. And this weekend – we had a great time…together.