SkyLarkD’s post today got me thinking (always a bad thing) about days off, motherhood, work schedules and the juggling act that is life with a child. IzzyMom, to whom Skylark links, raises the ever-important issue of mutual recognition that the jobs of both parties in a marriage basically suck in some fashion and are hard work. The issue of a day off is at stake here, but I have to say that I think a “Day Off” (as in a full 24 hours with no obligation or work therein) should be acknowledged as an urban legend. It just plain don’t exist for most caring couples with kids.
This is not a whining post, btw, in case you were bailing now. Nor is it going to be a husband-bashing one because there’s no legitimacy in any claim I could make on that score.
John works long hours. He works hard. His job is stressful, rewarding, frustrating, annoying, infuriating and occasionally exhilarating. I work long hours. My job is stressful, rewarding, frustrating, annoying, infuriating and occasionally exhilarating.
We each mutually acknowledge and believe this about the other’s work. I also acknowledge that his income is greater than mine and lets us live on an even keel. He acknowledges that without my income, we wouldn’t have any extras (like Christmas), wouldn’t have money for savings and other expenses. We need both.
Left over, after time is taken out of the day for our careers, are housework, getting groceries, mundane things that have to be done, errands, laundry, dogs to walk, trains to play with, a child to do things with, bathing, family and a whole passel more stuff that needs dealing with.
We both know that all that stuff has to be done in some fashion and we both pitch in to do it. In essence, we both know that we are each working two jobs; one is our career, the other is our household life.
After the garbage of necessity that is daily life, there are the fun things like hiking, photography, watching a movie, playing, etc. These can be fudged a bit and rearranged with Step two, but never only by one person and never so that one person gets left with all of step two.
The key to this step is to care about yourself, sure, but also to be acutely aware of the stress levels of your partner and their needs. I watch John to make sure that he has time off and he kicks me out of the Studio or kitchen to take some time off for myself. Only occasionally does either of us have to claim time from the other as we are both looking out for and worrying about each other. Neither of us ever gets a full day. There are too many things that need doing and frankly, neither of us wants to foist that much off on the other.
The other key is to use one aspect of your life as a break from the other and accept each as being necessary.
When there are two people in a relationship with added responsibilities like children, pets or whatnot, there is less free time than there is with. In fact, when there are two people dedicated to advancing their careers, maintaining a household, raising a child, and having a superb marriage, I would venture to say that a full day off, in the sense of having no responsibility or obligation, does not exist for most families. How the hell can it? Do the kids vanish? Will the dog live in suspended animation? Are the groceries going to magically appear in the fridge? Will that statement of claim write itself?
Time to relax is one thing, but a day with nothing in it for either party would either place too much work on one person’s shoulders or cause the days following the “day off” to be disproportionately stressful and negate the influence of the nothing day.
With this in mind, a “day off” (or even part of a day) taken by one member of the couple can only hurt the delicate balance that is marriage. In order to work out, a “time off” can only be a gift given freely and happily from one to the other, not something that someone takes.
An added note:
It is unfair for either party in a marriage to expect the other to do something that they themselves are unwilling, unable, time insufficient time for or simply detest doing. You can ask, but if you assume that your mate is as busy as you are in their own way and doing as much as they can, why the heck would they have any more time than you? We women are sometimes a bit bad about this, as we gripe about husbands who don’t help out around the house enough, forgetting that they are taking care of other things that might have escaped our notice. We also forget that the key ingredient to getting help is to bugger the heck off and let people do things their own way. So if you want that diaper changed, leave him alone with the child and assume he can do it. If both of you realistically don’t have time to clean the bathroom, own up to it and either make time between you or pay someone else to. Don’t expect your partner to supplement all the shortcomings in your marriage because it just ain’t gonna happen.
So now I get down off my battered soapbox and toddle off to chug a load of laundry through the machine and dig out the basement for a bit on my lunch-break. Then it’s back to work again….
Incidentally, if you realistically have a partner (male or female) who is bone idle and doesn’t care enough about you to chip in fairly to the household mix, then you should seriously think about who is giving in the relationship and who is taking. Nuff said.