Monday, June 14, 2010

Who's In Charge Here?

Oh, crap, it's me. I'm having an off-day, following an off-weekend. We went to the lake this past weekend, which had lots of super-fun moments, like James swimming in the lake for the first time and liking it! Also, I slalom skied for the first time ever, even if it was for about 5 seconds, I did it!

It also contained a kernel of familiar frustration. I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that, no matter what, I'm in charge here. The ultimate responsibility for my son rests on my shoulders. I know, I know, that's how it's supposed to be when you have a kid, but I've always held out hope that the burden would fall equally on my husband and I. But, it does not. I could sit here and try to convince myself that he needs to step up, but I think I'm realizing that the right thing to do is to acknowledge that biology has made child care and rearing primarily my responsibility.

We've been going to the lake every summer for the past 7 or 8 years. We try to make it there two or three times each summer. The day is almost always structured like this: wake up late, eat a small breakfast, swim in the lake/lounge on the dock, have lunch, go on the boat to swim/ski/wakeboard/hang out in a cove, have dinner, drink, drink, and drink.

In preparation for this trip, Brett and I talked about how things would have to be different this time because we are parents now. We just can't stay up until 2 or 3 am drinking and still be the parents James needs the next day. James woke up at 6:30 am every morning when we were at the lake and I looked after him every morning, which meant that I didn't really get to stay up late with the big kids and drink. Brett did. Yesterday morning, even though I had gone to bed around 11, I just wanted to sleep in. I was, plain and simple, tired.

At 6:30 am when James started crying in the pack 'n' play, I turned to Brett and, for one of the first times since I became a mom, asked plainly for what I wanted. I said, "Brett, will you watch him for an hour so I can sleep longer?" Bam, there it was. My request, my needs from my husband, states plainly and clearly. It was his opportunity to rise to the occasion and he said, "Maybe if we wait longer he'll fall back asleep" and then rolled over and went back to sleep himself. As I expected, James continued to fuss in the playpen, so I woke up with him.

I felt so deflated. I'd finally done what's so hard for me to do, which is to admit that I need help. I think of myself as some kind of superwoman who can and usually does find a way to squeeze in everything. But I was finally ready to admit defeat and it didn't work out.

Of course, I was a confusing mix of angry, disappointed, and flat out sad. I cried while I changed James into his clothes and cursed myself for asking for help. Brett felt horrible and spent much of the day trying to make it up to me. As upset as I was at him for not pulling through when I needed him, his solution to this problem upset me more than anything. He said that he thinks we need to plan these things in advance. That, if he'd known I was going to need him to watch James the next morning, he wouldn't have drank so much and then he would've been more able to get up early and watch him.

And, there it was, spelled out so clearly. If I needed help from him, I needed to ask for it, in advance. On neither of the two previous nights had he pulled me aside and said, "I'd like to have some fun tonight, so you'll need to watch James tomorrow morning." It didn't need to be said, it was the assumption, the default. Without a word exchanged, we both assumed that I'd be the one taking care of James each morning. And that, my friends, is the difference.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Brett's a bad guy. Rather, I think he's probably a lot like almost every other husband out there. Despite all the advances we've made in achieving gender equity, the basic assumption is that women will take care of their children.

Do any of you have similar feelings or are your husbands all amazing superstars? Any working moms feel like they're teetering on the brink of breaking down? I feel like I have no energy left for myself anymore.

On that bitter, sad, depressing note, I will leave you with an absolutely dashing picture of my boy, for whom I would get up at the crack of dawn every morning for the rest of my life...

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