Supporting the Other Parent When It’s Tough
We enjoyed such a magical weekend: trips to the River, a little friend’s birthday party, a sweet and peaceful afternoon family nap, glorious weather, and lots of good food. But what about those weekends when your partner is working? Or you’re working? Or your child is tantrum-city? We’ve had our fair share of those kinds of weekends too. With a 21 month old, and a 35 week pregnant mama, here are a few things that have helped AA and I support each other, even while each of us is in dire need of a break.
1) Let go of all non-essential activities.
For us, I’m the majority time-with-kiddo-parent. That means the few hours AA sees J at night, and those precious weekends, are truly gem times for them. I try to be sensitive in planning non-immediate family activities to ensure they don’t encroach on the boys’ time together. If it’s something we can all do together happily (e.g., NOT running errands as that’s not generally J’s forte), then I’ll go ahead and plan it in. If it’s an adult only activity, or one that requires not paying much attention to J, we try to keep those to later evenings when he’s asleep. Does that mean that once you have children you are totally boring? Yeah, probably.
2) Don’t keep score of who’s doing more.
So long as you have a balanced relationship with your partner wherein you know he or she is giving the proverbial “all”–try not to keep score. It only fuels fights and general disquietude. If you feel like you’re carrying too heavy a burden with caring for your child, relationship, and home, definitely bring that up. Use the ol’ “I feel” statements instead of “You never” ones. The former goes a lot further in the long run.
Everyone’s job has ebbs & flows as well. If it’s a busy week/month at work for you, or for your partner, or heaven forbid for you both, ease off on the expectations that the home front will still operate smoothly. You might have to shoulder more for a few weeks. Hopefully your partner expresses appreciation! If not, a little nudge can help.
Ask for help from friends & family if your partner is out of town or working really long hours. You’d be surprised how just one meal brought over can save the day. And don’t be afraid to change plans, cancel plans, or just lay down on the ground if you’re overwhelmed. People understand that children mean life is always unpredictable if you have to change your plans, or can’t follow through on all your commitments.
3) Allocate household duties and chores.
Be clear about who is in charge of various household chores: budget, bill pay, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. Better to swap chores later than just hope the other person picks up on the fact that there’s a month worth of cat hair on the rug. If one person stays home with children, it’s not fair to assume that (besides watching Oprah & eating bonbons on the couch 🙂 he or she also has all this extra time to do everything it takes to run a household. There simply isn’t enough time or energy in the day. Similarly to erupt when the other work-outside-home partner gets home that he or she hasn’t done anything around the house isn’t fair. Make lists, set expectations, and then be totally flexible.
4) Give each other the night off.
You tired? Yep. You can still put the children down and encourage your partner to either take a break, go to bed early, or go out with friends. Guess what? If you offer that, I’ll bet they will too. Sometimes shaking up the routine is a good thing (No baths tonight! We’re all hygiene deficient and that’s okay!) and a well-needed break. Remember, we get the biggest jewels in our crown when we do something for our partner when it’s HARD to give. Giving when it’s easy is nice, but doesn’t count for as much in the grand karma scheme of things.
I try to remember that life is only going to get crazier as our family grows, so even when I think I’m burned out, really, this isn’t as bad as it could be (or will be??!). Plus, having a great support system in AA really helps!