Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Don't Know How He Does It

This past weekend, I left E and J alone overnight for the first time. I've left E overnight before, to get away for a night or two with J, but I've never had a reason to go away overnight on my own. In turn, J has never had occasion to be on his own with E for more than eight hours or so at a time.

After three nights away, I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I came home. Would I find J sacked out on the couch, surrounded by beer bottles and puzzle pieces, exhaustedly proclaiming, "I don't know how you do it!"? Would there be a sink full of dishes? Would there be a mountain of dirty laundry waiting for my attention, or kitchen counters strewn with the accumulated crumbs of the past four days? Walking in the door after a five hour drive, I was filled with both relief at being home, and dread at the inevitable mess that would take me the next few days to clean up.

Except...except, there was no mess. NONE. My husband, who under normal circumstances displays confusion regarding the location of his clothes hamper (it lives in his closet, but he believes it lives on the floor next to his side of the bed), had cleaned all three of our bathrooms, vacuumed the entire house, done all the laundry, and even picked up the playroom. He also had dinner for that evening and the next planned and prepped, and a bottle of wine waiting. On top of all that, he had done the Costco run, taken E to swimming lessons, the library, and to a pottery painting place. Clean house, meals, errands, enriching activities for the kid, and he even seemed reasonably well-rested. I felt strangely deflated, almost shown up. Could it be he was doing my job better than I did it?

I realized that I wanted my hard work to be validated by his inability to do it. Coming home to a mess would have given me that validation, but just because he can do that work as well as I can (when he so chooses) doesn't invalidate the work I do. This past weekend, I had no choice but to let go and put all the control in J's hands, and the true validation to come from that is the knowledge that I married a man who doesn't need me there to take care of everything. I can leave to take care of others who need me, knowing that E and J are just fine on their own. At the end of the day, that is all the validation I need.

Have you had an experience of realizing that the kind of validation you wanted for your work as a wife and mother was not actually the kind of validation you needed? Any funny/interesting stories of your first solo trip without little ones?


  1. "I realized that I wanted my hard work to be validated by his inability to do it."
    Wow, this really hit home for me! When the kids are home with their dad, I always assume that they won't be dressed or groomed, there will be a mess everywhere, meals won't be made. I thought that I was dreading coming home to it, but I think I was actually hoping I'd come home to it, so I could "save the day". Of course, Hubby is more than capable of taking care of the house and kids. And I, too, can feel confident that everyone and everything will be just fine when I'm away. Thanks for this post... I will think twice before I "doubt" my husband again!

  2. It happens both ways at our house. Sometimes my husband is Super Dad and gets twice as much done as I would (which, I admit, gets to me a little bit). Other times, he is desperately glad to see me, and that is always nice. I try to appreciate both kinds of validation and be thankful for how lucky I am.

    Once, I came home and the whole family ran to greet me. My son burst into tears when he saw me, and at first, I thought, "Oh, how sweet, he really missed me." But I quickly figured out my husband had forgotten to feed him his snack! We had a good laugh (and lots of Cheerios and hugs) over that one.

  3. "I realized that I wanted my hard work to be validated by his inability to do it."
    This resonated with me, too. Sometimes, I think 'he wouldn't last a week doing what I do' I think it's rooted in the fear that I am replaceable, or unnecessary, or redundant - like if hubs can do it all, why does he need me? (as far a care, housekeeping, etc - not 'mommy' stuff)

    Now that I think about it - I wonder if dad's feel that way much of the time...

  4. Right after I posted that comment, hubs sent me a text from upstairs that read "can you come change him? I think he pooped something bad. I can't 'cause my head hurts" *eye roll*

    Next time, I'll be more careful what I wish for... ;)

  5. Oh, Jamie. I really know what you're talking about here. My husband stayed home while I was sick a couple of months ago, and when I finally came downstairs, I criticized all the things he didn't do, or the things he didn't do "right." It was mean. Finally, I admitted that I just wanted him to see how hard my job was, and by his seeming to enjoy the day, I worried he would think I had it easy. I finally admitted he did a good job; he admitted that the day was hard, despite how easy he made it look. We both felt better.

    And yes, it is great to know you married a man who can take over while you're away. We definitely wouldn't be happy with someone who thought child-rearing was solely our job and had to ask us what to do a million times.

  6. Whenever my husband can't do something around the house or gets overwhelmed I say: SEE! IT'S HARD.
    And whenever he does it well, I think: OH NO!
    Which is so annoying for everyone involved. And I understand that it is because i don't get a lot of validation at a SAHM, but wanting my husband to fail so I can feel better isn't going to help me to feel better for more than five minutes.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  7. My husband still refuses to cut the girls' nails, and just recently gave both girls a bath together (the baby is almost one!). But, he's a great dad. Like any shared task, it's hard to see someone else do things differently. But, if they get the job done - well done.
    And for every time Dad struggles to make it through an hour, I can promise I've had a similar hour. I just have more of them to make up for the bad ones.

  8. As someone who was formerly a husband, that is certainly something to aspire the next time around, if that happens! Good ol' J.

  9. My experience is like Stacia's - it always goes well, but sometimes "well" is fabulous and sometimes I come home to a man bleary-eyed with fatigue! In different ways, I appreciate both.
    I've been away overnight only twice in my son's two years. The first time, my husband took him to a tiny town grocery for two hours, just because Jack had so much fun. At home, he then let him play with a carton of eggs. The following weekend, when I unpacked groceries and Jack wanted the eggs, I tried it, too - and ended up with egg yolks all over.