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?