Help me help you

Have you seen The Break Up? Or at least the preview they ran on TV every twenty seconds for The Break Up where Jennifer Aniston says “I want you to want to do the dishes” and Vince Vaughn says “Why would I want to do the dishes??” That one line embodies my marriage so well it’s almost not funny. I’m pretty sure we have some version of that fight at least once a week. Just substitute the words “unload the dishwasher”. Or “fold the laundry”. Or “change the litterbox”. There is no end to the list of chores no one WANTS to do. What Jennifer Aniston and I really mean is “I want you to know that I went to a lot of trouble to make a nice dinner tonight and if this was a truly balanced relationship with equal contributions from both partners you would do the unselfish thing and take care of the clean up without my having to prod and nag you. Oh and you could trying actually SAYING thank you sometime too.” But I’m not married to a guy who’d still be paying attention after “truly balanced relationship” so this fight keeps happening.

Now there’s a whole new list of baby-related chores. Feeding, burping, changing, rocking to sleep and entertaining. Can I expect E to WANT to change diapers? That’s even less fun than doing the dishes. But what about rocking the baby? When he’s quiet and sleepy he’s pretty cute, even if it is midnight. I also thought the mommy feeds/daddy burps system was working pretty well but E’s enthusiasm seems to be waning. Of course, cleaning up huge puddles of spit-up might be even less fun than poop. But someone has to do it and if E’s not volunteering the responsibility always falls on me. There is no one else. No maid, no helpers, no nanny, no Mom. I AM Mom. And to be honest, even playing with the baby becomes tedious when I’m the only one doing it. How many games of “Where’s the baby’s toes?” can you play – especially when the answer is “Woman, I have no idea. Feed me again or I’ll scream.”

Of course, not loving every second of baby care makes me feel incredibly guilty. I’ve discovered that’s what children are, little guilt machines. It doesn’t matter how much love and effort and care you put in, all you get back is guilt that you’re not doing ENOUGH. What if every second I let my baby sit in his bouncy chair and stare at the ceiling fan is another point off his future SAT scores? GUILT. What if not buying any special baby-brain stimulating black and white toys impairs his eye development? GUILT. What if letting him cry while I brush my teeth is destroying his trust in other people and he has dysfunctional relationships for the rest of his life? GUILT GUILT GUILT. And my own guilty heart is so full it’s started spilling out onto E. Why doesn’t HE want to play with the baby more? Why doesn’t HE get up at 3 am every night? Doesn’t he worry the baby might feel neglected? Doesn’t the guilt bother him? Does he hate his baby? One thing’s for sure, if we can’t find a balance between him WANTING to want to change diapers and me relaxing a little bit, he’s going to end up hating me.

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No Responses to “Help me help you”

  1. Brigid says:

    See, I straight up tell Nesko “you will do this or I will kill the baby, you, and then myself in an unholy trifecta of world-rending violence” and then he does it. Also, I am not above letting the dirty dishes or garbage or laundry or whatever to sit until he realizes the enormity of the task. Passive aggressive? Maybe. But I can only ask him to do things so many times before I want to start snatching people bald. Eventually he WILL see how much stuff needs to be done, and frankly, his legs ain’t broke and he’s got two hands. He can do stuff around here, too.

  2. erniebufflo says:

    Aw, hugs to you! I’m sure staring at the fan is plenty stimulating for Baby E’s wee brain at this point, and you do not need to feel guilty about letting him cry so you can brush your teeth!

    And the movie “The Break Up” was straight up traumatizing to me. It was like I was suddenly a kid watching my parents break up all over again. Seriously uncomfortable.

  3. sarrible says:

    I am guilty of the passive-aggressive neglecting of chores in an attempt to force the other person into seeing they need to be done. I find it an ineffective technique that almost always results in me grudgingly cleaning the bathroom several weeks after it first hit the point of no return or doing the dishes after they’ve been sitting in the sink for a week.

    As for the baby, you don’t have to love every moment of caring for him. You don’t even have to like it. How you take care of the baby (or, for that matter, your husband) is not a reflection of your worth as a person. He’s alive, a dirty shirt won’t cause him any harm, and he’ll forget he was unhappy as soon as he stops crying. The two-second memory is helpful like that, right?

  4. SarahMC says:

    Nobody wants to do the dishes, or change diapers, but some people do because they realize it’s part of being a responsible grown up and parent. Hint, hint, E.

  5. h_a_l says:

    I wouldn’t feel guilty about not loving every second of every baby care related task – especially if you are handling them in addition to other household tasks!! It’s ok to let the ceiling fan entertain him and not feel guilty about it. Some things are grueling – even playing where’s baby’s toes!

    I would definitely talk to E about shouldering some responsibility because it’s all starting to make you crazy. I have already talked to my husband multiple times about not leaving all the baby care + chores up to me when our little one arrives. He’s starting to get a taste of this now as I am at the point in my pregnancy where doing anything sucks (and I am still working!!) Whether it sticks or not, we’ll see. Men can be a little thick headed sometimes. Like, doing one load of laundry does not make them some kind of household chore savior when there’s still a huge pile spilling out of the hamper.

  6. J.D.Regent says:

    I hear you so much on this and can’t even imagine the levels added by childcare. Lately we have been bickering too much over chores so we decided to start doing them all together at the same time, so nobody feels slighted or like they have the grosser chores (ahem, says the woman who is stuck cleaning bathrooms, kitty litter and dishes just because SOMEONE is a virtuoso cook, can fix things and doesn’t mind forcing medicine down the cat’s throat). But I can see that with fulltime childcare and at least one partner working, divvying up chores at some point becomes necessary.

    As for being bored by your baby, mama please. Get rid of the guilt! Imagine how neglected your SECOND child will be! My husband and I are both third children; his mother didn’t even bother quitting smoking for him and there are no photographs in existence of my infancy. When my future unconceived baby is your baby’s age he or she will be lying alone in a crib in a Soviet-style government childcare center with thirty babies for every one attendant. Anyway kids at 8 weeks just need food, sleep, and the occasional cuddle, all of which you are providing I am sure in spades.

  7. erniebufflo says:

    RE the divvying up chores– a friend of mine recently implemented a new strategy in his house (with two kids). They basically wrote down every single thing that needs to be done to keep the house running each week on index cards. Like, “strip beds, wash sheets, remake beds” “sweep floors” “load and unload dishwasher.” Each week, they shuffle the deck and each member of the family draws an equal number of the cards, and does the chores specified. I get how it’s easier to do such a thing with kids, to get them involved, but it is a no-nagging-required way to get stuff done around the house that needs doing.

  8. lalaland13 says:

    I think there was something about this in one of my sociology classes. Something about how even if a partner or partners think they are splitting the work equally, it’s really 70/30. Guess who gets the 70 percent? I don’t know if it’s just that gender norms are ingrained that deeply in our society, but that’s probably part of it.

    Having never been married or even cohabited, I’m not sure what to tell you, but you have my sympathies, and if I ever win the lottery, I shall hire maids for all my friends.

  9. AGreenEyeDevil says:

    Being a mom does not mean enslaving yourself to every whim and whimper of your child, at any age. As for the household workload, do what you can reasonably do and say to hell w/the rest of it. When it gets too intolerable for him, or directly impacts HIS plans/needs, he’ll step up. Until then, you’re just consuming valuable energy and time fighting the inherent nature of most male creatures.

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