In the movies, a woman gets her feelings slightly hurt. She lets her sullen lips quiver and her large doe eyes fill with tears and that’s all it takes to trigger a response of complete remorse from her lover. He’d gladly right all the wrongs that led to this point if she would only not cry. Embracing her, he begs for her not to shed such sad tears, and she is comforted and pretty music plays.
In the real world, a woman cries every time she tries to convey a thought of displeasure about her predicament as housewife/mother/teacher. She knows damn well she has cried over this same topic before and feels like a fucking lunatic because in her mind if she could just communicate it the right way this time, maybe her lover will see that she isn’t just a huge bitch face, and understand that she does get to the end of her rope some days, even when she isn’t premenstrual, and all the emotion packed behind a response to that one, little, unintended, negative comment, leads to a performance of anguish, where she surrenders herself to the tears at hand and ugly sobs face down on the bed like a toddler throwing a tantrum, completely warranting the demeanor of her husband, who patiently sits back and waits for her to work through it. No pretty music, just the gurgle of snot as it is wiped away on the sleeve of the pajamas that she’s worn all day.
So what did you gals do this weekend?...
I am not proud to admit that I did the above. I wish like hell that I didn’t take the heavy of the household and throw it at my husband’s feet like a whiney wretch. I try to look back through the week and see where things started to go wrong but it all feels like a bad Alice and Wonderland remake at that point: a collection of sharp words exchanged over shirked responsibilities, the pieces left over from whatever consistency unraveled, resulting in the proliferation of child-rearing-mayhem, the dark descent into spouts of spousal silence, and then it’s off with her head cry-fest.
I make solid attempts to set my family up for success; we plan, and list, and dream, and then John and I pump the kids up with whatever viable enthusiasm they can muster, and make a pretty good run of things. You know the list: studies, chores, responsibilities, hobbies, extracurricular activities, social lives, family time; It’s an all-in kind of life around here. And that is just the kids. John and I make every attempt to lead by example; bettering ourselves and enjoying our lives. After taking care of four kids though, sometimes what we have left for ourselves feels measly.
Inevitably, we both fall prey to the inconvenience of continued effort; bad choices made in an attempt to secure selfish time to one’s self, or simply to relish in a moment of immobility, face to the phone, a “fuck Y'all, all y’all, Y'all don’t like me, blow me” aura descends. My own inability to champion all the things that I think I can, sours into resentment. And if I leave it unchecked, I stop communicating. I stop reaping what diligence manifests; extra time, rest, relationship growth, individual growth, and instead scramble to get the bare minimum done, still half-assing all those other goals. I absolutely can not get back to even without asking for John’s help. And that’s usually all I needed to do to begin with.
When I hit rock bottom, I realize he isn’t there with me. And I get so fucking sad because I know that I haven’t trusted him to carry the weight that I am feeling. I think he won’t last carrying around resentments or being burdened by all the needs of this household, but I clearly cannot do it either. Then I just miss him so bad, I cry. And I’m such an ass, what I want to say is “I need you more right now than I usually do.” but instead I blubber, and incoherently try to pass the blame.
Earlier that day, the quote on Mindful + Mama’s Instagram, by Jen Sincero, had me all ‘resigned woman-emoji’, hand over her face in despair: “So often we pretend we’ve made a decision when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable.” Angi!! I felt like you could see my self-loathing, victim induced, bleeding heart!
So how do we make our endeavors last? Well, after taking the long way around to get there, I communicated. The “responsibility chart” that had been mostly ignored for the past weeks, got revamped. We acknowledged that there is no guarantee that we will successfully enforce all these color-coordinated intentions without a separate clause holding the enforcers themselves accountable. I tuned it up a bit before drawing everyone’s attention back to it. We had a family meeting so we could praise the little-beings for what they had done right, before slaying them for all that needed improvement. Here’s what went down:
John and I humbly took our fair share of the fault for the family’s combined reluctance to toe the responsibility line. Clearly, we are fooling ourselves if we expect a chore list to parent for us.
Each family member has been assigned a day of the week to maintain the area in our home that accumulates the most mess. For us, this is the backyard. Deciphering who created what mess is a headache in and of itself. We’re striving for an alternative to the fights that occur between siblings when asked to clean up. Our goal is to have them realize there is less work involved for all of them when they regularly clean up after themselves. Fingers crossed it’s not a complete crash and burn.
We also committed to an allotment of 90 minutes of face-to-phone time per weekday. This is for all of us and begins anytime after 4:30 pm. Chores and studies have been completed by midday, and the intention is to provide them with ample free time, void of any expectation to have internet access. A healthy portion of time before bed will be available for us to act as a family; maybe spread the joy of words over a game of Scrabble, or work on my personal patience affirmations over a lengthy game of Life.
Before enjoying dessert and a movie on Monday night, we will check in with how everyone is feeling in regards to the new rules of the house. This will give us a forum to correct behaviors and give gratitude to those making an effort. And then we can end on a high note by stuffing our faces with Ben and Jerry’s.
Ultimately, I just need to know that I have John’s support. Shit can get real uncomfortable, as long as he is right there with me. This is the guy that supported my body and choices through four homebirths; he knows a lot about uncomfortable women. I have complete faith that we will continue to maneuver the adventures of family life, even if it is done one ugly cry at a time.