Monday, July 25, 2005

Panic, widespread

A few days ago Lance called to tell me he couldn't be home for dinner since he had a meeting with clients. This doesn't happen very often, and normally I wouldn't complain, but he was also calling to ask if he could go out with some of his friends the next night, to see Widespread Panic. Again, he doesn't do that sort of thing frequently and normally I wouldn't mind, except that we had already arranged that he would be leaving me Saturday evening to see Widespread Panic with his buddies. Which meant 3 of the next 4 nights I'd be all alone with my charming children.

Now I know there are many of you SAHMs who toil through the whole dinner-bath-bed ritual by yourselves daily, and I bow down before you. Because by 6 pm, I have completely had it. Fixing dinner, feeding dinner, cleaning up dinner, bathing children, changing children, fighting through bedtime with children, is not something I am equipped to do at 6 pm. Closing the door to the office with a beer and reading blogs for 20 minutes--that's what I'm equipped to do at 6pm.

Lance is such a good husband and father that often I get those 20 minutes of downtime before we start the whole evening marathon together. He'll take the kids out for a walk, or start getting their dinner out, and then we split chores for the rest of the evening until the kids are finally sleeping and we are vegged out in front of the tv.

You can imagine that I was not looking forward to those 3 nights of hell without help, a fact which I "calmly" communicated to him. After much sighing and arguing (me) and ill-timed jokes and compliments (him), we settled on a compromise of sorts: the one night Lance was home, I would be completely "off the clock". Lance would take care of everything.

Before I go on, I must tell you: Lance helps me out A LOT, and is very capable with the kids. However, he rarely has both of them alone, and that takes some getting used to. One on two is a different game than two on two, or two on one, if you know what I mean.

Back to my night off. Lance banished me to the office and insisted I leave him and the children alone. He had also promised to make my dinner, which adds a chore to the evening marathon that I don't usually have when I'm by myself. Those evenings I generally eat cereal or ice cream for dinner.

So I sat in the office, blogging, drinking my beer, and trying to tune out the screams coming from the rest of the house.

This rest is such a cliche I don't even like to post it. Lance was completely undone by the responsibilities. I could hear him getting more and more frustrated as the evening progressed, but everytime I came out to help, he just snarled at me and sent me back to the office.

Eventually, both kids were in their beds, and the adults sat at the dinner table together. He was exhausted, and short of temper, and not very conversational. "God! We need a nanny!", was all he said.

I think the whole exercise was good for us, in a couple ways. Of course it was nice for Lance to witness first-hand the drudgery that is much of my days, though it's only fair to say he had a pretty good idea before this. It was also nice, in a weird way, to see someone else get frustrated and short of temper--it validated the way I feel so often. Perhaps best of all, I got to see how Lance must feel when I act pissy. Because whenever he was barking at me and the kids, his whole frustration vibe made the house an uncomfortable place to be. I don't want that to be what my kids remember about their childhood. Mommy getting frustrated and speaking sharply to Daddy, the vibe in the room an intense muck.

Of course, all of this happened at least two weeks ago, and I can't say there's been much change in things around here. I still get frustrated easily, I still lose my temper at the slightest infractions, Lance still forgets to help me as much as I would like.

I do think about it a lot more, though--sometimes even while I'm hollering--and it may not stop me right at that moment, but I think it has tempered me, just the slightest bit.

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