I hate it when my husband goes out of town. With a deep, resentful hatred that is exactly proportional to how much fun he gets to have while he’s gone. If he tells me the car broke down and he had to spend the night in some seedy motel where he heard sirens all night, my hate-o-meter recedes to a low simmer. If he calls me and tells me what a GREAT lunch he had with an old friend (who, hey, just happened to be at the LAST conference DH attended) and how they all enjoyed their delicious steaks, well then, stand back, because steam might just come out of my ears. Hot, hot steam.
The last time DH went out of town, it was particularly bad. He was excited about the trip, and felt good about what he was presenting.
I felt great about the laundry.
I whined, I moaned, I spat, I hissed, I did everything I could to make our phone calls miserable. I made it clear that I resent the time he spends away from the family getting popular accolades for his accomplishments, while I stay at home and hang up his shirts and mop the floor and get the kids to swimming and basketball and school and piano lessons and bathed and to bed. And then, as a reward, I get to do the dishes.
So, his response?
“What do you want to do? Let’s make it happen!! You want to take a class? Let’s do it! You want to get a job? We’ll work out daycare! You want to go to New York to take that certification class that lasts for 3 days in the middle of the week? I’ll get somebody to cover for me! We’ll make it work!”
But why would I want to do all that? It means time spent away from the kids. And I’d miss them too much.
And this is where my husband sits in dumbfounded silence, trying to reconcile my resentment at his intellectually stimulating activites with my driving need to stay home and play blocks with my toddler.
He’s not the only one who tries to sort this out.
This last week, the kids were sick, so I went to church alone. This is the second week we’ve had sick kiddos, and last week it was DH’s turn to enjoy the Sacrament without little hands pullling at the tray, threatening to dump the bread all over the floor (um, not that that’s ever happened to us. Ahem.) Driving to church alone, I felt kind of free, and excited to have an actual, bonafide spiritual experience.
And I did enjoy the meetings, very much so. But as I sat completely alone on the pew, I found myself obsessing over the families. When my kids are with me, I hardly notice other families, focused as I am on keeping my own children from having nuclear meltdowns. But without them, I heard every wail, every whimper, every shushed whisper from every parent, and I longed to hold the kids, play with them, put them on my lap and pull out finger puppets and see toothless wet gums as they laughed. I opened my purse to grab some toys to hand to the family behind me to soothe their savage toddler, and was amazed to find nothing in there that would interest a child. Why would there be? I had packed it that morning, specifically for myself, happy to leave out all things toddler-y. And yet, without the silly toys, the crayons, the crumbling granola bars, I felt strangely empty-handed.
It’s like the time we hired a babysitter to go to an office Christmas party, happy for a night out, and I spent the entire time holding somebody else’s baby. How sick is THAT?
I know this isn’t a new thing, and I know it’s not even a Mormon thing. It’s a constant give and take, isn’t it, between our own desires for intellectual stimulation, and our desires to be with our kids. I don’t know if fathers feel the same, and I don’t know how to solve it.
Any ideas? Or do I just have to wait for them to grow up, so we can have intellectually stimulating discussions then? But wait, then they’ll be teenagers, and by then, my brain just might explode.