It’s a matter of perspective. Today, the nurse called me at work. Maggie was feeling ill and the nurse thought it would be in her best interest to go home and rest. A little over a year ago, I would not have gotten this phone call; she would have called Tom. Tom used to be the “day” dad, and he solely dealt with illnesses. Today, Tom and I conferred and we decided that it would be easier for him to leave work a few hours earlier. Next time, it might have to be me to make the arrangements. For a split second I thought to myself, “Life was easier before.”
In the last year, Tom switched careers and started a job in which he works days. My life has gotten easier. I used to be the sole evening caretaker, and at times, it was like being a single mom. I had to get the kids to their activities, get their dinner, help with homework, and make sure everyone bathed. It was an undertaking, to say the least, and many nights I went to sleep feeling empty and exhausted. My evenings were not about me or my needs, and I felt frustrated that I did not have more time to myself.
January, 2011: Tom started to come home at 6PM. At first, I am not going to lie, I do not know if either one of us knew what to do. Tom had been working six nights a week for so long that the only evenings we spent together were Sunday Fundays, or the rare evening Tom spent at home sick. It is not surprising that at first, the routine did not alter very much. Yes, we were suddenly able to eat as a family and enjoy discussing our days together. Yet, after dinner, Tom kind of disappeared into the basement to watch TV, work on the computer, or read. He would pick up one of the girls from an activity when I asked him to do it, but his mindset hadn’t really shifted.
Hence, I was experiencing a strange inner turmoil: on one hand, I was completely excited to actually have the opportunity to see my husband during the week, but on the other hand, I felt anxious that nothing was different. I wanted to exercise. I wanted to read. I wanted to go to the mall by myself and not feel panic over what was not getting done at home. However, in Tom’s defense, I did not articulate any of these ideas; I did not express my feelings. How could Tom have known my dissatisfaction with our new arrangement? To make matters worse, I have always had a problem with relinquishing control. These responsibilities had been mine for so long, I did not know how to let go and accept his help, nor did I know how to ask for it. For months, I stewed in a bedlam of despair, created in my own mind. I was too set in my ways and too stubborn to realize that I had created a negative situation for myself.
Lucky for me, Tom is intuitive and he has realized over the years that I bottle my feelings inside. I like to be perceived as happy, positive, and funny, so when I feel like there is a chink in my armor, I mask it. After many weeks of, “What’s wrong?” — “Nothing,” I finally broke down and cried. I allowed my walls to crumble and I released years of anxiety: at times I literally was holding it together by not thinking, just doing. It was not that I just didn’t have Tom in the evenings, I did not really have anyone. I had myself. It was a weight I had been carrying since my parents passed away, and it was a difficult weight to shed.
Tom is now here in the evenings and he and I work together. I drop Carson off at ballet while he helps Maggie and Lizzie get their homework done. He picks Carson up from ballet and drops Lizzie at Daisy Scouts while I get the dishes done and Maggie in the tub. I pick Lizzie up from Daisy Scouts while he flips channels on the couch. Okay, so he gets to the point where he allows the older girls their independence and he enjoys a bit of free time for himself, but without him, I would not have free time either.
For a split second today, I had a momentary hankering for the old days, then I remembered Carson has dance at 4:30 and guitar at 7:00; Lizzie has Daisy Scouts at 6:30, and Maggie is sick on the couch. Within this time, dinner needs to be made, homework needs to be completed and checked, baths need to be given, and some small household chores need to be accomplished. It will be a tag team effort to take care of it all.
It took awhile for us to get here, but we have arrived.