Two questions have been asked of me at least a few times and I’ve sort of put off answering them because I thought the answers were boring. Except I love peering into all of the nooks and crannies of other people’s lives, so maybe I should just get over myself, hm?
The first question that’s been racketing around is about couple time and date nights.
(Last summer, afternoon canoeing sans baby.)
How do we find time to do this? Do we have a schedule? Budget? Timeline?
We kind of don’t. I think it would be easier in life if we did. But! Having too many things set in stone stresses me out. Even if it was a standing date night with a babysitter every other week, I feel all claustrophobic about it. I can barely get Gabe through a 10 week swim class that meets every Saturday for an hour. The routine of it makes me feel SHACKLED. I’m very complicated and demanding.
When it comes to date-dates we have them in fits and starts. There may be several months of very busy weekends, filled with have-tos and obligations that are not necessarily bad, but don’t allow for us to run off alone. Maybe there will be a few family events, some solo time for each of us – Kamel has a work event or runs off to watch a late movie he has been jonesing over. Maybe I have a few lady’s nights planned, a friend’s birthday or we’ve been invited to a barbecue. Who knows. We aren’t immensely social but living back home has its social demands. Or maybe we just need to go to Target 200 times and the shower needs a scrubbing and we want to go to the zoo or the park with the rocky beach or or or. Family time is just as precious to me as date time. In the world of two working parents and tiny weekends, getting to be together the 3 (soon 4) of us is special too.
But then there will be a string of weeks, maybe even a weeknight dinner thrown in there, where we do manage to schedule a movie, or a dinner, or an adult only evening out. We’re actually having Gabe spend his FIRST overnight at grandma and grandpa’s without us on Tuesday to prep for #2’s arrival tomorrow. Kamel and I are running off to Snoqualmie Falls and spending a night in a hotel. This will be our first overnight in a hotel without the baby since our anniversary last July.
That is extravagant (though, mid-week 1 night hotel stays are way cheaper than weekend! And a fun recharge to take 2 days off midweek esp when vacationing is not happening as much as you’d like), but in general our outings involve a meal or an activity – Boeing tour, renting canoes from the university, ultrasound appointments with a side of Top Pot Donut (just kidding, sometimes Gabe comes to those). When I was working we also managed to meet for lunch 1-2 times a week because we worked close together. If this is something even remotely possible for you, I highly highly suggest making it happen. It makes the day so much more fun, gave me something to look forward to, and gave me regular snippets of alone time with my husband without having to come up with an activity or schedule a babysitter.
I still have issues asking people to watch my kid while we gallivant around town. Planning a movie takes a lot of forward thinking. Spontaneity has definitely taken a header. Sometimes I just don’t have the extra energy to muster the prep time it takes to 1) think of something to do 2) figure out what time would be best for everyone involved and then 3) run through my list of possible sitters trying to make it work with at least 1 person’s busy schedule. It’s really not fun for me to be like, “Hi… I know it’s your weekend too, but could you please watch my kid in 3 weeks so that Kamel and I can go watch a MOVIE?” It feels… strange. Kind of like asking permission, which rubs me all sorts of wrong.
But there you have it. We do date nights/activities properly at least once a season? Which sounds so little! But on average it is more like once every other month. Add into that any events that require a babysitter and I feel like we’re doing really well. How do you all navigate adult time?
The second question was brought up a-fresh a few weeks ago while I railed about hating men. (ha! MEN!) How do Kamel and I split chores? How do we balance it so that I am not the default chore wench?
This took years to suss out. I mean YEARSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!! I have a certain standard of clean that Kamel doesn’t necessarily have. I mean, it also could be that his eyes are broken and his glasses create glare so he doesn’t see the dirt? or the grime? or the socks? on the floor? over there? right fucking over there can you just pick them up omg I’m going to kill you?
Who am I kidding, those are my socks.
We don’t actually use a chore wheel either, though I’m sure it is a totally useful tool. So that was a bit of false advertising.
The first thing we did when we moved in together was try to live in each other’s presence and still clean the house and do it in a polite way where we didn’t ask the other person to do anything but hoped things would get done anyway.
That didn’t work and ended in rage fights over swiffering.
The next thing we did was split the chores based on our general gross-out/delight factor. I love cooking, but cleaning up after makes me gag. Kamel doesn’t mind doing dishes and enjoys that the kitchen is his domain. He has probably never cleaned a bathroom in his life and my mama raised me right, so I took the bathroom. I hate garbages so that became his job. It eventually evolved into this system:
- Laundry (something that never ends)
- The fish tank
- The baby’s room
- Dishes/kitchen (something that never ends)
- All floors (vacuuming, swiffering)
The other thing we had to work out was when these chores would take place. I hate having a to-do list hanging over my head. It ruins weekends. I am a huge advocate for getting chores out of the way. Spend a few hours on Saturday all going at it as a team, wham bam, everything is done (With the exception of some laundry stragglers) by the end of nap time and we can move on. Our second biggest struggle came with our disagreement on this tactic. Saturday mornings, after a long work week, Kamel didn’t FEEL like doing chores. He wanted to leisurely attack them as the mood would strike. So, I would finish my stuff while the rest of the house puttered around doing whatever. Then! The chores that we did together or Kamel’s would sort of get half-done, or not done at all because we would need to go do stuff and not just sit around the house for 2 days. OR I would be stuck killing time while Kamel tried to hurry up and finish something, it will just take him a minute, 1 hour later…
This made me hate him. It also made him hate me a little. Marriage: UGH.
Eventually, after a lot of fights and crying (yes real tears and real door slams and real stomping), we had a few successful Saturday morning everyone all in chore paloozas, which made the rest of the weekends fucking MAGICAL, and Kamel was swayed into the right direction (my direction, hellooooo).
Kamel often asks me to assist with stuff in the kitchen. 99% of the time I say no. If I gave in, I could easily slip into doing at least 80% of all the chores. Kamel has no problem asking for help, or asking if I will just handle something because he doesn’t feel like doing it. I have absolutely no problem saying no. If I said yes, then I would be doing a ton of stuff and I wouldn’t have time to write or read or sit there staring into space. I would be running about and I would hate my husband. I don’t want to resent him, I have no interest in being a martyr, so I say no. He never has to worry about running out of underwear or shirts, I don’t have to worry about cleaning up after baking a cake.*
I stand on the soapbox of: grassroots change in gender dynamics. If I want more equality in the big picture, I need to make it happen in my own house. No one pulls the short straw, we are all in it to win it.
Kamel is not “Helping me” by cleaning. He is taking responsibility for his part in the care of where we live. He is not “doing me a favor” by washing dishes. He eats off the same forks and plates that I do.
Kamel is not “babysitting” our child. He is parenting.
This is not to say I don’t appreciate when he solo parents so I can go off running amok with my friends. We take each other’s alone time seriously. Kamel can schedule a time to go watch a movie in theaters solo. He has evenings once the baby goes to sleep to play video games or work on whatever he wants to do. I try and schedule time where I take Gabe out of the house to visit friends or family and give Kamel alone time. He never tells me no if I have plans to not be home in the evenings. If I need to go hide in the bedroom after dinner to finish working on something, he 100% supports that. He was more than enthusiastic in his support for my week long Minnesota trip to attend a writing conference.
But back to chores: I probably would clean the dishes more thoroughly than Kamel would. Not that they aren’t clean, but I would do it differently. In order to remain married and not crazy, I do not oversee his chores. I am not in the kitchen when he is doing his thing. If the plates smell and we need a new sponge, I let him know. If I am noticing the garbages in the bathroom are full, I let him know. But I do not stand in the kitchen telling him he missed a spot. And I would. If I were in there, I would absolutely be asking him to do things differently or stepping in and doing it myself. So out of sight, out of mind. He doesn’t need a parent, and I have other things I would rather be doing.
We finally have a really excellent chores groove going. 4 years married in 9 weeks, and I think we really got this down maybe a year ago? How do other people navigate this? Did it come easy to you?
*To be 100% fair and honest, while pregnant I am the one who needs more help and I ask freely. I am not functioning on all cylinders while pregnant and my abilities become less and less depending on how sick I am, how physically capable I am, etc. So Kamel may help me fold in the evenings or he may help me hang up clothes in regards to laundry. But mentally, he does not ever have to be in charge of this task, and once I’m no longer pregnant, things will go back to even-stevens in the chore department.