The therapeutic sofa, part 4
The dimension: Marriage = hard.
After one of our many Tense Discussions, Mr. Bunny said, I feel like there’s not much good will between us right now. That was accurate. Not much patience with each other, both quick to anger, quick to assume the worst intentions.
No mystery. Children are priority number one, work is number 2, basic household maintenance is number 3, and then there’s a fierce competition for slot number 4. Self or spouse? Self or spouse? And, like, 2% of one’s total energy is available for this slot. So maybe we give the spouse 1%. And then we both get COMPLETELY FERAL any time anything threatens the 1% that belongs to us.
Therapist had no quarrel with my explanation, but she a) confirmed that things were Not Good and that I was right to Take It Seriously. This was helpful because sometimes we downplay this crap because it IS normal. She also compassionately noted that when two people only have a two hour window each day (after the babies are asleep but before I am myself needing to get to bed), it’s incredibly hard to want to spend that time on anything other than putting their feet up. So yeah. FIX it, but don’t waste energy feeling bad about it. And then came the buckets! There are four.
Bucket #1. Replenish the personal well. Carve out time for yourself. Do the things that make you happy, that make you feel good about yourself. Easy to say, hard to do, yeah? But she said something that I, as a parent, found highly motivating. She pointed out that parents are models for their children, and that I am teaching mine to make themselves the last priority, to not take their self-care seriously. I was like OH SHIT. I don’t care about me, but I certainly don’t want to teach my children not to pay attention to their needs (the way that, ahem, I was most certainly taught…) and I certainly don’t want to teach them that women, or mothers, or parents don’t deserve to have their needs met. And non-parents are models for others, too. For partners, for friends, for family… This is a SERIOUS POINT, people!
What have I done about this? WELL!
1. We changed how we handle weekends. Mr. Bunny both dreaded asking each other for time to ourselves on the weekends, even though we’d always done it in a quid pro quo fashion. So we decided to just split the damn weekend. Now I’m in charge of them on Saturdays and he’s got them on Sundays. We still do things as a family, but only if the OFF duty parent feels like joining the ON duty parent. I’d heard about people doing this and it never appealed to me, but he suggested it and I agreed to try it and…I like it. It’s easier to just be in charge of the kids all day rather than not having a routine and having to negotiate everything, and having a whole day I can spend as I like is pretty sweet.
I made a banana cream pie!
I did some sewing FOR MYSELF!
We do spend less time together as a family. But we still have dinner every night, and I’m not sure the weekend time together was of a quality that made it worth preserving, frankly.
2. I know the coming semester is going to be haaaaard. So I asked our nanny to work an extra hour during the fall. Not exactly making time for myself, is it? Making time for WORK, more like. But making time for work helps carve out more space for me, helps keep my anxiety down. I could pay for even MORE childcare (for example, not stay home with the babies on Mondays) and have more time for me. But I choose not to.
3. Sundry small items like having regular massages, going out for drinks with BFB, giving myself some breaks during the work day for spacing out.
Bucket #2. Go out with your partner once a week, every week, for SIX MONTHS. I was all WOAH! That’s pretty extreme, therapist! And she was like YEAH. So we’ve been doing that. Not quite every week but as often as we can secure childcare. It certainly helps. And I think bucket 1 helps me feel willing to invest in bucket 2.
Bucket #3. Have sex with your partner. I know I promised this one would be NEXT, but no. You have to wait. It will totally be next NEXT, though.