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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!


OMG. So totally delicious. Even if it ain’t so purty.

I did some sewing FOR MYSELF!


World’s most boring a-line navy linen skirt. But spiced up with a facing in a cute liberty print. I liked liberty before it was cool.

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.

23 Comments Post a comment
  1. I am so, so jealous of your weekend split arrangement. I wish I had the courage to suggest it to Joel. Especially since Saturday nights I stay up past the hour I need to be in bed to get my beauty sleep before Gwen’s up the next morning so that we can continue our pre-kid ritual of me making pizza and us working our way through various sci-fi/fantasy and other select TV series. It’s totally worth the alone time with him, but it means Sunday mornings I wake up going “oh god make it all go away” whereas he’s most likely come to bed earlier than usual and thus could stand to get up earlier than usual.

    Keep us posted on how things go. I sometimes have glimpses of that “not much good will” state between us, and I’d like to be pro-active in keeping them only glimpses.

    July 19, 2013
  2. Dude, I owe you big time for sharing your life on this front. Andy and I are in a rough spot. I have zero energy for the old union right now….and your buckets are totally going to become my buckets.

    July 19, 2013
  3. Excellent steps. I know it’ll be challenging, but sooo helpful too. Best wishes!

    July 19, 2013
  4. CJ #

    hmmmmm…I am interested in the divide the weekend thing. I like the way it sounds…

    Your therapy is teaching me a whole lot!

    July 19, 2013
  5. All this sounds good, esp. your split weekends deal. My friend A and I do things like that sometimes; each of us takes all four kids for a few hours while the other does NONKID STUFF!!! and then we swap. Much better than dragging 2 children to the grocery store, and frankly 4 kids isn’t much harder than 2…

    July 19, 2013
    • This is essentially how we used to do it (me a few hours, him a few hours), and it just wasn’t ENOUGH. So many of the things I like to do don’t work well in few hour slots, like gardening, or sewing. Plus there was the negotiation energy. I’ll do x and you do y and @#*^*(@! I like any kind of routine that results in us not having to discuss. But of course, different families, different options, and with only one caregiver, a few hours has got to be pretty heavenly.

      July 22, 2013
  6. Ana #

    “not much good will between us..” YES. Exactly. Nothing left at the end of the day. I am totally in that camp with you. It sucks, I’m ready to go home.

    I’m torn (divided?) on the divide-the-weekend thing. I like the idea of having me time, but not sure I could handle the NEXT DAY as it is seriously next to impossible to manage both kids on my own at these particular ages. When we are all together, the quality of the weekend-time goes WAY up—when one of us is manning the helm it is survival-mode, which usually ends in the parent laying on the ground and the kids climbing up and jumping off repeatedly. Also we can’t take them anywhere (out of the stroller) without both of us, because—-they bolt. In different directions.
    BUT!!! Your advice just made a lightbulb go off—WEEKNIGHTS. It is NBD to handle the kids at home for dinner/bedtime alone. There is a set schedule and no need to entertain them further.
    Having a night off one weeknight a week…that could work.

    Thanks, again, for sharing so openly. You are definitely helping us!

    July 19, 2013
    • This makes great sense, too. It’s also pretty easy to do the dinner bed routine here, and Mr. Bunny gets nights off plenty. It’s harder for me to do it since I’m nursing, but that’s all temporary… Too bad nights are not exactly when we’re at our best, plus we can’t necessarily get things done (you know, like buy that pair of pants we need), BUT, a night off is a night off!

      July 22, 2013
  7. Dude, take care of yourself! Best lesson you can teach your kids. That and how to be a loving family. Because if love is not there, nothing else matters.

    July 19, 2013
  8. “I feel like there’s not much good will between us right now.” – Been there.

    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. – oh, gosh, *yes*.

    I’m really past those days now, thank god, and I probably didn’t have it as intensive as you do anyway, because my children were a little further apart in age, but I definitely relate to this point of view (and there’s still the urge to go completely feral about my me-time). It’s also a very good point that just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.

    This is really just one long “I hear you!” I hope your buckets work–kind of wish I’d tried the split weekend thing myself…

    July 20, 2013
  9. I join the ranks of those thanking you for going to therapy on our behalf.

    July 21, 2013
  10. I’m glad the therapist is helping, Bunny and that you can have some time to yourself. I can’t speak from experience obviously, but I think both the ‘replenish the well’ and ‘go out with your partner’ buckets are good ideas. We could certainly use a bit of quality relationship time around here and that’s just two busy professions without kids. 🙂

    July 21, 2013
  11. In theory, I like the idea of one parent one day on the weekend. However, I wonder how this works in practice? For example – I do grocery shopping on a Saturday, because it is significantly less annoying when I can leave Monkey at home. But that in no way constitutes me-time. And then there’s the fact that Monkey wants nothing to do with me on the weekends because he wants to catch up on the Dad time he misses during the week. Any pointers on the practicalities?

    July 21, 2013
    • Yeah…I’m not sure how well this plan ports to a family where one person’s full time job is child care, because do you want to sign up for 6 days of it so your partner can have a day off too? I DO do grocery shopping on my me day, but only every other week. Mr. Bunny does it on his him day the other week. And we’ve been swapping laundry for …since we moved in together, so every other week I also do laundry on my day with babies. And once a month we interrupt the pattern for our monthly housecleaning.

      Bun Bun is also highly into her dad. She freaks out every time he leaves and I’m totally not interesting. But she’s getting used to it now, and I can tell her “it’s daddy’s relaxing day” and she’ll be cool with it. I dunno–I think it’s hard to give voice to the feeling “I’d rather not be with my kids all day”, these amazing, longed-for kids. But in my case, sometimes it’s true.

      July 22, 2013
  12. Skirt! Banana pie! I am going to need one of those.

    bunny, I sympathise massively with your having so little time for yourself. (Ha! I actually have nightmares where people come to my house and refuse to go away. That is extreme introversion, my friend. (Though, confusingly, I also like other people.)) I am sure you are not at my end of the spectrum but I feel for you hugely.

    So your plan sounds clever, not to mention completely necessary. Be good to yourself. Like everything else in life, but MORE so, I suspect this is a delicate balancing act and far from straightforward.

    July 22, 2013
  13. You need to consider charging us a portion of the money you fork over to your therapist because, woah, this is so helpful (and I have read in your comment section that it is very helpful to others too). Also, you should charge us for doing the work that you are doing. In my case, I just go to therapy but sit on my ass and do nothing.
    But back to you for a moment. It sounds like this weekend division of labour is working out AMAZINGLY. It’s brilliant really. And YES to modelling self-care! YES to taking on self-care like it’s your job! And a big fat YES to banana cream pie and super cute a-line linen skirts.
    You rock, Bunny.

    July 22, 2013
  14. I really appreciate your sharing this so openly, bunny. Because things like “not much good will” can seem so normal. But they still suck. And honestly I never quite knew what to do about them. (I was always “too busy” to actually go and see a therapist though.)
    In contrast, your sewing and baking are completely awesome! Honestly, I rarely get one of them, let alone both, done on one single weekend, and for now my body is supposed to be doing all the taking-care-of-babies by itself…

    July 23, 2013
    • HA! Yeah, guess you can’t split childcare yet…

      July 23, 2013
      • true, but also, other than fatigue-related it’s not really taking me much time yet 😉

        July 24, 2013
  15. SRB #

    I have so many THOUGHTS and FEELINGS on this that I hardly know where to begin. “Good will” between Spouse and I left town long ago, mostly because total lack of REM sleep is turning me into an awful hag. I think I mentioned that I read Bunlet’s book on infant sleep lately and am READY for this to happen. I hope this starts to improve my own version of Everything = HARD. I really appreciate your candor in this series and hope you can see how many of us you are helping, and that that helps you in turn.


    July 23, 2013
  16. Gemini Momma #

    Everything SRB said. This series really does hit home. I can’t believe you have date night EVERY WEEK. I want to make this happen so badly. Another inspiring one, lady. Lead the way!

    July 24, 2013
  17. twoblueshoes #

    I like the cut of your weekend-sharing jib! I don’t think this will work for us, for all sorts of reasons (ohgod, ohgod, ohgod, the farking PhD), but I have Questions, nonetheless…
    A) Is one parent obliged to leave the house (with/without children)? Maybe it’s just because we live in a shoebox, but I can’t imagine getting anything like solo pie-baking or sewing done while the kid was around, even if he was ostensibly under the husband’s care.
    B) How to ensure the off-duty parent (let’s face it, I’m talking about me here; there’s precious little chance of this scenario occurring in reverse) doesn’t spend the child-free time doing household things? I’m all for free time, but not if it means I’ve got the same amount of shit piled up at the end of it.

    Plus, date night! Once a week! Wow! We should probably look into this.

    Thanks again for single-handedly solving the dilemmas of the parenting universe!

    July 24, 2013
    • I loves me some specific questions! A) No. But I can see how this would be a serious obstacle in lots of households. I have an advantage here because Bun Bun prefers her dad, so is less likely to want to hang out in the kitchen, say, if he’s elsewhere. And my sewing space is on the third floor. And, honestly, I spend a lot of Sunday watching TV in the room we call THE FORBIDDEN ROOM. Toddler saying FORBIDDEN ROOM = very cute. It does get dicey when I’m gardening, because she is very drawn to what I’m doing if she’s out in the yard, but I don’t mind her presence if I’m not the one in charge of her. B) Yeah, I guess that’s part of a longer conversation about distribution of household labor. We divide every fucking thing at, like, an insane level of detail. Because we both like it that way. As I noted above, I DO have to do grocery shopping on my me day every OTHER week. I mean, I COULD do it on Saturday but with two children? Rather do it on Sunday. Also, see my reply about re: monthly housecleaning.

      I thought the every week thing would be a little hellish after a while. But the truth is, I’ve come to really look forward to it. Guess my marriage is not yet doomed.

      July 24, 2013

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