Once upon a time, a wise woman gave me the single best piece of advice when it comes to parenting as a wife that honestly changed my life. It’s going to sound so silly when I tell you what it was, but it was a game-changer for me. Instead of asking her husband for time for herself, she simply told him what she was doing.
So let’s give an example. Instead of asking your husband if there was any time next week that you could possibly go to the gym or maybe even do something so frivolous as go grocery shopping alone, you would simply say, “Hey honey, I’m going to the gym at 5,” and LEAVE IT AT THAT.
You wouldn’t ask him for permission and book a sitter for him. You wouldn’t make sure dinner was hot and ready and waiting on the stove. You wouldn’t go crazy cleaning the entire house and making sure the kids were fed and bathed and ready for bed so he wouldn’t have to lift a finger while you were gone. You wouldn’t wring your hands and fret and wonder if he secretly resented you for having some “me” time.
Nope. Instead, you would just go and trust that the person you chose to have children with could handle his own offspring without the world breaking down or you feeling guilt in any way, shape, or form.
It sounds so simple, but seriously, how many of you actually do this?
Even as I am writing this I am thinking to myself, well, no duh, it’s not a big deal to tell your husband that you want to go to the gym. But then when I think about what I actually do on a daily basis, I do not practice what I preach, and it actually is a big deal. On a daily basis, I revolve my life — including anything I want to accomplish, such as shower, work, or exercise — on what my husband has going on. For us, that’s a reality since he works outside of the home and we have four young kids, two of whom aren’t in school yet. But it’s still rather eye-opening to realize that every second of my day is planned out based on other people, not me.
In a way, I guess you could say that’s rather normal for moms. But at the same time, I do believe that marriage and child-rearing, if they happen to coincide, shouldn’t be a solo juggling act. Actually implementing that theory in everyday life, though, is an entirely different story.
There are days when finding time to brush my teeth is a stretch, and I’m fully aware that I don’t “own” free time any more than my husband does. But I was very guilty of treating the children as “my” responsibility, with any time “off” as a favor granted to me by my husband. And frankly, I was reinforcing that idea each and every time I asked my husband’s permission to do anything without the kids that would require him taking over.
And I do ask him. I know his schedule up, down, and sideways. I know which days he has meetings and what days he has to work late. I have three different running lists of babysitters going in my head at all times with varied schedules so that I can try to get things done without interrupting his day. I get up at 5 AM every single day so I can work or exercise without infringing on anyone else’s time. And yet, even when I got up at 5 AM every single day so I could work or work out and when the baby also woke up at the exact same time that I did, I wavered at our doorway, feeling an intense stab of guilt because I thought I should be the one to get her.
But in the end, for me, as much as I struggle with that elusive balance, I’ve found that simply stopping the constant back-and-forth guilt in my own head has helped me tremendously. If the baby wakes up at 5 AM, I won’t go get her and sigh heavily at my sacrifice — I’ll (nicely and apologetically) tell my husband that I’m sorry I have to work and could he please rock her? If I want to go to the gym before dinner, I’ll tell him I’m going to fit a quick workout in and there’s stuff for dinner if he could throw it together. If I need to work on a weekend because the kids didn’t let me get anything done all week, I’ll be honest with him instead of telling him that I’m fine when I’m actually stressed to the max.
I still struggle with the guilt that the kids are my responsibility 24/7, but I’m working on it. I honestly don’t even think my husband is aware of my shift in thinking. But it makes a difference for me, because I know there have been times that I was harboring secret resentment towards him. How can he not ask what I need to get done? I would think. Or, it must be nice to never have to think about who will watch the kids, I might mutter. And, I wish I could just leave without it being a big deal, I would seethe.
But honestly, all of that seething and sighing didn’t do me any good, him any good, our kids any good, or our marriage any good. I’ve found that I have to fight through that initial guilt I feel and trust that my time deserves to be respected just as much as his time.
And I’m not advocating that you become a total jerk in your marriage and never ask your husband what he has going on, or that finding time for yourself as a wife and mom is so easy (taking two kids with me to the dentist last week comes to mind). But I am saying that treating yourself as a full and equal partner whose time is just as valuable is actually really important.