Saturday, February 28, 2009

a headache again?

So today Sue had a headache. So I pitched in and did my bit, looking after the kids, trying to keep them quiet so she could have a lie down. I did a lot of the things that she is normally the only one to ever do: make them a milkshake snack; make dinner, etc. I also did some of the things that I do only intermittently: do the dishes, brush the kids' teeth and get them into bed, et cetera. 

I say "et cetera" because I want to make it sound like more than just that. And there were other little things along the way (does "set the table" count?) But the reality was that that was basically it. 

It sounds so minor. 

I feel a bit pathetic for not doing more all along. 

There are reasons, of course, and I used to cook dinner a fair bit, and I work long hours and blah blah blah. 

That's not the point. And I don't want to get into justifying or explaining myself. 

The point is that one day I woke up and realized that I do "bugger all" around here. I mean, I do work my butt off in general, but somehow over time I have come to do bugger all around the house. 

It sure feels like I do a lot more than bugger all. But then I started to write down all the things I do each day. Wow! I make Beaver Cleaver's dad look like a veritable Martha Stewart by comparison! 

My big thing ("big" -- ha!) used to be taking out the trash each week. A nice five or ten minute job. But it felt good an masculine. Semi-heavy lifting and all that. But even that task somehow slipped away. Sue took it over. 

So, until recently my big domestic contributions were things like calling the kids to dinner, or reading them a bedtime story. And sometimes driving them to school, if it fit in with my schedule. I give the lawns the odd mow, but they don't need it much.

Sue used to give me the choice after dinner: bathe the kids or do the dishes. She was trying to be positive, and trying to get me to do my bit. And I did. When she asked. But she's not really the assertive type, and she fell out of the habbit of asking. And I didn't think to volunteer. 

So the point is, in the last two weeks, I've been trying to do five tasks every day. Put away the dishes, put the kids to bed, that sort of thing. I feel like I'm doing a lot more, so I was a bit surprised at the end of the day to realize that most days I had only done one thing! Doing the dishes, putting them away, whatever. No big deal. That was my big new effort. 

Anyway, Sue didn't say anything. Which was fine. It used to annoy me. Last winter I tried to make an effort -- specially for her. And so when I did something, I expected her to notice and to appreciate it. Out loud. And preferably with a bit of enthusiasm. She had other ideas. She bristled at the notion that she should give me some warm fuzzies for doing these things. "You should be doing it anyway," she snapped contemptuously. 

True enough, perhaps, though not the best way in the world to engage in "change management". 

But I'm over the need to be recognized now. Because now I'm not doing it for Sue as a favour, as a kind of warm fuzzie for her. Rather, I'm just trying to make sure I do SOME chipping away at domestic duties each day. Just to help things tick along.

There's been a bit of a paradigm shift for me as well. That's because Sue has a new part time job starting on Monday. So for the last week or two, I've been thinking of us more as a both-parents-working (outside the home, that is!) family. I know it would be overwhelming for her to try to do all the work she does now, PLUS a new job, so I am trying to pitch in. 

It feels great. It's like a team effort. Like we're all pulling together to get the family through this busy patch. There's something of a WWII "Support your nation: buy war bonds!" feel to it. Sue The Riveter -- so to speak. 

But the Big Shift came today. 

Sue had the headache, and I did far more than normal. Kept the kids (mostly) quiet for the better part of two hours or so. Got them the milkshakes, made us all dinner, did the dishes, dried them, put them away, brushed the kids teeth, got them into bed. 

So did Sue throw herself at me in a moment of unrestrained enthusiasm for my domestic prowess? Of course not! 

But she did touch me. 

We watched a movie together, and in it, the leading man and woman kissed. After the movie, I went to kiss her in the same way. Naturally, she made a joke of it. She's a bit uncomfortable with intimacy, I guess. But as she turned to leave the room, she touched my stomach, and then gave it a little squeeze. And she smiled. Smiled with her eyes. Not lasciviously. Not humorously. Just... happily. She was happy and at peace. 

AND, she touched me. 

When was the last time Sue touched me? I can't think. Months? Years? 

It was a small enough gesture. But it was a gesture. A step in the right direction. 

Maybe we'll clamber our way out of this pit yet. 

Give us time. 

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