Thursday, February 19, 2009

Someone To Take Care of Me Time

This one's for the guys. Girls, print it out and tuck it in your husband's lunch.

Hi guys,

Things haven't been easy for you, either, since your kids were born, have they? You look at your wife, and she's like a completely different person now, right? Her body has changed, her personality has changed, she's not fun anymore, and she often doesn't even seem to be listening to you when you speak, and she can't talk about anything but the kids. Am I right? And while she has the "mommyblogosphere" and La Leche League and her MOPS group and eleven friends who are going through the same thing, who can bitch and kvetch with her about how life has changed (and all the things you're doing wrong!) - you're pretty much doing it all on your own. Maybe you have one friend who understands, who can buy you a beer and say, "It'll get better, man." Of course, there will be hell to pay for stopping on the way home to have that beer, won't there?

Being a Dad is every bit as hard as being a Mom, and I think it's lonelier (because men and women socialize differently). A lot of you guys leaned on your wives for all of your emotional support before you had kids. And now that you have small kids, and she has lost her mind, you're all alone.

It's hard. And it's scary to think that the wife you loved before might be gone for good, isn't it?

Don't worry. I am here to help.

Now, keep in mind that my love language is "acts of service." According to Gary Chapman, there are five different love languages: acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, and physical touch. If you know that your wife is more of a "words of affirmation" girl than an "acts of service" girl, modify accordingly... But I know it's true for me, and a lot of my mom friends, that the thing that our husbands do that makes us feel most loved is when they HELP. I am being 100% honest when I say that I would rather have BJ do laundry than buy me diamonds.

The nice thing about love languages is that even if you're a "gifts" person, "acts of service" can make you feel loved, too. You don't just get one... And the language you "speak" can change over the course of your life, depending on your circumstances. Your main love language is the one that makes you feel most loved, but the other four can be received and interpreted correctly too. The good news is that we're all multilingual when it comes to love. But knowing which one really speaks to your wife will do you a world of good in your relationship.

Have I lost you? Are you thinking, "So what?" at this point. Hang in there.

Yesterday I wrote about "Me Time" and my theory that what we're really asking for when we ask for "me time" is "someone to take care of me time." As mothers, we spend our whole day taking care of our kids and our husbands. Often we're also taking care of our aging parents, too.

When you spend your whole day taking care of everyone else, you start to crave the safe and secure feelings that come from being taken care of, yourself. I think when your wife talks about getting more "me time," she is really asking you to take care of her for a little while.

So, what can you do? Here are some action items...
  • Clean up the dishes
  • Give her a backrub
  • Vacuum
  • Clean up after yourself
  • Stop at the store on the way home
  • Pick up carry out for supper on the way home
  • Do laundry
  • Clean the bathroom get the idea. Now, I'm not saying that you hae to do all of these things every day. I know you work hard all day, and that the last thing you want to do is clean all night. I understand that she's home all day and you're having a hard time figuring out what she's doing with all that time. I get it. Honestly, we don't know where the day goes, either. Especially in those early days with a newborn.

If your wife's love language is "Physical Touch," give the girl a backrub or a foot rub. If it's "Words of Affirmation," tell her what a great job she's doing every day. If it's "Quality Time" it's going to be hard for a while, because babies tend to suck up all of your time. Same with "Gifts" - they suck up all the money, too. But maybe you could bring home a treat - say a decaf latte from Starbucks every once in a while - for no reason. Remember that it doesn't have to be a grand gesture - you don't have to bring her a tennis bracelet every week. I want you to understand that the small gestures you make will speak very loudly and clearly to your wives.

And I promise that when you do one or two of these things for your wife, she will feel much more loving toward you. If you vacuum, she can use the time and energy that she was going to use on vacuuming to reconnect with you... if you know what I mean. And she will feel more motiviated to reconnect with you if she's not thinking about the other 7000 things she needs to do.

Yeah, guys, I know your love language is "physical touch." Big surprise.

So, let's make a deal - all of us parents of young children. The guys will try a little harder to help out, to speak our "love language" and to go out of their way, just a bit, to make us feel cared for. And we girls, we'll try a little bit harder to take care of you every once in a while.

Putting in that small effort sure beats ending up in divorce court, anyway. Give it a try this week, and let me know if anything changes in your relationship.


Susan K said...

Guys, you can never, ever go wrong with loading or unloading the dishwasher. Ever.
My husband swears that the dishwasher has saved our marriage a few times.

RobMonroe said...

Is this just an elaborate post to whip BJ into shape? I can not imagine the one-parent-at-home-while-the-other-works dynamic.

I think that part of my issue would be that while I'm working all day with people I don't want to be around, you're working all day (yes, it IS work!), but with people you love. ("like" might be too strong of a word some days, I'm sure!) I know that I would much rather spend my evening with the girl than spending the time to empty the dishwasher.

Lucky for me, we both work, and always will. (But if one of us stayed home, it would be me. Anny - the teacher - makes tons more than I do)

Amy said...

Rob - no, this post was in response to another post I read -

After 3.5 years, BJ is whipped right into shape!! He does the dishes every night (when he cooks, I do them), and last night we all cleaned up the house together.

I think your comment is reflective of the problem that many stay at home parents have with their working partners. Doing housework is something that every family member is responsible for, regardless of whether they work or not. It's part of being a family, in my opinion, that everyone contributes (including kids - MG has been feeding the dog and helping to set and clear the table since she was 2, and Claire already helps, even though she's not yet 2).

I think the issues of "me time" and of feeling disconnected from a spouse post-kids and of maintaining the house and helping one another are all connected. I think if husbands help, wives will feel more connected and feel more inclined to connect, iykwim which, in turn, helps the guys feel more connected, and is ultimately good for the kids.

It's too easy to retreat into resentment and score-keeping, once you've had kids.

But no, BJ and I struggled with this at first, but now we have a pretty good balance, most of the time, which is why I can identify the issue and write about it with such candor and clarity. :)