Wednesday, March 26, 2008

keeping the love alive

Charlie and I have a good marriage. We are good about talking to each other - we have like interests - and we share many of the same philosophies regarding work, career and home life.

When the triplets were born, and after I took off a year for maternity leave, I returned to work part-time. Because the thought of having someone come in and look after the babies made my throat dry and my eyes wet, Charlie reduced his schedule to part-time, also.

The decision that we would both work part-time wasn't something we had concocted while I was pregnant or during that year off. It was something that we came up with when our only other option was for me to quit my job. Which, I wasn't prepared to do for a plethora of reasons I'll write about some other time.

I've been on maternity leave since June 25 of last year.

I'm scheduled to return to work again, part-time, on May 1st.

I was supposed to return in October of 2007, but decided that I would opt for six months of leave without pay. I was then supposed to return to work on April 1st, but because I'd be required to attend a meeting out of state - the very next week - and my father and sister would be flying out to visit around the same time, I petitioned management to grant me another month off, which they graciously did.

Since I've been home, Charlie has dived in to a new job. He opened an office for a company in San Diego and is doing a stellar job. Whereas he once was home with me a large portion of the day, he is now in the office - working hard.

Since Charlie has been gone during the day, I have become the house master. Everything is done my way. A way that has slowly evolved to an exact science.

A way that is precise and accurate and if Charlie anyone messes it up, he they is are subject to the wrath. The wrath isn't a good thing. It's ugly and loud. It looks a lot like me, but with veins popping out of it's head and spit spewing on words.

Since Charlie has been working full-time, I've become more control-freakish about things in the house (and car and all things kid-related) then I ever have before. I feel like when things are where they are supposed to be and done when they are supposed to be, I am better prepared to have a day with flawless execution.

The last thing that I want is to be out somewhere and it gets chilly and I reach for the sweatshirts I packed for the children - only to find that they were removed from the car because of some asinine reason that makes absolutely no sense.

How! DARE! Anyone! Move! The! Sweatshirts! I! Packed! For! The! Children!

With all this time that I have been spending at home, running the show, I have become a lot more critical of Charlie. The poor guy can hardly do anything without me jumping down his throat or all over his back.

The night before I left for Florida, we were planning to have our Wills notarized and then grab dinner at a local restaurant. While I was meeting with the notary, I suggested that Charlie go buy a bottle of water - or some kind of drink - for the children. It was hot, they were thirsty and I wouldn't be finished up for another 10 or so minutes.

My husband left and returned 30 minutes later.

When I got in to the car, only slightly annoyed that he was gone for so long - especially when I still had packing to do - I became extremely annoyed when I saw that each of the children were holding 48-ounce cups full of lemonade from Wendy's. And when he told me that he had spent $8.00 on these drinks, there isn't an adjective in the English language to adequately characterize just how annoyed I became.

The kids were completely full on drinks. Charlie drove home while I chastised him from the passenger seat, and I wound up going to bed famished because I never did eat dinner. As I dozed off, I was thinking to myself "That'll show him! I'm hungry and it's all his fault!!"

Today, Carolyn and William didn't receive their morning dosage of amoxocillin.

I had asked Charlie to give William Tylenol. Somewhere in my mind, I was also thinking "Give him his amoxocillin, too." And if he was giving William his antibiotic, he should also give it to Carolyn. Because that's what I would do. I am perfect and extremely good at reading people's minds.

In retrospect, I didn't make it crystal clear that Charlie needed to give this particular medication to the children. But when I found out at 2 PM that the kids didn't receive their 7 AM dosage, I called my husband at work and threw out words like "Blinding incompetence."

If I had been on the other end of that conversation, I would have shot back words like "Unending bitchiness" but Charlie is far too respectful to say something like that.

Control issues.

It's all about control.

It's about wanting things to be done a certain way.

It's about wanting someone to drive the way I drive.

Clean the way I clean.

Discipline the way I discipline.

Shop the way I shop.

Fold the way I fold.

Spend money the way I spend money. Or not.

There are seven children in my family. Five of them are girls. Of those girls, three of them have been divorced. One of them twice. My mother has been divorced once, and my father has just completed his second divorce. One of my brothers has been with the same wonderful woman for the past - 25? years - they have three children together - and he won't get married because he is so jaded over the whole "nuptial" thing.

Even though divorce is common - and sometimes it is necessary - I strongly believe in marriage. I believe that in order for a marriage to work (or any relationship for that matter), there has to be - first and foremost - respect. There has to be time spent, everyday, talking to each other (as opposed to "at" each other), and there has to be common interests and laughter. There also has to be time for ones own self.

It can be very difficult at times.

It can become even more difficult when you have children. Whether there is one offspring, or twenty, marriage evolves in a way that you never imagined it would. There are new expectations and demands on each person when the couple-centered roll of "wife" and "husband" evolve to "mommy" and "daddy." Or, "Jenny" and "Charlie" as our children have taken to calling us.

Truth be told, I am apprehensive about returning to work part-time. I am apprehensive about the possibility of traveling on business, I am apprehensive about being gone from the children, I am apprehensive about Charlie's ability to do "this" everyday.

But I am also looking forward to the prospect of traveling on business and being gone, just a little bit, from the kids. Mostly, I am looking forward to sharing the responsibilities of running this house more equally with my husband, once again. I am looking forward to giving up some of this control, if only in my mind. I suspect it will be good for me, but even better for our marriage.

And if it isn't, I've heard good things about electric shock therapy.


  1. I think some things are about control (I squeeze the toothpaste tube this way, therefore YOU must squeeze the toothpaste tube THE SAME WAY)---but I think other things are about consideration (one spouse not wrecking the other spouse's work, as with the sweatshirts) and about doing things the Actual Right Way (the amoxicillin that really must be taken at the right time).

  2. I have many of the same control issues and they do tend to take a toll on a marriage. The reality is they can never do it they way we do it and letting go of that is difficult, although healthy. I have been working part-time since my 2 year old was born, and now I'm home with her and a 3 month old. I have been recently contemplating returning to work full-time after cutting back for so long(huge anxiety)but in the end I think we will continue to sacrifice as I work part-time to avoid daycare or nannies as long as possible. Here's to continuing the mommy juggle!

  3. I am totally in the same ballpark as you! Since I am the CEO of the house, yes, everything must be done MY WAY! I also work 10-20 hours a week. Good luck on "playing nice" with your hubby. With my husband and myself both being oldest children, there is a lot of criticism and....yipes, we are doing counseling at our church! I appreciate this post more than you know!

    Andrew, Luke and John 1-08-06

  4. Wait. My way isn't the ONLY way? Dammit. I owe someone an apology.

  5. I have caught myself in the same boat a lot lately and have really been trying to figure out how to be better about it.... it's just so darn tough when I know that like Mary Poppins, "I'm pratically perfect in every way" and expect others to be as well. *sigh*

  6. ... are you ME? I could have written that exact same post. Wow.

    A friend always stopped her husband from anything he was doing with the kids because he wasn't doing it right. He got her Dr. Laura's book The Proper Care and Feeding of Husband's and she snapped out of it.

    I read it too. Dr. Laura sure knows how to tell it like it is.

    It IS more important that our husbands are spending time with the kids, then that they are spending time with the kids OUR way.

    I've made some improvements, however, I still find myself being a jerk to my husband and our marriage suffering ... I can SO relate.

    thank you for this post.

  7. Thank you so much for your honesty and sharing.

    I remember my daughter once saying to me "he doesnt do this, and he does that the wrong way and I wish he would do this other thing" My reply? "Darling, you will never turn him into a wife."

    She learned to work with him in a different way to get things done, together.

    I love your blog so much. So grateful that you spend the time to write it. Good luck with going back to work.

  8. You are very self aware. It took me years to realize that I had control issues in my marriage. By the time I realized it, I was divorced! Good luck on going back to work. The break will be good for you.

  9. Karen in Buffalo3/27/08, 12:27 PM

    This post will be e-mailed directly to my hubby at work, so he realizes there are other people out there who act/think just like me. Attached will also be an apology for my freak out when he rearranged the cupboard to fit all of the Easter candy on one shelf.
    Letting go of control is so hard!

  10. I think going back to work part-time will be just the ticket for you Jen. You won't be there obsessing over every little thing. My bestfriend went back to work recently after 2 years off. She's only working part-time too and is juggling the care with her husband. On her first day of work, she called me on the way home and said, "I'm ALIVE. I FEEL ALIVE."

    I, too, think it's really good that you are aware of the control issues. My mother (Control Freak Extraordinare) never saw it. She drove all of us away in the end. I mean don't get me wrong, my father was a rat bastard who couldn't keep his penis in his pants, but no one, and I mean NO ONE could live with her and live up to her expectations. We loved her dearly, but her control issues took a toll on us too.

    So just continue to be aware like you are. All that control causes so much additional stress and affects our health and well-being. You need to be healthy for everyone!!! Especially if your husband is only going to be cooking vegetables and rice from now on.

    OMG! Get some control over there! What are you doing? :)

  11. I also have major control issues and I was EXTREMELY bad during the first 3 years of my twins lives. Everything HAD to be my way if it involved the house or the kids. It did take a poor husband was afraid to do ANYTHING for fear he would do it wrong!!! My twins are 5 1/2 now and I am WAAAAY better...DH finally said one day that I was seriously impacting his relationship with his kids because of my control issues and that was a big wake-up call for me. I now have a 9 month old and dh can't believe how laid back I am with her compared to the boys!!! This is a great post and such a real topic for most moms (especially stay-at-home moms).


  12. It is SO hard to relinquish control and let someone else take the reigns, especially when their actions have direct repercussions on the way your day, or night, goes.
    But seriously, why take things OUT of the car? I HATE that!

    Another lesson learned the hard way... Never assume. I once bit back a "make sure you put her shoes on the right feet" thinking "duh, it's so obvious I don't need to specify it" and the poor kid walked around all day with her shoes on the wrong feet. No I don't assume any more.

    Good luck with the going back to work.
    Are you going to pump or wean the little cutie?