Sunday, November 2, 2008

Spare me the B.S. Drama

I didn't wait long enough to cool down after getting mad at Dan.

Whenever he does something that pisses me off, I usually try to wait a day or so to cool down. Often, I'll just vent about it to Becca or my sister, then having said it outloud, decide it's no big deal and just forget about it. But this time I just kept getting madder and no matter how I tried to be rational and exercise some self-control, I ended up saying something stupid.

The gist of my frustration was not getting enough relief from the kids and feeling like Dan spends all of his free time with Brian instead of us. It was a hard week, the longest Dan has been gone for work so far. He was in Salt Lake from Monday-Friday and the day he got back was Halloween, so there was a lot going on. Dan came home exhausted (he only slept an average of 3 hours/night while he was working) and frustrated over a way-too-long shopping trip in Evanston. I had been looking forward to having some help with the kids, going to the football game, going as a family to the town Halloween Carnival, taking the girls trick-or-treating, and hanging out at Brian and Becca's for Brian's birthday party.

I won't go into details, but things didn't work out as I had envisioned so I was peeved. But I figured I'd be over it after a good night's sleep. On Saturday morning, Dan left at 3:00am to go hunting with Brian and another guy. I try to make a point of supporting Dan in his recreational activities. I know he works hard and I want him to feel like he has sufficient free time to pursue his interests and recharge. I don't want to be the nagging wife who is always bitching about how much time my husband spends away from home. So I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for not minding him going hunting. I'd told him the night before that I needed to use his laptop all day on Saturday so I could retouch and finish a wedding album order that needed to be uploaded by Monday (my computer won't be done until mid-next week.) In my mind, I thought that he would understand that I needed some help with the kids so I could work.

That was my first mistake, not making my expectations clear. After Dan returned from hunting, I was just leaving to take a very cranky Amelia for a walk so she would tire out and take a nap. Again, I was smugly pleased with myself for not immediately demanding that Dan watch Amelia (Lily was at a friend's house.) He went over to Brian's to eat lunch and watch some college football. Amelia napped for almost 2 hours, during which time I worked on my photo order. When she woke up I called Dan to see if he would come take her. Becca had just put Kaden down for a nap, so Dan wanted me to wait. I reminded him that I needed to get my photo order done since this was my only day with the laptop and asked him to come home and play with her. His response was, "then I can't watch football."

I could share with you all the expletives and nasty remarks I wanted to use, but I'm sure you can use your imagination. Digging deep for some self-control, I said, "remember I'm trying to work. C'mon and help ease my burden." To add insult to injury, it took him about 20 minutes to show up. The thing that pissed me off the most was the fact that I was trying to work and he seemed more interested in doing what he wanted instead of helping me. I suppose I've done it for years, worked while trying to take care of the kids, but that was when Dan was off at his job and not available to help. The fact that he was next door watching TV while I was trying to balance the pressure of completing an order for an angry bride (I've had her order for 5- yes FIVE- months) while Amelia whined to be held and then wouldn't stop messing with the keyboard, was just about more than I could tolerate.

Dan took Amelia for an hour or so, then came back saying that Becca had invited us to dinner, could I make some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and he and Brian needed to help Keith (Brian's dad) round up a wayward calf. To his credit, he asked if that was OK and I told him that was fine since I needed to start on the cookies and I could let Amelia watch a movie for a bit since dinner was only 45 minutes away.

The errand, like all ranch errands, took about 4 times as long as projected. I've come to expect that. In fact, before we moved here, Dan and I talked about the fact that he would probably spend a lot of time helping other people with ranching chores and that it would always take longer than it was supposed to. One of the things I love about Dan is his willingness to serve other people, and that has been manifest over and over since moving to Cokeville, that he offers his time willingly to help others without any desire or expectation of reward. He's just glad to help and be out on his motorcycle or a horse, doing "guy" stuff. And he really loves being a part of and helping in this community. While I admire that about him and understand his fatigue when returning, I can't help but feeling a little bitter that he just spent 4 or 6 or 8 hours hanging out with his best friend and riding his motorcycle.

But I'm being childish. The rest of the story is that I just kept festering over the whole "I'd rather sit and watch football while you take care of your job and the kids" and by the time church was over this morning (Amelia was a real pill during sacrament meeting and Dan wasn't there to help) I was up to my eyeballs with rage. Again, I tried to cool it, have a nap with Amelia, and hopefully calm down enough to have a constructive conversation.

When Dan got home from working around supper time, I told him I needed to talk to him about some concerns I had. I aired my grievances, telling him that I appreciate his hard work, that I try to give him ample time to recreate, that I wasn't mad about the last night's ranch errand taking so long, rather I was mad because I didn't feel like he was helping me with the kids enough and that it really hurt my feelings about the whole football thing yesterday. I was doing fairly good, a few sniffles, but trying to stay calm when Dan got all defensive and didn't think my complaints had any merit.

That's when I blew it. I said, "If you think your only responsibility in this family is to work and I take care of everything else, why don't you and Brian just move in together and send child-support money to me and Becca if you're not going to do anything for us anyway."

Seeing that in print verifies how immature it was. Dan just shook his head and said I needed to decide what it was that I was really upset about, was it because I don't get enough alone time without the kids or that I wasn't getting enough time with him, because I was giving conflicting messages. A few more things were said and I told him that even though he had come home to have dinner and spend time with us, I needed to go cool off because I was too mad. He reminded me that he still needed to work tonight and I snidely remarked, "that didn't seem to matter to you yesterday when I was the one that had to work." He said, "the difference between your job and mine is that you've already been paid for your job, it's been sitting there for several months and there's no hard deadline, and the worst thing that could happen is the bride could get really pissed and say she's never going to work with you again. Which doesn't matter because you've stopped shooting anyway. If I don't meet my deadlines on Monday and Wednesday, I won't have a job. It's a very immediate consequence. Not to mention the fact that I won't get paid until the job is done."

I left and bawled in the car for awhile then went over to Keith and Lynette's. I figured that talking to another woman right then wasn't going to be too constructive because she'd just commiserate with me and agree that men suck sometimes. I needed to hear a man's perspective and I've always admired and respected Keith for his hard work and his commitment to the gospel. He's a father figure for me so I went to talk to him. First he just gave me a big bear hug and let me cry on his shoulder for a few minutes, then listened while I talked. He admitted that he never understood the pressure young mothers were under until he became a bishop. He said it really opened his eyes to how much women have to deal with. He said he was pretty sure that being a Mormon Mom was the hardest job on earth. All you have to do is raise perfect children, be the perfect wife, and do it all with a smile on your face. That brought a chuckle and soon we were talking about other things and I was able to relax.

When I got home I gave the girls a bath and read to them. After I put them into bed and Dan finished packing to head back to Salt Lake tomorrow, he came into the living room and said, "the next time you want to have a conversation about our relationship, save all the bulls--- drama and maybe we can have a constructive conversation." Then he went to bed.

I'll admit that I pride myself on being a pretty reasonable wife, one not given to emotional outbursts, one that tries to think about my husband's perspective and needs before mine, one that doesn't nag and complain all the time. But I've been too smug. Too sure that I wasn't like those "other women" who drag their husbands down. Turns out that sometimes I'm just as big a pain in the ass as "they" are.

This whole small town life and non-traditional work schedule is a big adjustment. Dan has been telling me from the moment we moved here that I need to get on a schedule of activities, things I can do with the kids, with other women, ways to recreate and maintain my sanity in this town of no movie theaters or scrapbook stores. When I am honest with myself, the truth is that I've have become increasingly anti-social as I've gotten older. I let myself feel like it's too complicated to find a babysitter or arrange activities with other moms that have a lot of children. I feel like it's just going to be a further burden for another already busy mom to try to spend time with me and/or my kids. And a lot of times I feel like the thing that would refresh me most is to just have some peace and quiet, time alone rather than with friends.

But what I'm doing is obviously not working, so I'm going to try some things.
  • I'm going to ask Lynette if she will give Lily and I sewing lessons. It's a skill that I really need to learn, that I want Lily to learn, and I finally have the time to pursue it. And Lily has been begging to learn sewing for a couple years now.
  • I'm going to see if Becca wants to trade babysitting at least once a week for a few hours.
  • I'm going to suck up my paranoid concerns and start calling the other moms and arranging play dates for the kids and for me.
  • I'm going to find someone who loves scrapbooking that wants to do that a couple times a month.
  • I'm going to try to go walking everyday, preferably by myself.

In all of this, I am humbled by an entry on Dan's friend Elden's (Fatty's) blog. Click here to read. His wife has been battling cancer for quite some time and her fight is coming to a close. Elden has begun hospice care and Susan is likely down to just a few more days or weeks at the most. When faced with his reality, I know that my petty concerns mean nothing and that I am so blessed to have the husband that I have. One who works hard, is loyal to me, loves his children, and lives the life of a quiet Christian.

So yes, I will try to edit out the b.s. drama and appreciate what I have.


Anonymous said...

Oh man... when I read this post I was so mad at Dan... sorry dan, but sometimes men are just ... well, I won't go there. But I must say that being married and being parents is a very complicated, and delicate balance of love, patience and sacrifice... and no Drama... which I think is the hardest thing in the world, especially when you feel like you deserve to just be pissed off... I have to say that it sounds like you have really cooled down and have had a chance to look at how you could have handled things a little better. That is the hardest thing for me to do, especially in my situation. But, all we can do is Better ourselves and learn from these experiences. At least now you know that you need to get out and do more for yourself. I love ya, I feel for ya, I know that you will get through this crappy time of Dan being gone and you being pregnant, he cant stay in there forever! There is a book that really helped me to understand some things in my own cruddy situation, it is called the peacegiver... If you have not read it, I am sure that someone in that town has it... borrow it, read it and I promise that you will have a different outlook on things when you are done. Hey, maybe he could teach the girls to ride motorcycles with him, then he could be doing what he likes and you could take a break!!

The Queen Vee said...

Drama, I'm a "Drama Queen"in a whole family full of them to include the" Drama Kings". I dislike it when men request we be less emotional, "why can't a woman be more like a man". I also dislike it when they value what we do as less than what they do and I think in your situation a little bit of that was going on. You and Dan both carry huge responsitilities on your shoulders, the parenting part is not a one parent job.

You know that enduing to the end thing, I think it's about marriage. You just has to keep working at it because it is worth it.

One thing is for sure, "I wouldn't want to be married to me."

The Queen Vee said...

That would be ENDURING, I always try to put at least one mistake in my comments as homage to the Shakers.

Lori Gerten said...

All I can say is that you are my rock when it comes to my marriage. You have been a key piece in saving my marriage to Dan.

One thing I know about you is that you are able to make it work and are such a loving, giving, unselfish wife. We all slip up sometimes. It happens. YOU rarely slip up and make the best choices. I admire your selflessness and because you slip up so infrequently it probably seems far worse and more magnified than for those of us that slip up all the time.

I'm thinking about you and love you.

Becky in Wyo said...

Sorry, sis, but I shouldn't have read this post right now. I find myself being irritated at your man, instead of being all mature, philosophical, and peacemaking in my attitude. A man makes most of his sacrifices for the family by leaving home, and a woman makes most of her sacrifices by staying home. So, it's hard for a man to fully appreciate and respect what his woman does at home. He gets to leave, and he thinks what she does has less immedicay than what he does. He has no idea what it's like to be the one expected to give up the most of themselves. But a woman has to realize this and forgive him for not having a perspective he just isn't going to have. Both the husband and wife are subject to their own environments. It's hard for both to step outside and consider the other person's point of view. Human nature.

One of the things a woman has to do is refill her own tank. Because, as sad as it seems, the reality is that her husband can't do it for her. He can make their time together pleasant, enjoyable, and memorable, but he can never make up for the time apart, and for the responsibility she bears in raising small children. A woman has to realize this, and in many ways, just cope on her own. It is a source of irritation, and at times, satisfaction, that I have to be so strong on my own.

Sue said...

In Dan's defense, he was comparing his job to my job as a photographer, not as a mother. If he'd done that I'd have to tell him that if I didn't get my work done the kids would starve, jump in the wood stove, sit in poop for days, etc., etc...