"So, what do you do when you walk by the downstairs bathroom and it smells like pee?" I asked, frustrated that the equal division of labor that we had talked in the wrapped-in-fantasy pre-parenting days was nowhere even close to the 50 yard line.
He gave me a quizzical look. "The bathroom smells like pee?" At the time of this argument, our boys were a not-quite-potty-trained three year old and a five year old whose aim left much to be desired. The boys' bathroom/guest bathroom ALWAYS smelled like pee.
To me, his comment illuminated the biggest problem we had in our relationship: Our division of labor was far from fair because there were many responsibilities that I handled that he didn’t even see (or smell). In his head, his outside work plus helping out equaled my housework plus my not-quite-full-time career. He looked at the list of my responsibilities, tallied the time up in his head, and produced a balanced scorecard.
To be fair, he was doing a great job based on his formula. But his calculations didn't factor in the time suckers that kept it from feeling even. The pee sprayers, aka my children, meant that cleaning the bathroom was not a once a week chore that my husband thought it was, but a daily sanitation project. Grocery shopping didn't just take 45 minutes from home to store and back again because I had to calculate what he hadn’t added in:
• Five minutes to take inventory and stock up the backpack to make sure I had wipes and extra clothes for my son in case of an accident
• Eight minutes to track down the three-year-old and the battle of the wills that followed as we negotiated pants and shoes
• Seven minutes to get from the front door to fully locked and loaded in the car
• Five minutes to unload the boys from the car and get one of the three shopping carts with a car-shaped seating area in front (which involved stalking – I mean following – a mom to her car and waiting with my fidgety, we-don't-wait-well boys while she unloaded her groceries and children from the cart)
• Immeasurable minutes spent in negotiations for sugar-coated items they wanted me to buy
• Countless minutes distracting them from their ongoing argument over who got to steer the shopping cart car.
A "quick trip" to the store took hours.
Daily time suckers also included the constant interruptions by the boys who needed me to play with them, read to them, break up a fight, negotiate turns with a favorite toy that they regularly fought over even though they had two of them. (Somehow, one toy was more special than its identical twin.) Everything, from laundry to fixing dinner, took three times longer than it should. I had two living, breathing reasons why nothing ever felt finished.
The more I didn't get done meant the less time I had for me. Me time, which really only meant time for me to read a book without pictures in it, was wedged so far up against my bedtime that it didn't really count because I couldn't keep my eyes open for it.
My husband’s and my division of labor didn't feel fair. I had turned into a walking bundle of resentment but kept telling myself I shouldn't be. I should be happy that I have two great, healthy, happy kids. I should be happy that I could work at a job that fulfilled my soul more than it fulfilled our bank account so I could spend these important years with my kids. I should be happy that my husband helped so much with the kids and around the house.
But all of the “should be happys" felt like jeering cheerleaders on the sidelines of a game that I didn't want to play anymore. I was angry at my husband. I was disappointed that this life I’d always wanted had turned out to be so different than I expected. It felt like I’d registered for badminton and ended up on the football field. I’d shown up with my racket and birdie and was blindsided over and over by 300-pound responsibilities.
This wasn't what I’d signed up for.
My husband and I found our way out of the Who Does More game and into a marriage worth keeping. It took a big commitment, not only to build a better marriage but, quite honestly, to build a better husband (and become a better wife in the process).
I’m sharing my ideas and steps on How to Build a Better Husband in a free call on Friday, February 5th (sign up here). If you can’t wait until then, schedule a free one-on-one call with me where we’ll talk about what you can specifically do to build a better marriage – and husband – starting now.