Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hey, Jealousy

I am jealous of my husband. There, I said it. A little over a year ago, when our lives were too chaotic to manage with both of us working full-time, Mr. Whoo quit his job in the world of finance to stabilize the home front and get us prepared for the upcoming move. No doubt, it was the best decision ever. Our lives got exponentially better. Shopping, laundry, and errands got done. The kids were no longer in day care 10 hours a day, and we functioned much better as a family unit. Fast forward to now. We've been in Newville for about 6 months, now, and despite a concentrated effort, there are no desirable/worthwhile jobs in my husband's field of expertise. He did decide to take on a "partnership" in a business run by his cousin (which, don't get me started on that cluster, I'm not sure it was the greatest idea) in which he generally manages financial affairs, billing, accounting, and marketing, all for a pittance (not that it matters, but still). This is all done via computer and telephone, so he still is doing the lion share of household chores and kid wrangling to and from school. Here's where the jealousy part comes in...he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants to do it.

Most mornings, I leave the house before everyone gets up, so he gets the kids ready for school and out the door between 7:30 and 8 am. Then, the day is all his. He can go work out, any time he wants to do it. Then, if he wants to work, he works for a little while. There is no agenda, no set schedule for the day, it is his with which to do what he pleases. The problem is, I'm not really sure exactly what it is that he is doing! Kids are in school until 4-4:30pm. Shopping, laundry, and dishes still get done, but other chores have really fallen by the wayside (we used to have cleaning ladies to do all the "real" cleaning, so that is not getting done regularly and when it is it is done "man-style"). The rental in which we are living is crowded and too small for all of our "stuff" so it never looks uncluttered, and I'm not sure if that is contributing to the decline of cleaning activity or if it is something else. Now, unless I give him guidance, he is waiting for me to get home to tell him what to make for dinner, and I am starting to get a bit frustrated. Not only am I jealous of his autonomy, I am starting to feel like I am starting to judge what he does with his days...and this is not good for our marriage. I know he can' t do it all, but sometimes I feel put upon when he has all. day. long. to figure these things out.

The worst jealousy of all, however, is how much our kids favor him over me. I noticed it when he moved the kids to Newville a few weeks prior to my job being completed. When I finally got to Newville, Bean, who up until that time was very attached to me, was all about Daddy. Understandable, I thought, this will pass. Only it didn't. Now that I have more time to spend with my family, it seems my kiddos want less and less to do with me. My son fusses when it is my turn to lie down with him and night, and says hurtful things like how he is only "Daddy's son, not Mommy's." CindyLou criticises everything I do, because "Daddy doesn't do it that way." I know I shouldn't take it personally, because I know that they love me, and I have been working for so long of course they are going to attach to the parent they see the most. It still hurts, and I am jealous of his place as primary caregiver in their lives, because, well, I'm the *Mommy* dammit. For now, I am doing my best to spend the time that I have with the kids, and enjoying the activities that we never got to do as a family when I was working in my previous job. There is blame to lay on my shoulders, as well. I am trying not to come home and just disengage from the family because I spend all day long problem-solving and taking care of strangers, and therefore have little more to give emotionally. It is exhausting.

Hopefully, it won't be long until we navigate our way through this new life that we have found here. I still believe that having Mr. Whoo at home is far better for our overall family life when compared to having him work outside the home. How do you find your balance as a family? Anyone else married to a "stay-at-home" spouse? Any tips for thwarting resentment and insanity? Ways to reconnect with your kids? I value your opinions and advice!

14 comments:

  1. OMG, I could have written this entry at any point during residency. My husband was working on his PhD and our daughter was in daycare, so his main job was to drop her off and then.... well, let me just say, I'd come home early a few times to find him fast asleep. And he was spending a lot more time with our daughter and once I stopped nursing, I noticed she really preferred him. I tried not to take it personally, but I was really hurt. And I had moments when I really resented my husband for having it so much easier than me, especially when I was bringing home all the money.


    This year is totally different because he's working full time and my hours are 9-4. So I've taken over all the childcare duties. I'm embarrassed to admit how happy I was when my daughter said randomly, "I like mommy better than daddy." More childcare duties in addition to working full time is kind of (sometimes very) stressful but I definitely prefer it this way.

    So I guess I don't have any advice, but I definitely know exactly how you feel. I don't think men often feel this way about their stay at home wives.

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  2. Dr. Whoo, I think jealousy is natural, regardless of the split of duties. It's impossible to have it all, but natural to want it all. :). Today, I am jealous of my lawyer husband's office. Oh, what I would give for a quiet place with a reliable Internet connection and coffee...and I'm jealous of his lack of guilt about going there when he has to get work done!! As a resident and mom, I'm batting zero on those fronts!

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  3. My husband quit his job to be full time stay at home dad for our two boys when I started residency. It's been great for me, knowing our boys aren't in daycare all the time, but at the same time, I do get frustrated that he doesn't do laundry, or come up with dinner ideas. I think that we are still in transition and will gradually come to a point where the roles and expectations are better defined.

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  4. Boy, the old saying is true: you always want what you haven't got. I am so jealous of two of my good friends whose husbands stay home with the kids - but I know that has its own bag of worms.

    And I am jealous of my husband's job - he is in anesthesia and they get all these post-call days off and leave the hospital between eleven and three most days. Time to work out, pick up kids, etc. I'm an eight to five/sixer, most days. Occasionally, I can leave at four.

    I finally, a few months to partner with full vacation, love my own job. Residency was a lot different. Maternity leave was my only vacation for three years. It was awful.

    Stay in communication with your husband. If you need to take extra time, do so. Don't let resentment build to the point of bursting - it isn't good for anyone. This is all advice that is easy to say to someone from the outside, but you could look back at my past and laugh. "Pot, kettle," you would say.

    Good luck. Life is hard. Work is hard. We only live once. Change things to make it work for you. Whatever that means. Figure it out with your husband.

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  5. I just have to say thank you to all of you, and thank god I found this forum. I'm on the "other side"--my husband is a 4th year med student, and I'm pregnant with our first child (a boy, due March 10). It has been a wild ride so far, and I know it's just going to get bumpier.

    I think the person who made the "grass is greener" post is on to something. My husband and I talk about that all the time--I wish I could be out of the house all day and not fold another shirt, and he wishes he could stay home and cook dinner. Don't even get me started on my pregnancy jealousy! I am a Ph.D. student working on my dissertation, and I know that he's going to feel jealous of that freedom eventually. Even so, I think it's what's going to make our family work.

    He matches TONIGHT (Urology, so it's an early match, not March). All good vibes appreciated. I have a feeling you all might understand how I'm feeling right about now.

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  6. Gosh. My husband was involuntarily retired when our kids were teenagers. It was good in some respects: he was home when they came home from school, able to go to traffic court with kid 2 (speeding ticket) and taught both of them some interesting things (our daughter knows how to install a new stove, for instance). The kids did kind of prefer him to me, mostly because he was almost like a bigger kid. On the other hand, he got involved in a "financial services" company that turned out to be a giant pyramid scheme and actually ended up COSTING me money. Now he works for our office as computer guru, mechanical consultant, etc. and looks out for his elderly dad who lives near us. It certainly has not been ideal but it's worked most of the time. I think we all have to make our lives the best we can and it's always a transistion.

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  7. Two things:

    1) The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

    2) Kids say mean things on purpose just to press their parents' (and sibling's buttons). Even little kids.

    It'll get better.

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  8. No answers - but just wanted to say that I feel your pain. My husband owns his own business, which has been slowly going downhill due to the economy. As a result, he spends most of his days sitting in front of his computer (on facebook or other random websites, usually, although he claims that he's doing it "to drum up business") while our nanny watches our daughter and I work. He has TONS of free time yet I'm the one who always wakes up with our daughter in the morning. (Yes, I've tried negotiating that, and it's more painful for me to listen to him bitch about how tired he is than for me to just get up with her.)

    AND he's the first one who saw her walk, talk, etc. :(

    Not fair. Not fair at all, I say. Oh well. This too shall pass, right...?!

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  9. Umm, not that you really asked for this, but I have found, as a dinner-organizing-resenter-person, that sitting down together to come up with a menu plan and a shopping list once a week, which we post prominently in the kitchen, is very helpful. That way the person at home is fulfilling the Plan, rather than having to impose order on chaos.

    I think it helps a lot to figure out what your personal sticking points are (such as the dinner thing) and create ways to work with them. It's amazing how much general grievance can disappear if you see your spouse fixing things that annoy you just to make you happy.

    AM

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  10. Dr. Whoo, I don't have any special insight about all of the concerns in this piece except to say that it's really hard to be home too. Even when it looks easy, it's hard. I know this because 3 days per week, I'm the doctor who also gets to leave the home and kids behind with a nanny, and the other 4 days per week, I am the one who is the household heavy, at home with the kids and the laundry, etc. My husband is also a physician (military, so he also deploys--including right now to Haiti--so when I'm home, it's truly just me.) My days at home are far harder and sometimes much less fun than my days at work, though I'm not sure someone on the outside looking in (even my husband) could necessarily tell.

    About the meal planning, which is the Achilles heel of almost every family, regardless of which and how many parents work, check out www.thescramble.com. A nutritionist, chef, and working mom named Aviva Goldfarb started the site called "The Six O'Clock Scramble" because of these exact issues. You join for 6 months for a small fee--$25 or something total, I think--and each week, the same day, she emails you 5 complete dinners including recipes and ingredients, with an ingredients list you can print out. We do this and take the list to the store, so we have ideas and the ingredients to make them happen on hand. Most of the meals can be made with 5-10 mins of prep and 20 mins of cook time, so they are really feasible. You can customize it to "use chicken" if you have a bunch in your fridge soon to spoil or "no peanuts" if you have food allergies, etc. It has been worth every penny for us. Much for variety, much less stress over meals. To make it work, you really do have to print it out every week, though, and stick the list straight in your car or whatever, so the system doesn't break down. Good luck!

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  11. Hi Dr. Whoo, if you can, throw money at any problem that you can make disappear that way. Get that cleaner lady. Make sure she does your laundry, too. Invest the 25 dollars for the meal plan. Get a personal shopper, if you can. I know a colleague in a two physician marriage who has a line cook come in on the weekends who preps all their meals, bags them up in sequence, so all they have to do is throw the stuff together when it's dinner time. Life is short, and time and emotional energy should be spent on our families, rather than chores we don't enjoy. It's is much more precious than the money.

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  12. Or, if you can't afford the line cook, try the book "Saving Dinner." It's got all the ideas, plans and grocery lists, and then you and Mr. Whoo figure out a plan. And get the cleaner lady. It's the absoultely best money I've ever spent. Better than any drug is the feeling you get when you come in from work, smell the furniture polish, and know that there will be a clean bathroom and clean sheets on the bed and you DIDN'T HAVE TO DO IT.

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  13. Fizzy~ Hmmm, yes, there have been times where I have some time to go home for lunch, and find Mr. Whoo surfing the interwebs. That can rankle when other things need to be done. Most of the time, it isn't a major big deal, I was just having a moment!

    Anon 1/24~ I agree, and sometimes the guilt is the worst of it! :)

    Katherine ~ You know, if he were actually doing child care I would be much more understanding of lack of laundry or dinner (or anything, staying home with kids is crazy hard), but he is kid free from essentially 8-8:30 or 4-4:30, so that is from where my frustration stems. I know you will find your way, and we will too (once I lay down the law!)

    UrbanLeo ~ Congratulations on your pregnancy! I hope the match went well for your husband. I agree that it can be much, much harder with two people with inflexible schedules raising a family. I lived that, and this is far superior to that, just need to work out some of the kinks. All the best to you both (all three!)

    Gizabeth~ Oh, absolutely. Everything I post here, I've already hashed out with Mr. Whoo. We have the lines of communication open, I just can't belabor the point when frustration rears its' ugly head, so it helps to write it out, and to get fresh ideas and perspective! So thank you! :)

    Anon1/24#2~ Hey, stove installation is a valuable life skill! Hopefully no pyramid schemes in our future!! Thank you for your comments, it is nice to know I am not alone out here!

    Old MD Girl ~ I know, you are so right. Those kids certainly do know all the right buttons to push! We did have progress though, tonight my son did not throw a fit when it was my turn to put him to bed! Score!

    MLR~ Not fair is right! This is what I envision my husband doing when he is "working." Makes me insane. He does weekday mornings, but on the weekends when I finally don't have to get up for work, I find I have to get up and kid wrangle because he just ignores (er, I mean "doesn't hear") their pleas for food/new diaper/drink. Grr.

    AM ~ You are so right, and that is such a great suggestion! We've tried to sit and do that in the past, and then find ourselves in the same 6 meal "dinner rut." Add that to me trying to eat better and kiddos rejecting anything that may resemble a vegetable, and we have a food battle most nights. We just have to suck it up and do it. Thank you for your insight.

    Tempeh~ I don't know how you do all that you do. You are superwoman, I think! Thank you so much for the "Six O'Clock Scramble" suggestion, that sounds like a great service, and not to pricey (certainly less expensive than throwing up our hands and ordering takeout!) Thanks, again! :)

    mus~ I wish that we had that much money to throw! When I changed jobs, I came to a job with a better lifestyle, but a lower salary. Mr. Whoo has no true income, and we had to partially cash out some of our retirement savings (401K) in order to sell our house in Whooville (on the market for a year, and we made double mortgage and rental payments for 6 months). We are currently renting and looking to buy a house in the next 6 months, and will need 5% cash downpayment at that time. Money is pretty tight, and really not justifiable since he is here and capable of doing these things. I am hoping to hit Lotto this week though, so all will be right after that!

    mamadoc~ Thanks for the book suggestion! I will definitely look at "Saving Dinner." I totally agree about the wonderful feeling that the cleaning lady can bring...once we buy a new house, I am all about bringing back the cleaning lady!! Just have to scrimp until we can get the down-payment (and pay off the credit cards on which we were living when more money was going out than coming in). Hopefully it is sooner than later! ;)

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  14. Oh, I second the hiring out certain household chores. Do you have any of those Blue Plate dinner places where you can grab gourmet style healthy dinners you (hubby can do) put together for the week? Some will even deliver!!!

    I have a suggestion for reconnecting with the kiddies. I did this when I was so very tired with my 3rd pregnancy and the DH had to take over bedtime routine...and the kids started favoring his company more--well-because he was more available-not better-just more available.

    Find something-anything-that you-and only you can do with your kids together. Perhaps you read them a special book only mommy reads with the funny voices (no duplicating dad!) Also, you can have certain days where you take the kids on a nature walk or make play dough/lego creations where you just let your mind go back to being 5. Just think of the things you have always enjoyed that you want to nurture a love for in your kids and start small. No matter what--they will always remember the silly voices, or the play dough time. It will forever be equated with mommy:)

    All the best!

    Rose

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