For the bus stop parents, an explanation of my mood
A Mini Examen

Do you have a Thing? Here's ours:

So! you have been saying to yourself, How are the Cheungs doing?! 

WELL. This weekend it was decided that Emma will not be entering kindergarten this fall and will do what we're going to call her Super Senior Year of preschool. (Pre-K. Fives Program. Whatever.) This is alternately No Big Thang and OMG I Need To Go To Therapy, so we're just going to avoid the topic for now, ok?

Molly plastered herself with temporary tattoos at a friend's house recently, and has been going about in public with a seriously giant black and gold tattoo necklace on her chest because I couldn't scrub it off. (Someone recommended nail polish remover? But that seems... toxic?) 

Jack bit it on his bike the other night - when we had a babysitter, oops - and due to the resulting road rash on his arm, has been walking around like Bob Dole. It's a big scrape for sure, and it looks pretty terrible, but I am not exaggerating his wounded war vet posture and am considering getting him a pen to hold. It doesn't seem to slow him down when the kids play Just Dance, though. I'm just saying. 

Phillip is in SAN DIEGO where he is a customer at a customer conference and the morning he left he said, "So, is it okay that I'm kind of really looking forward to going away for a bit?" 

As for ME, I am a bit of wreck. A highly functioning wreck. Between the kindergarten thing and the sudden mass of Important Things I Have To Get Done The Week Phillip Is Out Of Town and the thing I'm about to tell you next, I shall require my own week away. 

Okay, so the THING is... how a scarcity economy plays out in marriage. [SNORE] (But wait!) 

Basically, Phillip has a limited amount of social, emotional, and physical energy. Say he has 100 units. A large number of those units go toward work and what he has leftover goes toward, you know, barking at the kids to practice piano, grilling hamburgers for dinner, fixing the toilet that won't stop running, talking to the friends his wife keeps inviting for dinner, whatever. He GAINS units by, say, binge-watching Silicon Valley episodes, preferably with his wife next to him, preferably without her asking questions about compression algorithms. 

And then there is me. I have a limited amount of energy as well, but I have, say, 1000 units. And I THINK I have 2000. It is a rare opportunity or idea or offer to which I say, "I do not have time for you." Not because I'm one of those people who always has to help someone out or volunteer or SERVE. No saintliness for me, this is all about Fun Stuff I Wanna Do. Let's start a baking business! AND write a blog! AND commit to the kids doing this and that! AND volunteer for this thing at church! AND invite friends over to eat all the time, even though there are few things I hate more than making food! AND devote major major time and effort to ANOTHER church thing that requires one night away each week! Oh, what about spending more time getting to know this group of people? THAT WILL BE AWESOME!

(All that is in addition, of course, to my Regular Job, that being the caretaker of everyone and everything in our household.)

Oh, and I suppose I gain units by... doing cool stuff? Meaningful Conversations with friends? Actual sleep?

So what you have here is a husband who is completely exhausted and a wife who feels trapped. 

NO BUENO

I mean, this is not new news. We are well aware of what makes us tick, we know our Enneagram types! But it's really in my face right now. (And his, I guess. This having to take another person into account does not, surprisingly, get easier the longer you are married. LAME.) 

Here is where I would unpack this idea a bit more, throw in a few examples, and end with something revelation-like. Maybe not an answer, but a new idea, something to chew on, something possibly helpful to think about. 

But I got nothing. This is The Thing. Do you have a thing? Most of my married friends seem to have a Thing. A trust issue, a family of origin thing about money, a perfectionist personality matched to a just wanna have fun personality. The thing you always butt heads on. It manifests in all different ways, but this is ours. I want to see as much as I possibly can in London, Phillip wants to nap on a beach. Phillip wants to have a lazy playful morning with the kids on Saturdays, I want to Get Stuff Done. I want to have a huge Christmas party, Phillip... goes along with it. I want to start something new, Phillip sees all the things I'm already doing. I think I can handle something, Phillip doesn't see how I can possibly have the capacity to handle this additional thing. 

If you have this one figured out, be sure to let me know. In the meantime I'll just be over here scream shouting "I ALWAYS HAVE THE CAPACITY, PHILLIP CHEUNG!"

Anyway. Phillip is ordering room service in San Diego and I am going to church meetings and a school boundary meeting and taking Jack to the orthodontist and packaging cookies and arranging deliveries and making friend dates and babysitting nephews and packing lunches and braiding hair. It's okay. I'm going to visit @lizritz in Chicago in August, did I tell you that? For nearly a week, so I have no complaints about Phillip having to go on a WORK trip with a hotel room on the water and room service, especially when it means I don't have to make a real dinner all week. FISH STICKS FOR EVERYONE. 

Comments

Agirlandaboy

Our thing is similar in that one of us has boundless energy (him) and the other doesn't (me), but the complication is he only has that oomph for things he WANTS to do (so not, like, vacuuming or organizing the attic), whereas I am always trying to do things rationally and efficiently, which usually means doing the Have-Tos first and the Get-Tos last, at which point, of course, I'm too tapped out to fully enjoy them. And he's like "Why don't you have the energy to do the fun stuff?" Hey, maybe it's because I vacuumed and organized the attic? The way we deal is I make him to Have-Tos and then force myself to do Get-Tos even though the house is a wreck and my to-do list is five pages long, and for the most part it works and we're happy because this is just how it is.

Steph

Baby Oil works wonders on getting off temporary tattoos (just put that to the test this week)

Suzanne

We have A Thing, wherein I spend all day by myself and want to have Deep Intellectual andPhilosophical conversations at night, but he spends all day using his brain and interacting with patients and just wants to mindlessly - and quietly, which I get! I am an inteovert too! - surf the internet. It's not fun but it is what it is and when it's important I set an appointment and he focuses. How do marriages WORK?! Two totally separate humans trying to partner their way through life... No wonder it's hard work alongside the good stuff!

AmyRyb

My husband and I have a similar dynamic. He works himself like crazy so he would rather spend Saturday afternoon taking a nap, if at all possible. I would love to take a nap, as well, but then it starts eating away at me that I have four hundred things to do and I can't nap or else I will be kicking myself for the rest of the week because I didn't get stuff done. It drives me insane when I am working my butt off and he has little urgency to get to his stuff. On vacations, I just want to see everything and he's often content hanging out in the hotel room. In the evenings at home he's fine just sitting on the couch watching shows with the kids when I know that we should be pushing playing outside or taking family walks or something...but I'm so tired at that point of the day that I can't fight that fight. Due to very demanding jobs (working together, might I add) early in our marriage, we never really got in a "friend" groove, so we don't really have friends to go out with on a regular basis. Date nights are scarce, too, which leaves a disconnect since we can't communicate properly when kids are interrupting us every five seconds. I crave social interaction (despite being an introvert--I just want connections!) and yet I feel guilty leaving him home with the kids for too long. While he adores them and in theory is fine with it, inevitably when I come home it appears that all hell broke loose while I was gone and he can't seem to manage dinnertime or bedtime without being annoyed by something. It's always so complicated for him...even though most weekends for half the year he's working and I'm solo parenting, which leaves me little sympathy for his rough couple hours. But I get it, and he's rarely overtly cranky about it...but I feel this VIBE sometimes that makes me feel guilty for not being there. I honestly don't even know if he knows he's doing it. What bugs me is that I never saw these personality differences before we had kids, and now it freaks me out a little. I don't think our marriage is in jeopardy or anything, but it definitely makes things a bit more isolating at times. I've learned I have to be intentional about being aware of those differences and pushing very gently to improve them when things get rough, but it is not easy sometimes.

Rosemary

Yes, we have a Thing (or two)!!

I think the Thing is supposed to make me holy. . . will get back to you on that!

My kid turns 6 on Aug. 10, and he will start K in Sept. Best parenting decision we ever made. Even if you don't feel that great about your decision, I will feel that great about it for you. :) He just wasn't ready. I don't know what it is with Emma, but if she's not ready, it's just better. Also, you get to have a full nest for an extra year!!

Sarahd

We have a similar thing. And also don't agree on religion or politics so...yeah. We've made it 20 years so far (14 with kids) so I guess we'll be all right but it's just hard. On the flip side we both love Alabama football and eating out and beach vacations and House of Cards, The Last Ship, Suits, Scandal...you get the idea. It just works somehow.

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