“Can I go back to sleep? I got up at six,” he asks, like I haven’t been up countless times every single night for the past 10 months. But his undereyes make him look like the undead so I say, “Yes.”
Next, I burn the oatmeal because I try to use the bathroom and make breakfast.
I toss the scorched pan in the sink and make a new batch while the baby chases me around the kitchen. She’s clinging to my pant leg, pulling my pajamas down a centimeter at a time. I extend to my full length, arching over the open dishwasher, and slide the empty coffee pot into place. One more reach to hit the glowing start button. Give me the coffee, I silently plead.
The baby still has ahold of my pant leg and now my bare hip is exposed. With each small indignity, the anger toward my husband grows. It’s Saturday, I snarl to myself, my Saturday.
About a month ago, we agreed to begin alternating Saturday mornings “off”. Between the two of us, we work outside our home six days a week (him Monday through Friday, me on Sunday) and neither of us feels like we get much of a break. I use my newly-free Saturday mornings to take a yoga class, while he likes the house to himself for yard work and a nap.
The previous Saturday, I had done my best to not only let him sleep in—a real luxury with two kids under four—I also kept the girls out of the house for a whopping six hours. I didn’t ask, but I kind of wondered where my medal was when we finally pulled into the driveway that afternoon. I was proud of the time I had given my spouse and eagerly anticipated my own coming morning off.
But here we were. “My Saturday” and I was emptying the dishwasher to the sound of cartoons while my husband snoozed upstairs. I kept an eye on the clock, stewing, until finally I heard him stirring. Twenty minutes later the toilet flushed. The stairs creaked under his weight and I stiffened as he made his way down the hall to the kitchen. I avoided eye contact. He knew, of course, and stood waiting in the L-shaped crook of our faded Formica countertop.
“I guess we need to talk about what these Saturdays are supposed to look like,” I squeezed out.
The baby was slapping around in the playroom, punctuating our exchange with enthusiastic squawks.
“OK,” he agreed, “I’m not totally sure what you mean by ‘these Saturdays’.”
“The trading,” I said flatly. “This is supposed to be my Saturday.”
He nodded. “Right, you’re leaving for yoga at 9.”
His face was still a little sleepy. I could see the crease from his pillowcase cross his cheekbone and meet the corner of his eye. He was not trying to take advantage of our agreement—he was just tired.
I heard my therapists wise words: “Disappointment breeds resentment.” And I knew I wasn’t angry he was sleeping. I was disappointed to be parenting solo on a Saturday morning. Instead of turning this crack into a chasm, I needed to be honest with him about how I was really feeling.
I took a deep breath and began again.
“I’m lonely. I’m really, really lonely. And I’m tired. I spend all week alone with the girls and I look forward to Saturdays because I hope that we’ll all be together and that things will feel a little easier. So when you go back to bed and I’m down here, alone with them . . . it just feels . . . the same. And I hate it.” I let out what was left of my breath as he wrapped his arms around me. We stood hugging in the kitchen for a moment—until the baby found us and demanded she be part of our embrace.
As we stepped back to include our littlest one, my husband took a long look at me. In that moment of vulnerability, I let him see what I perceived as my weakness. And he let me know he loved me anyway.
“I’m sorry,” he said as he held my gaze. I nodded an acknowledgment and leaned in for another hug.
Our marriage isn’t about who gets more sleep (he does), or whose Saturday it is (mine), or who can be strong all the time (neither of us). Our marriage is about the nitty gritty work we do together every single day. It’s about showing up and being vulnerable even when that feels really hard. Our marriage is about building a stronger partnership, through love and compassion, one day at a time.
As I left for yoga, my husband was feeding the kids my second batch of oatmeal. I felt seen, and heard, and loved—thankful that this was the man I married. And maybe just a little grateful that he was on dish duty.
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