On Holding Tongues and Choosing Battles

Usually, I don’t complain openly about my husband. Well, that’s not completely true. At times, I tell it like I see it when I’m talking to him about his mistakes and shortcomings. And, I never, ever hold back on complaining in general when I’m talking to my sister (tied for BFF with my husband). Also, when my girlfriends are grumbling about their husbands, I sometimes can’t help but to chime in.

Still, I think it’s fair to say, that, for the most part, I zip my lips when it comes to criticizing my other half…because, after all, he is my other half by choice. It would say something about me and my judgment if I bitched and moaned about everything he does and doesn’t do… when I chose him and married him and had babies with him and continue to be with him. And, generally, I think I’m good at making decisions.

Anyway, I don’t typically broadcast my marital gripes. Not on my blog—because hubby has no way to fight back. Not with my coworkers or acquaintances—because they have enough of their own complaining to do, and it’s just not good karma (especially as my husband crosses paths regularly with many of these folks). And, especially not with my parents—because all they want is the best in the world for their baby girl. If I start to insinuate that my life partner and father of my children is less than perfect, then mom and dad may start to question if he’s good enough. And, frankly, I don’t need another issue like that with my parents. We have enough of our issues.

So, onto my story…

The other night, around 8 o’clock (note: this is after Jacob’s old bedtime of 7PM), I called my father from the park. One of the first things he asked (when he heard Jacob squealing in the background as I pushed him on the swing) was “where are you?” This is when my non-open-complaining-but-hinting-at-what-I-want-to-complain-about monologue began.

Cry me a river

“Oh, I’m at the park. Yes, you’re probably thinking that Jacob is usually in bed at this time. Nope, not anymore. Joe [husband] has him on a different sleep schedule. You’re also probably wondering why it’s just us and where Joe is right now. He’s at his softball game, where he is every Wednesday night (sigh).

“Do you remember he’s off work while school’s out this year because of his new job? He’s home with Jacob all sunny summer long while I’m at work all day every day. Yes, you’re right if you think it’s hard. It does sometimes kill me to leave for work in the morning when Joe gets to spend all of the lovely day with our precious son who is growing all too quickly.

“I know. I know. You’re probably thinking that I shouldn’t work full time or that Joe should be working days instead of me…because, after all, I’m the mom. Yeah (sigh). Well, anyway, Joe stayed out late with one of his friends last night [for the first time in months—I failed to mention this part] and so, he napped with Jacob late his afternoon.

“Yeah, you’re probably surprised and thinking, ‘wow, must be nice to sleep in the middle of the day!’ I was thinking the same thing. So, anyway, that’s why we’re at the park. Joe stayed out late last night and let Jacob sleep too long. So, here I am, after working all day while Joe’s out playing ball. I’m just passing the time until Jacob gets tired (sigh)…”

An unsympathetic, but reasonable response

After this ridiculous stab at my husband, my dad said, “Yeah, I remember when I had days off with you, kids, when your mom worked or was out grocery shopping or running errands. I did the same thing. I’d let you sleep all day if I could. You take what you can get when it comes to breaks when you have toddlers in the house. Good for him.”

My immediate thought was: “Seriously? This is Dad’s response to my poor-pitiful-me situation?!” My second thought was more aligned with how I really feel: my husband does deserve a break. As much as it tears my heart in two to leave my son for ten to twelve hours each weekday, I sincerely doubt I could stay home with him as much as my husband does and remain sane all the while. I learned that about myself on my maternity leave.

I always say I admire the stay-at-home moms out there who do it. Why don’t I admire my husband? Not only does he stay at home with my son during the day, but he also works evenings and weekends. Why do I feel annoyance instead of admiration?

“Never enough” is not reason enough to wage war

The problem is, as with all things in my life, I’m always wanting more. And, that has a direct impact on my expectations for the people closest to me, namely, my husband. Truly, I love him. I’ve explained to the world what a fabulous person and father he is. And, he is. But, he also happens to be the person I nitpick the most and on whom I take out my stress. Plus, sometimes he just makes me crazy. However, just when I’m about to kick and scream and pull out the big guns, I’ll come home to a clean house and an offer from him to watch the kids while I go hang with my girlfriends.

Ever since I became a mom over a year ago, I’ve found it takes a concentrated effort in all areas of my life to let the small stuff go and to be appreciative of the stuff that matters. When it comes to my husband, it’s the fair thing to do. After all, I have plenty of my own weaknesses and regrets. If he called me out on every incident in which one of those surfaced, then my life would be exponentially more stressful, and I’d be buried in guilt. No thanks. Furthermore, I figure if I am picking fights all the time, then down the road, when I want him to pay attention, all he’ll think is “here she goes again.” That’s not exactly the reaction I want when I actually have something worth arguing about. Until then, it’s probably best I keep my mouth shut. I guess it’s true that not all problems are battle-worthy.



Posted on July 29, 2011, in Parenting, The Balancing Act and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I love that you’re thinking about how Joe might hear (or not hear) what you’re saying. I so strongly believe that every couple needs this kind of empathy to build a really strong marriage. I got so angry today about a look I was sure was critical; of course, when I thought about it, I knew that I was projecting my own insecurities onto Nathan. It saves so much energy when I can realize that before going to start a fight!

  2. Hit the nail on the head with this comment: “But, he also happens to be the person I nitpick the most and on whom I take out my stress.” Just the other day I was complaining to him about how I do everything (clean house, pay bills, take care of baby, work full time, cook, etc.) and he offered to pay the bills (and other things). My comment to him was that even if I let him pay the bills, I’m a control freak and would probably be always bugging him and questioning if he did it the way I do it…so it really wasn’t worth it to me. At that point, I realized i should stop complaining to him because even when he offers, I don’t accept. Not fair to him one bit!!!

  3. We nitpick on our hubbies, because they’re our solid rock. We know we can lean on them and feel safe enough to know that our whining will not push them away. They’re here to stay. You’re absolutely right, Nikki. We have to appreciate them, as husbands end up doing quite a bit of work. I think in my case, it’s fair to say we share everything equally.
    Still, come on, admit it. Doesn’t it feel good to share our gripes with the girlfriends? My mommy friends and I have an unwritten rule: what’s said in the playdate, stays in the playdate. We love them, we love them, but ooooh! we love a good laugh at some of the silly or exasperating things they do. Great therapy.

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