Today I made yogurt, a loaf of sourdough bread, crumpets, popovers, swirled cheese buns, and rhubarb jelly which is a LOT OF THINGS. And now I’m Very Tired, and I’m going to go sit in the bathtub with M&Ms if there are any left over after I accidentally showed them to the rest of my family, and I’m going to read my book.
Greg Woolsey, bless his heart, just walked into the kitchen, looked at the bounty I created, and said, “Wow. Did you just feel like making all of this?” He also said to the children a couple weeks ago at dinner, “Aren’t we all glad Mom likes to cook?” And, Diary, I am grateful in my HEAD to be married to a human person who is working hard to be appreciative out loud of the work I do, but also, Diary, I want to yell things like, “NO, I DID NOT JUST FEEL LIKE MAKING ALL THIS, GREG,” and also, “I AM NOT DOING THIS BECAUSE I ENJOY IT SO, SO MUCH,” and also-also, “I AM TRYING TO BE WISE AND DILIGENT DURING A FORKING GLOBAL PANDEMIC and USE WHAT WE HAVE and IF I DIDN’T MAKE THE RHUBARB INTO JELLY, IT WAS GOING TO GO BAD and IF I DIDN’T USE THE SOURDOUGH DISCARD IT WAS GOING TO EXPLODE IN THE FRIDGE and MAKING YOGURT EQUALS ONE LESS TRIP TO THE STORE WHICH EQUALS LESS EXPOSURE FOR ALL OF US” and I especially wanted to yell, “I SPEND EVERY SECOND THINKING ABOUT WHAT I NEED TO DO NEXT TO HELP ALL OF US GET THROUGH THIS — emotionally, physically, mentally, etc. — AND I AM VERY GLAD I’VE MANAGED TO DO IT KINDLY ENOUGH THAT YOU THINK I *LIKE* ALL THIS, BUT OMG, I DON’T.”
And did I mention I’m Very Tired?
Because I’m Very Tired.
Very, Very Tired.
And I’m not going to yell all those things at my family, so you get to listen to me vent, instead, because YOU’RE THE LUCKIEST, Diary.
But also, this is part of the emotional and mental labor women talk about so often. The invisible work we do. The way we can’t shut off our brains because there’s always Someone Needing Something, and a List of More To Do, and If We Don’t Do It, It Won’t Get Done.
As quarantine goes on, I’ve found myself resentful every time Greg lays on the bed to read or watch a show or otherwise put his feet up and relax. The same way I resented it when our children were younger and he’d go in the bathroom AND LOCK THE DOOR to do his business. On the one hand, I fully recognize that I AM RIDICULOUS, and I AM ALLOWED TO ALSO LAY DOWN AND REST, and I AM ALLOWED TO ALSO LOCK THE BATHROOM DOOR. But on the other hand, I’m not ridiculous at all because I actually, truly couldn’t leave the baby unattended to spend 45 minutes taking a shit in peace, and I actually, truly can’t just lay down and rest unless I’m willing to a) delegate the work I was going to do in the house or with the children or b) have it pile up and tackle bigger messes later as a consequence of “resting.”
None of which I’m saying as a way to bitch at or about my partner. I have it Better Than Most women because I have a partner who cares about inequity and is open to conversations about All of the Above. But having it Better Than Most women doesn’t mean it is equal or equitable, either. So my challenge is trying to figure out how to have conversations that are positive and kind and still push the needle toward the other humans in my house (offspring included) Seeing What Needs to Happen without my intervention.
It’s SEEING ALL THE THINGS that requires so much energy. I’m the person charged with Seeing What Needs to be Done — the cooking, cleaning, inventorying, yard work, homework, daily exercise for the humans and beasts, hygiene, mental states, and everything else into infinity — and then, after the Noticing, I must choose to Do the Things Myself or Delegate the Things to Others, but when I Delegate, I also must Continue to Manage to Ensure the Things Are Actually Done, which involves Knowing Who’s Assigned What, Noticing Whether They’ve Done What They’s Supposed to Do, and Reminding as Needed Until It’s Done. All of which multiplies my workload exponentially.
All of which is highlighted during quarantine.
All of which is building to a head because this Cannot Go On.
All of which requires that I Invent a New System, Explain the New System, and Enforce the New System because it’s past time we Change How This Works.
All of which makes me feel Very Tired.
But Changing the Rules is part of relationship. We’ve done it in our marriage after assessing which things are ruts and which things are working. We’ve done it in parenting as our children grow and learn, and as we do, too. What Once Was needn’t be static. What Once Was shouldn’t be static just by virtue of habit or ritual or tradition. What Once Was must be evaluated so we can keep that which fosters growth and love and discard that which weighs us down.
And this pandemic is a catalyst for change. Of course it is. Crises always are. The pressure cooker of extreme situations condenses our natural timelines for noticing What Works and What Doesn’t.
I don’t have a solution yet, Diary. I’m just noticing What Doesn’t at the moment. I’m in process. Making observations and letting them percolate before turning them into a Plan for Change.
But Change is on the horizon, Diary.
I can feel it coming.
With love… and making a beeline for the tub even though I know the messes will mount in my absence…
P.S. Along these lines, I asked Greg a couple weeks ago to make a list of what he does to get ready for bed. I told him it wasn’t a computer programming test — as in, he needn’t write down the minutiae of each task — but he should cover all the main things he does from the point he thinks “I should get ready for bed” until he’s in it and ready to sleep.
Here’s his list:
- Brush teeth
- Wash face or shower
- Get clothes for next day
- Change into bed clothes
- Put on wrist brace, nightguards
- Turn off unused lights
- Watch a show if time
Here’s my list:
- Is it going to rain? Did we take the hammock chairs down? Did we leave anything outside that can’t get wet? If yes, take care of it or ask someone else to do it.
- Are the oven and stove off? Check.
- Have the kids come downstairs to ask for a later bedtime/screen time? If yes, do nothing. If no, check in with them re: bed/screen expectations so they’re not coming into our room at midnight to ask.
- Feed dogs (or make sure they were fed tonight), check water, give meds.
- If dinner food is still out, ask Greg to put it away. Remind kids to do their kitchen chores.
- Lock back door, garage doors, turn off garage lights, mantle lights. Lock front door, turn off porch lights.
- Brush teeth/wash face/Shower. Wipe down shower with cleaning spray and sponge. Spot clean shower curtain liner.
- Wipe down bathroom counter.
- Change into bed clothes.
- Put dirty clothes in bin, evaluate how full it is, if full either start laundry or ask Greg to. If starting laundry, add towels and get new/clean towels for bathroom.
- Nightguards, earplugs, and sleep meds.
- Turn off unused lights (check with kids re: upstairs lights, too).
I share these not to suggest I do more than Greg to get ready for bed. Often, by the time I’m done delegating tasks or asking Greg to follow up with kids on my list of things, he does more than I do. I share these to point out the mental labor of Seeing Things and Making Sure They’re Done. And this is JUST bedtime. It’s not dinner time or game time or yard chores or daily chores or weekend chores or school work or grocery shopping or bills or car maintenance or any of the other Infinite Things that Need Seeing.
P.P.S. I’m Very Tired.
P.P.P.S. This is my friend Paul watching kale grow because that’s the kind of thing we do in COVID times. Also, he looks in this pic like I feel.
P.P.P.P.S. And how I feel is Very Tired, which I may or may not have already told you.