It was on day 2 of our trip to Hong Kong that my darling hubby cracked. “Is this fun??!?!??!!” he said. It was in that moment that I realised that despite winning the hubby jackpot by finding a man who spends lots of quality time with his kids, will do milk runs in the middle of the night without complaining and happily takes the boys on boundless adventures – he still didn’t understand the reality of looking after kids full-time.
My husband travels overseas for work every few months but this was our first trip across the ocean as a family. He works a lot and often has many, many, many functions every week so although he gets in quality time with us as a family as often as he can it’s primarily in between meetings or on his way to an event and rarely for several hours in a row.
Sammy was refusing to sit in his pram for the 48th hour in a row and Christian was feeling a little sorry for himself because Mummy & Daddy had spent said 48 hours trying to manage and contain Sammy. The scenario wasn’t out of the ordinary for me i.e. wrangling two vivacious toddlers, being out of home and feeling the wrath of tired children – just an ordinary day in the life of a mother. What I hadn’t taken into account is how foreign this day was to my husband. As he turned to me and asked again “Is this fun for you???!?!” I saw in his eyes that he was genuinely hating this trip and thought that we had perhaps made a mistake by travelling with kids.
A Relationship Epiphany
He was irritated and I might have been more frustrated by his reaction but instead, I actually felt sorry for him. I would equate the scene to witnessing a new parent struggling with a newborn – fear, uncertainty, exhaustion and desperation all rolled into one. I recognised the face and emotion behind it because I had been there. I instantly had a flashback of every time he’d ever arrived home and I’d had a rough day with the kids. For all his sympathy and care he couldn’t possibly have truly empathised, until now. And in the same vein I can’t truly appreciate the stresses that come with being the primary bread-winner of the family and the responsibilities and pressure that a lot of men feel to provide.
I explained to him that this is actually a pretty regular day for me. It’s difficult to be out with the kids which is why I rarely take them to the shops on my own and if I do I have a plan of attack and we’re in and out. If we go to the park I go to the same, fenced-in play area and we’re usually out of there in under 40 minutes. They get tired, restless and irritable and I have to anticipate any and all scenarios at any and every time which is exhausting. But, you can actually enjoy yourself as long as you accept that this is the new normal.
As I relayed the details of how I keep sane I saw him look at me with new eyes. In that instant, he got it. He got that it’s hard. He got that the daily tasks can turn into disasters at the drop of a hat and I can’t give this man enough praise for the turn-around that took place. The rest of the holiday was like a dream. He was patient and looked for opportunities to give me a break from the kids – taking into account that I’d have them full-time again once we returned. We also work together and now that we’re back at home he gets that some days it is literally impossible to get through my to-do list; that I’d be as likely to hike to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro as I would be to make whatever phone call I really, really, reeeeeally needed to make that day.
Make or Break
The next time I feel irritated that he’s jetting off somewhere I’m going to remind myself that I don’t know what it’s like to walk in his shoes and deal with all that comes with being the main income earner. Inevitably, he’ll also need a reminder of how good he has it and how difficult it can be to be home with kids. And when that day comes I’m leaving the kids in his more than capable hands for a few hours.
I truly believe that parenthood can either make or break you as a couple. It took almost 4 years with little ones and two days of near hell for us to get to this relationship epiphany but at least we got there and what a difference there has been in the way my husband sees me. The good news is that you don’t need to travel across the world with crabby kids to get to this place. A relationship can improve with a whole lot of empathy and an appreciation for the fact that there are elements of your partner’s life that you may never be able to fully appreciate and likewise in return.
I never would have anticipated that a few tantrums would actually be amazing for our relationship but there is a plan and a lesson in everything. We just need to seek them out and recognise opportunities for change when they come our way.