Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Recognition

My friend Susan is so smart. She says these things, these really deep and insightful things, and it is only later that they come back to me and I realize how right she is and how smart. She tells me things about her experience parenting and being a partner to her husband, and while I am hearing them I think that they sound good, but I don't necessarily think more about her observation beyond a description of what is happening for her. Like the time at my blessing way when she talked about her experience of fatigue as a defining characteristic of parenting very young children. She likened it to the native Alaskans, who have something like 50 words for snow. She has experienced being tired in many ways. She talked about being happy tired and angry tired. Being weepy tired and goofy tired.

Listing to Susan say this I thought I remembered the fatigue of parenting in the infant stage. I had done it once before, and as a heavily pregnant person I was already re-experiencing interrupted sleep. I heard her talk about being tired and I took it in as a part of my whole blessing way experience; she, and the other women at the ceremony, shared their experiences as mothers as a way of marking my becoming a mother to two new children. 

It was not until months later that I remembered what Susan had said and found it completely descriptive of my present life. Maybe remembered is not quite the right word. It is more like that I felt it. The experience of simultaneously remembering and recognizing that her words fit me was almost physical in its immediacy.

This weekend I had another "Susan is so right" moment. Susan and I have talked a lot about the stresses of parenting, and about how those stresses can affect our relationships with our husbands. We are both lucky to have wonderful partners who are active parents and very engaged on many fronts. But no one is perfect, and all the work and time and and and of parenting can make relationships harder. Add to that the tendency to ignore the need to nurture that key relationship, and both partners can find themselves drained and frustrated.

After a week in which I realized that our finances are such that I will have to work more in the coming months and make some other changes that will likely require sacrifices for both Chris and me, I have been feeling put upon. It wasn't something specific, it was just the reality of my life right now. I don't want to get into it, and I realize that even as things stand now I have a wonderful life with completely bourgeois problems, but things feel like a bit of a grind right now. I work. I plan, shop for and prepare food for Ian and Mira. I plan, shop and sometimes cook food for Chris, Ada and myself. I do laundry. I pick up toys, blankets, clothes, food, newspapers and plastic bags constantly. I pay the bills and fret about how we will keep up. I wash the babies, I wash Ada. I run through bedtime routines and wake-up routines and in-between routines. I recycle. I fight back the rising tide of stuff in our house by giving stuff to goodwill or the swap shop. In between I get to play with the Ada, Mira and Ian, but even that involves dealing with a lot of whining and crying and other age-appropriate but parent-soul-crushing behavior.

I do not mean to imply that Chris doesn't do this stuff too, because he certainly does. But this is my blog, so let's focus, shall we? I (and okay, we) just do a lot of stuff, and it goes on all day, every day. In the midst of this effort and stress and fatigue I have been feeling crabby. (Shocking, I know.) I feel crabby generally, and I feel less than generous toward Chris, despite knowing that he is facing the same pressures and is holding up at least as well as I am, probably better. In the middle of my disgruntled blah-blah-blahs, I remembered something Susan had said. She talked about how she and her husband get into this place where they are both tired and worn down and out of sorts. Then one person gets a break - gets to sleep late, or go out with friends or in some way gets their burden lightened a little. Let's say it is Susan who gets the break. This lightening allows Susan to not feel so tired and stressed, and once she feels better it allows her to turn to her husband and say I know things are feeling really hard for you right now. This in turn lets him say yes, things have been hard. Thank you. All I wanted was for someone to recognize that!

And this can be a release, allowing both partners to feel better and to more easily shoulder their burdens.

After days of carrying around low-level annoyance I realized that this is part of what I want. I want it recognized that I am shouldering this burden. I want Chris to point to it, and to tell me he can see its contours and recognizes its heft. I want all this work and stress and fatigue to be recognized, not so that I can give it to Chris to carry, but so that I can once again pick it up knowing that I am not doing so unappreciated.

Well, that and a lot more sleep. But I'll take what I can get at this point.

15 comments:

  1. You friend Susan IS smart.

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  2. It's so true! Just having our daily burdens acknowledged and therefore validated makes SUCH a difference!
    I like Susan. Does she want to be my friend too?
    Also, remember that this level of fatigue does not actually last forever, although I know it feels that way right now.
    Soon, your twins, too, will be bickering in status updates on Facebook, just like mine :)

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  3. Susan definitely IS smart :)

    And I too find myself in similar situations lately and a little recognition would help. And I guess I need to recognize too ;)

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  4. I've thought about Susan's sleep comments many times myself. This is very timely as I am feeling a lot of the same pressures as well as illness and general crabbiness. Hang in there!

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  5. I have so been there. Sometimes i force myself to thank my husband for what he does because then I know it will trigger him into thanking me. And that is what I really want to hear. :-)

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  6. I am so happy you and Susan are friends. And, yes, I think she's incredibly wise. Except that time she ate the last pickle and thought I wouldn't notice. That was not wise.
    Sending you good vibes and extra sleep,
    m

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  8. I've been having a similar problem at work. There have been some feelings that myself and some of my team have had ever since our company was bought by a much larger one. Every time I bring up our feelings to my management they dismiss the feelings and tell us that we shouldn't have them. On my recent business trip things came to a bit of a head (thanks to someone betraying me) and I finally said that I just need them to recognize how we feel. It may not make sense to them but it doesn't stop us from feeling that way. Ugh! The whole thing is so frustrating.

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  9. I've been having a similar problem at work. There have been some feelings that myself and some of my team have had ever since our company was bought by a much larger one. Every time I bring up our feelings to my management they dismiss the feelings and tell us that we shouldn't have them. On my recent business trip things came to a bit of a head (thanks to someone betraying me) and I finally said that I just need them to recognize how we feel. It may not make sense to them but it doesn't stop us from feeling that way. Ugh! The whole thing is so frustrating.

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  10. Jon and I try to support each other by giving each other breaks but it is hard.

    This Susan woman sounds wise, how do you get to be this wise? Hopefully not by years of sleep deprivation!

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  11. I love this insight. LOVE IT.

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  12. Yes, I couldn't agree more. Lori and I have talked about the importance of recognition for contributing to the daily grind. For me it can be a simple "Thank you" or saying "Yes" when asking for a favor.

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  13. I recognize what you do and I think you are amazing. I try to regularly recognize my partner, too, and to tell him when I need positive feedback from him. He won't twig to it on his own most of the time, though he is getting better. Life with littles is a slog - a worthwhile slog that we choose with eyes open, but a slog nonetheless, and knowing that someone sees all the mundane shit that eats your life, that you do just to MAINTAIN, makes a big difference.

    Nara

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  14. Wow - I'm so touched that you wrote about some of the things that I said. You forgot the part about me offering bland unsolicited advice too frequently as well, and apparently eating the last pickle (I didn't recognize M as my husband, until I wondered aloud whose last pickle I ate).

    I believe it is you who are wise, to take a few gems in the blather and apply them to bring insight into your life and then share it so eloquently on your blog. I'm so glad you're my friend.

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  15. The myth of Sisyphus sometimes feels like the seminal metaphor for parenting. The rock. Pushing it never ends.

    Here's to rest stops on your mountain.

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