I overslept. I took what was supposed to be a 20 minute nap this morning after a sleepless night with the youngest, but the nap stretched to 38 minutes, enough over that my husband missed his gym class, his one time per week when he can work out. I ran downstairs, feeling awful, apologized. But it was too late – the silent treatment portion of his day had already begun. He is mad about the class, of course, for which I apologize again. He then breaks his silence for a moment, to say “it’s not that.”
And now we’re on to the guessing. It’s time for…nobody’s favorite game show: What Could My Spouse Possibly Be Mad At Me For Now? I scan the room for clues. The children are dressed and eating, the kitchen is a mess as one would expect it to be, the construction workers are already outside working – record scratch: I scan back to the kitchen. Ding ding ding! We have a winner. Last night he had asked me to wash the dishes. He usually does the dishes and he might’ve not even asked me, I might’ve volunteered, in a moment of good wifedom. But that quickly gave way to exhaustion, as all moods lead back to exhaustion, and I fell asleep instead. The dishes were still there. This morning I go to the sink and start washing them. But it’s too late – martyr act already underway – he moves me aside and washes them himself. He won’t speak to me for the rest of the day. And when he does, he will start with something horrific like, “I don’t think I can go on like this,” something that implies divorce without actually saying it. Enough to frighten me. And because my default belief is that I am always in the wrong, I will accept this and ingest it, and live scared for a few long days.
Lest you think he’s the monster in Sleeping With The Enemy who hits Julia Roberts for hanging the powder room hand towels wrong, let me be clear: the guy isn’t a monster at all. He’s a lovely man and husband about 77% of the time. And the best father you’ve ever seen.
In calmer, happier moments, he has asked me about my mom-guilt, and he always remarks that I’m doing a great job, and all that’s going to matter in a few years is that our children were fed and happy. And what I always forget to say in those moments is that he contributes to my mom guilt immensely, when he hints at divorce over something that, in the grand scheme of things is trivial, like dirty dishes or unfolded laundry. The children ARE fed and happy, and that IS what matters most. Dishes will get done eventually, laundry may sit in the basket for a little while, might even function as a drawer right there on the kitchen table that I just take clothes out of. But our older child learned her shapes yesterday, and it was because of the time I spent teaching her.
But that’s a later conversation. Right now, he is silent, and I am yet again standing in the wake of his disappointment.