We need to split responsibilities—now more than ever.
My dear husband,
Hi, you. I love you. You're great. Seriously. I appreciate how strong you've been through all of this, how you're always looking out for our family, and most of all, how much time you've been spending with our kiddo, playing with her and watching over her and trying to get her to watch something vaguely educational on YouTube.
I appreciate how hard you're trying. Your loving attention shows our child that even with all the changes caused by coronavirus—the self-quarantining and social distancing and school closures—you've got her back, and just as important, it's still okay to have fun.
But oh. my. goodness. My dude. You are kind of driving me crazy right now.
I know this is partly me. It's just hard being on top of each other all the time… and not in a sexytime way, more like in a sardine-can way. I just need some space—physical and emotional space.
I know you do too.
Space helps us both breathe, stay calm and think before we speak or react. Sadly, space is a luxury that not many families, our own included, can claim right now.
Another thing that's hard? Being so needed, so much, from so many different directions. I mean, you get used to a certain amount of that, being a mama—being needed is basically the job description. But I'm working hard to split myself into pieces right now so that everything and everyone who needs me can have an appropriately-sized chunk: Our kid, you, our safety and health, my job, our family and friends, and all the new responsibilities that landed on American parents this week like an anvil out of the sky with 75% of schools closed.
(Oh, and the news. The news would like to consume me whole. It's greedy like that.)
And all this while I'm grappling with my own coronavirus-related anxieties and fears—are we going to be okay? How can I make this okay? If I can't make this okay, then how can I make myself be okay with not being okay?
It's hard. I need something to need me less. I know it's not fair that I'm hoping it can be you.
Because as much attention as you're showing our daughter, you seem to need...um, how can I put this? Instructions and help and input on some pretty basic things?
Remember yesterday when you offered to make everybody lunch while I finally answered some overdue work emails, and then you spent the next 20 minutes yelling questions out of the kitchen like, "Where's the peanut butter?", "Where's the mayo?", "Where's the lettuce?", "What should I make?"
You realize—right?—that these are all variations on the question What's in the fridge that I am literally standing right in front of?
This is a small thing, I know. And it's a funny thing. It really doesn't even bother me that much. But it is a sign of a larger thing, which is that we absolutely have to commit to trying to share responsibilities as evenly as we can—now more than ever—so that we're really helping each other and being good partners.
Anticipating issues. Solving problems on our own. Thinking around corners. You know that "mental load of motherhood" thing I keep talking about? Yeah. This is that. Don't interrupt my two precious minutes of stolen work time to make me tell you where the peanut butter is. Just please don't.
As painful as this is to admit, there's something else, too.
Sometimes I just do not feel strong enough to carry all of us through this. In those moments, if I don't feel heard and seen, if it doesn't feel like you're sensing my fear and worry and stepping up—arms out and open, to pick us all up and carry us for a while—I get angry, resentful, mean.
I am expecting as much of you as you are expecting of me. Sometimes we're going to miss opportunities to show one another that we have each other's back. That's just how it is. But man, right now, when it happens...it makes me so mad at you.
In a way, I guess, I'm also mad at me.
But you're the closest person to me. And I hope you always will be. Even when you drive me crazy.
I love you, honey. I'm pissed off and freaked out and mad and scared, but I do love you. Even when I'm mad at you. So let's do this. Together.
Oh, and by the way—the peanut butter is in the cupboard on the right-hand side. 😉
[Editor's note: This story is a letter from a woman to her husband. While this is one example of one type of relationship, we understand, appreciate and celebrate that relationships come in all forms and configurations.]