For Christmas, my husband is getting a t-shirt I designed on Zazzle.com. On the front, it says, "Livin' life" and on the back, "Keepin' it real."
(Don't worry, Hubby doesn't read my blog unless I tell him to.)
One of the challenges of family life Jeff and I have found, is that we often don't agree on how to live it. I'm not talking big things (faith, where to send the kids to school, which is the best of Jim Carrey's films). I'm talking just how to get through a weekend day from morning to night. Our priorities are different.
For example, my priority on a Saturday is to take a shower and get dressed by myself while the kids stay downstairs (out of earshot) with their father. I'd like to get the house in relative order order and neatness, and all the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher. Then I'd like some kind of fun family outing, and then possibly an afternoon nap.
Jeff, on the other hand, likes to disappear into the outdoor storage unit to make repairs on obscure household items -- usually right after I get into the shower. Then he likes to make himself an elaborate bachelor lunch -- often involving sausages, hot sauce, cheese, nachos or all of the above -- while the rest of us eat a pb&j and get on with our lives. On these occasions, when I find him engaged in something that looks bizarre or pointless, I'll ask him, "What the heck are you doing?"
His response is usually, "I'm livin' life, baby. I'm just livin' life." The runner up response is "I'm keepin' it real."
He says this too me so often -- and almost as often it shocks me out of my female-versus-male exasperation -- that I told him I was going to order him a t-shirt inscribed with the saying. I don't think he knows I'm serious, but he'll find out Christmas morning.
This led to discussion over a number of weeks about what my hypothetical t-shirt would say. One night, we landed on it. I was delivering a neck rub (Hubby had a headache) and I said, "I'm just meetin' needs." We immediately knew we'd struck gold. Unfortunately, Jeff decided the back of my shirt would say, "Crankin' out."
Now, I don't ever use my blog to man-bash, but I would like to take this moment to point out a general and fundamental difference between the Woman of the House and the Man of the House.
Woman is constantly aware of the needs, whereabouts and mood of her offspring and probably also her spouse; we may not always respond graciously or wisely, but we are always thinking of others. I don't prepare myself a meal without thinking about what other people will eat. Heck, I don't even get in the shower when my husband -- an equally capable parental figure -- is home without ensuring my kids' safety and verbally passing the torch of responsibility to him.
Man, however, is a bit more absorbed in his own agenda and not so interested in taking the emotional temperature of his household before choosing his next activity. I have talked to many other young mothers about this. Their husbands are just as likely to walk in from work and go straight to check their e-mail whether their kids are crying or not. I observe that if their children's needs -- not wants -- are met, fathers will turn the TV volume up over the sound of their crying child, whereas a mom couldn't enjoy her program; crying must be ceased first. I have also observed that both my dad and my dad-in-law are likely to disappear into the garage right before Thanksgiving/Easter/Christmas dinner are served. Because though their wives have been cooking since dawn, they are still not aware of what time we will be eating and what will be "crunch time" to get everything and everyone to the table.
So, is it any wonder, that a mom, who's primary job is Meeting Needs of others would sometimes have "Cranking Out" embroidered on the back of her metaphorical t-shirt? But that doesn't necessarily mean we are wiser, my women friends! We go beyond need meeting to want-meeting. To make-the-kids-happy-at-all-costs-cause-I-can't-take-the-whining. This is not good parenting or unselfishness. It's martyrdom.
If we are trying to make everyone happy all the time, we will never succeed. And everyone else's needs met at the cost of our own health is no good either. I know women who eat their kids' crusts everyday for lunch, and nothing else. I know women who have to pee for hours but won't take the time to do it because the kids keep asking for things.
So, I'd like to take a page out of my husband's book a little more often, just try "living life" instead of trying to meet every little desire like I'm some kind of emotionally-fulfilling geenie/Super Mom. I'd also like to get my own needs met more regularly by communicating directly, succintly, and when I'm sure my husband is actually paying attention. "Honey, I am taking a shower now. Do not let the children out of your sight until you see me downstairs and dressed!"
In the meantime, Jeff and I have decided to change my metaphorical t-shirt. We were driving home from Disneyland, on a day in which every one of our kids needs and 99% of their wants had been met. And yet they were the ones crankin' out. In my best boundary-enforcing voice I turned around and put a stop to all the nonsense in the back seat (I shan't reveal my trade secrets here).
"That's my baby," Hubby said. "Meetin' needs and takin' names." Well, that's more like it.