Suburban Snapshots

This Was Too Long for
a Twitter Response

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A few weeks ago I hopped onto a Twitter conversation between a group of women talking about what would constitute a dealbreaker in their relationships — specifically, whether "sexting" would fall under a strict zero-tolerance policy. Most said that yes, they'd be packed and out under those circumstances, no discussion, no evaluation, no second chances.

I respect the decisiveness of the group, and the right of anyone to decide what they're willing to tolerate.  But I still have to argue the point, because what might be a dealbreaker after a year of dating might be a heated discussion and a week on the couch after a year of marriage. It might be a month of counseling once there are kids involved. And regardless of the stage of your relationship, you just don't know your dealbreakers until you're faced with a difficult situation.

The other day I joked to Facebook that I could never date a guy who didn't know how to parallel park, and you know what? In my early 20s that actually might have contributed to the end of a relationship, or at least stopped the start of one. Back then I had no mingled history, I had the luxury of being flighty, I hadn't contributed half the DNA of an entire other human or half the down payment on an entire house.

What I don't mean to say is that anyone should put up with crap they don't deserve or "stay together for the kids" if everything else has gone to hell. I just don't think we can predict the choices we'll make in hypothetical circumstances.

Long-term partnerships are all variables and attachments, the commitments we make as couples encompass far more than two people, and if a marriage lasts as it's meant to for years, conflict is inevitable.

I just think we'd do better to anticipate the struggles rather than predict our reactions.

Lazy Moms are
Rarely Overscheduled

Monday, March 19, 2012

Last week or so a friend of mine posted a link to this article about prioritizing time. The gist is that we're not actually all that busy, we just don't prioritize the things we don't feel like doing — I haven't been too busy to blog in over a week, I've just been obsessively pinning birthday party ideas and prioritizing work above writing anything of substance. It happens.

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about how I spend my own time and how I use it (or waste it) over the course of my week. Admittedly, lots of it isn't a conscious prioritization as it is a bad habit or sheer laziness, like when I'm due for a workout but feel an undeniable urge to alphabetize the liquor cabinet.

Laundry is low on my list. I'm usually in an all-out underwear crisis before I trudge to the basement to get it done, right after I send Anna off to school dressed in a pillowcase. But each morning before I do almost anything else, I make Anna's bed, make ours, and straighten the kitchen. I walk around the house putting away what's been left out of place (why isn't there a Roomba that can do this?). I can't settle into work until my immediate environment is mostly in order.

That said, I haven't dusted in a month or so — whenever it was I ran out of those Pledge wipes, which I now feel too much enviro-guilt to buy again.

We have a neighbor who leaf-blows his driveway every single morning. His yard is immaculate. Last week he came to us about having some of the branches cut from our trees that overhang his property. This is clearly one of his priorities. We keep our lawn mowed and rake the leaves once this neighbor's unrelenting hints start making us uncomfortable — or when we find him actually raking for us, which is awkward. As far as I'm concerned, as long as there's nothing on blocks or on fire on our lawn, we're maintaining good neighbor status.

I often forget to bathe Anna — or forget when her last bath was — until I notice that her hair looks dull. But I make sure that she gets squeezed and hugged and pinched every day, and told she's beautiful, and scolded when she's fresh, and fed after school, and listened to when someone's hurt her feelings. I could stand to prioritize playing dollhouse more often above checking Facebook, and I know Steve would prefer I prioritize sex above sleeping (or cleaning, being gainfully employed, etc.), but overall I think I strike a pretty good balance. I don't frequently feel over-taxed and am usually able to give people the time they need from me.

Do your priorities fall into place, or do you find you've got to plan and work at it? What do you let slide?

Something to Save

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Back when I first wrote about Steve and me going to counseling, I got really amazing responses from you readers, from people who'd been there or were considering it, and I got some frustrated replies from those of you who felt your marriages could benefit from the help but whose spouses couldn't be convinced to go.

When Steve read the comments he looked at me with genuine bewilderment and said, "If your wife is coming to you saying she wants counseling, then obviously there's something wrong, obviously you need to listen to her," and he's right. "I want us to get counseling" says, "I love you, but we can't fix this on our own." I won't speculate on the reasons men* resist -- or as other friends have experienced, tell their wives to go alone -- because I'm sure they're more complex than any of my generalizations.

It's been a hard year for friends of ours -- not one particular set of friends, but a good handful of couples who have found themselves struggling. Our weddings are memories, the kids are a joy but often a chore, and our days as a unit consist of orchestrated routines and nightly scrambles. Maybe we're too busy, or we mean to listen but someone needs a wipe or a bath, we let stuff go. Sometimes it's fine, eventually we get our relationship back on track and it's no worse for the wear.

But sometimes it's not fine. We spend months or years slipping into insidious habits: he's on the couch because the kids sleep better in your bed, she's spent her day catering to children and the last thing she wants is another body to please; he doesn't have time to notice how stressful her days have become, she feels invisible. It just happens.

We're a bunch of flawed humans trying to blend our lives harmoniously forever, and while we expect compromise and even sacrifice we often don't anticipate resentment or disappointment, we underestimate change. How can we not want a little help sometimes?

If you're trying to convince your partner that counseling might be what you need, keep trying until you get the message across. Fifty minutes isn't much to ask considering the work you've done and all you have ahead. Sometimes we just need a reminder of what we have to hold onto.

*I talk about this issue almost exclusively with women friends, I'm interested in what the men have to say.

Snow Day Drinking Game

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Anna had a snow day today, which I only realized as I pulled into the conspicuously empty school parking lot at 8:00 this morning. (Her daycare doesn't post closings on Facebook, apparently.) I did the best I could to work — which included two conference calls and a website launch — while she played hours of streaming kid shows on Netflix. Our day together inspired me to come up with this drinking game.

You can use coffee or vodka but please, parent responsibly.

Take one drink each time Caillou whines about the injustices of being a balding, white kid who says, "Aboot."

Take a second drink when your daughter announces, "This is my new most favorite show!"
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Have a swig each time your kid screams "SWIPER NO SWIPING" while you're on a conference call.

Have three when she picks up the second extension to tell you she has to poop.
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Down a shot when you discover that while you went to pee, your three-year-old sent an email reading, "wrgr33whijwege 235295r egn wnge1"

Down another when you realize she replied-all to the company-wide newsletter.
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Throw one back each time she asks you to play with her and you feel guilty that you can't.

Do a chaser when you then spend fifteen minutes updating your Facebook timeline.
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Hoist one each time she's left to her own devices because you need to finish one more report.

Swallow two more before you explain to your husband why she's missing an eyebrow.