Thursday, September 2, 2010

And It Wasn't Even On The List

This ad has nothing to do with this post. Or does it?

 We experienced a close call here the other day.

MathMan, who is working multiple jobs - teacher, department chair, and coach to girls' softball, the boys' JV basketball team and baseball (okay maybe that's 5 jobs) - is clocking long days that often run from 6:30 a.m. with the start of his long commute until he returns home at 9pm from some coaching job.  When he gets home, he's not done.  He still has work emails to answer and send, lesson planning, papers to grade  and whatever other random stuff comes up.  And two kids who sometimes need help in math.

The man is on overload.

He was at the end of his patience about some work related thing when he came into the bathroom and said, "I am doing everything I can and it's never enough."

What triggered his exasperation may have been work-related, but the impact of the words hit me square in the forehead I was exfoliating when he stormed into the bedroom to search for his calculus book appendage.

Old instincts kicked in.  We've lived this life before.  Early in our marriage, MathMan managed a Radio Shack and worked about eighty hours a week.  I worked regular hours and took care of the apartment.  I hated that dynamic so much that I once sat down and made a list of reasons why he should find another job. 

Now I'm not even working regular hours.  Am I not pulling my weight?  I'm looking for a job and writing a novel, but that doesn't look like work.  Writing is what I love to do.  Keeping house doesn't count for much because so much of it is invisible.  I'm alone much of the time so no one can see what I do.

If a woman cleans a toilet and no one is there to see her do it, did it really happen?

I blinked at MathMan  as I tried to think of a response.  The old fight or flight response poked its head up and sniffed around.

Down boy.

"What do you mean by that?"  I'd decided to ask for a clarification, for him to flesh out that thought, to tell me if I should be doing more.

Something in my face must have indicated that the old instinct was alert now.  He picked up his book and explained that his job frustrations were mounting and he was struggling to juggle all his roles.  He was clear - this wasn't a home issue.

The fight or flight instinct settle back into place and quieted.  I tried to be supportive, mostly by just listening.  He went back to his desk to finish one last work assignment before coming to bed.  While I finished getting ready for bed, I silently congratulated us for getting better at this.  In the old days, this would have escalated into ugly words before it become a tense, angry silence punctuated by only the most necessary of polite words through gritted teeth.

I also thought about what else I could be doing to ease his burden and to show how much I do appreciate all that he does.  My thoughts ranged from taking over the yard work to getting this novel published.  A wide range, I know, but I have been so lucky to have him support and encourage me every step of the way.  Even when I know he must be thinking it would be nice for me to have a regular, paying job again.

I pulled out my notebook and jotted down a few ideas.  I'd talk to him about it later.

The next morning, I asked him how he was feeling.

"Much better.  Venting helped."

"I'm glad to hear it."

"Yeah, I needed that.  Thanks."

I smiled at him and swung my legs over the side of the bed. 

He touched me on the back and laughed.  "The fact that you've taken to sleeping topless doesn't hurt either."

Gratuitous pic of my honey.


  1. I had no idea that breasts were a cure for work overload. But I am not a man.;-)

  2. *smiles* I'm so glad you guys had a good talk--sometimes men (and women) just need someone to listen. Ya' done good. :)

  3. He's clearly a good guy...I'm glad you didn't get defensive and freak out.
    Letting a stressed person vent is important.
    (God, I think of all the times my poor husband has patiently listened to me 'vent'/go berserker.)
    I love that you made a list of ideas to help take the pressure off him.
    If you sleeping topless helps him...well, there could be some fun things on that list. ;)

  4. Jan and I had similar problems early on as well... I could turn the most innocent observation into a casus belli. Later on I learned what my behavior was called: "Getting my ass in front of my face."

  5. Isn't it lovely when we realize we're still learning things? Or are putting to use things we already knew but chose to ignore. Like the breast thing. I mean...really....that's just a no-brainer!

  6. I came here from the Tart's blog, and have been giggling from the minuted I landed.
    Will be back soon.
    Coffee Rings Everywhere

  7. Sometimes, it is the littlest things (double Ds are not little, but you know what I mean) that give comfort when needed most.

    I found myself thinking, when I read his comment, "Aww, how sweet."

  8. Man, you and your man and me and my woman are living the same, exact life. Quite scary.

    To La Belette Rouge - naked breasts are the real magic bullet. Trust me.

    Blessings to you both. Even though we've never met, I love you and your whole family.

  9. Damn, Lisa. Pretty sweet and cute man you have. A reminder to me to thank my Hair-color-challenged man for keeping the roof over my head while I try to reach the maturity level of a 20 year old and figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

  10. Awww. This is such nice post. You and your honey pie make me smile.

    It's an understanding between sweetie and me that we sleep naked -- it'like a perpetual invitation.

    The only problem is that we live in earthquake country so we have some anxiety about the BIG ONE and running from the house naked.

  11. You do realize that you're only proving the nuts-ness of Mathman. See what polynomials do to the brain?

    Please tell me he plans on sitting on his ass during the next 20 or so Sundays watching helmetball.

  12. This post REALLY resonates with me as I have a husband who works way too many hours -- and has done for 18 years. It took me years not to react defensively to his bad mood; to not take everything personally.
    (Well, years and two years of therapy.)
    Life is a balancing act and we are hardly ever getting it exactly right. But that's okay.

  13. love this post. beautifully written with a nice little surprise at the end. :)

  14. our men are so easy to please. we need to do it more often.

  15. Kudos for working things out in the best way possible. That said, maybe you should try top and bottomless to throw Mathman a bone, so to speak.

  16. Dang!! No wonder I rarely see him at PP lately. He outht to heed the 11th commandment: Thou shalt not put two epaphs of shit in a one epaph bag.

  17. Oh, been there, done that, my dear. So relate to this post. And also, irregardless of how fiancially stable the woman is, it still feels like there's always that old male-pressure-to-be-breadwinner at play.

    PS same "cure" in these here parts. Mmm...

  18. A man getting a look at the home boobs is an feeling of "Score!"

    I feel ya on that writer work stuff. It's such a solitary thing, and it's so cerebral an activity, nobody else has a clue (other than another writer) just what transpires throughout the day for you. It really is work, people! Just not the kind you work up a sweat over. Well, I don't.

  19. Aw...a smart post about communicating well (and better in relationships!).

    Communicating better really does take honesty, and careful listening--you are so right.

  20. SO NICE to have actually gained some wisdom along the way. We periodically start into old patterns but seem a little better at pulling back out of them. LOVE the final comment about it not hurting that you sleep topless *snort*

    I hope your book sells--it WOULD help ease things up--nearly never a fortune, but it's not nothing.

  21. Whew! That is a full load-- it does not negate all your contributions on the homefront.
    But having friends in the teaching biz, I know so much more work happens beyond the classroom.

    Sometimes little things can be big stress relievers. A local pool hot tub?
    A back rub?
    Some special something that provides a destressing mode that is a mini vacation.

    Sometimes when I feel like I'm in a pressure cooker of stress taking an hour or 2 break from it all yields enough relief to carry on.

  22. Ugh. This is so similar to our long ongoing argument about who spends too much money (me) and who doesn't empty the dishwasher enough (her)....

    All it takes is one measly sentence and we are off to the races.

    But, now...duh...I will know to just sleep topless. I always was a late bloomer.

  23. Next time he is overwhelmed start walking around the house topless.

  24. Boobs make everything more palatable.


    And I hear you about how things get better with age. I am amazed at how many fights are avoided just by a clarifying question or two...


  25. Lisa--The below hit home DEARLY. No matter what anybody says or whatever little floaty voices you hear as you sit there writing and, yes, cleaning a toilet now and then, you are doing your work, and it is GOOD WORK! You might become very unpopular, and even a threat to some who judge their value on product and societal acceptance (see publishing world) but you are a writer and you are doing what you have to do and it is enough. You are enough. Write it on a post-it and put it on your desk. YOU ARE ENOUGH. I've had to have that come-to-Jesus talk with myself over the last 20 years more than I can count. Write on, sister in words! yrs. Laura

    "Now I'm not even working regular hours. Am I not pulling my weight? I'm looking for a job and writing a novel, but that doesn't look like work. Writing is what I love to do. Keeping house doesn't count for much because so much of it is invisible. I'm alone much of the time so no one can see what I do.

    If a woman cleans a toilet and no one is there to see her do it, did it really happen?"

  26. Never underestimate the power of a small gesture.

    I love this post.

  27. sweet so glad for you two and hope MM's schedule evens out a bit

  28. That's good, Lisa, really good. It's so easy to get defensive and then it escalates so quickly. I'm slowly learning to hold my sharp tongue and ask for more details before just jumping and making things terrible.

    That's a lot. For both of you.

  29. This was a good moment. We are getting to that point in our marriage. Our oldest daughter already practices 16 hours (down from 21) hours a week in competitive gymnastics and that is in addition to going to a magnet school (grades first). 1 of our 2 little ones is going to be old enough to start playing sports soon. We have 2 jobs between us (fortunate for that) but we need more to keep up. So we have several ideas on the table.

    Basically, with all of that, I can see this conversation happening in our house too. So I will remember this post and tell my wife she has to start sleeping topless NOW to avoid this seemingly inevitable situation.


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