This post is aimed more at my fellow primary caregivers, SAHDs and SAHMs, whatever you like to call yourselves. I still haven’t figured out what I prefer. But it really applies to all of us parents, as you’ll see. It’s a lesson in what NOT to do.
This was a few weeks ago, but I’m just now to the point where I can talk about it—publicly anyway. So to set the scene a bit…
My wife works a semi-normal schedule. Normally leaves at 8:30, home by 5:30. In time for dinner, baths, reading—the entire process we refer to as the Bedtime Rituals. But, and this is a big but here, on Thursdays she works a long day. Goes in slightly later, gets home around 7:30. In time to put Bub to bed, but long after someone has stuck the proverbial fork in HP.
As Thursdays are prone to, this happens once a week, every week. It’s never a surprise, yet it’s always dreaded. We take a music class in the morning now to break it up. But it’s that stretch after the naps, through to the finish line, that wears me out just thinking about. Maybe it’s just knowing that reinforcements got intercepted, waylaid, or otherwise diverted. I’m on my own. I’m tired, outnumbered, smell like spit-up. And I absolutely cannot let the position fall.
So it was one of those days. It’s usually a struggle to keep HP up till her alleged bedtime of 7:00. Usually around six, she starts getting antsy, whiny. We always walk a fine line with trying to keep her up a few extra minutes versus keeping-her-up-too-long-then-she’s-too-tired-to-eat-and-I’ll-see-you-at-three-in-the-morning-chumps. We’re satisfied if she makes it to 6:45.
On this particular night, however, she started going ballistic at about 5:30. Way ahead of schedule, I said. But that’s not fair, I have to cook your brother’s dinner in 15 minutes! She did not seem to care about this, and by not seem to care I mean she just kept on crying. She wasn’t hungry, she wasn’t wet and she wasn’t overly tired. That’s when I knew I was in for it.
So…I moved her around. Different rooms, different positions. Cry cry cry. I tried singing to her, dancing with her, I tried TV (oh, the shame). I tried puppets and origami and teething toys and crying over her. Steady torrent of tears. I tried setting her down, picking her up, peekaboo, isolation, hot baby yoga, and bath salts. Boohoohoo. Then I got creative. I tried the rocking chair, hypnosis, skin-to-skin, and playing basketball. I tried bouncing, whispering, a fikey, the changing table and a light exorcism. Waaaaaaaaaah.
This went on for an hour. Okay, it always feels longer, but it was a good half-hour, anyway. Inconsolable, she was. And I was following her right down meltdown way. And there’s poor Bub, playing by himself, confused, hungry, physically incapable of preparing his own supper. So I did the unthinkable. I baby-dialed my wife.
For those of you unfamiliar with this term I just coined, baby-dialing is what you do when you have absolutely nothing left to give, nowhere to turn. You know it’s a bad idea, that nothing good can come out of it, that you are being selfish and unfair to your partner. And yet…It’s like drunk-dialing, only much easier to do, and much harder to forget. Because you’ll have to see her again. In like an hour, when the smoke has cleared and she has no idea what went on there.
She was busy, as I knew she would be. That’s why she works late on Thursdays, to take care of the busy. I didn’t even say anything, just kind of half-yelled, half-cried into the phone. I was immediately embarrassed. What could she possibly tell me or suggest that I hadn’t tried? I mostly just wanted her to know the unadulterated misery I was experiencing. Selfish. Just selfish.
Of course the smoke did clear. I put HP in the baby carrier, kept her strapped to my chest until it was time for bed. It stopped the crying. Hers, not mine. But anyway, baby-dialing is not just for the SAHDs and SAHMs out there. Anytime your partner goes out, they are, by proximity alone, “off duty.” So let them be. And hope that they will be more stalwart than you when it happens on their watch.