K just texted to say that he is on the M25 somewhere near Heathrow and not moving. Up until a few years ago this would have made my stomach drop and I would have been filled with dread and probably a bit of anger. When the children were very small K was still a Tech and worked “on call” once a month, sometimes more often. I hated him having to go out. Selfishly, this wasn’t because I felt bad for him having to go out at all hours of the night to some pretty awful places to deal with some pretty shit situations – OK, I felt a little BIT bad for him – I hated it because after a long day at home on my own with the children the last thing I wanted was to have to do dinner (battleground), bath-time (so much hassle) and bed (would T ever go to sleep?) ON MY OWN. I am pretty sure I made things very unpleasant and sad for all involved. I would have got upset (cried) or cross (shouted) or silent (so upset/cross I can’t cry or shout) and it would have been horrible. Horrible for K and horrible for the kids. I am not proud of this and can’t blame all of it on PND – some of it in the early years definitely was – I just didn’t like having to do it all alone.
It’s hard to stop these responses when you have felt the same way for so long. Obviously, as the kids have got older I don’t have the dread of doing all the routine stuff alone with them. For a start, I don’t have to bath or put them to bed anymore! But when I get a text like the one tonight I do have to stop myself from being pissed off. Quite often my initial reaction is “Oh, great, well that’s dinner buggered then” and then I have to have a word with myself and see if from his point of view. Where would he rather be? Stuck in traffic on the M25 with nothing to drink and no-one to talk to, or at home eating his dinner (freshly cooked and not heated up to an unidentifiable mush) with his family? Er, OK.
Another all-time classic situation where I have to stop myself from making the same negative, old-habits-die-hard response is the “how has your day been?” question. He didn’t ask me that very often back then and I can totally understand why. It would have been (and sometimes still is) a morose “oh, pretty boring/crap/horrendous/awful. Never “brilliant, thanks” or at least rarely, write-it-on-the-calendar-she’s-had-a-good-day. And I hate to admit, that even if I had had a reasonable day, I wouldn’t admit it. I don’t know why. I think I wanted him to feel sorry for me, being stuck at home all day. It wasn’t that bad, I mean, it wasn’t brilliant but we were generally happy and the kids have turned out OK so far so I guess they were also pretty happy. I don’t think either of them when asked about when they were tiny would answer that mum was a miserable cow who cried all the time. At least I hope not!
So, anyway back to tonight and the dreaded text. My response? “God, poor you, that’s not fun”. And I wasn’t even being sarcastic. The difference that my response made to his response is funny. When I used to react with “oh great, well what shall I do about dinner now then?” he would, understandably, react accordingly with “dunno, not much I can do about it” and then when he eventually came in we would skirt around each other for the rest of the evening until one of us grunted that we were going to bed. His response, tonight? “Not really no. How’s your day been?” Uh-oh. Not that one too! OK, keep going. “Alright, thanks. Same as usual for a Monday but one day closer to the weekend”. K is now thinking “Have I got the wrong number? Who is this person?”. Ha ha. I’ve learned over the years how important my responses are. I can set the tone for the whole evening/weekend by being a morose, negative, I-have-to-do-everything moaner or by being a bit less stressy, a bit more supportive, a bit more positive and, dare I say it?, being a bit more fun I can make the house a happier place to be.
Right, I’d better go and find something to cook for dinner as he’s totally ruined my plans, the tosser.