It’s kind of become a habit with me to write these wildly optimistic posts about how things are going so well in spite of my typically dismal expectations, only to have things crash and burn the next day. It’s like my super-positive posts are harbingers of doom, like saying, “nothing can go wrong”. As soon as you say it (or in my case, publish it), everything goes wrong.
Liam had a fever yesterday morning, so we had to cancel our daily “sanity outing”. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I resorted to letting the girls watch movies all morning, with firm intentions to do something educational and mind-building in the afternoon.
By mid-afternoon, I had a fever and felt like I had been hit by a truck. The girls’ epic movie marathon continued unabated while Liam and I cuddled miserably on the couch. Every once in a while he made a pathetic attempt to run one of his hot-wheels over my enormous belly, but mostly gave up in exhaustion halfway through. He wasn’t hungry, and I certainly wasn’t hungry, and I couldn’t stand for longer than ten minutes without getting dizzy and nauseous and having to sprint for the bathroom, so the girls foraged in the pantry (mercifully stocked, thanks to my parents) and subsisted on animal crackers, granola bars and fruit snacks. I decided to put the children down early and go to bed myself, figuring that Liam would be willing to sleep since he looked about as healthy as the twin who died in Flowers in the Attic.
Alas, he did not want to sleep. And in a feat of amazing timing, whatever bug we had caused me to start throwing up in earnest right about then. So we had a long three-hour struggle of humming, abruptly dropping Liam in his crib and sprinting for the bathroom and puking, then coming back and humming again, putting him down, listening to him cry, puking, getting him up…rinse and repeat. The girls eventually climbed into my bed and fell asleep of their own volition, and I eventually got Liam to sleep, and then I called the Ogre to explain to him just exactly how this was all his fault for leaving me alone, seven months pregnant and with three children who would get sick at the most inopportune time.
Unfortunately, being the practical husband that he is, he headed my rant off at the pass and told me in no uncertain terms that while he was genuinely sorry he wasn’t here to help, I also wasn’t dying and what I needed most of all was to relax and not work myself up. I said goodbye quickly after that, doubly angry but also aware that drawing out the conversation into a two-hour fight about who owed who what and who was the bigger martyr (obviously, it was me, in case you’re confused) was not going to happen in my current state of constant upchucking.
I fell asleep at some point, face-down on the bathroom tile, and eventually made my way to the bed where I spent the remainder of the night clinging to the 2.5 inches of mattress that the girls allowed me. The children woke up early, because they hate me, and I spent two solid hours telling them to be quiet from the recesses of the mercifully empty bed while Sienna doled out granola bars and fruit snacks to the little ones for breakfast (go ahead, judge me). Miraculously, I felt much better when I finally crawled out of bed, but I was still determined to make good on my anger from last night and give the Ogre a good tongue-lashing.
As I drank my tea and waited for the sun to come up in Las Vegas, I considered how we got to this point, with me seven months pregnant, handling three children as best I can and my husband on the other side of the country. We need the money, it’s true, and the Ogre needed to meet with his dissertation advisers and glut the library of all books pertaining to his topic, but as I mentally balanced our budget for the coming year it became increasingly clear that we could have subsisted without the extra money. It wouldn’t have been pleasant, and we wouldn’t have had any money for luxuries, but it could have been done. The Ogre could have used our passes to fly standby and stay with friends in Vegas for a week to have his meetings and visit the library. But he didn’t, not because he was being stubborn, but because I insisted that I could handle it.
That’s a new thing for me, stoicism and bravado. Usually I insist I can’t do anything, including pick up that sock over there or turn off the fan that’s making me cold. But my husband’s family is big on people “stepping up” and handling tasks they thought were impossible. With his dissertation looming, there was no shortage of talk last from my in-laws last fall about the ways I needed to help him, to protect his time and free him up to concentrate on his work. I think I may have taken all those discussions a little bit too much to heart, though.
It’s one thing to shoulder a greater responsibility around the house, to take over the bills and the budget, to mentally promise myself not to call my husband for any reason except emergencies between breakfast and dinner. It’s another thing to ignore serious misgivings about my physical, mental and emotional limits. I’m not doing anyone in our family any favors by insisting I can handle a five-week stint as a single mother and then calling a week after the Ogre leaves and blaming him for leaving me alone when I can’t handle it. All that does is spread the resentment around. We’re in this situation, and a large part of why is because I was trying to put on a brave face when the braver thing to do would have been to admit my weaknesses and ask my husband if we could try and find another way. Sure, the kids won’t be sick the whole time, I have a friend coming tomorrow, and I’ll likely feel much more cheerful when I have more than Vitamin water and Saltines in my stomach. But the fact remains that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew this time. There’s nothing to do now but chew it as best I can and make a mental note for the future. It’s one thing to shoulder more responsibility, especially when I’m not carrying my fair share; it’s another to shoulder too much, out of bravado or self-martyrdom, and then drop it halfway up the hill and collapse while someone else scrambles to pick it up.
I even had the maturity to say all this one the phone to the Ogre instead of yelling at him. But because my maturity only extends so far, I also informed him that I would be ordering crap fiction from Amazon and that he couldn’t say anything about it, because after all, I am alone with three kids for five weeks and no amount of belated self-realization is going to change that. But crap fiction is comforting, and self-improvement by way of great books is going to have be put on hold in favor of stark survival.
And I have to admit that I’m shamefully looking forward to the next five weeks of mental garbage. I’ll be working on that aspect of my character in the next installment of Blogging: Because it’s Cheaper than Therapy.(Okay, probably not the next. I do have the post-partum period, after all, and brainless reading is a prerequisite for survival then as well. Maybe next year.) (In case you’re wondering what my current pop-lit poison is, it’s the All Souls Trilogy and the Game of Thrones series. Yes, the former features witches and vampires and daemons and the latter, sex and violence. I used the term “crap” deliberately. No, you cannot convince me to replace it with edifying spiritual reading or, God help us, religious romance novels (gag, gag, double gag). So don’t try.)