“Daddy is sleeping,” I said groggily. “Where he always sleeps. What’s so surprising about that?”
“Daddy surprised me! Daddy surprised me!”
She was caught in the Twilight Zone between sleep and wakefulness.
“Oh come here love muffin,” I said, pulling her onto me. “Shhh. It was just a dream. Just a dream. Everything’s okay now. Mommy’s here. I won’t let Daddy surprise you again.”
“Wha?” my husband groaned, somehow sensing that he was being blamed for something that he didn’t do.
“She had a bad dream,” I said and then we all fell back to sleep.
During the next several hours, I woke every 15 minutes or so. I woke because:
- I felt feet pressing into my back
- My daughter’s mouth was so close to my face that I could feel her breath on my skin
- My daughter’s head was pressing into my back
- Feet were in my back, again
- Feet were in my back, yet again
- A heavy being was laying on top of me sideways
- I had that sensation that I was about to fall off the bed. I had this sensation because I literally was about to fall off the bed, as my daughter and the dog had burrowed into my back and had slowly pushed me off
For the 15th time, I picked up my daughter and moved her back to the middle of the bed. I kicked the dog, getting him to move over, too.
Within two seconds, my daughter had rolled back towards me. Her foot was in my butt.
“That’s it!” I thought.
“STOP. KICKING. ME,”
“I’m not kicking you!” she said.
“Move over,” I said.
“Stop kicking me,” I said.
“I’m kicking you because I’m hot!”
“Then move over. You’re hot because you’re sleeping on top of me.”
“You’re not being nice to me! Whaaaaaaaa!”
“Great,” I mumbled under my breath.
I got up, went to the bathroom, and checked the clock. It was 6:30 a.m.
I had nowhere to sleep so I might as well get up, I thought.
Later, after dropping the Little Bed Thief off at daycare, I arrived home to find my husband. He’s not usually home on Mondays. Usually? He’s at work. But today he closed his store so he and his employees could attend a funeral.
I should have felt sympathy for him. He was home because he would eventually be going to a funeral. Poor him.
Yet, all I felt was anger.
“God damn it. Why does he have to be home?” That’s exactly what I thought.
The TV was on. Bike inner tubes were everywhere. And the bathroom? He’d just turned it into a HazMat zone.
I know. I know. He hadn’t done anything wrong. It’s not as if he could have done things differently in the bathroom. It’s not as if it’s a crime to watch the news or do whatever it was he was doing with his bike tires.
No, he’d done nothing truly wrong other than sleep peacefully all night long. But that was enough of an infraction to warrant the hairy eyeball as far as I was concerned at that moment.
I took a deep breath.
“He’ll be gone soon,” I told myself as I walked to my computer and started editing the book about the year I saved my marriage.
Just as I was fixing some text in the eulogy – his eulogy, mind you – he started doing this thing that he does and that I hate. He continually walked outside and then inside, outside and then inside. Every time he did so, he slammed the door and every time he slammed the door, the house rocked back and forth as if we were having an Earthquake.
“Does he have to walk in and out 15 hundred times before he leaves?” I thought. That’s the PG rated version of that thought, mind you.
I sighed one of those sighs that could kill a small animal, stood up, and stared at him through the window. I thought, “Leave. Leave. Leave. Leave. Leave.”
He came back in and, yet again, slammed the door.
I walked to the bedroom, figuring I’d straighten things up until he left. I only had, what? Five minutes or so before he would stop walking in and out and eventually would stay out for good, right?
That’s when I noticed the dead goldfish. They’d been sitting there, in a little baggy with some water, since the day before, when, just 24 hours after buying them, my daughter had discovered them floating belly up in her tank.
They were sitting in a baggie on my dresser because my husband insisted on taking them back to the store to get his money back.
Except he hadn’t gotten around to returning them.
So there they sat. On my dresser. Why not on his dresser? Why mine?
Yes, of course, I could have just taken the fish and flushed them down the toilet myself.
Except that I don’t touch dead things. Dead things are not in my job description. Dead things? They are in my husband’s job description.
I obviously could not hang out in the bedroom. Some sort of dead fish germ might get in me.
I walked back to my office and looked outside. He was gone.
“Thank God,” I thought.
I tell you this story because I think it illustrates a point. I only found fault with my husband this morning because I was tired. On any other normal day? I wouldn’t have been annoyed at all.
Fatigue sure does have a way of inflicting marital discord.
That’s why one of most important pieces of marital advice is this: on your list of priorities, you need to come first. You need to come before your marriage and before your job as parent. Otherwise, you’ll end up tired and grumpy and, before you know it, you’ll find yourself arguing with your spouse about dead goldfish on your dresser.
It’s really impossible to be a good spouse and a good parent if you are not a good you. Give yourself what you need to function at your best—rest, “me” time, mental stimulation, vacations, pampering and so on. Then the rest will more easily fall into place.
Do you agree that you need to come first? Why or why not? If you do, what are you doing to feed yourself and ensure that you are your best self?
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.