My days are very regimented. I prefer it that way — it controls the chaos of a house with two adults that work from home and three young children. My kids know when to do homework, when to start and stop screen time, and what day of the week is designated for a fierce Mario Kart battle, parents included (affectionately referred to as “Throwdown Thursday”).
For myself, the day includes making my bed before I’ve even had coffee, applying a carefully selected oil to my face that varies depending on whether it is a shower day or a dry shampoo day, and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc every evening while dinner is prepared — regardless if I am the one doing the preparing. Dinner is at the same time every night, followed by an early bedtime for the kids, and then I have the rest of the evening to myself.
For years, my husband — who goes to bed much later — comes into the bedroom and says a “last goodnight” to me before I go to sleep, usually around 8:00 pm. He then heads back to his office and computer, but we rarely skip that time together. We each say three things that we are thankful for that day, and then the conversation varies between serious, pragmatic, or sometimes simply recapping the day.
Last week, he started coming into the bedroom around 7:30, shortly after we say goodnight to our older kids. I would be sitting on the bed, usually with a notebook and pen, book, or my Surface (sometimes all three). He would begin talking and I found myself antsy, ready for the conversation to be over, and anxiously hurrying him along.
He finally asked me: “Are you trying to get rid of me?”
I found myself hurriedly responding “No, of course not.” But in my mind, I thought “YES.”
A few more days passed and I finally realized what was happening. His previous “last goodnight” time was 8:00. He had inched it back to 7:30.
I had lost the time to myself that I needed at the end of the day to decompress.
From the moment the kids get up in the morning, it is one thing after the other. Getting ready for school and day care, followed by a workday where I am constantly responding to emails and phone calls. The kids arrive home on the bus and then it is dinner prep, eating, and bedtime. All of which has its routine, but someone always needs something. All day long, I am reacting to the people around me.
That time between 7:30 and 8:00 (or earlier, if I happen to be tucking in the toddler for the evening instead of the older kids) was my time to recuperate. I could mindlessly scroll through social media, read the news, watch tv, or take a bath. Whatever I chose, it was just me.
I brought this up with my husband. “Remember how you noticed that I was ‘trying to get rid of you’ in the evenings? Turns out, I was. I need you to give me space until 8:00. Then you can come in and talk about the day.”
He was surprised. He thought he had been helping — knowing how tired I am in the evening, he thought that by engaging in our conversation earlier, I could then be done and have the remainder of the day to myself.
I told him I appreciated that, but — for me — it doesn’t work that way. By that point, I can’t stand to be “on” for another minute and need to give my brain some down time. Then I would be able to engage in conversation with him.
So, back to 8:00 it is. Last night, I had to break out of my routine and run to Home Depot after dinner so that I wouldn’t miss the mulch sale (adulting is hard…) By the time I got home, I told him that I was ready to be “tucked in.”
He glanced at the clock and said “7:45… are you sure?” Yes. I had been able to decompress during the drive to Home Depot, listening to music in the car and pretending to be a karaoke star. But I appreciated his attention to the clock and my “me time.”