I'm learning slowly about managing my expectations. It's like most processes in life - one step forward, a couple backwards, and eventually making progress in the right direction again. Jason came home early yesterday afternoon (nearly giving me heart palpatations as I didn't hear the garage door open and was calmly eating lunch when he opened the door and walked in) to work from home since he flew out to Victoria this morning for a business trip. He said he wanted to see me and the kids, and I was touched. I had writing I wanted to do, and phone calls to make for the March writing class, dinner to prepare, laundry on the go and other various dull but necessary chores to accomplish, and everything is so much slower with a talkative 3 year old buzzing around ("Mom, when I get older, I want to go see Avatar 1", "Why do you have to wear a helmet on a motorcycle?" "When I'm big I want to ride a motorcyle real slow so I don't fall off or get hurt" - just a small sampling of his line of chatter yesterday). Subtly, I began to think that because Jason was home when he isn't usually home, he would help like he does on the weekends, and I would get so much done so I could relax with Jason (and the TV) in the evening.
Somewhere along the line I forgot that he was working, busy trying to arrange everything before his trip, packing, making phone calls, focused on his laptop screen. I progressively became more irritated, making comments to the kids that "Daddy had already left for Victoria" and if they needed something they should come and ask me since Daddy was so busy. I knew he was genuinely stressed and taking care of the work he had to do, but I felt that still, small voice rise up and ask why he can be so focused on what he needs to do, and I have a long to-do list but still manage to put my kids first. It's a hard line for the prime breadwinner to walk, and an equally challenging balancing act for the spouse at home. The job that pays the bills carries a lot of stress that I'm not signing up for at this point in life, but the work at home is so ongoing, monotonous and consuming, it exhausts you as well. The toughest part of most of what I do is that it's invisible. The house is clean only to be messed up again, the dishes are put away only to be used again, the kids are fighting and I need to drop everything to intervene and discipline. Brick by brick I am building memories for my kids on a daily, hourly, even moment-by-moment basis. It's beyond valuable, but difficult to measure success or failure on an ongoing basis.
When the kids went to bed, Jason and I did have a discussion about this, and I felt better having it out in the open. I told him that when I bustle around for an hour to make a nice dinner and clean up from it, hearing "thank you" is not too much to ask. He is normally supportive and thoughtful in this way, but I think in all of his rushing around yesterday, it got missed. I noticed it was missing. I was expecting he would help out a bit, and he wasn't able to, but to do it solo and have it go unnoticed was more than I could stand. Suddenly the scales tipped and I felt unappreciated and like an unpaid servant in my own home. Talking about it helped. Standing up for myself felt good, but I knew it was important not to punish Jason for doing his job well, because that was disrespecting him in the way I felt unacknowledged for what I was doing for our family.
When we were camping a few years ago at Ol MacDonald's Resort near Stettler (a fantastic family campground if you've never been there, on Buffalo Lake), I bought a small, handpainted sign that I keep in my kitchen window, so I can look at it while I'm doing the dishes. It says, "Live simply. Give more. Expect less." This is a creed I aspire to live by. Easier said than done, but for the rest of my life I plan to keep walking in the footsteps those 6 words leave for me.