Nursing moms never sleep in. Not on holidays, and not on weekends. Even if you could sleep through a crying baby, you probably can’t sleep through aching, leaking boobs. So up you get at 4:30 AM, changing the baby, feeding the baby, and then maybe entertaining the baby if baby is suddenly wide awake.
After all, your poor partner works hard all week, providing for you and the child. There’s probably a stressful project at work, or maybe he had to travel. And since you’re already up, you take a last, wistful look at your comfy bed before closing the door and letting your husband sleep in.
You don’t know it, but you’ve taken the first step to divorce.
Men are really, really good at taking care of their own needs. Women…not so much. Some argue that it’s sociological: women are brought up to worry about others first.
Maybe it’s evolutionary biology: a mother who is more attentive to her offspring is more likely to see them safely through the homo sapiens’ extended childhood (something like 13 times longer than any other mammalian species).
Even my hands-on, Chinese-American husband, who cooks and changes diapers, always sees to his own needs first. If a baby is crying or a dog is whimpering, or a cat is hairballing, I’m out of bed like a shot, soothing, letting them outside, or cleaning up the mess.
If Andy wakes up (usually after I’m already moving), he puts on his bathrobe. He walks past any creature in distress to the bathroom. He pees. He starts the coffee maker if it’s close to time to get up.
Then will he handle the issue…except there’s probably no issue any more, because I’ve already taken care of dog/ baby/ hairball. Only after everyone else is cared for will I use the bathroom.
Once Andy’s family leave was over and he went back to work, a pattern emerged. If Andy didn’t have to get up, he slept through early morning feedings. If he did get up and change Baby D’s diaper while I set up my nursing nest, Andy went right back to sleep.
I would feed the child, feed the animals, and handle multi-species pooping and clean up. On good days, I got to pee and wash my face while dogs and Baby D barged in and out of the bathroom.
Then I took everyone for a walk to the park after (or as) the sun came up. The dogs would chase birds while Baby D explored playground equipment while hanging onto my hands.
Andy was usually awake and reading the paper when we returned home. He might have made eggs or sweet potato for Baby D. He would continue reading the paper while I fed baby. I’d get a break and maybe a shower when Baby D took his half-hour nap or when I took him to Childwatch at the Y.
Andy got used to sleeping in. He got used to reading the paper in peace.
I got used to taking care of everyone every day. I got used to minimal sleep; if Baby D or dogs woke at night, I’d get up so Andy could rest and not be a mess at work. I also got used to telling myself to be grateful for my hardworking husband who supported us financially. I was helping him be successful by taking care of everyone.
Until I lost my shit.
It was 8:30 AM on a Sunday morning. I’d been up since 4:30 and had just returned from the park with our menagerie. Andy was sitting on the patio, drinking his coffee and reading the Sunday paper. Baby D cruised his way over to Daddy while I unleashed the dogs and put the stroller away.
Baby D batted at the paper between him and Andy. Andy ignored him.
Baby D batted harder. “DA!” he yelled. “Da-DA!”
Andy closed the paper, irritated. “Stop it,” he said. He collected his coffee and went inside to read in peace, deserting his son—the very son that he insisted we have. Baby D shot me a betrayed look and said, “Da-da?”
I went from 0 to psycho in about .01 seconds. So psycho I had no words. (Hard to imagine, I know.)
I followed Andy inside, ripped the paper out of his hands, and tried to wrap both my hands around his throat.
I’m not in jail for manslaughter because Andy’s bigger than I am. (Also, as my husband later noted, strangling is only successful when done from behind.) He shoved me away and yelled, “AH! What’s wrong with you?!”
My powers of speech returned. “I have been up for 4 hours, taking care of your son and your dogs – the ones that YOU really wanted,” I hissed. “Same as every goddamned weekend. I have been to the park entertaining him while you slept in and when we come back, you ignore him in favor of a newspaper?! I haven’t even had coffee or breakfast and you push your son away before I can even go pee? You’re lucky I haven’t killed you!”
I tore that newspaper to shreds and threw it in the trash. “Get out there and be a fucking father. AND NO MORE NEWPAPERS EVER!”
Andy went outside. He played with Baby D.
I took some deep breaths. I knew I was going to need an extra therapy session. Or five. I knew Andy and I needed to have to have a serious talk about how “Autumn Handles Everything While Andy Sleeps In” would have to change if we were going to survive. But all that would have to wait.
Until after I went to the bathroom.
Author’s Note: Some of you might be worried after reading this. Don’t be. Andy did indeed cancel the newspaper subscription.