It’s Saturday morning, we haven’t seen a lot of each other all week what with work and wrestling kids to bed and sitting on the sofa staring at the TV or our phones while eating dinner from our laps. Not exactly quality time.
I’ve been longing for the weekend and building up in my head that the kids sleep until 7am (my first mistake), we wake and smile sleepily at each other, and basically have a glorious weekend of walks, lunches, catching up with friends, the kids playing happily in the background.
We have a row most Saturday mornings. It usually starts well – at the weekends the kids pile in with us, we eat toast in bed, they smear jam all over the bedding but that’s ok because we get to stay in bed a teeny bit longer and they are gorgeously excited that we’re all together. Then it’s time to get the day started – there’s always somewhere to get to within a timeframe and a list of things that need to happen first, including getting everyone ready.
One benefit to having your partner around is the possibility of carrying out all bathroom ablutions without an audience. You’d think. However, it goes something like this: I’m in the shower, alone with my thoughts, and the door bursts open. I watch helplessly as the kids break in to the cupboard under the sink – the three year old is opening lids and the two year old is dropping tampons in the toilet. I start gently (reminding myself ‘loving voice, loving voice’) ‘Doug, darling, do you think you could take the kids out so I can shower?’. ‘Uh-huh’…three year old emptying cotton buds all over floor…two year old furiously spinning the toilet roll like an Andrex puppy… ‘Doug, they’ve got scissors and bleach’…and he replies in casual drawl ‘Yup, I’m com-ing…’. Through the open door I can see his feet unmoving at the end of the bed and Saturday Kitchen on in the background. I want to lie on the bed and watch Saturday Kitchen. And why am I the only one with any sense of urgency? ‘DOUG – WILL. YOU. GET. THE. KIDS’. He bundles them downstairs amid much wailing.
No matter, onwards and upwards. I get downstairs to find that breakfast has taken place. I know this because every cupboard door is open and everything that has been used is still out on the side. ‘If you put things away as you use them it’s much easier’ I sing, in my best don’t-hate-me-but-as-well-as-inefficient-this-is-fucking-tedious voice. I despise myself as much as the look on his face gives away his feelings towards me. I bite my tongue from pointing out that I usually get breakfast the other six days of the week and don’t leave Weetabix to crust cement-like to the kitchen table. I know he works hard all week and I know this isn’t important in the grand scheme of things, but it creeps in to my mind regardless.
As well as being snippy, I can be mean to Doug. Last weekend he was in the toilet with the door shut, and I came bounding up the stairs and actually banged on the door, knowing full well what he was doing, shouting ‘are you going to be long?’. I can’t remember why I was hurrying him up. I do remember that he said ‘God, can’t I even go to the loo in peace’ and I wanted to yell ‘NO – no you CAN’T! What do you think I do when you’re not here and two of them follow me to the toilet’. A friend told me she actually had to hop off the toilet halfway through the other week, because her toilet training son bowled in needing a poo and, you know, you can’t make a not-quite-trained kid wait. However, this isn’t Doug’s fault – I am home more than him, I have more time with the kids. Both of us were home, so why was I feeling aggrieved that he didn’t have an audience or have to crap at breakneck speed?
Where weekends used to be a break from the working week, now it seems there is so much to do. The washing, something needs fixing, someone always needs new shoes…
Unfortunately, the list seems to exist in my head – it’s information that only I retain, so I am the weekend planner and giver of jobs. No one likes the giver of jobs. And I resent that it’s the weekend and I still have to be the one that remembers everything. I start steaming around the house, huffily shoving things in drawers, banging things down on the kitchen surface and generally being noisily narky. Equally, Doug feels put out as 1. He’s left the house every morning before 7am and only got back before 7pm twice, and 2. The wife is banging about and he’s not entirely sure why.
Yet when I talk to friends, it seems that many of us are in our homes on a Saturday morning going through similar. Look around at the weary couples at the park or the pool and you can see it. But that simmering tension, that sniping and the bitterness, it can’t be good for anyone. Especially when for most of the people I know at least, these are actually couples that love each other. I also shamefully know it’s not good for the children. We bicker in a through-gritted-teeth way, but our eldest has just started to shout ‘stop talking!’ if we’re having one of these ‘discussions’. Apparently it’s not only the volume that makes it clear mummy and daddy are a bit pissed off.
I can assure you that by Saturday evening we are cozied up on the sofa, fetching each other things, happily watching something together and letting that relaxed weekend feeling wash over us. Alas, then it’s half over. If only we could get to that feeling of harmony a bit earlier. We’ve been married for six years now, had children for almost four, so I’d like to work out how to avoid a bickery, pointless row of a Saturday.
For many women I think we’d desperately like to not be the one planning the weekend, worrying about catching up with family members and maintaining our friendships and having quality time both with the children and each other. Do we sometimes want them to take over, but to plan within our boundaries of timings and rules and basically do it exactly as we would do it? It might just be possible we have impossible expectations.
It feels like our tolerance used to be higher, but maybe it’s just that we’ve used it all up dealing with children and colleagues and family goings-on and basically, our partners bear the brunt of the fact we’ve nothing left by Saturday. For many of us, gone are the days when everyone is home for tea together by 5.30pm. You haven’t seen each other much all week, you’ve been getting on with it and things are running relatively smoothly, thanks very much. Suddenly sharing roles and responsibilities takes a bit of adjusting. Especially if we’re hopeful that things become easier with our other halves around but in reality when it’s not all happening to our schedule and the way we would do it, we can find it unsettling and annoying.
Except I don’t want Doug to be me – I love the man and he brings something different to our kids as a parent. Plus can you imagine if there were two of us steaming about?!
Perhaps if I can just learn not to sweat the small stuff. And he can just be a little more punctual and tidy…
So tell me…are you rowing of a Saturday or have you cracked harmonious living? And if so, do share your secret!
Images from lanavaughan.com; denovahomes.com