There has been a problem brewing with James and I for a while now. We will address it, get back to a better place for a few days or weeks and then life hits us again (teething toddlers, an illness that jumps from one family member to the next, trips, a cluster of busy busy all in a row with work) and we end up back on separate planets in separate universes… or separate chapters in separate books. Whatever you want to call it – we were not on the same page and life felt overwhelming for both of us in different ways.
Finally after going back and forth on all of this for basically the past two years since our boys were born, it all came to a head yesterday. You see, James had been sick for the past 4 days or so and had time to really think about how he was feeling while he was laid up in bed. The bottom line was that he felt like he was still “crazy-in-love with me” (as he put it) the way he was when he first met me, but he felt like I loved him just as a husband and father – in a “familial” way of loving him, as he said… but not necessarily “in love” with him or even interested in seeking that kind of relationship with him again.
I couldn’t figure out what he was saying because OF COURSE I love him and I’m in love with him (most days) – so what was he talking about?!
Then he finally said the words that made me understand…
“Christy… I’m lonely in our marriage. I feel alone sometimes even when you’re right next to me.”
That’s a heavy thing to hear because you never want your spouse to feel that way.
James felt our relationship and marriage wasn’t a priority in my life. He felt like I was making time for other things but not for him, and it hurt him. While I didn’t necessarily feel like I was making a ton of time for other things (I mean, I feel like I rarely have a spare minute in the day to do something just for ME, unless I plan it months in advance – like lunches with other friends/vendors and things like that)… BUT I could recognize that was how James was FEELING even if it didn’t feel like my TRUTH. Does that make sense?
Meanwhile, I was feeling completely overwhelmed by life and as a result – had no time for James, but couldn’t really figure out why this was the case. We pride ourselves on being a (generally) no gender stereotype household. James is the most hands-on dad and handles things with the boys regularly. He does the grocery shopping for the most part, the laundry and regularly cleans when it is needed. (He was actually irritated that I wanted to hire a cleaning person to come help out once a month because he felt he could do a better job! haha) He does all the crap I hate – like taking my computer to the Apple store, going to the post office, calling customer service when something is wrong, and handles house things that go wrong / schedules contractors to come fix it. Meanwhile I handle a majority of our work stuff (though James certainly has “his” things within our business – a majority of the daily tasks fall on me, and that is completely by choice because I have trouble LETTING GO… we’ve tried numerous times). I also wake up in the morning with the boys and make breakfast/play/hang-out/read/etc while we get the day started. I generally handle the kitchen/dishes/and cook dinner most days (dishes were the trade off for James doing laundry, and because I genuinely like cooking and want to do that for our family). Anyway – it looked like it should be even – right?! We tend to help where needed and both do equal parts around the house – but somehow I was still feeling overwhelmed by life/chores/mom-ing/and running a business.
After talking for a while we realized it came down to a few things…
- We were going into each day with no real plan.
We were both up and on “kid duty” while the boys were awake – which, truthfully, was just too much. Unless we are having a family day/date – we don’t need all hands on deck (usually) to watch the boys at this age. But since we had no plan, and nothing delegated – we were both on deck and nothing was getting done! We were parenting on top of each other (i.e. both parenting our own ways and stepping on each other’s toes a bit – which would usually result in James retreating and me becoming resentful because I felt like I was doing everything / nothing was getting done / yada yada yada). It was very cyclical and was a constant issue.
- We each had our own expectations for the day but wouldn’t communicate them clearly with the other.
Maybe I had thought in my head that James would watch the boys so I could get some work done – but while trying to do that they wouldn’t leave the house – so I’d end up with babies pounding on my office door crying for mama and work would be aborted. In reality – I wanted those daytime productive work hours so that I could hang out with James after the boys went to bed like I had planned in my head that day! But inevitably I’d end up frustrated or resentful that he wasn’t fully handling the boys or taking them somewhere so I could be productive, then I’d end up working after the boys would go to sleep and we’d get no time for us/our marriage/each other. Or if we did it’d be around 11pm when I finished what I needed to do and only have the time/energy to mindlessly watch a show on the couch together.
- We constantly talked about trying to make plans or a schedule but could never make it work/happen.
We had talked for a while about trying different schedules out: maybe we would have our “us” time during nap time and we’d work at night once the boys went to sleep… or vice versa – work during nap and hang out at night – but that wasn’t enough time to get all the work done we needed, and in the reverse way we were so tired by the time the boys went to bed we weren’t very productive with work after 8pm. On top of those things – our schedules and lives just look SO different every day depending on sessions, meetings and deadlines that a one-size-fits all mentality just wasn’t going to work for our schedule!
The bottom line was that we needed to figure something out so that we could both have the following:
- Productive work hours during the day.
- At least a little time to ourselves (if not daily then at least a couple times a week).
- Time together daily to focus on each other and our marriage.
- And obviously – time with our boys – since that was the point of this whole running our own business thing!! We wanted time as a family to be hands-on parents.
In general we weren’t getting any of these things regularly (other than time with the boys) and that is a recipe for a whole lot of frustration, resentment, and exhaustion!!!
So – we decided what we can do is have a nightly meeting. (A weekly meeting wouldn’t work because things change even day by day around here so mapping out what Friday might look like at a Sunday meeting was just too far out.) Basically, we sit down and go through what is on the schedule for the next day and how to best map out the day for optimum productivity and most importantly – HAPPINESS.
We did this for the first time last night and I was actually legitimately excited to go to sleep and wake up to this NEW PLAN!!! What we did was set aside blocks of time and assign them to each person and tasks to go along with it. So for today here’s a sample of what it looked like:
7-10am: Breakfast / Time with the boys
12-1: Lunch / Nap Prep / Time with the boys
1-3:30: WORK (boys nap)
3:30-4:30: Get ready for meeting / Shower
4:45: Leave for Meeting
5:30: Potential Client Meeting
7:00: Arrive Home / Help with Bedtime / Family Time
8:00: At home date with James / Marriage time
7-10am: Household tasks as necessary / Prep for time with boys
10am-noon: Take boys to Playyard / Leave house
12:00-3:00: Work & Life Errands / Gym
3:30-7:00: Time with Boys / Dinner
7:00: Help with Bedtime / Family Time
8:00 – At home date with Christy / Marriage Time
The nice thing for me is that I could see EXACTLY what hours I’d be working and could map out those hours for optimum work productivity!! I split those work hours into blocks of time for emails, album edits, blogging and doing taxes. All those things were on my weekly to-do list but I didn’t know when exactly they’d get done. Now I actually have a PLAN and feel so much more positive about everything, which also means I will be more productive – because Positivity Breeds Productivity!! Truth. 🙂 On top of that – when I feel productive with work and am able to focus 100% on what I need to do work-wise (rather than have babies running around like wild animals around me and in my office while I’m trying to focus) – I feel SOOOO much better about everything and I don’t feel like I’m being pulled in 10 million directions / not focusing properly on anything. On top of that – then when I do have time with our boys I’ll be 100% focused and present with them because I already tackled social media updates/emails/to-do lists during those set blocks of time. (Sigh of deep breath!)
And in terms of our marriage – what this has already done in ONE DAY – has just made me so much more present and excited about each day to come! Last night we spent our date time reading through old letters and cards we gave each other and it was so good to see what we wrote (and how much of what we say now are things we said way back then when we first fell in love – which was so awesome to see.) Also – I know now that if I get done what I mapped out for these hours during the day that means tonight when the boys go to sleep I get to relax and have more time for myself and time with James! We can focus on each other guilt-free because we’ve tackled what we needed to for the day – which was never the case because we’d inevitably be scrambling to wrap up tasks and feeling spread way too thin by the time we crashed into bed at the end of the day.
It has only been one day of setting these time blocks for ourselves but I can already see the improvement just in my state of mind alone. And of course the nice part is – those time blocks above are just for one day. So tomorrow can and will most likely look different depending on our obligations, and we can work in things each of us need (like alone time, or exercise, or family time) based on our changing needs each day.
I hope if there are others of you out there feeling overwhelmed by life – running a business, parenting, making time for your marriage or yourself – you’ll sit down and talk with your partner about how to solve it and work towards a better tomorrow together. And if this little daily time block trick is the thing that helps you make life more manageable – then YAY!!! We are happy to have helped just one couple/family!!
We will keep you posted on how this goes and if we come up with any adjustments to make it even smoother.
In the meantime, we are reminding you to show yourselves and each other grace. XOXO