The Great Divide

Yesterday was a count-down day--the kind of day when you count down the minutes until DH gets home. I had a zillion neighbor kids at my house, trashing my basement, and I had been dealing with other people's children all day long. I've come to a realization. I don't like other people's children. That said, I was desperately waiting for DH to come home so that I could effectively say, "Family time- GO AWAY!" to all the other kids. DH pulled in right when I had expected him too, dinner was in the oven, ready to be eaten in 5 minutes, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief when he walked in the door. His first words were, "Ugh", and he tossed his obviously heavy laden briefcase on the couch. A sympathetic wife would have said, "Tough day at the office dear?" A good wife would have sat him down, and rubbed his tired feet. A loving wife would have listened quietly and reverently as her husband ranted and raved about his evil boss, the never-ending rat race, and the snotty teenagers on the subway who drive the regular commuters crazy. I was not feeling sympathetic, good, or loving. I responded to his, "ugh" with a shouted, "Hey kids, Jacob's Daddy is home! Time to go!" and I ran down to the basement to corral them and GET THEM OUT of my house. After long protests, whining and crying on their part, and some downright physical coercion on my part, I cleared the house of small children, pulled out the beautiful homemade pizza dinner from the oven, and we sat down as a family to eat. DH said, "Um, hello." Jacob: "Thiz hot. Mommy, blow on it." Me: (intermittently blowing on pizza) "Hmm. What do you think I should do about these kids trashing our basement? Should I set stronger rules about clean up? Should I tell them that they can't come over if they don't help clean up? Sometimes I just feel like I'm a free babysitting service!" DH: "I got consulted on a death penalty case today." Jacob: "I want my drink!" Me: "I mean, what are the parents thinking, that I have all the time in the world to take these kids to the park, while Jacob is dying for a nap? And that's the other thing, those kids bang on the door while Jacob is sleeping, and then they wake him up and he's grumpy the rest of the afternoon. Could you get him some juice?" DH: (pouring a drink for Jacob) "It looks like an interesting case." Me: "I should put a sign on the door that says, 'Baby sleeping. Knock and you die.' Hey, did you buy vegetables for stir-fry like I asked you to? I didn't see any in the fridge or the freezer. I wanted to make stir-fry for dinner tomorrow." Jacob: "I'm drinking my drink. Mommy, you drink it with me. NO, you drink your drink all gone WITH me. Ok, let's drink it all gone!" DH: "It will be a great break from the document review that I've been doing for the last 4 months." At this point, I stop drinking my drink all gone, and look at him and say, "What are you TALKING about?" DH: "My case--the death penalty case I told you about?" Me: "You're working on a death penalty case?" Jacob: "Mommy, I'm done. I don't want more pizza. Will you play trains with me downstairs?" DH: "Jacob, Mommy is still eating. Yes. I just told you that. A case in Tennessee." Me: "You're going to Tennessee!?! You didn't tell me that!!" Jacob: (whining) "But I need you to play trains with me, Moommmeeheee!" DH: "No, I'm not going to Tennessee, the case is just in Tennessee." Me: "Jacob, go play trains downstairs for a minute, and then we'll make cookies for Family Home Evening." (We had to move FHE to Tuesday this week.) Jacob: (jumping up and down)"Cookies! Yea!" Then he ran to drag his trains up from the basement and into the kitchen, and then came up to me with something behind his back. "I have a present for you, Mommy." Me: "Well, would you keep me appraised of what you are doing at work? I like to know what's going on in your life, please." Of course, as I said this, I thought, 'But you haven't said anything about what I went through today!' DH: "Hey, Heather, Jacob's talking to you. Would you acknowledge your son, please?" It was not like this when I was working. I would come home, tell DH about my day, he would tell me about his day, and we would have good, meaningful communication (most of the time, anyway. Often times his mind would be fried from studying, and then really, at that point, the only thing to do is just to write the conversation off and turn on Buffy!). But throw a kid into the mix, me at home all day, and the little booger interupting everything every three seconds, and our communication sometimes gets shot to hell. I'm not really sure what to do about, either, short of muzzling the small child. I think I used to be good at communicating, but somehow I've lost all sense of the art since having a child. It's pathetic. Anybody else have similar problems? Is there a Great Divide at your house, too, or are we the only ones talking past each other? Now if you'll excuse me, I have some vegetables for a stir-fry dinner to buy. DH informed me later that no, he didn't buy them. Were they on the list? OF COURSE they were on the list! Weren't you listening?


Blogger Amira said...

All too familiar. We've learned to not talk to each other about anything important or interesting when he gets home. It's already been waiting for several hours; it can wait till the boys are in bed when we can give attention some real attention.

And, good heavens, you don't have to let all the neighbor kids in! Having even one extra child over for an hour is not pleasant for me- I don't know how you manage with a basement-full all afternoon. Yes, some might say it's better to have them at your house where you know what they're doing, but your son is little. He wouldn't be off doing anything wild anyway.

5/11/2005 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Kaimi said...


Run the little rapsacallions off yer land. (If they give you any trouble, open a few shotgun shells and load them with rock salt. Works like a charm. Depending on the size of the rapsacallion, you may need to leave a bit o' birdshot in there too.)

And then buy a ferocious dog and put up a "Hell with the dog -- beware of owner!" sign.

5/11/2005 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

LOL, yeah. That was the #1 hardest thing on our relationship when we had a baby. We couldn't finish a conversation--ever (she was high maintanance).
We've got 3 kids now (education, medical, emotional, discipline) plus there's all the "business" side of running the house & family & finances, etc. It takes SO much time just to relay all the important info, let alone "discuss" it.
EVERY marriage book tells you DO NOT bombard DH with problems when he walks in the door. Read Mars & Venus. Big mistake they say. Waiting 15 minutes or more before dumping all the emotional baggage of your bad day is priceless. Remember men and women are different. If the Mars/Venus book says it will ruin your marriage, believe them. I try hard to not complain when he walks in the door because I KNOW it is my husband's favorite time of day and he looks forward to it. We are his "happy thought" all day long. Happy kids yelling "Daddy" and giving hugs and a smiling wife. And if it is usually a happy homecoming then when there's chaos and problems and a really bad PMS wife, he can easily jump in and help because he knows it must just be a bad day.
My husband and I try to talk on the phone during the day. Kids never interrupt us then. Of course, sometimes he calls as we are walking out the door to baseball or I call when he's too busy at work to talk, etc.
In this case, if you wanted them gone, you could have sent them home 15 minutes (or more) before DH came home. Tell them, "Sorry kids, time to go home. Yes, its almost our dinner time so bye!"
Anyway, it does get a little easier, as kids get older, because you can teach them not to interrupt....but then you have more kids. And you get used to not sharing everything, at least not when it pops into your mind.
The other thing is that I want my kids to talk about THEIR day at dinner and get used to sharing things with their father. I have a friend that their dinner ritual includes "My favorite thing that happened today was....." and "My LEAST favorite thing that happened today was....."
I'm sure Jacob is old enough to tell something that he did today. So, if you start now, he'll start getting used to it. First it is his turn to say something about his day. Then Mom's turn. Next it is Dad's. Keep things simple first (just a couple sentences for his benefit). As he gets older he'll grow into the ritual.
And then, imagine that. You'll get an entire family sharing their days over dinner.
My kids pretty much ignore us now when we talk about our days. ANd they are old enough that we can pretty much tell them they are interrupting us if we don't want to stop talking. But I'd still love to talk more with him.....he doesn't need talking to connect as much as I do.
We date more now (Yippee!). It's hard to have those weaving conversations only on dates. Like yesterday I found out my brother got the job he wanted and he and his wife will be moving. I wanted to have a conversation about that for a full 20 minutes. But I got out 2 sentences at dinner. Then dealt with dinner time dishing up or whatever the kids needed. Then another couple sentences. ANd then more kid interrruptions. And then an hour later a few more sentences, etc.
So its not like I could save it 10 days until our next date, you know?

5/11/2005 07:54:00 PM  
Anonymous WBPraw said...

I learned long ago, dinner is not about me and DH, it's about putting food into that child's body to placate him for the next couple of hours that he's awake. AFTER he's fed, MAYBE you'll have a few minutes to chat with DH, but usually a sleeping child is required for that kind of intimacy. Having said that, as Jacob gets older and maybe even now, it's important for him to learn (in my humble opinion) that when Daddy gets home, Daddy gets Mommy for a little while and vice versa. He's had you all day and it's okay and even necessary for him to take a back seat to your husband for at least a few minutes. I have distinct memories of Daddy coming home and Mommy melting into his arms in the middle of the kitchen with all the kids sort of standing around going, duh, what are we supposed to do with this?!
And by the way, you have every right to demand kids leave "for Jacob's nap time" or "for quiet time". They are kids, they don't even need an explanation, a simple "time to go!" will do. After they've played the fun little clean up game you've taught them of course.
But then, who am I to give advice? My husband comes home to Grand Central Station after it's been hit by a tornado and doesn't even try to tell me about his day anymore!

5/11/2005 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

When I was a kid my dad always came home and changed his clothes first thing, and my mom would go into the bedroom with him while he did. That was their time to catch up on their days before dinner.

I can't tell you what we did when the kids were toddlers because I don't really remember. Now, we're both working, and it's kind of a free-for-all when we get home of everyone filling us in on their days. I usually wait till after the kids are in bed to share anything w/DH, but not always. Sometimes we just take turns. In our family, on the way home from church on Sundays, we all give reports on what we talked about in our classes. Now that DH and I are both working fulltime, we're all starting to have daily reports during dinner as well.

5/11/2005 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

:) Oh, the good old days.

When my daughter moved out in January, we were a little lost at first, then we found our legs and it was so pleasant to just sit and talk. We didn't get to the point where we didn't expect to be interrupted, but we did enjoy the peace. Now she's back. I am trying to treasure her for the moment. But my husband is in withdrawal. Teenagers interrupt louder :).

5/12/2005 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

DH and I decided (pretty early on) that I don't really care what he does at work -- political philosophy isn't my thing -- and he's okay with me dumping on him when he gets home. It works for us. We used to talk about things over dinner, until our 8-year-old said, "Can't you talk about something I'm interested in, too?" So dinner conversations now revolve around friends, Harry Potter and Star Wars. We save our "talking" for right before bed.

5/12/2005 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Vanessa said...

I've found that the first 2-4 minutes of re-connecting sets the mood for the rest of the time we're together. If I make it happy and pleasant (even when I'm not really happy or feeling pleasant), we're *both* in a better mood. Re-connecting, for me at least, happens several times a day: first thing in the morning, when he comes home at night, after 'chores' and putting the kids to bed when we're seperated and doing our own things. I try to be pleasant for the first few minutes and then I have a foundation, so to speak, afterward for laying out issues and concerns when he and I are more receptive. For me it's a simple solution.

5/12/2005 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

I think I just heard about that as a real marital tool. That the first few minutes of when you see each other make all the difference. If you make them good, etc. it spills over into your whole relationship. I don't remember where I heard it.

5/12/2005 10:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Vanessa said...

Yes, I remember reading it in some marriage/relationship book years ago, and have practiced it ever since. It's simple, yet effective. Of course, it does require some self control, especially on those days when my kids have driven me past the point of endurance.

5/13/2005 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger fMhLisa said...

Communi-whats-that? I don't know this think you say communi-huh?

5/14/2005 02:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the thing, I know that you have a very stressful time with all of the kids and sitting at home all day, but your husband goes out and works in a job that greatly affects the lives of others. The burden on your husband, I believe, is heavier than the burden on yourself; the lives of men lay in his hands. Your biggest concern is the clealiness of your basement. Why not take the time to hear your husband out and then have him hear you out? I'm sure he's interested in your day, and you say that you are interested in his. So, as your teach your kids, be patient and share.

5/15/2005 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Amy Lynn said...

I love that someone else admitted that they don't like other people's kids. I finally admitted it out loud this week and I've felt so liberated. I have a strict policy about a bunch of kids trashing my basement...basically I don't let them in but they are welcome in the backyard. And as far as talking to my husband...I'm keeping a list of all the things I've wanted to say to him so that I won't forget it all on the drive home from dropping our last child off at college in 18 years or so!!

5/16/2005 01:18:00 AM  
Blogger Amy Lynn said...

One more thing I need to say...I can't believe "anonymous" left the comments they did. Bless your heart if that is really how you feel about the situation. My job at home is every bit as critical and urgent and crucial as the things my husband does. Her husband may have men's lives on the line but so does every mother who has a child or children. Those men have their lives on the line because of choices they have made and decisions that have taken them to horrible places. My job every day is to influence, teach, and protect my children from making the same choices and to help them understand the other opportunities life offers. Your comment really offended me.

And I really believe that responding on people's blogs with those type of strong comments as "anonymous" is really an act of cowardice. Have strong opinions and be heard...but don't be afraid to stand as a named individual behind those views. Your statement lost its power behind your anonymity.

5/16/2005 01:24:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Here's the thing. I think you have perhaps WAY oversestimated the power my husband weilds as a second year associate at a huge law firm. The only lives he really affects is the life of his summer intern, because my husband decides which fancy schmancy restaurant they get to go to every day, compliments of said huge law firm. So don't go thinkin' that lives hang in the balance. The only thing that's hanging in the balance is the ridiculously expensive food they eat.

And here's the other thing. I believe you have managed to offend almost everybody who reads this blog by insinuating that a man's job is more important than a stay at home mom's. Way to go.

5/16/2005 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Maybe you should take off the option to post anonymously. It makes it much easier to made snitty comments. Such as this one: I would venture a guess that most of the world thinks that a "man's" job is more important than a stay at home mom's job. Depending on your man, he may be a doctor saving lives, or a sweeper sweeping the streets, but he is out there making money while the stay at home mom is wiping noses and bottoms all day.

Sure, it's your child's bottom and nose that you're wiping, but it's still not considered as important as the "real work" done in the "real world" for pay.

And I used to work at a huge law firm, complete with free limo rides home and sumptuous lunches. For the most part, these are not "real" jobs, either. I'm sure your husband would much rather be at home playing with Jacob then sifting through mind-numbing documents for document reviews. I know I'd rather be at home cleaning out my refrigerator instead of sitting here dreading the meeting I have to go to in 43 minutes.

Good luck.

5/16/2005 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Amy Lynn said...

Dear Anonymous,
I am a woman who has spent years working in the "real" world for "real" pay and pursuing advanced degrees at universities and I'm here to tell you that there is NOTHING and I mean NOTHING more real or more important than the job I do every single day here at home with my 3 children. I would have to assume you are a man and I would pray earnestly that there isn't woman or children putting up with you. And I would ask 2 things of you: a) stop being such a coward and using your "anonymous" status to offend intelligent people and b) find another blog to leave your snide, uneducated, ignorant remarks on.

Good Luck in your "real" world.

5/17/2005 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Amy Lynn said...

Dear Anonymous,
I am a woman who has spent years working in the "real" world for "real" pay and pursuing advanced degrees at universities and I'm here to tell you that there is NOTHING and I mean NOTHING more real or more important than the job I do every single day here at home with my 3 children. I would have to assume you are a man and I would pray earnestly that there isn't woman or children putting up with you. And I would ask 2 things of you: a) stop being such a coward and using your "anonymous" status to offend intelligent people and b) find another blog to leave your snide, uneducated, ignorant remarks on.

Good Luck in your "real" world.

5/17/2005 04:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Tess said...

Wow - that last comment was harsh, Amy Lynn. I agree with Anon and Amy, however. It's much too easy to make snide comments if the "Anonymous" button is available.

Anyway, with respect to the original question, I loved what Vanessa had to say about setting a happy tone for communication in the first two minutes or so that you see each other. Greet each other with a smile, and then start complaining. :)

5/17/2005 05:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Tess said...

P.S. With respect to the neighborhood kids, I can't imagine how annoying they all must be as they infest your house, but, as a former annoying neighborhood kid that didn't have things so great at home, thanks for being nice to them (or at least not yelling at them too much)...

I don't have any kids yet, but I used to dream about having a big house with all my kids and their friends getting together after school, playing together happily and having a grand old time. But I guess this isn't the reality, especially if you like peace and quiet (and a clean house).

5/17/2005 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


I actually dreamt about that too--lots of kids, playing around with my own, having a grand old time. What I didn't bank on how the kids would be at my house CONSTANTLY, and I have felt overwhelmed with the whole thing, as well as slightly resentful because I feel that I can't send my kid over to their houses. Also, in my dream, there were lots of moms hanging out around the neighborhood, chatting with each other as we watched our kids. Unfortunately, the other moms seem to have less stringent supervision ideals than I do, and I have found myself more than once at our community park, the only adult with 6 children, pushing kids in the swing that are not my own.

I have set some boundaries, though, which I think I should have set a long time ago and that has helped. The kids respond a little differently to me now, i.e., they don't come waltzing into my house without even knocking, nor do they open my fridge, demanding something to eat. That was what really drove me nuts, I think, and it's getting better.

5/17/2005 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

As far as removing the anonymous option, I hesitate to do so, only because I don't want to make everybody sign up for a blogger account to post. How annoying. I do think that it's easier to say obnoxious and offensive things when you have the cover of anonymity, but when those kinds of people comment, I can always count on Amy Lynn to put them in their place! Thanks, Amy!

5/17/2005 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

My neighborhood used to have kids coming out of our ears, fighting and yelling and playing and digging huts and racing on their bikes, running in and out of all our houses, tittering. I got weary.

Now a lot of us are grandmas, we like the ones who have little kids. The noise bugs me sometimes, but you will miss the noise of children playing.

I know I am just as important as my husband and work just as hard, but if I had to also work outside the home, it might play on my objectivity. Maybe anonymous was having a bad day. She would rather be home, I am glad I am, even if I have my own stresses.

5/17/2005 09:29:00 PM  

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