My husband has been clocking lots of overtime at work these days because of a severe manpower shortage at work. The thing about him is he doesn’t tell me he is doing overtime. Instead he will ask if its okay if he can work overtime. I usually almost say I am okay with it but there are exceptions like if the children are sick or I have an appointment to make that evening and then I will say he has to come home, I don’t care what his supervisor says. As he clocks overtime at work, I am clocking overtime at home, and I can go for 2-3 days of childcare non-stop without additional help that I would usually get from him when he is home. And it is obviously exhausting because it includes preparing meals for the girls and myself, bathing all four of them, and putting them to sleep which any parent know is a not as easy as just saying time for bed! Then when he gets home from overtime work, having clocked 12 or 14 hours straight, he will ask me how are things and I will inevitably complain, like the night when Lucia just refuses to go to sleep and I told him I have reached my limit, its your turn at getting her to sleep. He doesn’t retort back about how tired he is, and how he needs to get to bed asap because he’s got work the next morning. Instead he takes Lucia in his arms and goes to sleep with her on his chest.
The thing about how we make it work is really in the communication. It wasn’t always peachy. We had a difficult time raising Livia because she was our first child. There was a lot of anger, screaming, and yes, even the throwing of things because I felt he did not support me emotionally and he was always focused on feeling tired and I always say, everyone is tired, even the baby. We worked through it though, and we found that how we talked to each other about our problems mattered. And first and foremost, we have to always try to identify with each other’s position no matter how exhausted we feel and empathise before we speak and react. And also we learnt to also put our heads together to solve problems rather than push the problems to each other. Like if he’s tired and I am tired, maybe he can just help me for a small 30 minutes so I can breathe and then go back to the babies. Two heads are better than one, and two pair of hands are always better than one. Sometimes when he comes into the picture, the situation can quickly resolve because he brings another solution or perspective to the problem that I’m so mired in.
Going to work is tiring, and staying at home and raising four babies is tiring. Nobody is going to win in the ‘I am more tired than you’ game but somebody will always get hurt. So rather than play the ‘I am more tired than you’ game, its a whole lot more productive to change the statement to what can I do for you, or how can I help, even if its just for a little while. Such a simple statement of how can I help you validates your exhaustion (and also stress), makes you feel you have support and you are not alone, and magically progresses us into problem-solving mode rather than staying put in the complaining mode. And when all is said and done, we say thank you, you’re the best, I don’t know what I’ll do without you or just a simple I love you to solidify that you’re partners going through the same journey.