For a long time, I was under the impression that Saturday and Sunday would be the easy parenting days.
It seems obvious, right? All week, the at-home parent (or mostly at-home parent, in our case) is pretty much alone with the kids. Overwhelmed. Wishes she had an extra set of arms. And then the weekend comes. The full-time working spouse is around, and there is that extra set of arms. (Also legs, brain, shoulders, spleen, etc.) It’s twice as easy on the weekends, right?
Am I the only one for whom that math doesn’t quite end up working out?
Yes, there are more hands here. And A is probably more willing than most working spouses to use them for the common good. More laundry gets done. The house is neater at the end of the day, usually. We eat better. There’s the option of more one on one time with the kids. All good.
But around here the weekends also get to be complex. Sometimes awkward. Often—in spite of how very much there is that each of us would like to do—oddly empty. Even boring.
It’s one of the last parts of our identity as parents—and as a family—to fall into place. I’m pretty solid, now, in my sense of myself as a mom of two, and A feels the same about being a dad. But how we operate, all four of us? How we spend (or fill) two days together? There are so many moving parts. It’s taking us a long time to figure out what works and doesn’t work when we’re all together, and I have to keep reminding myself that we're not failing; we're learning.
Lack of planning is at the root of a lot of it. For the longest time, working on the old pre-kid model of spontaneous weekend fun, we’d wake up Saturday morning and ask each other What are we going to do today? By late afternoon we were all at each other’s throats, neither A nor I having done much of anything fulfilling and the girls cranky or bored from hanging out at home most of the day.
Lately we’ve been methodical about planning the weekend. We talk about it starting on Wednesday. It helps to have a map, to put some things in place ahead of time.
And we’re starting to see the different textures the time can take. Instead of an unpredictable stretch of hours, there are options: We take turns going for runs. Or we each take a kid, one going out and one staying home. Or we all hang out in the yard, Iris in the sling and Ingrid helping bag leaves and sticks as A and I talk and work. Or we all go out together—and we’re starting to figure out when that’s worth it and when it’s not.
Time together, the two of us and the kids, is what we both wanted the most as we looked forward to having children. We had no idea that this, too, would be work, would be something we couldn't exactly just experience but would have to build for ourselves.
It will get easier when Iris drops a nap and we have more than a couple of hours at a time to leave the house at once. It will get easier as the girls both get older. For now it still—still—feels new.