help, part 2

So, we are still drowning, in case you wondered.  And to tell the truth, for the last 3+ years, I have become increasingly annoyed at my wife for not helping me more around the house. There is a lot to do, right? There is laundry, and grocery shopping, and cooking, and cleaning, and shouting at people to do the things they were supposed to have done already, and dog walking, and teaching the 16 year old to drive, and bathing the toddler, etc etc you are all familiar with the list. And I feel like I do a disproportionate amount of it, even taking into account that I “only” work 25-30 hours a week on average. Anyway, you know how this goes, I have heard lots of moms complain about our respective partners’ inability to do stuff around the house that is actually not that hard. And in a reasonable time-frame, before toys are so lost in the long grass that they become shredded by the lawnmower and you pick your dry cleaning up only to discover that everything is out of season so that chore was a waste of time anyway.
 
So it kind of blew up this week, and I was challenged to really think about whether this was an accurate reflection of what happens, and if so, to think of ways that I contribute to this dynamic of me doing “everything” and her doing “nothing.” Of course I was like, “this is total bullshit, of course I do everything around here, she doesn’t even know, blah blah” as I was re-folding the laundry my wife folded yesterday because it was sloppy. And that’s when it hit me that perhaps I am, in fact, being a bit extra. Like, maybe I don’t let her do things her own way and on her own time, and if I could lower my standards just a tiny bit then it would be more even.
 
But here’s the thing. I don’t really want to. I like my house to look nice and be tidy and the clothes to be folded the way I like, and my wife tends to not pay bills unless they come in red envelopes and regularly misplaces school forms. But yet at the same time I do want to relax about this, because I can’t handle all that I have heaped on my plate, wanting it all done just so. And let’s be real, most of those school forms are unnecessary BS anyway, and she did actually manage to exist some 40-odd years before I turned up on the scene to run everything in my very particular manner.
So here is the question I had been asking myself up until now:  How do I get my wife to do things the right way so that I can actually let go of some things?
And here is the question now (well, questions, really): How do I relax about the small stuff? How do I even decide what is actually small stuff? Is it true that you don’t have to pay bills in white envelopes? Is it crazy to re-fold the laundry? How do I even sort through this so that I get more help, while also maintaining a certain amount of standards?  
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work and babymoons

Holy cow. I normally don’t like blog posts that start out really apologetic for not posting more often, but seriously, it has been a long time.  Since my latest appearance, I have been doing two things (and only two things).  Working, and going on vacations. Specifically, babymoons.

First, working.

The type of work that I do (I am a lawyer) is basically a glorified hourly position. Sure, I am salaried, but there is a “minimum expectation” (code for “we can fire you if you don’t do this”) that I will bill (not work, bill) 2,000 hours a year. This means that if I am not actively doing client work, it doesn’t count.  So those hours that I spend sitting at my desk waiting for someone to give me something to do? Those don’t count.  Same with required client development, administrative tasks, and anything else that my boss tells a client we will do for them as a freebie in order to bring in more work.  Also, lunch, or those 10 minutes you talk to your mom in the middle of the day, or your co-worker’s birthday cupcake party, or a bathroom break. None of that counts.  If you are pretty efficient, you can bill 8 hours and work 9 or 10.  But some days, I come to work, don’t have much to do, and although I am here from 9:30 to 6:30, I walk out having billed only 5 or 6 hours.

So, what, you ask, is 2,000 hours on an annual basis (okay, you didn’t ask this, but I am telling you anyway, because I love the billable-hours rant)?  It’s 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, every day other than 10 federal holidays.  Gosh, I wonder why new moms struggle with this job. Anyway, that means that if I want to take a vacation, or am sick, or if i have one of those 5 or 6 hour days, I have to make up the time later.  I know, wah, wah, cry me a river, I make boatloads of money to work that much. But it’s a lot of pressure at the end of the year, when the end date for those 2,000 hours is approaching.  At my particular firm, that end date is October 31 (so that they have time to tally up the hours and pay bonuses out by the end of the calendar year).  Coming into September, I was about 125 hours behind, from aforementioned vacation days and slow periods.  I had basically given up on making it. It seemed kind of insurmountable, working an extra 60-70 hours each month on top of full time, but then I got staffed on a crazy-busy project and started working 17 or 18 hour days (plus an hour commute each way), and the 2,000 hours bogey was suddenly within sight.  Anyway, 8 weeks and some exhaustion-related braxton hicks contractions later, I hit my target hours.  The bottom line for me, hitting those 2,000 hours, is a pretty big bonus, that would make it so that I could, if I so chose, stay home with the baby for an additional 6 months without pay. So that was part of the driving force.  And also, I didn’t exactly have a choice about the 18 hour days, so it at least gave me a reason to do that.  At the end of the day on October 31, I had a grand total of 2,002 billable hours.  Hopefully, I didn’t mis-count my hours, because that is sort of uncomfortably close.  But I made it!  And then I took a nap.

Now, the babymoons.

In October, smack in the middle of billable-hour hell, we had planned to take a cruise with the kids.  My wife was adamantly anti-cruise for a very long time because she thought only old people went on them.  I lobbied for years, and finally, we had a long weekend with the kids, couldn’t think of what to do with them, and got a great deal.  And so, in honor of Christopher Columbus enslaving/exterminating native populations in the Bahamas, we took the long weekend and visited the Bahamas ourselves (although we did not enslave anyone or bring disease).  As I have sort of vaguely mentioned a few times, the kids are not that kicked up about the fact that we are having a baby (yes, still).  So we thought it would be fun to do something all together, one last hurrah for the family of five before we are a family of 6 and there is a long list of things we can’t do because of nap schedules and age restrictions and the like.  Of course, we did not phrase it like this to the kids, we just said, “Yay! We’re going on a cruise!”  The kids had a great time. The wife is a total convert.  I am, weirdly, a little freaked out by the whole experience.  Here are the pros and cons of the cruise, for me:

Pros:

1.  No cell phones or wi-fi.  This means I can’t work. At all.  It also means that the then-13 now-14 year old had a forced break from all social media. She was super-pissed about this at first, but for the 4 days we were gone, she was seriously so much happier than I have seen her in a long while.  Apparently that horrible feeling you aren’t cool enough in high school but get to leave at the door when you go home, you don’t so much get to leave at the door when you are literally getting numerical popularity rank updates on an ongoing basis in the form of Instagram likes.

2. No planning of what to do.  We just kind of showed up and had a vacation. We didn’t have to decide where to go to dinner, or what the schedule was, or anything. We just turned up, put on some sunscreen and had a vacation. After years of planning trips with kids, this was such a relief.

3. It was really fun. It was cheesy, yes, but fun. We were all just sort of relaxed and happy, bopping around doing fun activities and playing a LOT of shuffle-board, while totally unreachable by the outside world.  Did I mention no cell phones or wi-fi?

Cons:

1. The food buffets.  They are truly frightening.  I can’t say more because I don’t like to think about it.

2. The drinking.  I am a big drinker (seriously, I love to drink) and even I was a little horrified by the sight of the pool deck bar at 4 pm on the day we left Florida and headed out to sea.  On the other hand, all 3 kids can now do the Cupid Shuffle in the midst of a herd of wasted and uncoordinated adults, so I guess that’s something.

All in all, a great trip for everyone.  And 4 much-needed days of relaxation for me in the middle of billable hour hell.

The second babymoon, which was just for myself and the wife, was this past weekend.  The kids were with their dad for Veterans Day, so we took Friday through Monday and snuck off to the Turks and Caicos.  This is the view from our little balcony (and also the only picture on my phone — the rest are still on the real camera, so in 3 years when I get around to uploading them, someone can see them).

T&C

We did a lot of sleeping (both in bed and on the beach), a little exploring, and a lot of eating. And, ahem, “re-connecting,” shall we say.  It was so nice to actually spend time alone with my wife for the first time in weeks.  Also, let’s be honest, this will be the last time in a long time. We are entering the crazy-busy holiday season, and then we will have a new baby. It was nice to be reminded why I like her so much.  She’s so funny. And thoughtful.  And buys me ice cream whenever I want it.  If you are pregnant or your partner is pregnant, and you’re thinking you don’t need to take a babymoon, I respectfully urge you to change your mind.  Maybe you don’t need to in the strictest sense, but if you can swing it, it’s wonderful.  You don’t need to go someplace fancy.  I am honestly only about 90% certain our hotel did not have bed bugs, for example. But spending time with the person you have chosen to make this baby with, away from the to-do lists and chores and jobs and friends and kids, even if it’s just the Holiday Inn 2 towns away from where you live, is so nice.  And you can just pay off the credit card later, whatever.

And now, to keep you hooked on the saga that is my life, later this week I will tell you all about how and why I changed obstetricians at 29 weeks pregnant. And also, at some point, the nursery.  I know, the suspense is killing you.