The irony was not lost on the pair of therapists that they were providing advice while drinking gin and tonics and beer and whiskey.
“We counsel people on matters like substance abuse,” a therapist told me, holding up her G&T with a twinkle in her eye.
I had other issues to discuss.
“Tell me,” I said. “How does one cognitive behavior therapy one’s husband?”
Each sipped a drink and pondered this query from their corner table in the dimly lit bar. Adele crooned over the speakers. I’d provided a gin and tonic for the lady, a Crown and Coke with a side of a beer pint for the gentleman, her co-worker.
I don’t know what cognitive behavior therapy is, really. I just threw the term out there, hoping in return to get something along the lines of that popular New York Times column from a few years back. You know, the one about how training a husband can be achieved based on techniques used to make dolphins and seals do tricks, like juggling and sit-ups. The one where the woman was like: If your husband is being hover-y and insufferable, just put a plate of nachos in a far-away corner. He’ll take the bait and your sanity will be restored!
I have started waiting tables at a neighborhood joint.
Why do I like this? What is wrong with me? Shouldn’t I loathe a schedule that includes two jobs?
I don’t. I like it. It’s just another subculture for me to spy on. And it pays.
I have an office job during the day, in which I have to use my brain to research and write. It involves a lot of sitting. Twice a week, I go to the restaurant. It involves being on my feet for stretches of 4 to 5 hours. Chatter and charm and balancing trays. Different parts of my body and brain are used.
I keep meeting people, too. Like the therapists.
We talked about my son’s chronic disease as it relates to my relationship with Mark. How divorce rates are already high, but in families with a CF child, the rates are even higher.
How do we address stressful issues before frying pans start flying toward Mark’s head and things fall apart? Eli’s care takes a lot of time. Things like insurance battles and hospital stays cause stress. Stress cracks even the most solid relationships.
The female therapist sipped her gin and tonic and gave me a thoughtful glance from behind her arty lenses.
She suggested Mark and I meet before care issues become a problem. We should meet purposefully and talk about expectations for care and the division of labor regarding who does what with the children.
The good news along those lines is that Mark and I are, today, equal partners in Eli’s care. In the early days, I didn’t feel that this was the case. Mark struggled longer, or maybe differently, than me to accept Eli’s disease. He forgot to do his chest therapy a few times when Eli finally came home to be with us. My head exploded on multiple occasions in the face of these scenarios. How do you forget your son has a deadly disease? In the months that followed Eli’s release from the hospital, I was the one who refilled numerous prescriptions. This bothered me and I resented Mark for it. This was part of our process, though. Each of us grieved for the normal life and the “normal” baby we thought we’d get, then didn’t. We loved Eli and hated his diagnosis. The stress cracked us and we took it out on each other. Acceptance of our new way of life came at us differently, at different rates. Over the months, and through an honest, though not entirely functional, series of exchanges, we got on the same page.
Over time, we’ve developed a routine in which we both fill the prescriptions. We both do the chest therapy. The non-equality was short-lived, thankfully, and I hope it stays that way. Today, we are a team when it comes to tackling buddy’s care.
I know we can work together. I know my life is better with Mark in it. Addressing problems and getting on the same page is important to both of us. We want the same things – to be happy and to make sure our children have a supportive home and a good shot at life.
The therapist made such a good point. It couldn’t hurt to have planned meetings about issues like Eli’s care, just to hash out any potential problems and ID areas that could create simmering and unhealthy resentments.
That might be preferable to
quarterly monthly screaming matches that marked the first months of Eli’s life. And, you know, healthier.
The male therapist had suggestions, too. Women, he observed, can get territorial and controlling when it comes to their little ones. He put it more gently than that, but that’s what he was getting at. It’s our way or the highway.
He had a point.
His girlfriend has a little boy. When it comes to doing stuff for the little guy, the dad figure may do things his own way. It might benefit everyone in the family for the mom to just, ya know, let the dad do things the dad way. To accept that there are more ways than mom’s way. Not only to accept the dad way, but find it in her heart to say something nice or positive about dad’s methods…
I had a flashback: the time in the last week when Mark brought home bargain formula.
“So, when my husband brought home bargain baby formula last week, and I sliced him with laser beam eyes, threw out a WTF and gave an impassioned speech about the carcinogenic Chinese baby formula scandals, I should have, instead, complimented his effort to save money for our family…and then, maybe, taken the formula back, with less evil doing and dramatic flourish…”
Right, I get it. I get it!
Being nice to each other is hard.
The tipsy therapists set me straight.
I wonder who will walk through the door on my next shift…
Tips on bliss? If you have a child with CF or special needs, how do you balance the care? Or, for anyone with a kid or anyone with a partner, what’s the expectation like in your family for the division of labor regarding children and household? Does it work? Is it fair? Are you happy? Do you have advice or agree or disagree with my tipsy therapists? Well, let me know! Can send a note below or leave a comment. If I get some good ones, I’ll share. If you want to remain anonymous, mention that in your note. How does one minimize strife and maximize happiness? A question for the ages…