Our one-year anniversary is coming up in a few weeks, and my husband’s mother will visit. But with my husband’s work schedule, we will only have one day to celebrate – Sunday. This anniversary is so incredibly important to me. I haven’t been able to enjoy my first year of marriage, or my first pregnancy, as we have had to stress about the kids. I recently received a scholarship that allows me to not work and allows me to focus solely on school, but it’s like I have a second job with the kids (and I will even forget that I have class because I’m so engrossed in helping them with their homework or cooking dinner). Our one day to celebrate is a Sunday, so virtually everything will be closed early or just closed for the day.
I have tried talking to my husband about it, but he says we will have plenty of other anniversaries in the future, etc. Am I being ungrateful, realistic, or hormonal? I know he has vacation time but he is unwilling to use it for some reason, despite my making it clear that it upsets me that I can’t enjoy, at the very least, our one-year anniversary. — Tired and want a break
The lifestyle you’ve described here is not sustainable. You are a stepmother to three children, whom you have for at least this school year and will have again for periods of time in the future. You are also pregnant with your first baby. The slog of parenthood as you’ve been experiencing it isn’t going to change much. Even if/when you don’t have your stepchildren staying with you — and, again, you will likely have them on occasion and perhaps for entire school years again (did you not discuss this with your husband before you married?) — you will have your own biological child/children. And trust me, if you think having school-aged kids is challenging, wait until you have a baby or a toddler home with you all day, every day. Talk about not ever getting a break!
But, look, you CAN get a break if you want. You CAN — and absolutely SHOULD — have date nights with your husband!! (If you continue skipping this vital part of maintaining a marriage, at some point your bond is going to unravel. Doing household chores together once a week is not the kind of quality couple time that is going to sustain you through life’s challenges!) You need to find someone to babysit the kids. Saying you simply can’t hire someone from the internet and calling it a day while sacrificing your life — and your marriage — to relentless demands of parenting 3+ kids and running a household without ever having a break from it is shortsighted.
First of all, sites like care.com do a pretty good job of vetting their members. Babysitters bring references and potentially lots of reviews. You can interview them and have them visit your kids in your home while you are there, so you can see how they interact with them and get a feel for who they are. If that still doesn’t feel comfortable for you, get word-of-mouth recommendations from your parent network. You have a parent network, don’t you? These would be friends you’ve made who also have kids, or the parents of friends your stepkids have made. Have you joined local parent groups where you can meet up with other parents in the area, share information (like about camps, fun things going on, and babysitters), and ask for resources? You can find such groups on Facebook, for example, and through your kids’ schools, and even in Yahoo forums. If you’ve even made a single parent friend in the area — and if you haven’t, I urge you to do that! — you can even propose a babysitting swap where you (or your husband) watch that person’s kid(s) and then they watch yours.
My point is, you’ve unnecessarily limited yourself and then acted like a martyr and blamed your husband for not taking vacation time so you can have a date. I mean, think about that for a minute: your husband has three kids whom he’d probably like to vacation with or for whom he’d like to use vacation time to visit when they aren’t living with him, and yet you’re upset that he won’t use vacation time to have a date with you because you, for some reason, aren’t willing to hire a babysitter, something most couples feel more than comfortable doing, especially for their school-aged children (read: not babies). And you’ve decided that the one day you actually DO have someone to watch the kids while your husband has off from work is a day everything is going to be closed. Really?! No brunch spots open on a Sunday? No parks to go picnic in? All movie theaters closed? Not a single place to have a glass of wine? I find that hard to believe, and it strikes me that you’ve put conditions on your husband to prove his appreciation of you, which isn’t fair. If you feel under-appreciated by him, TELL him that; don’t ask him to use a vacation day as substitution for communication.
Something that really stuck out to me about your letter is when you write: “I haven’t been able to enjoy my first year of marriage, or my first pregnancy, as we have had to stress about the kids.” I cannot underscore enough how unhealthy and damaging this is. You are going to have kids for the foreseeable future – your stepkids and you bio kid(s); if you can’t enjoy life as a parent, you’re in really big trouble. You have to find a way to cope with the stress a little better, to practice some self-care, and to prioritize quality time with your spouse or he’s not going to be your spouse for much longer. Ask your husband for help (!), outsource anything you can afford to outsource (like hiring a housecleaner once or twice a month), do things you actually enjoy when the kids are at school and you can find an hour or two of down time, and for god’s sake, HIRE A BABYSITTER! I am not being hyperbolic when I say that your marriage — and your sanity — is depending on it. Ask someone for a babysitter recommendation ASAP.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.