Some days, everything Hapa Papa does is golden. He takes the children out to the park, drops them off at school, plays with them, feeds them, does everything for them and all I have to do is kinda show up and breathe. He will do the dishes, wash the diapers, and on top of that, do work. It is easy to love him then.
Other days, (especially when Hapa Papa is busy working), he can do nothing right. I notice every tiny infraction and point them out with little kindness or grace. I complain when he doesn’t immediately respond to my barked orders (let’s not fool ourselves and pretend I’m asking him nicely to do anything). I get upset that I’m spending all day wiping tiny baby butts and picking up after preschoolers with sieves for mouths and he gets to spend time in glamorous hotels like the Hilton and the Comfort Inn, fly to exotic locations like Nebraska, eat filet mignons, and gets a full night’s rest.
In turn, Hapa Papa gets annoyed that I am always tired and needing massages or a break, that he can’t get any work done at home, and that the burden of providing for five mouths is all on his nicely shaped shoulders. He thinks about how if I had just stayed on the marketing track instead of jumping ship to financial advising (something that I hated and wasn’t particularly good at), we’d both be in VP positions and paid comparably and then we’d be in even better and easier financial straits. He gets mad when he thinks about how I “squandered” my UCLA education and stay at home, reading, watching TV, eating snacks, and spending all his money on Amazon Prime. (Ok, that part may be true.)
Our resentment leaches out in acerbic comments, dirty looks, and heaving sighs full of portent and misery. We snap at each other and play the “Who’s got it harder?” Game wherein we both lose. Hapa Papa is better at holding his tongue, but when he doesn’t, his comments are barbed and mean. I have no such self-control and I go for the jugular and speak to kill. We explode into a few short and cruel sentences and stomp off (that would be me) to nurse our wounds. We find plenty of ammunition for self-pity.
Inevitably, Hapa Papa apologizes and I huff a bit more because sometimes, I enjoy clinging to being an injured party. (He apologizes first 99% of the time because he is a good man, a grown up, and kind. I am getting better at apologizing first, though. Or at least, letting things go a bit quicker.) We rarely are angry at each other longer than an hour unless I’m willfully being a brat and holding on to my grudge as if it’s a prize.
From our awkward détentes, we briskly move back to normal – usually with the aid of a few more apologies, stabs at attempted gratefulness for the other person, and a few self-deprecating jokes. But most importantly, it is our willingness to be grateful and see things from our spouse’s perspective that breaks us out of our tightly held resentments.
The truth is, both of us have roles that have their shitty and stressful moments as well as sublime and awesome moments. But when I start focusing only on my sacrifices and difficulties, I start thinking I am entitled to having a better life, a better husband, a better whatever. I get bitter, cranky, and cruel. This is when Hapa Papa and I start sniping at each other. It’s not always me starting it, but since I have no control over my husband, I can only point to my part of the problem.
The easiest way I have found to stave off resentment is to choose gratefulness. To willfully remember the sacrifices Hapa Papa makes for our family on a daily basis and then thank him for it. The other way is when I notice my spoiled brat inner self starting to make objections, to highlight the absurdity by making a joke out of it and saying it out loud.
For example, if Hapa Papa mentions that he has to be on a call so he can’t help me with the kids, I might say something like, “But it’s Saturday!” To which, Hapa Papa will gamely reply, “It’s Wednesday.” Then we laugh and I remind myself that hey, Hapa Papa actually has to work occasionally and I’m already incredibly fortunate to have him at home 80% of the time.
See? I can be a grown up, too!
At any rate, it’s hard to go on and on about how hard I have it without sounding like an entitled prat (because, well, I’m being an entitled prat). I’m just glad Hapa Papa is a good sport and is so quick to turn the other cheek. What do you do to stop resentment in its tracks?