In addition to many other benefits (lots of vacation time is my favorite) Dan gets some flex time at work. We’re still getting used to exactly how it works, because it’s quite complicated — he can only use so much in a day, he can only use so much in a month, he can only carry over a certain amount from one month to the next, he can only use it during certain hours of the day — but we’re grateful to have it. We use it a lot. Our “official” family schedule arranges for Dan to be at work a little extra every day (so that we’re adding to his time bank) but we’re usually off our schedule and we’re often withdrawing from the bank instead of adding to it.
So, evrey so often, he gets “too negative” on his time bank and we make a heroic effort to pay back the time. In those cases, Dan goes in very early in the morning and I handle getting the kids fed and dressed and drop B off at school while Dan logs an extra hour or two in the morning.
Between the two of us, there’s no doubt: the person with the harder job on these long, 12 hour marathon days is me. As Dan often says, “I only have to go to work”. After doing this a bunch of times, and having me exhausted, frazzled and feeling overworked by the time he got home, I thought about what I needed to make it through these days with some sanity for myself. I’m not talking about getting something in “trade” or “compensation” for the extra work I’m doing, I’m talking about setting the stage from my peace of mind and success.
I asked for only a few things in particular on those long days: for Dan to pick Benjamin up and bring him home (if possible, schedule wise), and for him to provide hot coffee for me, and breakfast for the kids, before he leaves in the morning. The coffee and the breakfast in the morning may not seem like much — but during a packed, crazy morning, where anything can (and will) happen, it’s so nice to have one less thing to think about. I can get caffeinated first thing, without having to push aside my groggy children, and no matter what else happens in our morning, I know they’re going to get fed.
Frankly, I think it’s pretty impressive that this is the only extra help I need to get through an extra 2 hours of work in my day, and Dan agrees — he’s constantly asking me if there’s anything else I need, or anything else I need him to do. But the problem is that coffee and breakfast are small things, and as so often happens with small needs, they get forgotten. So even though Dan will ask me, frequently, what else I need on these long days, he also sometimes forgets my coffee and breakfast for the kids.
I know, in my heart, that it dosen’t “mean” anything, but it’s so easy for me to become irritated and resentful when he forgets. I jump so easily to feeling unappreciated and taken for granted. I know it’s “just” coffee and breakfast, and on a good morning, I don’t have any trouble providing these things for myself. But, it’s always nice, and on a hard day it can mean the difference between me getting overwhelmed and stressed, or not, which can help make the difference between a good day and one that starts out as a train wreck. I also have an incredible failing when it comes to actually articulating my needs, hoping instead that they are plucked out of the air or absorbed by osmosis. (Not so much luck with either of those.) So, when I actually get over my own issues and say something, it is extra disappointing when it doesn’t happen.
And then I get further frustrated when I realized that these little things get forgotten because they’re small. The very fact that I’m asking for so little increases the chances that it won’t actually happen — which is both ironic and sad. And it makes me try to think of large, disproportionate things I could request, but that isn’t the point, because that isn’t what I actually need.
Then I remind him, and I explain, and he understands — it isn’t really about the coffee and the breakfast, although they help. It’s about being heard and my needs getting met when I put them out there; it’s about him seeing them as important, even if they’re small.