This post first appeared on August 14th, 2009.
I don’t feel particularly strongly about the division of labor in our home. As it turns out, he goes to work and makes computers do his every bidding, while I do all the shopping, bill paying, cleaning, correspondence, laundry, as well as most of the cooking and kid-wrangling. However, I get to be at home with our kids all day. Not a bad trade.
But while I might not feel the modern urge to demand household-chore-equity, I find that I am strangely emotional about sleep equity. By that I mean, for some reason I deeply believe that my husband and I should get similar amounts of sleep.
If we went to bed at the same time, then I feel he should get up at the same time as me (i.e. when the baby wakes – we’re all awake). If he worked for 3 hours after my bed time, I feel as if I ought to let him sleep in for about 3 hours. If he sleeps for four, I get annoyed. If he stayed up playing games, no sleep credits for that either. If we’re both home and the kids are awake and he wants to take a nap, I get really snitty about the unfairness of it all. Sulking can only be avoided by promising me some nap time tomorrow.
If the sleep scales get out of balance, I get jealous. This is true even if I wasn’t tired and he just had more opportunity to sleep than I did, I still get annoyed that he got to nap. I am the lighter sleeper of us two, which means that if anyone is awake in the house, I’m generally awake too. This means that the sleep credit balance is seldom in my favour. Which means the grouch in me is awakened too.
I have no idea where these feelings come from: this presumption that I have a right to exactly the same amount of rest time as my husband. They are strong and visceral – and like many things in marriage, I didn’t know I felt so strongly about it until I actually got there. (In pre-marital prep you think you’re so flexible about so many things, until you discover months down the line that you’re completely angry or flustered because the dishes don’t get attended to immediately after dinner… and you never knew you felt strongly about it until someone didn’t want to touch the dishes until the following day…)
As it turns out, I feel strongly about sleep equity. I am trying to work on it though. It is, after all, just another way of “keeping score” in a relationship… which is always a calculation in favor of unhappiness.
If I got 6 hours of sleep and he got 8, is it REALLY worth another 4 hours of sulking on my part to ‘punish’ my dear husband for his better quality rest? Of course not. This selfish part of me needs some taming yet.
My kids are asleep right now. During this quiet hour I might give this some more thought. But then again, I might take a nap.
Bronwyn is a South-African born mom of three, spending her days opposing entropy in her Nor Cal kitchen. She loves naps, which does not pair well with having children. She loves coffee, which partially compensates for the nap-deprivation issues. She blogs about faith, laughter, and the joyful chaos of trying to live for Jesus while doing dishes at bronwyn’s corner.