Strangers in the night

So much of (mildly successful) co-parenting — of successful cohabitation, really — is about resisting the urge to itemize and compare just how much work each partner does. Because, trust me, little good comes from statements like, “But I changed the last poopy diaper,” or, “How come I always cook?”

According to my research, such statements are likely to unleash an escalating and entirely unsettling volley of stored-up comparisons regarding laundry, bed-making, snow shoveling, lawnmowing, recycling, garbage, Kindermusik attendance and child fetching.

Yes, of course, every household has its imbalances — and those imbalances do occasionally need to be addressed — but I have found that, more often than not, comparisons invite trouble. Because, at least in my household, a LOT of stuff gets done, and when it all shakes down, Rachel and I freely admit that neither of us can recall doing about half of it. When the tallies come in, it’s quite likely that the balance of meals cooked and diapers changed will come out about even, and that, if they don’t, other things will very likely make up for them.

That said, Rachel is being shafted when it comes to sleep.

We’ve been alternating nights in the basement and upstairs. And on my nights upstairs (barring one too-early wake-up on Isaac’s part, fairly easily dealt with), the kids have slept through. Meaning that I’ve had a full week’s-plus of full-night sleeps.

Rachel, not so much. For some reason, on her nights on call, Rowan wakes up with strange neck pains (landing us in emergency) and Isaac’s eyeteeth poke painfully into his gums. Every morning that Isaac and Rowan bound into the basement to wake me and Rachel trudges in behind them, I ask, hopefully, “How was your night?” And she shakes her head.

After about a week of this, I let her have two nights in the basement. I was mildly, selfishly, worried that I had now got myself onto her schedule, but instead I got two nearly full nights in my own bed. And then, last night, a third night in the basement, while Rachel was up, on and off, with Isaac from midnight to about 3:30.

From my perspective at least, Isaac is much improved from his worst. And, aside from the neck thing, Rowan is sleeping like a champion, inspired at least in part by ye olde-fashioned sticker chart, with the promise of a trip to the ice cream store once he amassed seven stickers. (Do you like my artwork, using dried-out markers? Do you think the title is too subtle? We went to DQ on Monday after picking the kids up from the babysitter’s; Rowan had a chocolate-dipped kid’s cone, and we watched him do a couple of full-body shudders as the sugar began its madcap ride through his bloodstream. “We did this to him,” I kept reminding myself as we dealt with a whole bunch of hyper for much of the evening. “This is our fault.”)

From Rachel’s perspective, things still kind of suck. And while I don’t generally condone the constant repetition of, “But why? Why always my nights?”, in this case I can hardly blame her. All I can offer her is sympathy, another night on the futon, and the promise that, almost certainly, my nights will come.