We, the Doc and I, are in the extremely fortunate position wherein I work from home and his office is a ten minute walk down the road. Not only does such proximity allow for a great deal of flexibility, it also means he can do the nursery run and be home in time to help with the kids in the evenings.
Serendipitous though this may seem, evenings have traditionally been a stressful time in our household and one pregnant with bitterness and resentment; a battleground for all the inequalities that plague our relationship. I am angry because I feel mired in washing, cleaning and cooking, while he feels aggrieved by the fact I am always “at” him.
When the Doc gets home from work he will, in fairness, meet many of the hectic family demands head on – to a point (though it’s getting progressively better). But for all intents and purposes, it is the end of his day which means, as soon as possible, he will retire to the sofa and begin scanning his Twitter feed, or, if one has arrived recently in the post, he will play one of his latest records.
The record phenomenon has been a strange one. So shrouded in acrimony, miscommunication and one upmanship our relationship can be at times, that we struggle to enjoy things together. So when his music renaissance erupted and our flat became increasingly laden with vinyl, instead of getting in on the fun, I began to exercise an almost irrational rancour toward it. I loathe house music, I’d carp. Ergh, disco, I’d groan. Instead of being open to something brilliant and cool, my mind was completely blocked. The Doc’s vinyl acquisition had become another manifestation of the inequality of our relationship: being the keeper of the majority of the income, he was able to use his disposable income to ‘treat’ himself, while my paltry income was siphoned off for nappies and Peppa Pig bubble bath. Every time the intercom vibrated and the voice on the other end announced “I’ve got another package for ya”, I’d seethe. Not only was that bastard buying himself more vinyl, I was having to act as his personal mail monkey. And there was a period where this was almost a daily occurrence. No joke.
But in the last couple of weeks, I have made the conscious/unconscious decision to alter my way of looking at things. Nothing cataclysmic or annoyingly new age. Just a couple of tweaks here and there. Not just in terms of my relationship, but in how I manage my life generally in the hopes that I will become a less miserable, irascible and constrained individual.
One small shift which happened rather organically a couple of weeks ago, was to start having dinner together as a family. Obvious to many I’ve no doubt, but sometimes we find ourselves entrenched in strange routines, never knowing how we got there. The Doc and I had fallen into a pattern of me making our dinner once the children were in bed (needless to say I was angry and exhausted by this point of the evening, by which time he was invariably on the sofa) and the two of us proceeding to eat off our knees while watching the TV. Or worse, each on our laptops.
Now, I make dinner for all of us. It means utter chaos between 5 and 7pm, that we have to eat something relatively three-year-old friendly and the kitchen is a pigsty for a couple of hours. But the benefits are immeasurable. We sit at the table, the children learn to eat properly and develop important social skills, we share the events of our day and I make but one meal in the evening, rather than two to three. Most pertinently, once dinner is finished both the Doc and I share the tasks. We tidy up, we get the children ready for bed. He puts some records on, the kids dance and I find my hips move involuntarily as I do the dishes. He tells me about the track, about its rarity or its history and I, for a change, am responsive.
Now I take a certain quiet pleasure in the plumping of the household vinyl collection. I love that the 1960s cabinet I nabbed at Kempton market a couple of years ago is rightfully full of the very artifacts it was designed to hold. More importantly, I love that my evenings have been reclaimed (sort of) and that there is relative harmony in our house for the first time ever.