Tell her to leave. Not forever, of course. But, tell her that you’ve got the kids covered so she can take a break from shouldering most of the weight of this pandemic.
The fifty alerts on her phone every day that have your kids showing up to the right Zoom calls at the right times? Tell her you hear them.
The fevered research she’s been doing and the webinars she’s sitting through to make the most informed choice about school, that keeps changing by the second? Tell her you see her.
Getting the kids out into the sunshine so they don’t get rickets? Tell her you’ve noticed.
The daily school emails she’s bombarded with, the schoolwork resistance and tears she’s faced with, the hamster wheel of meals she’s making, the non-stop kid questions she’s answering, the endless cups she’s washing, the life, sanity, and perhaps job she’s left behind in this moment to show up for everyone?
Tell her you’re sending her to a hotel for the weekend.
She will cry. She will likely not believe that you are offering to carve out this peaceful space for her since she didn’t have to hit rock bottom, beg, plead, threaten divorce, or create a Google Slides presentation about the unseen work of motherhood to get it.
And it’s not that moms are spineless, voiceless damsels in distress.
It’s just that right now is messy, and we’ve been so busy saving everyone else that we could use someone saving us for a minute.
Many moms are so burned out that they can’t even see what they need, nor do they have the bandwidth to handle the guilt or backlash that comes with the ask.
We don’t want to need your permission, but without our usual support systems like school, babysitters, grandparents and the gym daycare, you are our keeper of time. And we hate it.
That’s coupled with the messaging we’ve received all our lives telling us that as women – and especially wives and mothers – our needs always come last.
So put your wife’s needs first. See them before she does.
Make it easy for her to get them met. Give her the permission she wishes she didn’t need. If for no other reason, do it as an act of love.
Give her something to look forward to, on a regular basis, so that maybe she doesn’t have to cry in the shower so much. (You know that’s what we do in there, right?)
Hotels are cheap these days, and a hell of a lot more affordable than divorce lawyer fees. I’m serious.
From the looks of the moms groups I’m in, odds are you’re on the verge of a divorce, whether you know it or not.
So this hotel room doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to save your marriage, and all she wants right now is a silent, clean room alone where no one needs a thing from her. Oh and no beard hairs in the sink.
But wait. I want a hotel weekend for your wife because I know she desperately needs and deserves a getaway to recalibrate, but I realize this is not in the cards for everyone – especially those hit hard financially by pandemic’s upheavel.
So you might have to get creative about giving her some child-free space so she can reconnect with forgotten pieces of herself.
Perhaps one of them will still want to bone you when this whole thing is over.
So maybe you take the kids out for the day, on a mini-road trip, and she’s finally in her own home, people-free.
Maybe she goes on a road trip herself, or on a hike, or finds a quiet spot somewhere to write, paint, knit, read, work without interruption, or to just breathe. Ask her.
What does she need?
And if she’s too shut down to know, look at this woman whom you married and remember what lights her up. It might be as simple as strolling the aisles of Kohl’s or Target alone for three hours.
The other day, when I told a friend that I was going to a nearby hotel for a the weekend, she shrieked with happiness for me.
And then her voice went quiet as she told me how much she wished she could get some time away too, but it wasn’t possible in her “situation.”
This is code for “my husband won’t let me and I feel too guilty taking time for myself.”
My gut reaction to this is always, “You’re a grown woman – take what you need!” But after years of being an advocate for moms, I also know that while most husbands are well-intended, most marriages are not truly equitable.
And in case you didn’t know this, there is no “situation” that justifies around the clock caretaking with zero break.
But some kind of magic happened because a few days later, my friend messaged me all giddy, saying that she must’ve been putting the dishes away aggressively because her husband came over and asked her what was up, and she laid it out for him, “I feel like I’m being erased as an individual, just going through the motions. We’re surviving, but I have no creative outlet and I’m feeling really frustrated and angry about that.”
To that, he replied, “Why don’t you get a hotel this Saturday? I’ll take the kids and maybe you can write or just relax for once.”
She said that months of frustration and anger immediately lifted.
And then she cried.
Your wife may not know how to ask for what she needs right now, but listen to how she puts away the dishes. She may be trying to tell you something.
And even if she’s not slamming plates, you know what to do. Send her away.