Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: My husband is going on an annual four-day weekend trip with his male friends. We have a small baby, so this will leave me to all the baby duties without a break or a chance to do the restorative things I typically do on the weekends, like go to the gym or sleep in one morning (we live far from family).
I appreciate that Husband is lucky to have this group of friends, but I can’t help really resenting this trip. The resentment is affecting how I treat him. And for what it’s worth, my girlfriends don’t have the time or resources to do a trip like this, so it’s not a situation where I can take my own weekend later on. How do I cool down my resentment, since I do think it’s good for him to go on this trip and maintain these friendships?
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— Unfair Resentment?
DEAR UNFAIR RESENTMENT?: The silver bullet for resentment is to identify its sources, and deal with them.
For example, if you haven’t told your husband how you’re feeling, then you need to. Say you think it’s good for him to go on this trip, but you’re still struggling with how bad it is for you, and you’d like his help with that — not by canceling, but by helping you figure out, and then supporting, similar opportunities for a break.
If he can’t or won’t sympathize, then it’s a good bet your resentment has sources deeper than this weekend.
Meanwhile, as new parents far from family, you owe it to all of you — baby included — to establish your circle of help. You and your husband shouldn’t do this alone, or expect each other to.
So, can you recruit a friend or three to come spell you during this weekend, even just to take Baby out for a stroll while you shower or nap? Do any of them have children, and therefore a baby-sitter you can “borrow” this weekend (a strict no-poaching rule has to be explicit). Does your gym have child care or, if not, is there one that does so you can be a guest there for a day?
Even if it’s too late for this weekend trip, also start a search for your own sitter, even if you plan to use one only in a mother’s-helper capacity or once or twice a month for a date night. It’s just good for a marriage.
As for getting your version of an annual weekend, it doesn’t have to be same-same. You and one friend can go for an overnight twice a year, or you can join a group or take a class that meets once a week, etc. What matters is that you get some version of an “aahhhh” on your calendar, too.
RE: RESENTMENT: Assuming their baby was not adopted, she was pregnant for nine months, gave birth, perhaps breast-fed/is breast-feeding, and it’s her husband who gets to go on his annual trip for a break? That really sucks — and I’m kind of angry on her behalf that her husband is going.
— Anonymous 2
DEAR ANONYMOUS 2: It’s tempting, for sure. But the answer isn’t to take away something he values. It’s to make sure the work and the breaks are distributed fairly.