Dear Carolyn: My husband has been asked to go on a mission trip. He has done this in the past and really enjoyed it. I have also, before we had kids, but I have not gone away overnight, ever, since having kids.
He is really wanting to go and has asked me if I’d be OK with it. But I’m dreading the thought. It means I will be home all alone for a week with our five kids, one an infant. When he went before, we only had four kids, older-ish, and even then it was a really hard week for me.
Now I’m working more, we have a new baby who does NOT sleep, four other kids who are super active, going to school full time for my master’s and trying to juggle all of the schedules and find a sitter for while I’m at work.
Oh, p.s., nobody ever wants to baby-sit five kids except Grandma, who lives an hour away, although she is willing to drive up every day to watch them.
Just thinking about it now is making me exhausted. I will also admit I am just a tiny bit jealous because he gets to go away on these fun trips periodically and I never do because he couldn’t handle parenting by himself for a week and has no idea how hard it actually is.
However, I also feel super guilty to deprive him of a week that would mean a lot to him emotionally as well as being so helpful for others. I need to give him an answer soon, and I’m not sure which one I can live with more.
To Mission Trip or Not
Um: “he couldn’t handle parenting by himself for a week and has no idea how hard it actually is”?
Let’s go on our own mission to declare this statement all the varieties of bull cookies it is.
They’re his kids, too. In any kind of just world, he wouldn’t ask you to shoulder anything extra for him until he signed himself up for any family job you already do.
And he’d do it not just once and not just to buy himself a wanted trip, but to (1) Give you your first overnight away since childbirth!; (2) Give your kids the unspoken message that they’re as much his priority as they are yours; (3) Give your kids the unspoken message that taking responsibility is a parent’s job, not a mother’s; (4) Live and act in recognition of the fact that he is (pardon me) one falling piano away from being a single dad, since that awfulness would be orders of magnitude more awful if he arrived for it as unprepared as you say.
I embrace your wanting to make this work because it’s important to your husband. That’s the kind of gift-giving that elevates a life partnership above mere cohabitation and profit-sharing.
But if such sacrifice goes only one way, then it’s not giving of yourself anymore – it’s negating yourself. “Depriv (ing) him” of a week is trivial if your arrangements deny you parity, recognition or relief.
Only you two know the whole story, of course. So give the answer your whole story supports, yes or no, without guilt – and likewise ask for whatever you need.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.