Importantly, this isn't a rant, or even a vent. Instead, I wanted to explore this idea of the illusion of the other helper because I've noticed it causing me stress in my personal relationships sometimes (not just with my husband, I've seen it with my mom as well.)
Setting and context: 8 PM, my house, post-softball practice. We've been gone since 4 PM. In that time I have driven eleventy dozen miles, dropped a kid at a haircut appointment, dropped another at dance class, went back and picked up Haircut kid (looks cute), did a return at Major Mass Market Retailer (picked up kitty litter and Mother's Day Cards too), returned to get Dance Class Kid, collected kid, got gas, took Dance Class Kid to Softball (yes, at this point I can agree with you, it is ridiculous for the kids to have more than one activity. Dance Class will end after the recital, which isn't until mid-June, sigh.) Sat at softball practice (worked in the car), and then went home.
At 4 I had force-fed both children a Healthy Snack [TM] involving pasta products and soy products, late afternoon dinners of champions. I, however, had not eaten a thing because I'm stupid like that.
So 8 PM we roll in, husband is not home yet (!!) (okay, a teensy rant, because somehow Dance Class Softball kid's softball practice isn't a Family Event, it's just another in a long list of things I'm responsible for. So he worked late. His workday didn't end until 7PM today. Mine still hasn't quite ended, though I'm on strike so...guess we're even.) Dog needs to go potty, having crossed her poor little legs for 4 hrs. I need to eat, but doggy potty needs supercede mommy food needs (really, is anyone surprised? Mommy food needs come somewhere below Appreciation of Fine Art in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs....)
And the kids need to empty their lunchboxes, eat again because for crying out loud it was four hours ago when they last ate, make their lunches (hey - they're the ones who wanted an allowance!) empty the dishwasher (I'm a slave driver!) and then skedaddle upstairs for a shower before their 8:30 bedtime. Yes, a rip in the space-time continuum is needed tonight, again.
Somewhere in here after the doggy potty trip but before I'm fed, DH gets home. And somehow, the insanity of doing what needs to be done is just magnified, instead of lessened with the whole Extra Adult thing.
Why is this? An extra person should equate to more hands, you know that expression - "many hands make light work." One of my mom's gems.
But in this kind of harried before-bedtime halo zone, many hands equal double my work. What the heck?
I think it's because I assume these other hands can do the things I need help getting done (e.g., lunch-making), but the reality is these hands were busy with opening mail (somewhere below the need for self-actualization on Maslow's hierarchy) and with watching an 8 year old show off his new bike (okay, that was pretty important, granted.) And ... I don't know. Apparently there were other tasks. I did forget to feed said set of hands, though to be fair it was leftovers for me so leftover-hatin' man was left to his own devices. I think he met his need for food in there somewhere with a soydog or two.
But because there was another person, another set of hands, yet the work continued to multiply, I felt even more harried, even more crazed, than I would have if it had just been me and the kids, which with DH's nutty work schedule is the case at least 3-5 nights/month, often many more.
It's not just annoyance at my beloved, though, because upon consideration, I've realized that I get the same feeling when my mom is over "helping." This is usually because my mom's idea of helping is to empty the dishwasher, which in her world involves putting the silverware away, and then putting EVERY OTHER THING FROM THE DISHWASHER onto the counter, because she "doesn't know where it all goes and didn't want to annoy you, sweetie."
Thanks, mom. I think I'll go do your laundry for you. Except not those shorts. Nor the socks. Eek, not the undergarments! Sorry, no shirts either. Just a load of one dishtowel and a washcloth, that's it. And I'll forget to put them in the dryer, sure thing.
But even when my mom is not rearranging the contents of my junk drawer (she *really* doesn't get us visual-spatial folks who know precisely where everything IS in the junk drawer because it's all in the picture in our head. I can close my eyes even whilst on a beach in Hawaii - which I haven't been on in lo these many fourteen years since our honeymoon - and pick out the locations of dozens of objects in my junk drawer. Bits of string up here near the front, camp knife/fork/spoon set back left corner, the matches from that cool restaurant we lived near in 1997 middle back, under the weights that come with balloons - I have three in there - a yellow disc, a pink heart, and a blue star, shall I go on?) her presence doesn't always help.
I'm being unfair. Sometimes her presence helps. But it can't be during those high-drama times like the hour before bed, or the day when I need to get child A to point Z while also delivering child B to point X, passing by the vet on the way so I can deposit pet C at point Q...you get the drift. Instead, I think I have to be in the right state of mind (no, no, not inebriated, though that can take the edge off...)
And the state of mind has to be mentally relaxed, perhaps with low or no threat of deadline. Yes, I view the children's bedtime as a deadline, don't you?
So, is the solution to just down a margarita when I get home? Or to assume I'll do it all? Or find a way to chill and appreciate the Extra Hands, even when they make more work instead of light work.