Secrets in an open relationship are supposed to be a no-no. I don’t mean the acceptable secrets, like that I used up the last of peanut butter directly off of a fork sprinkled with chocolate chips. No, I mean that specifically withholding pertinent information as a way of managing one’s partner is typically verboten. Despite my past staunch belief that I am a person who tells it as it is and the peanut butter and chocolate chips can fall where they may, I find myself hording resentful tidbits instead of clearing the air. Or rather, I find myself being persnickety and passive aggressive instead of uproariously, blatantly, outspokenly pissed. When I am so exhausted by the contiguous months of childcare that I simply can’t feel my face anymore, I just make sharp comments and complain to third parties instead of truly pleading for the help I would like to have.
As the boob-wielder in this family, I’m on duty twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, minus a few naps where I thrust the monitor at Partner and let him lord over the sleeping baby. Somebody has to be tired to the bone in the name of parenting. If there is a baby, somebody has got to sacrifice sleep, food and personal hygiene to make sure the kid doesn’t develop wildly inappropriately and rock itself forever in the corner. When zero parents step up to the plate, it’s called neglect. We can’t both ignore soggy diapers and plaintive cries for food. We can’t both avoid the baby’s loving eye contact and slimy little fingers without turning him into a miniature sociopath.
Sadly for me, Partner’s day-job skills are more lucrative than mine, so he has a nice little office set up in the basement away from the giggles, screams, head bonks and poop smells. Even now that the economy has hit us in our collective crotch, and he’s on unemployment, he still has no trouble simply disappearing, removing himself from the needy situation. He can ditch the highchair tray with encrusted banana that I begged him to wipe down last night, and my choice becomes to do it myself or call social services on my making-a-gender-statement, I-refuse-to-do-this-alone ass. I guess there is a third choice.
I can march into the basement, ignore the heavy sigh of someone who just had their marathon wanking and porn session interrupted, hand him the baby over his barely hidden erection and shout,
“It’s not enough to love your baby a couple times a day in the cute pictures I post to social media! You need to do his laundry, tend to his diaper rash, ensure that he is gaining weight, help him learn his natal tongue, deal with the consequences when you wake him up with your trance dance party and mop the floor while I work on my goddamned novel and teaching career!!!”
But try feeling like a considerate human being after staging an invasion like that, even if you used “I” statements and a really calm, accepting tone of voice. And then try repeating it, complete with feeling shitty about yourself for asking for help, because these kinds of pleas don’t produce change the first or seventeenth time.
If you really like a challenge, try getting laid after confronting a basic inequality in your relationship. No matter how righteous you are, you will not be attractive after stomping your foot and flipping the bird at your co-parent. Though, count yourself lucky if you still have enough sex to be worried about losing any. When the baby was new and the thrill of having my own body was fresh, there were a couple of stollen nap times full of lube and naked frolicking. When we had a babysitter who could take the baby out of the house once a week, we even strapped it on a few times and enjoyed ourselves enough to worry about disturbing the neighbors. But when our babysitter luck ended, and we were left with only our mismatched bedtimes and energy levels, the sex disappeared too.
I’m back where I was a year ago, as the only one physically involved with the baby and stuck with an ineffectual co-parent instead of my partner form the days of old. Tactful attempts at foreplay are rejected and the hint is well received. Sex for Partner is now done alone and furtively, lest he get interrupted and shamed for unequal parenting.
If the adult relationship is already gone, if there is no hot banging in even the distant future, why on earth am I holding my tongue about anything at all? If I no longer want to attempt to rekindle our sex life or cozy love nest all by myself, if I am willing to admit that no amount of effort on my part is going to transport us to our carefree, drunken days of debauchery, then why the shit don’t I allow myself to be as critical as I deem required to get some help up in here?
There is no reason to turn from a fire-lipped, smart ass boy into a keep-it-to-myself-because-it’s-unattractive house Frau. I’m going to return to telling it how it is! If it isn’t possible to maintain a slinky sweaty open relationship in the face of co-parenting, let’s just shout to the rafters about how uncool it is that the bonus-hole in this duo is the one up all night and busy all day to keep the baby form crawling in filth. No one partner should be stuck trying to repair and soothe the adult or infant relationship alone, and I want to be done trying.
It is very easy for the non-boob-toter to fritter away hours in the office basement without asking if he is needed elsewhere. Asking for time off is not longer the way here. I’m just going to take it, too. I’m going to flap my lips freely and take myself on the cheapest writing retreat I can find. I am going to sleep through a few whole nights and get more done than can be accomplished during one short nap. With my fingers crossed that Partner doesn’t go days without giving the baby solid food, story time or hugs when he screams at two in the morning.
What’s the worst that can happen? My child will grow up to write his own novel about how I abandoned him with an incompetent Partner? Join the club, buddy, join the club. Big wheel keep on turning.