How Parenthood Made Us Stop Listening To Each Other

woman with thermometer

One particularly difficult day made us realize... we need to listen harder.

Recently, there was a blizzard in Chicago. Even in a city where we're used to heavy snowfall, the city was unprepared for the quantities of the white stuff that fell from the sky.

For the first time in years, we were snowed in. There was literally no way to leave the house. This was somewhat problematic as both David and I needed to work. There was no one to provide childcare to Alex while we slaved away. To make matters worse, I was deathly ill. Well, not deathly ill, but I could barely spend 15 minutes working without making a run for the bathroom.

I dawdled, stretching every last minute I could before signing in to work. I alternately entertained Alex and ran to the bathroom. When I huddled in the bathroom, Alex stood next to me blabbering away. Even though I was sick, he didn't want to leave my side. This, I thought, was a good thing, as David took this opportunity to get some work done.

When I finally had to start work, I staggered down the stairs like a zombie and asked David to watch Alex for a bit while I checked on things. I received a death glare in response. "No," he said, "I have to work. I'm already behind because of the blizzard. Can't you take him?" Too tired and sick to explain that we were all inconvenienced, I lumbered up the stairs with Alex. Like any mother in a pinch, I turned on the TV to entertain him while I worked. I worked, I entertained Alex, I prevented him from typing his own e-mails to my colleagues, I ran to the bathroom. How To Take Care Of Yourself Like You Take Care Of Everyone Else

After two hours or so, I took a chance and again asked David to watch Alex. He consented. This lasted roughly 15 minutes before I heard David tromp up the stairs. He threw open the bedroom door and plopped Alex down next to me. Since he works in commodities, he didn't want to take the chance that Alex might mess up a trade and cost us thousands of dollars. Couldn't I just watch him?

I responded, "unnnnnhhhh" which translates loosely to "when I have my energy back, I may murder you."

The worst part was that I understood David's logic. I didn't want us to be financially responsible for any errors that might be made due to childcare.  However, I also had a major deadline with which to deal. I was very ill to boot. My sense of fairness fought with my desire to not live in the poorhouse. I struggled to come up with a third solution to the situation. How could I conjure someone else to watch our son while we worked and I struggled to remain conscious? Too sick to focus on anything more than work and childcare, I failed to find a third option. For that matter, I failed to communicate to my husband how sick I was.

Alex continued to watch entirely too much TV while I trudged through work. When Alex finally took his nap, I informed my boss and David that I needed some rest myself. I wanted to tell David I needed his help, but I was too tired. Explaining the situation seemed to demand energy reserves I did not have. Instead, I collapsed into a fever sleep. The Most Important Relationship There Is

I was awakened by David roughly shaking me. He informed me that Alex had been crying for 20 minutes. Why hadn't I gotten him already? I glared at him with as much energy as I could muster and explained in the simplest terms I could manage. "I am sick," I told him.

A horrified look washed over his face as he realized how poorly I must feel to have slept through our son crying. He rushed off to collect Alex and make me some chicken soup. I soldiered through the end of the work day while David entertained Alex. I'm still unsure as to how he entertained him. Frankly, I didn't care. I was just glad to use the bathroom alone.

I'd like to say this is the first time we've faced a major communication malfunction. However, since having a child, miscommunications have happened more more frequently than I'd like to admit. In short, it seems we're just not listening to each other.

We used to balance everything smoothly, but the tiny addition to our family—an addition that screams rather frequently—has made it hard for us to hear each other. Plus, let's face it, 90 percent of our conversations are now about the baby. Having a conversation about me, or about us, seems like a foreign concept.

I certainly contribute to this environment, and we're constantly working on it. That doesn't mean it's not a bit frustrating when simple statements like "I'm sick" take hours to really hit home.

We need to do better, especially when we're sick.

That day, everything had combined in a perfect storm of miscommunication. He was too busy with work and snow shoveling to notice that I was a lame duck. I found myself too sick to use words to let him know how I felt. The next time I'm sick, I genuinely hope that we can communicate more clearly on the topic. At the very least, I hope there's not another blizzard.