My husband works outside the home and I don’t, so I expect to take on more of the childcare and housework load. Sometimes when we’re at breakfast, and he’s reading news stories on his iPad, oblivious to how hard I’m hustling to feed everyone while also making school lunches and getting kids dressed, I remember that he’s the one pulling down six figures and tell myself to STFU. I wanted to stay home with our kids. I couldn’t do it without his income. I signed up for this. He’s kind and appreciative and not a total caveman, either; I count myself lucky that he takes the garbage out, helps with the bedtime routine, and shares in the laundry, despite working and commuting 11 hours every day.
However, there’s one thing he does in the name of “work” that drives me Looney-tunes crazy. He wears ear plugs to bed. So when either of our kids cries out in the night, guess who hears them? Me, and only me. The ear plug habit started out innocently enough. I had a bad cold and was keeping him awake with my coughing. He popped in some ear plugs to get a full night’s sleep so he’d be fresh for work. My cold ended some time in 2015, and guess who’s still wearing ear plugs?
There are many reasons the ear plugs bother me. For one, it’s exhausting being the only parent getting up in the night to tend to the kids. Yes, he has to go to work, but I have to take care of our kids, and that requires just as much stamina (if not more). Also, it feels lonely having to interpret the kids’ nightmares, teething pains, and sudden fevers all by myself. Sometimes I just want another opinion: Should we let our toddler fuss for a minute and see if he goes back to sleep? Or does that sound like he’s in pain?
Sure, my husband is right next to me in bed, and I can shake him awake, but it’s almost not worth it. He’s typically dead asleep and totally confused. He’ll forget to pull out the ear plugs and I’ll be yelling in frustration, trying to get through to him. That is not a great technique for helping our kids get back to sleep.
I can just imagine what would happen in the event of a home invasion. I’d be fending off a burglar with the black belt in karate that I wish I had while he’s starting another REM cycle. He’d wake up in the morning like, honey, what happened to the flat screen? Oh, long story, babe.
I think what bothers me the most about my husband’s ear plug habit is that it doesn’t bother him. I could never fall asleep knowing that I couldn’t hear our kids in an emergency. Why can he? I wonder if this is a gender thing, but I’m sure that in families with two Dads, at least one of them manages to be alert in the night.
Occasionally, I fantasize about dipping his ear plugs in red dye so that he has to walk around the office looking like he’s bleeding out of his ears. But I haven’t actually done this. What would you do?
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