You’ve waited patiently while your spouse was deployed. You’ve single-parented, been everyone and everything thing, and dreamt night and day about his homecoming. You’ve envisioned how easy, how great, how romantic life will be when Prince Charming comes home, and you have two parents back in the home again.
So yeah, he’s here. Finally things can get back to normal, right? Only… I think Prince Charming got left on the plane, and they returned a caveman instead. The 50/50 ratio that you fantasized about, with him doing half the parenting and you the other half, is more like 90/10. Prince Charming was supposed to say, “It’s OK, honey, you go back to sleep. I’ll wake up with the baby this time.”
But caveman doesn’t hear babies waking in the night: Caveman is in sleep mode.
Caveman doesn’t see the dishes that need to be done, the laundry growing at rapid speed, or the trail he leaves behind him. Caveman walks five feet ahead of you carrying a party favor the size of a votive candle, while you wrangle the children, carrying a toddler on one hip, a baby on the other, diaper bag slung over your shoulder, and purse bouncing down around your wrist.
Caveman doesn’t understand it’s time to go when you are at the worst children’s birthday party ever (consisting of the adults sitting around for three hours playing “farkle” and drinking beer, while the birthday girl begs to open her presents, only to be allowed to three hours after the party has started). Once recognition has been made that it is time to leave, caveman stands oddly and stares off into space while you throw on coats, hats, mittens, and boots onto tired, and crying children.
Caveman sits on the couch and watches television while you cook and clean, and wipe dirty faces, feed your children, bathe them, brush their teeth, read stories, and put them to bed. After you’ve been up for 20-odd hours, and sleeping a total of four hours in broken 30-minute segments the night before, caveman thinks now is as good of a time as any to make his move, and consummate your marriage.
Caveman has been home for two weeks and has gone hunting for 50% of that time-yes, literally hunting, bow hunting, the hunting season that lasts not one month, but four. Your head is screaming, “Wait a minute, I thought this was supposed to be easier.” Your heart is urging you “Have patience, things will get better.”
And so the battle goes, pulling you back and forth. Angel on one side, saying “Be kind. He doesn’t get it.” Devil on the other, going “Ok. He can’t really be that dense. Can he…?”
Maybe he is. Maybe caveman doesn’t see the housework that needs to be done-but not because he’s a total jerk. Maybe caveman is in awe of how you managed to do so much by yourself, and he has no idea where he is needed, or where to step in. Maybe when caveman sits lethargically on the couch while you meet your children’s need he isn’t being complacent. Maybe he has total faith in you as a mother.
Maybe when you are exhausted, cranky and sick while he is still trying to make a move on you, he isn’t a thoughtless pig. Maybe he doesn’t see the bags under your eyes, the aching bones and bad hair. Maybe he sees a vision of beauty that he just has to have.
Maybe he thinks you are such an excellent mother and wife he isn’t needed in as many aspects of the home as you would like him to be. I don’t know how caveman will turn out-whether he will become more of a version of Prince Charming, or stay in his ogre-like ways.
But instead of focusing on the 90% as something I am unfairly burdened with, I am trying to see it this way: I am 90% strong, 90% capable, 90% assured that whatever tomorrow brings I can handle it. Because all in all, I am 100% sure that I love my caveman, even though most of the time “he just doesn’t get it.”
(Editor’s note: In the months since Summer wrote this essay, she tells us that her caveman has slowly turned back into his Prince Charming-like self, thanks to some “patience, respect, and positive communication.” But, she tells us, he’ll “always be a caveman at heart, which is probably why he is such a good soldier”!)