Keeping Score In Parenting Is Always A Losing Battle
Have you ever ruined a vacation? I've come close. Earlier in the year, my family and I took a last-minute trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My husband had been away for the entire month of August for military training and, while he was away, was laid off from his full-time job. It was a completely yikes moment of not really knowing what the next month would bring. Luckily, his company was bought out and he was rehired, giving us a couple weeks to reconnect as a family. But my niggling desire to keep score with my partner while we were away turned out to be a losing battle. We all know that, right? But it is so tempting.
I lost it and started listing on my fingers all the things that I had stepped up to do that day while my husband got to rest.
We arrived at our hotel to find a beautiful balcony overlooking crashing waves, a crib waiting for our (then) 1-year-old daughter and a room of his own for our 9-year-old son. Like magic. We were set for the next four nights and ready for some fun, dinners that would be served to us (no cleanup required!) and some relaxation nestled in there somewhere, too. There’s pretty much nothing that compares to the freeing feeling that vacation allows to wash over you and we were soaking it up.
All was good in the land of sand and pool hopping, until my husband and I found ourselves amidst a silly argument that made me realize something pretty major about being an adult with children: keeping score in parenthood is always a losing battle.
It started when my daughter was up on and off the entire first night. We’ve all been there. You just get yourself back to sleep and there they are, up again. Being that I was on the side of the bed nearest to her crib, I was the one getting up that entire night.
“No big deal,” I kept telling myself every time it happened. “My husband was just away for 30 days, sleeping on a cot, no showers and intense physical activity everyday that I know I couldn’t have done to save my life. This is not comparable.”
My whole crew then rose with the sun the next morning and all were ready to hit the waves and start our day. Trying to be economical and keep a budget, I had packed granola bars for our breakfasts each morning, so I dished them out as we all pulled our bathing suit covers over our heads and packed our big canvas bag to head to the sand. Then, my husband started coughing and paused, alerting me that something just wasn’t right.
He ended up having a slight allergic reaction to the granola bars, something that happens with him from time to time when we try a new brand. It’s odd because he has a slight shrimp allergy and some granola bar brands are cross contaminated in their facilities but don’t disclose this. We’ve been to the ER for this in the past and long story short, he just needed some rest and some Benadryl.
Fine. No big deal.
When we got back to the room, my husband instantly went to take another nap, while I was expected to manage our kiddos — and all hell broke loose.
So I dragged all our stuff, which you can imagine how that looked, with our 9-year-old and 15-month-old in tow to the beach. I somehow managed to wrangle them all morning by myself until my husband was well and ready to join us after lunch. The rest of the day was fun — exhausting, but fun — then it started to rain. The sudden downpour convinced us to take a little breather in the room before getting ready for dinner.
But when we got back to the room, my husband instantly went to take another nap, while I was expected to manage our kiddos — and all hell broke loose.
I was exhausted, too, and it seemed like I just wasn’t allowed to be. I just wanted 30 minutes to rest my head after being up on and off the night before and being alone with the kids most of the day. I lost it and started listing on my fingers all the things that I had stepped up to do that day while my husband got to rest.
I listed reason after reason, and probably sounded like a crazy person going off on my poor husband, but I had reached my breaking point and was running on cheap hotel room coffee and just needed an effing break.
I kept score that day. And keeping score led to a blow-out argument that was totally unnecessary. My husband fired back at me and what was supposed to be a happy moment of reconnecting ended up in verbal shots going back and forth — right in front of our kids.
We both lost that day, TBH.
Keeping score will always, always make you mad at your partner.
After we fought, I stormed off to take a shower and wash the salty water, along with the fight, off my body. When I was finished, a beautiful thing was happening right before my eyes: my family was all asleep. So I crawled into bed beside my husband and took that little nap that I deserved. I fell into the deepest sleep that I had in a really long time. Just as I was beginning to wake up when I could hear the baby start to stir, I could feel my husband roll over and wrap his arms around my waist. I knew that all was good in that moment.
I realized that day that keeping score will always, always make you mad at your partner. It was a reminder that whenever I signed onto this whole being a parent thing that we did it as partners and sometimes in a partnership one person’s gotta give a little bit more than the other. Life isn’t always a 50/50 kinda deal and neither is parenting. If I had just spent less time keeping score that day and more time just communicating my needs, then I probably would have gotten what I needed — no questions asked.
So from that point forward, I stopped keeping score. No more parenting battles about who did what or who changed more diapers that day. We were both going through life doing the best that we can to be good to each other and the best parents that we can be and that most definitely doesn’t include keeping a tally notepad in my diaper bag.
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