J. is six weeks into his no-longer-new job, and our household has found a new rhythm.
We’ve entered a new realm, a realm that involves lots of ironing of Oxford shirts, making lunches the night before, commute planning, and ensuring clean laundry, breakfast options, and a set alarm clock. It’s a little less French Press, a little more Set the Timer on the Coffee Pot. This movement into the conventional working world has previously been delayed by grad school programs (over the past four years for each of us), and most currently for me, my flexible work schedule.
We’ve already started to notice the impact of our new, daily routine on our relationship. On one hand, I love structure and it goes without saying I’m grateful for J.’s job, and on the other hand, I’ve already felt weary at times from daily chores, the routine, and from missing the old days of seeing J. at random times throughout the day. It’s neither objectively good nor objectively bad to have a daily rhythm that largely remains the same day-to-day; rather, we realize that our task will be to find meaning and joy, to meet God, and to stay connected in the daily grind. Here are a few ways we try to do that:
Small gestures matter. Doing the little things with great love (Mother Theresa said something about this? So did St. Therese of Liseaux, Thich Nhat Hahn, and lots of other smarties). This means that it’s awesome when we notice teeny tiny ways to help each other out. Example: J. wiped out the bathroom sink the other say because it had developed a “film” (EW), and it was awesome. Also in this category: setting the table, folding socks, leaving little notes, packing cookies in lunches, leaving the outside light on when one of us comes home late.
Parallel play. When we’re in the same space but quietly doing different activities, we call this parallel play. Since our new schedule has made the evenings super important for getting stuff done, this is one way that we can still accomplish necessary tasks without boxing out the other person. On evenings when we’re paying bills, looking at finances, making grocery lists, ironing shirts, or doing a myriad of other household tasks that have to happen – parallel play works for us. You know how oftentimes you feel close to your comrades on a silent retreat even though you’ve barely spoken? Parallel play.
There is always something to celebrate. Fridays = frozen pizza! Traffic wasn’t so bad today! You had a presentation at work! Anything! Everything!
Ritual. Sitting at the dinner table, sharing a quiet moment before work in prayer or reading the paper or coffeetime. One ritual that stuck: the day after our wedding, in a reenactment of the day before, we gave each other our wedding rings and said “take this ring.” Cheesy? You decide. Ritual? Absolutely. Daily reminder of the vows, 226 days strong.
Technology. Texts during the day, here’s-what-I’m-doing pics, sometimes calling on the lunch break, competitive updates about J.’s company’s health challenge (why yes, I did replace sugary drinks with water today, and I’d love a point for that). We also help each other avoid using our phones in ways that make us feel disconnected. One concrete way we unplug is our rule about no phones in bed (see: iPhone addiction). No pre-bedtime Instagram scroll or news first thing in the morning?! NO.
I’ve found that when I’m operating from this frame, I feel less weary or less creeping resentment, and more in touch with gratitude, service, and partnership. What are your best ways for partnered presence in the daily grind?