Last night was one of the few times since going into lock-down that I didn’t straight to sleep after putting my kids to bed. My wife was on the phone with one of her friends, so I decided to work. One hour of writing turned into two. Then three. By the time I snapped back to reality, it was closing in on 2 am. Luc, our 2-year-old, is part human, part rooster. He loves the morning sun. Lying in bed, with only four hours left to sleep, I cursed the decision to name him after the word “light.”
Just as I’d finally gotten comfortable and my pillow just right, I realized I’d forgotten to fill up my glass of water. After a few minutes of going back and forth about the pros and cons of filling it up, I finally managed to drag my legs to the side of the bed. As soon as I reached for my glass, however, I realized it was already full.
My wife, Laia, had a shitty day yesterday. The father of one of her best friends passed away. On top of this devastating news, and everything else that is going on, she still looked at my empty glass of water next to my bed and thought to herself, “Michael will be thirsty later.”
It was only a small gesture, but it affected me in a big way.
I’ve seen a lot of articles recently about how to keep love alive during trying times. Originally I had planned to eventually share my own ideas of what I like to do for my wife. But my wife is better than me.
In addition to keeping my glass full, below are a few other little things that she has done for me to make this god awful experience suck a little less.
She lets me make mistakes
The only thing I had to do while she took a shower was keep an eye on the kids and the last bit of rice we had cooking on the stove. When she found the kitchen full of smoke a few minutes later, and Luc, with hummus in his freshly washed hair, she didn’t say a thing. In fact, she laughed.
I messed up. She didn’t need to tell me. So she didn’t. Instead, she yelled, ever so gently, “Siri, please play Kill Me Now by the Suicide Twins.” While I did a piss poor job of scraping the black rice from the once silver pot, she crushed, ever so gently, a bunch of stale crackers over the soup I hadn’t managed to murder.
Despite her being at the end of her rope, we laughed a lot that night. We even managed to steal a moment without our kids at our feet to hug each other in the kitchen. It’s funny how things that would normally annoy us during normal times turn into back rubs during hard times.
She lets me do nothing
In exchange for getting out of doing laundry, most nights I clean up the house and take out the trash. The other night, however, I was in a state. I barely had the energy to blink. The only thing I wanted to do after putting the kids to bed was to rack out on the couch and see if Netflix had put out anything new since we decided to have kids five years ago.
She didn’t bug me about the trash. Nor did she remind me that it was my turn to clean. Instead, after folding our clothes she put her feet up next to me. I love her for that. I needed a night to melt into nothing and it’s nice sometimes to not have to ask for it.
The most important question you can ask yourself in hard times is what you can do to lighten someone else’s load.
She lets me eat pizza
My wife is tiny. I’ve lived in Spain for a decade and I still get a massive headache whenever I’m asked to convert kilos to pounds. I’m guessing she weighs around 100 pounds. Whenever we eat a large pizza, however, despite my 60-pound advantage, she objects that I should get 5 slices and her only 3. The little smirk on her face every time she grabs that fourth slice has kept me awake at night on more than one occasion.
Last Friday, however, I missed lunch. I was starving. When it came down to the last slice, instead of reminding me that we still had salad, she looked me in the eye and slid it over to me ever so slowly. Unfortunately, I’m unable to describe to you how good it tasted; Liam, our oldest, snatched it up before I could finish it. But still, I love that after a decade of eating as much pizza as someone who is clearly larger than she is, she made the effort.
Some times during hard times it’s best to think about other people.
Like most apartments in Europe, our place isn’t very big and we don’t have a yard. Combine this with having two young children who sleep less than most startup founders and it’s been hard for us to get more than a few minutes alone while we still have enough energy to breathe.
Despite this, I can’t remember a time where I haven’t felt more loved.
Little notes left around the house letting me know I’m a good dad.
Not asking me to explain if I’m in a bad mood.
Giving me some space if it’s clear I need it.
Our partners didn’t fall in love with us because of some amazing Christmas gift we bought them. They fell in love with us because we left water by their bed.
It turns out, the best way to stay in love in hard times is the same as falling in love in good times.