Shower Guilt

Five years ago, I could shower whenever I wanted. Nothing was stopping me from turning the dial to that bullshit “massage” setting and standing under its annoyingly weak pulse for an hour at 2pm on a Saturday.

It’s much better now that our boys are older, but when one of them was 2 and the other an infant, taking a shower was an event that had to be scheduled and announced. Specifics about its length, and the inclusion of other bathroom activities had to be communicated. “Would now be an OK time to take a shower?” is something my wife and I asked each other almost every other day. If we brought our phones it was an unspoken — though perfectly clear — message that, pre-shower, we would be perusing the gossip sites from the toilet.

The subtext of all this was, “Can you handle the children by yourself for 20 minutes while I experience some guilt-ridden alone time that doubles as overdue body cleansing?”

Sometimes we even felt it necessary  to brag about how dirty we were, or how long it had been since we last bathed, just so our request would more likely be granted without any begrudging “I haven’t showered since Wednesday” or “I have dried guacamole on my shoulder from 3 days ago.” The desired response was, “Oh, God yes. Please take as long as you need,” though I don’t think either of us ever received it. “Gross. Yes, fine … do it now” was  more typical.

Some showers had a halftime show performed by the co-parent who yelled “Are you almost done?” through the door, which meant, “It’s been 10 minutes, so you’re clearly just fucking around in there. Come help me!”

The shower is loud enough that the sounds of family dysfunction were drowned out, leaving the bather in a state of blissful ignorance. I saw it as a Zen chamber where I could meditate (albeit lamely) without leaving the house. Upon turning off the water, and hearing the cacophony downstairs, any achievements made in the direction of Nirvana quickly dissipated. The post-shower routine then became a comical exercise in how quickly I could apply enough pomade that my hair didn’t look like it belonged on the head of  1976 Dorothy Hamill.

I would quickly get dressed, and fly down the stairs, only to find that everything had suddenly calmed and I could have taken my time. But then it was too late. Getting back in the shower was out of the question. Taking two showers in one day was the equivalent of a nap, and a preposterous luxury.

Meanwile, the non-showering parent had built-up a good deal of parenting capital, and could announce his or her shower plans with complete impunity. “Ok, now I’m going to take a shower,” was loaded with entitlement. You got to go first, and now I’m going to milk my opportunity for all it’s worth.

If you’re thinking this is a similar dynamic to who orgasms first during sex, you’re right. Relationships change after you have kids.  It’s also true that, while I’m the one complaining, all of this was, and is, way worse for my wife.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

28 comments On Shower Guilt

  • What about going to the bathroom? I wish I had even one minute of privacy to take a dump alone.

      • Oh yes! If I make it in quickly and lock the door, there are thirty small fingers poking under the door, or six small hands pounding on the door, rattling the knob and sticking random items in the keyhole in a futile attempt to unlock the door and get to me. Oh, and one of them ALWAYS has to pee RIGHT NOW in whichever of the 3 bathrooms in our house I might be occupying.

        And when I'm not fast enough…

        I love the two-year old announcing to the world that he's 'gonna hep momma do da pewp in terlit'. Then he stands and stares. And periodically flushes. I draw the line when he wants to help me wipe…

        Then there is the five year-old who wants to give me an oral dissertation on whichever subject he happens to be obsessed with that day. While staring and announcing as loudly as possible that I stink. Well thanks son, and here I thought I shit roses!

        • The newest thing from my two year old girl: When mommy announces she goes to the toilet, outrun her, claim the toilet and say you need to pee first. While in the potty training process she can't refuse even if she almost pees in her pants her self.

  • I have often gotten out of the shower to find not only my two small children but my husband camped out in the bathroom. Really? You ALL need to be in here? But the best was when I was showering and my mom says to me, "Can I give you Leah (2 yr old) so you can wash the blood off of her?" That's a relaxing end to a shower.

  • A few years ago, we had a six foot..yes six foot bath. It did not have jets but it had a great view from the tub overlooking our undeveloped neighborhood. My kids were 6, 4 and 1. When I would very quietly sneak down the hall into our bathroom and lock the bedroom and bathroom door behind me. It never failed as soon as they figured out I was missing and the water was running in the bathroom it began. The banging…I don't mean a light knocking on the door…I mean three kids BANGING LOUDLY ON THE FREAKING DOOR! My husband who had worked all day in the heat and cold didn't think it was a big deal that they did it. He didn't encourage it, but he definitely didn't discourage it. Years later the roles were reversed as he went back to school and I worked….I would whisper to the kids when he would try to take a shower alone. They would excitedly run upstairs and take off all their clothes and all get in the shower with him. He was never amused. LOL Paybacks are sweet sometimes.

  • I just get excited when I get to shower by myself….

  • I haven't showered in nearly 4 years without a little face and nose smushed up against the glass door and hearing, "Whatcha doin?" and/or "Are you nekkid?" *sigh*

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