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.