There’s nothing that can get my husband’s eyes rolling with greater velocity than when I mention I’m thinking about our Christmas plans and it’s June. Of course, I typically get the same reaction when I mention it again on December 10th, but by that point I’m equally exasperated as well. This begs the question; can a “planner” and “procrastinator” make a marriage work? It’s often said that, if you’re honest, you knew about all of your spouse’s quirks before you married them. Typically, you either found them endearing or you ignored them. But I’m not sure I knew the lengths to which my husband could actively procrastinate, if that’s even possible within the laws of physics. During our dating years, he planned dates and we planned outings together. No issues there. He planned when and where we got engaged. No issues, again. We both planned the wedding (though I definitely took the reins). But since then, my need for pre-thinking and pre-planning has repeatedly butted heads against his need for postponing and procrastinating.
Typically, when I bring up a topic that he doesn’t want to “deal” with at the time, he says, “Let’s think about it.”
So I ask, “Okay, what should we think about?”
“I need to think about things,” he says.
“Like what things?” I ask. “Astrophysics? World hunger? How many terabytes could a woodchuck chuck?”
I know that all of this alleged thinking and mulling and musing is merely code for delay, delay, delay. (My husband-translation skills are vastly improving.) Recently I shared a draft of this article with him and he felt that I was portraying him as being one-dimensional. “The thing is,” he said, speaking for procrastinators everywhere, as I furiously typed, making sure to capture the wisdom verbatim, “if we’re thinking, we often can’t be disturbed. We can’t interrupt the process. I can’t think about the baby’s bath water while I’m planning our retirement. We’re working on other problems.” He says all this with a straight face, and manages to hold it for a few seconds, before we both burst into laughter.
The fact is that I know he believes this on one level, and there is validity to it; but the likelihood of him actually thinking about our retirement, or world peace, or the best of the Caribbean islands to whisk me away to, at the moment I want to have “a talk” is highly unlikely. It’s more probable that he’s thinking of how to get past the evil werewolves in Dragon’s Age on the X-box, or whether he could put the kitten in roller-skates. Then, in addition, when I try to push the “talk”, we first have to address whether his coffee-quota has been met for the day and see if there’s any possible need for a sandwich in his immediate future before continuing. Delay, delay, delay.
Compounding all this planning versus procrastinating issue is our lifestyle. We live overseas for two to three years at a time. So, planning is not only necessary for this lifestyle, it’s vital. You have to plan what to bring with you for your years away. You have to plan what goes in which shipment. You have to plan what to put in suitcases and what to mail ahead. If not, you might end up with all your best swimwear and your baby pictures, when you’re headed for Norway, or your years in Jeddah might find you trying to swap your arctic parkas and Dungeons & Dragons accessories for sunhats and spf-clothing (not that I’m speaking from any experience here).
Maybe I take it to another level, but I even try to think ahead and make sure we have a stash of items that can be helpful in any setting, such as generic birthday cards and wrapping paper (otherwise too many nephews’ birthday presents could have been wrapped in the Cairo Times or Kuwait City Daily); I make sure that we have an ample supply of the cat’s medication with us; and if I have a favorite lotion, I bring a few tubs. We have a few sets of nice matching sheets and towels. And I like to make sure we have a well-stocked “costume” box for various dress-up parties we may attend (though if I have Elmer’s Glue and cotton balls, my husband’s set for a costume anytime anywhere – somehow a variation of a Father Time/Gandalf/Leprechaun always seems to fit the bill).
Yes, I’m a tad type-A. But my husband is so far from a type-B that he’s closer to a type-Z. I will admit that his relaxed attitude in regards to planning can be refreshing at times. We’ve had some wonderful spontaneous vacations to Venice and London (of course, I was the one who arranged the flights and hotel, but otherwise we winged it). And I’m all for having a non-structured vacation. But there are other times when “winging” might not be the best method.
A year ago, we were planning (see the word) on adopting a child. I thought re-financing our condo was a flurry of paperwork, but what was required for this made re-fi look like a single snowflake. We had almost completed the paperwork portion, and had the personal interviews coming up. But in addition, there was the planning (see again) needed for the baby’s actual arrival. Now, we didn’t need to have a full-fledged nursery up and running, but we did need baby things at some point in the future. So, I had started the research and list-making phase of parenting.
I had spent a few days researching the safest and most recommended car seats, playpens, and cribs. I identified the safest bottles, formula, and strollers. Plus, I dove in to some of the towering volumes of “how to raise a baby” books that are out there. So, when I told my dear husband that I had finished the overall list of basic needs, and then subdivided it into what will be immediate needs, versus eventual needs, his eyes began to roll with alarming speed.
Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that he’s completely planning-impaired. His handicap is purely willful. He had no problem spending weeks upon weeks, researching and comparing prices and systems for a new laptop. He read reviews, queried friends and we made several trips to the store to “just look” at them. And then finally, with great determination, he bought one (it’s big and has a pretty red stripe on it, and goes well with our other three laptops – I believe we now have a quorum).
So, would we be able to “wing it” once the baby arrived? Sure, many people do. A friend who is equally as type-A as I am, had her daughter a month early, so she had never gotten around to reading the “how to raise an infant” books she’d been meaning to, but her two-year-old is beyond perfect and seemed to survive her mother’s lack of study-time. However, the issue was that I wanted to be minimally prepared, rather than trying to figure out how to rock a crying baby in my arms while trying to Google with one hand “help crying baby”. Having a stack of burp cloths on hand would be easier than grabbing my grandmother’s dishtowels, though I realize at the time you snatch whatever’s closest. And knowing a variety of positions for burping a baby, and practicing them on the cat, helped give me a sense that maybe we could do this.
Will our children suffer irreparable harm from either too much planning or too much procrastination? Probably not. And in the end, I realized that no amount of reading, research, or planning could truly prepare us for becoming parents. But it helped quell some of my anxiety, and as long as I didn’t share too much of my planning plans, it won’t increase my husband’s. So in the end, I guess a planner and a procrastinator can make it work, we just may need a few more eye exams than the non-P&P couple for all our mutual eye-rolling. Now, let’s see if the new laptop also works as a changing table – where’d the cat go?