At which point is your partners inability to compromise a deal-breaker? At which point is your partners inability to compromise a deal-breaker?
December 7, 2012 8:50 PM   Subscribe

At which point is your partners inability to compromise a deal-breaker? A friend stays at home with a baby and also cares for a disabled child. Husband will not compromise on their sleep issues and she is going downhill mentally fast due to extreme sleep deprivation.

This has been an ongoing argument between the two of them throughout the relationship.
He works long and hard hours outdoors in harsh climate as a tradesman. He is in bed by 8pm, she's up with the baby until 10-11pm. She wakes to feed the baby during the night, he's up at 5am and then she's up at 6am to care for the children again.
The first problem is that he stops breathing, snores and tosses in bed all night and refuses to seek medical aid for this to resolve it.
He also becomes extremely angry if asked to sleep on the couch.
If she decides to sleep on the couch herself, she is frequently interrupted by his night snacking and smoking a few times a night. He appears to do this in a half-asleep state and if interrupted becomes aggressive and yells and swears. These nightly eating and smoking breaks also wake the children and messes with the babies schedule making it fussy during the day and messes with the disabled child's sleep making him perform poorly at school.
He also has a snooze-button routine in the morning which can take up to an hour and wakes all 4 of them up far before they would have to get up.
The live in a TINY space and there is no other space in which to sleep or separate parties.
She's only getting about 2 hours uninterrupted each night and about 4-5 total with all of the wakings.
He refuses to acknowledge her need for sleep as she 'does nothing at home all day' with the kids and will not discuss or come to a compromise. She feels anxiety towards returning to work in a few months as she would not be able to perform on her demanding workload with so little sleep.
Her sleep deprivation is making her disoriented, unable to care for the children properly and extremely resentful, angry and aggressive towards her husband.
He refuses counseling, discussing, negotiating, compromising. What can she do other than leave?
posted by tenaciousmoon to Human Relations (48 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm going to agree in advance with the avalanche of comments telling you that she needs to leave him, at least temporarily.

But since you asked for what OTHER things she could do - the only other thing I could think of would be that if she's on good terms with his mother, to ask her for advice, because you KNOW that if she hears her son is treating the mother of her grandbaby like that she is going to CHEW him out but GOOD.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 PM on December 7, 2012 [18 favorites]

He refuses counseling, discussing, negotiating, compromising. What can she do other than leave?

Sleep in whatever room the children are in, with a white noise machine. She can then return to work, save her money and GTF out of this horrible relationship.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:55 PM on December 7, 2012 [71 favorites]

Can she take a sleeping pill of some kind?
posted by discopolo at 9:00 PM on December 7, 2012

As you've presented the situation, there's little she can do but leave. That being said, since apparently neither of these parties is you, we're getting at best a second-hand version of one side of the story, and I have the feeling that there's nuance here beyond the almost cartoonishly bad behavior you describe.
posted by bac at 9:05 PM on December 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Uh, nothing really. Call a domestic abuse shelter or hotline and ask them for advice, but odds are they will say to leave. And let me guess, she has no money of her own to hire a sitter (in order to sleep when he's out) or leave him too, right?
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:05 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

DarlingBri absolutely has it.

The father can not cope or think straight himself due the sleep apnea and other stresses, but this is no excuse.

The one person I dated who KNEW they had sleep apnea was also belligerant and awful fairly often, and never got help. I don't see a change on the horizon, FWIW.

She can get a fairy comfy blow-up bed from Target (or similar) for about $20 to sleep in the kids room. The motorized inflator device (usually included) doesn't do enough, and one of those yellow cheap accordian device foot pumps is ideal for making the bed sleepworthy (this is all in the camping gear section.)

She should also start looking into social services for single moms, including child care and housing, for when she escapes.

I'm so sorry to hear about this. Best of luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:06 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm trying to get her to seek individual counselling but at this point she is not open to suggestions of leaving.
There's a lot more going on. She yells and name calls and throws things in her desperate sleep-deprived state at 2-3 am when she's done weeping that she just wants to SLEEP and he then punishes her for 'being abusive' by disappearing on weekends and binge-drinking.
She can not take pills as she is breastfeeding and can not wear ear plugs as she wont hear the baby wake to feed and change and he 'doesnt do' nighttime parenting.
Im trying to be supportive...
posted by tenaciousmoon at 9:10 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's better to sleep in the same room with the kids than on the couch. Even if she sleeps in a hammock, on an airbed (as suggested), or in a recliner, it'll be better than the constant interruptions on the couch.
posted by patheral at 9:13 PM on December 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

If she's yelling and throwing things and he leaves to binge-drink, and she's not open to leaving, you have more than a non- professional friend can handle.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:14 PM on December 7, 2012 [59 favorites]

She can not take pills as she is breastfeeding and can not wear ear plugs as she wont hear the baby wake to feed and change

A couple who are friends of mine say that they would sleep with the baby lying between them, in their bed, and she would simply nurse whenever she needed to. There evidently was substantial cultural censure of this (Mid-Atlantic state in the U.S.) and family members, friends, and nosy strangers whose opinion hadn't been solicited would predict terrible, terrible things would befall them and their child.

But they're both very intelligent, educated, well-balanced people so they did the research and say they found no scientific or medical evidence to argue against the practice. So they continued, and had fabulously restful nights without having to constantly wake up and trudge down the hall to a nursery.

So I agree that arranging to sleep in the childrens' room is a good approach for the OP and maybe it would let her wear ear plugs if needed, if the baby was right next to her.

However I also agree that it sounds as though she should be seeking a way to exit this living arrangement posthaste.
posted by XMLicious at 9:36 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is an impossible question. You ask at what point is this a dealbreaker and then say leaving is not an option. That's what you do when you encounter a dealbreaker. You break the deal. You leave. If your friend won't leave an untenable, deteriorating situation that is unhealthy for everyone involved including the children, then it doesn't matter whether commenters here on the Green consider it a dealbreaker or not.
posted by headnsouth at 9:46 PM on December 7, 2012 [26 favorites]

I think the main question that pops to my mind is: "Is dude's intractability on this normal for him? Or is this exceptional?"

If this is normal for him, and expected, then yeah, DTMFA.

But if he's reasonable about other things, but it's just this sleep stuff that's making him seem like such a cretin, then maybe it's solvable. But only someone who knows all the parties involved -- and the nature of their relationship -- really well could answer that.
posted by colin_l at 9:50 PM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am the nicest, most non-confrontational, meekest husband around, but I will curse a bitch up if awoken and made demands to if in deep enough sleep. I guess I do it in a mostly asleep state and often don't recall a thing. Not excusing anything here, just suppose that there could be lots going on and maybe the man isn't a monster. Maybe.
posted by kenaldo at 9:52 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was that guy.

Minus the belligerence, smoking and drinking, but still with the basics: hated being "thrown out of my bed" for snoring, always grumpy and exhausted, and resentful of that bitch for not pulling her weight around the house, and how dare she complain, what with how hard I work. Exhaustion can make an asshole of anyone.

What it took for me was a guy I looked up to and respected telling me "Eight hours sleep is going to change your life".

This was important, in my case. My doctor had "suggested". My mother had "insisted". My girlfriend had "nagged". But my boss told me that someday soon I was going to wake up dead, because I was stubborn.

It's not the question you asked: you know very well that AskMeFi has no patience for "Can't leave, can't stay" spirals.

I would go to the guy's foreman, crew chief, superintendent, whatever. Simplify the story so Joe Friday would appreciate its brevity. Get somebody else to tell him that eight hours sleep will change his life.

(having read Colin's comment, of course I'm projecting. I'm a decent, kind, loving person who had been reduced to a miserable jackass by years of sleep deprivation from severe apnea. The OP's friend's husband may be a miserable jackass underneath, too.)
posted by Kakkerlak at 9:53 PM on December 7, 2012 [20 favorites]

Upon Update....

OK. So the mom is losing her shit, too? This is no surprise.

Does she have a laptop? Or much better, a smartphone or tablet (iPad)?

Then she NEEDS to download a binaural beat based guided meditation app. And use it religiously.

When she wears headphones and listens to the meditation (preferably not when breast feeding, as she is likely to fall deeply asleep) different tones in each ear "entrain" the two hemispheres of your brain into sync - this relaxes, provides clearer thinking under stress, and a greater capacity to cope with adversity.

Most binaural beat based meditation programs last 20 to 30 minutes. Many are free apps downloadable off iTunes and the like.

There are free downloads at the Monroe Institute website, they kinda spearheaded this technology many years ago.

My favorite free to begin, but $20 for the full suite of meditations, is MINDIFI.


Beyond that, and I went nuts on this a while ago when I had my first born, BECAUSE MY DOCTOR REALLY LET ME DOWN HERE - but is your friend taking any supplements? Because if she is, maybe she should double that (check with the internet, a doctor, and safe dosage requirements.) Some stuff you should not take a lot of because it isn't water soluable. But when you are breastfeeding, dosage changes. For sure, human bodies don't make enough vitamin C - so she should take more of that. Not so much it causes diarhea, but just before that threshold.

Iron. Take extra iron. Keep taking extra iron. Take C along side of it to help absorption and prevent constipation.


Your friend is likely losing it from stress, sleep deprivation, and the never ever mentioned vitamin deficiency (hello! breast feeding!)


You can not address her husband's issues, but you can help her care for her mind and body.

Hope she follows through.
posted by jbenben at 9:56 PM on December 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

He is a selfish arsehole. The only thing she CAN do is leave. He hits the sleep button on the alarm regularly, waking up everyone in the house? Are you kidding me? Is he that fucking selfish that he wakes up his kids as well as his wife???

I was sleeping on the floor when I was heavily pregnant, because the father of my children insisted that he needed unimpeded sleep to work, and me daring to get out of bed to pee a couple of times a night upset him. Then he'd get up, shout at me, smoke half a gram of pot, and shower for half an hour which kept me awake. He was a selfish arsehole, and it sounds like your friends husband is exactly the same.

Memail me if you want to hear about how hard it is to be a single mum... but how it's so much easier than putting up with a selfish arsehole as well as two kids.

I don't blame your friend for being angry with him. I would DTMFA because if he's that selfish (with a disabled child and a baby in the house), he's not going to get any better. She is a single mum already because she is the only one taking the welfare of the children into account.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 10:16 PM on December 7, 2012 [11 favorites]

If this were my friend, I would get totally real, stop coddling the "But I can't leave" routine, and poke her where it hurts enough to snap her out of it, something like "Please listen to me. Please don't interrupt. You know how much I care for you. And I am looking at what's going on in your marriage, and I think it is fucking up your ability to be a good mother to your babies. You are currently making choices that I think are bad for your kids. I don't want to get into a thing where you justify what you're doing and go through a point by point rebuttal of why you can't leave. I'm just telling you, this house, the way it is right now, is not an okay environment for your babies. And I really, really believe that you must leave for a while so both you and your husband can get some sleep and some perspective."

(And then I would try pretty hard to have an idea for where she could go if she left, and I would offer to be her ride, and I would babysit for her that afternoon so she could sleep for a few hours, etc.)

I know you are trying to support your friend within the boundaries she is willing to consider (not leaving, etc.) but I really feel like what's going on in their marriage is way beyond your ability to help fix via this kind of friendly, but conditional support. I think the only thing you can do is really lay it out for your friend that this stuff is not okay and not fixable from where she's standing right now; sleep deprivation makes people nuts. I have no idea if this marriage is fixable if they can both get some distance and some sleep, or what. Maybe it totally is, and this is just a horrible patch for them. But right now, they can't work on "the relationship", because they are exhausted and irrational and losing their minds. It sounds like this is basically a medical crisis at this point, not an issue of "Ugh, my husband is soooo stubborn", so I would reframe it like that.

I'm sorry your friend is having this problem. Good for you for trying to help.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:22 PM on December 7, 2012 [10 favorites]

Does she have any family she can visit with the kids for a week to get a break from the constant conflict?
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:23 PM on December 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was a snorer and the family bread winner when our children were born. There was no sense in both of being up all night as I had to get to work and make jack to pay for all the fun. My wife agreed in principle that my sleep was more important at that time. Just hearing that made me feel understood enough and appreciated enough that I agreed to take turns sleeping in the other room. One week I was in the day bed in the other room, one week she was. She got up with the kids at night, but when I came home around 6 or 7, I was on Daddy duty for at least an hour. I actually enjoyed it enough to look forward to it. Bath time was the best! Bubbles and water every where with giggling and screaming in delight. Then I would put them in bed (or when they were real young, ex would breast feed them) and I would read a story or make up a story. The other thing that really helped was that my wife had a rule. When the kids are down, she is down. She would nap during the day when the kids did.

My point is that there is room for compromise. If she is willing to give in or accept some of the night time sleep issues, will he give her an hour or two right after dinner to relax, or nap or whatever?

He seems to be dug in about his sleep habits right now. So let him. But, in exchange, get him to agree to other times where he is in charge and your friend can have some down time.

One other suggestion. If your friend is not working right now, can she take a trip to visit her mom or family for a week or 10 days every month? Both of them will be better off for it.

All those saying she should leave, I disagree if she still loves him. She will be no better off sleep wise if she leaves. She will still be sleep deprived, she will struggle financially, she will never get down time unless she has family in her living situation, etc. This is solvable. Even assholes will negotiate. If this is the first child, he could be feeling a lot of pressure to earn money, be a good dad and not screw up. Maybe if she writes him a factual and emotional letter that is not accusatory, but simply explains her point of view and a desire to work things out, he can think about it. Or ask for a week of 7 hours sleep as a Christmas present.

I also got a cpap and that has changed my life for the better. If you can get his doctor to prescribe it, it may help his attitude completely.

(ALso, if he is smoking while semi awake or half asleep or whatever, that is a major fire hazard that should be discussed.)

How much coffee does he drink? My dad used to complain about not being able to sleep at night. I suggested he not drink 6 cups of joe and smoke a pack and a half of cigs every day and he might sleep better.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:33 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aiyiyi. Breastfeeding will knock you on your ass. I feel for your friend.

I really think the best solution is for her to sleep in the children's room, based on what we know here. However, 1) he should not be getting extremely angry over the couch thing, 2) he is being an asshole for not getting medical help for his sleep issues, 3) he is an asshole for not getting help when he's up snacking and smoking all night when she in her exhaustion agrees to sleep on the couch (also either he's not "half-asleep" and is an asshole indeed, or he is half-asleep and it's dangerous), and 4) the "she does nothing at home all day" is such an asshole thing to say on its own, not to mention when it's then followed by a complete lack of compromise. His daytime may be "more important" on some scale, but she is getting criminally low amounts of sleep and it's bad for her physical and mental health, and this is happening while she's breastfeeding. If I were her I would be looking for a place to stay until my husband got his shit together. If she's planning on going back to work in a few months, I can't imagine what kind of argument he'll have for why his job is "more important" and she needs to sleep less and do more around the house while taking care of the kids. I mean, this is what she anticipates-- has she talked to him about what will happen when she goes back to work?

I think a lot of these answers assume the friend can "compromise" with her husband (even though she seems to have lost all her ground in this struggle already) but it seems he does not want to compromise or even discuss the issue. It sounds like he feels he should get to sleep in their bed every night, wake up at any hour to smoke and eat, and hit the snooze button 4-5 times a morning while his breastfeeding wife gets two hours of sleep on a couch because she just sits around all day. I think his issues are spiraling out of not getting enough sleep too (or else um, he's just a major asshole), but refusing to get help or talk about it is the really bad thing here.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:24 PM on December 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

At which point is this a dealbreaker? Far sooner than what you've described. This story defies reason.
posted by ead at 12:04 AM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

He is a terrible husband and father. She needs to find someplace else to go with the kids. If this is not possible, she needs to put herself in a room with the kids, and lock the door so that they as a group can sleep uninterrupted.

Honestly, if I knew this person I would tell them flat out they needed to leave, offer to let them stay at my place for a couple of days to get some rest, and while that was happening, tell the husband that he needs to get his $#!% together. Being a parent staying at home is hard, it is just as taxing as going to a workplace. If he cannot respect that and try to help her out, he is just the scum of the earth, and I have no sympathy for him whatsoever. If if weren't for the fact that it would leave the children without a father, I would say the world would be a better place without this person in it.
posted by markblasco at 12:09 AM on December 8, 2012

I would take a different approach and appeal to the husband in concern for his health. It seems that if the husband got treated for his sleep disorder, then she would be able to sleep more, so......

Perhaps you can help by assembling a bunch of easy to understand literature about the dangers of sleep apnea. Include articles about increased risk of cancers, stroke, heart attack and death. Include some that talk about weight gain and maybe even some about people who get jail time for vehicular manslaughter after driving sleep deprived. (It's all out there, I know because I assembled the same type of packet for my hubs.) Appeal to his better nature as a father- that she wants her children to know who he is and that for that to happen he needs to get treatment. Do Not make the argument about how HER sleep is disturbed, since he clearly does not care about that.

Obviously she would be better off to leave the situation entirely, but I can imagine that it's hard to think that's possible when you're sleep deprived and taking care of small kids. Maybe you can help her arrange a good nap? Either you or a sitter go over and take care of the kids for a few hours while she gets a little shut eye? I feel for her. That's tough.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:06 AM on December 8, 2012

I'd suggest getting soft foam earplugs at the highest decibel rating (order a variety pack of soft earplugs to try many types and see what is comfortable), and also get a vibrating baby monitor that will wake a person with vibrations instead of sounds when the baby makes noise. Then sleep in the kids' room, or somewhere else besides with the husband.

Noise cancelling headphones worn over the earplugs block almost all sound. She can maybe use that combination along with a sleep mask. Even if the wife can't separate herself from the husband, she might be able to carve out her own sleep space that is maximally uninterrupted by him.

If he snoozes, she could throw away his alarm clock and keep throwing it away until he stops re-buying one. She could replace it with a vibrating, lighted alarm clock designed for the hard of hearing. If she is wearing earplugs and a sleep mask, and sleeping in a different room, him snoozing with a vibrating, lighted alarm clock will not interrupt her. If he refuses to compromise, she can just do it. She can throw away his clock and buy a new one.

Boy, what a sucky situation though. Assuming either of them do not have extra money to hire a babysitter?

Another idea -- if there is not $$ to hire a babysitter, what about working out a childcare agreement with a friend who has a similar aged child? One of the two can watch both of the kids say 1 day per week, and in the meantime the other can get 8 hours uninterrupted sleep that day. Then they can switch off. If the wife has 1-2 friends with a child, she may be able to work out a barter like this. Probably getting 2 more 8-hour stretches per week would make a big difference.
posted by kellybird at 1:11 AM on December 8, 2012

I would take a different approach and appeal to the husband in concern for his health.

As much as is possible, I would try not to count on appealing to the husband at all, and just do what she can to carve out her own space. Technology solutions, and exchanges with friends might be a way to go. What are her personal resources?

If she has savings, or is financially viable enough to take a loan, she might want to be spending some $ on childcare just to get herself through this really stressful time.

I agree with the posters who said she'll be in a better position to divorce if/when she goes back to work. So I'd see it as a situation of surviving until then.
posted by kellybird at 1:13 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

A couple who are friends of mine say that they would sleep with the baby lying between them, in their bed, and she would simply nurse whenever she needed to... had fabulously restful nights without having to constantly wake up and trudge down the hall to a nursery.

I don't think you were suggesting this, but just in case, the baby should definitely not sleep in a bed with the dad. Parental smoking is a SIDS risk, and parents who drink or have sleep problems are at risk for rolling on to babies. I do totally agree that mom should sleep with the kids and basically act like a separate unit with them to get through this.

(also, we cosleep and while it is much better than the alternatives for us, I would in no way describe it as "fabulously restful"! YCSMV)

This is such a tough situation. I tend to agree with those who've said in the short term leaving isn't an easy solution with two kids and not a lot of money. Sleep deprivation can kill you though and this is a crisis. Can she stay with relatives? Is there another adult who could come to the home and give her some rest?
posted by crabintheocean at 4:33 AM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

This sounds like abuse and I would focus on trying to get her resources that help with spousal abuse. I'd also consider not insisting that she leave, but rather letting her know that you support her, that she's great, that she can make decisions on her own, and that his behavior is not okay and she doesn't deserve it.

I really am frightened for her and the children.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:00 AM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

So the father is smoking while half-asleep, they're both yelling and throwing things during the day, he binge drinks for weekends at a time, and your friend is caring for a baby and a child with a disability while disoriented and aggressive? This is rapidly becoming a safety and child welfare issue.

I know she doesn't want to leave, but I assume that means permanent relationship-ending leaving. Could she leave temporarily, and go to her mother's or mother-in-law's house?

Does she absolutely nap whenever the baby naps, or does she use that opportunity to cook and clean? She should be forgetting the cleaning and sleeping whenever she has the chance. When she goes back to work she should wolf down her lunch in 10 minutes and spend the rest of her break napping (I've done that - even a 20 minute nap helps).

Encourage the husband to get evaluated for sleep apnea. He might be exhausted too, and more supportive if he's getting enough rest.

And please don't encourage them to co-sleep if the father has sleep apnea and is drinking and smoking. That won't end well.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:02 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is only going to get worse. Yelling and swearing and binge drinking and throwing things at each other turns into hitting. I know from personal experience. They need to get away from each other for a while. I don't think either of them is to blame, it's just a bad situation right now.

This is bad for the children.

Anyhow, I haven't seen it suggested yet: maybe he should get a sleep apnea machine.

She should leave.
Or consider fostering the kids for a little while. This isn't an environment they should be in, and the parents are loosing the ability to care properly for the kids. If she's dead-set against fostering, she could farm them out to grandma/auntie/whoever for a week or two so they can get some rest and hopefully have a productive, respectful discussion.
posted by windykites at 5:30 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm agreeing that this is a situation that you, as a non-professional, can't solve at this point.

But it would be terrible if the whole situation blew up in the form of a car crash due to sleep deprivation or mom snapping and shaking the baby or beating the kids or dad burning the house down in a semi-conscious haze of smoke.

It might be worth it to call Child Protective Services. Contrary to stereotype, CPS is NOT a life-destroying meanie bureaucracy waiting to swoop in and deprive parents of their kids. Taking kids away is a last resort. Mostly they just visit and evaluate and refer parents to professional resources. If your friends got a visit from CPS it might impress upon them just how serious this situation really is.

This is a Very Bad Situation waiting to happen and as I see it, it's time for professional advice before "House Burns Down" or "Family Injured In Car Crash" or "Wife Murders Husband" makes the headlines.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:42 AM on December 8, 2012

The thing is that a good CPS worker's first move is going to be to ask if they have friends and family who can help out, take some of the kids, or come clean/shop and encourage them to use those resources. If you can do that yourself without the additional extreme stress of a CPS visit, that would be ideal.

You can also look for local mental health services, especially crisis mental health services. That's something else the CPS worker will look into but again, better to be done without the stress of CPS if possible.

Another thing she might be able to access through CPS is housekeeping help (cooking, basic cleaning), which you could also try to arrange yourself.

If the disabled child keeps going to school exhausted, the teacher will notice, and if the child communicates the situation at home (including the binge drinking and fighting) the teacher might end up calling in a report. If I were a teacher in this situation and a child told me what was going on in the home I would feel obligated to make a report. Children with disabilities are (rightly) considered to be at a higher risk of abuse and neglect in some jurisdictions and even a good worker might make the judgment call to remove the children.

Like I said, I would focus on getting the mother help immediately from friends and family, and sharing local domestic violence resources with her. She doesn't have to leave right away to access them.

And a parenting thing: the baby can go to bed at 6pm or so, and probably needs to in order to get enough rest. The other child should probably go to bed pretty early too, as they will be getting up early. That would give them both a window of time to sleep in peace before her husband gets home.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:09 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

If if weren't for the fact that it would leave the children without a father, I would say the world would be a better place without this person in it.

Having no father around would be better than having an abusive one around. I say this as the daughter of parents who ostensibly "stayed together for the kids," even though during much of my childhood my father was an abusive asshole.

But right now, it sounds like survival until she goes back to her job is the key thing. Does she have friends and family nearby she can enlist to babysit for free for a while or trade days with, so she can catch up on sleep? Do you have space or services to offer yourself, even for part-time relief?
posted by limeonaire at 8:06 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you asking us at what point this is a dealbreaker so *you* can understand whether it's time for you to change your position with her? (Say, using thehmsbeagle's advice about questioning her unwillingness to leave?)

It's a very tough situation, because of course "just leave" is the opposite of simple with a nursing baby and a special-needs kid, no current income, and probably little/no savings.

First thing to think about: there's no reason you can't call local (and/or national) domestic violence resources yourself, for advice and guidance. They have advice and services that could help her now.

You're a fantastic friend for caring about her and asking our help -- your next step is to ask for professional help. It's out there and she needs it.
posted by kalapierson at 8:07 AM on December 8, 2012

Is she breastfeeding? It would be easier to offer her respite if not but can they spend the weekends or at least one weekend with you? She really needs to get some sleep now.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:23 AM on December 8, 2012

Are you asking us at what point this is a dealbreaker so *you* can understand whether it's time for you to change your position with her?

Pretty much.
My main concern is not the drama that happens at 2am due to sleep deprivation, but his complete and total disregard for her and the children's (and his own!) well being. This way of thinking he has has bled through to other issues in the household and relationship as well.

On the other hand, I have left an abusive relationship in the past and don't want to be the trigger happy friend that prematurely encourages a woman to leave before she's ready.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 8:40 AM on December 8, 2012

If she is being abused or starts being abused, there is a good chance that she will never be ready to leave. Battered women often become increasingly more dependant on their abusers as the abuse escalates because they're increasingly cut off from the outside world.

Do NOT wait for her to be "ready to leave" before suggesting it.

If your outside perspective is that she should step away- even temporarily- from the situation as it currently is, tell her that. It's not like you'll be forcing a decision on her, and could prevent a worsening spiral. It's possible that it will never seem bad "enough" for her to feel she can justify leaving. That's why you need to tell her what you're seeing. It might piss her off, it might strain your friendship, but it might contribute to her realising that the situation is, in fact, serious "enough".
posted by windykites at 8:53 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

For fuck's sake. Her husband is not abusive. Those words have meaning. I hit the snooze button five times myself this morning, I'd be horrified if people were telling my partner it was domestic abuse.

The husband works long, hard hours and is supporting his family on that single income. It's entirely possible he might also like to work less obnoxious work, but that's not an option, because he needs to support a wife, baby, and disabled child. Why is she up with the baby until 11pm? How old is this baby? Is there something wrong with the baby? These are not normal necessities.

Why does his night snacking wake her up? Or his smoking? And how in the world does this also wake up the baby and the disabled child? It seems, from your update, that the only person being abusive and waking the children is her, yelling and throwing things at 2AM.

Not is he abusive by getting angry at being asked to sleep on the couch - that's pretty much a "your marriage is over" point.

Honestly, it sounds from your description that your friend is the bad actor in all of this. Maybe it's because of her sleep deprivation, but that doesn't make throwing things and yelling okay. I think that she could start by acknowledging her own bad behavior and committing to change it.
posted by corb at 2:29 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The situation as you describe it is untenable, way past time to leave.

But. From personal experience, I can say that lack of sleep can and will turn decent people into monsters. From what you've said, we can't know if this guy is actually a monster or if getting decent sleep would turn him back into a reasonable husband/father/person.

So - first step would be to try what's been suggested here: (1) CPAP machine for him, and (2) sleeping in kids' room, with white noise machine on, for her.

If he continues being a monster, that's another story.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:30 PM on December 8, 2012

This is a toxic relationship - and if someone refuses to get help as part of a toxic relationship, it starts going over into abusive territory.

There really is no option then but to leave. I would frame it as being a matter of the health and wellbeing of her baby and disabled child, which you've said he has no regard for.

It may be somewhat easier if she does leave now and then is in a position to go back to work actually capable of functioning - and she acknowledges that is untenable at this point. It might actually become possible for her if she leaves. If she is able to draw upon more help from family and friends that would be good for her too.
posted by heyjude at 2:52 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

@corb supporting his family on that single income
She's actually paying 3/4 of the rent and all of the utilities and all of the children's costs. He pays for only 1/4 rent and for his own groceries. Don't jump to conclusions.

Why is she up with the baby until 11pm
Have you ever had a baby? I've had 4 myself and only 2 of them would cooperate with the idea of bedtime until they were past 1.

Why does his night snacking wake her up?
Fridge is 6 feet from the couch. They live in 600sq feet. Old plaster walls with no insulation and squeaky old hardwood floors.

Or his smoking?
Needing to be on call for a baby wires you to be a light sleeper. Smoking means slamming doors to go in and outside. Coughing.

I think that she could start by acknowledging her own bad behavior and committing to change it.
I believe her poor behavior only started recently, after 9+ months of pleading for negotiations. So she acts nice, how would that help her get more sleep when he clearly doesn't give two craps about making that happen either way? She makes sure he gets his 8 hours to perform at work and sleep in on Sundays, why can't he do the same for her so she can be a good parent to their kids?
I don't know if I'm going to reply to any more of these, I'm getting a little defensive towards the one casting her in a negative light. My friend has tried everything and bent over backwards trying to negotiate a sleeping arrangement that works for both of them. He refuses to get medical help. She is not abusive, she's completely unsupported in the endeavour of raising a family, which requires a team effort of 100% for both parents.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 3:09 PM on December 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

I feel bad for your friend.

So she acts nice, how would that help her get more sleep when he clearly doesn't give two craps about making that happen either way? She makes sure he gets his 8 hours to perform at work and sleep in on Sundays, why can't he do the same for her so she can be a good parent to their kids?

Because acting nice is something she can do for herself. You can't change other people, but you can choose how you approach situations. I'm not saying I blame her for being emotional at all - if anyone deserves to be, she certainly sounds like it. I just think working herself up emotionally like this is going to make her EVEN MORE exhausted and one day she's going to look back and regret not being able to take the high(er) road. Which will make her exhausted then, too.

That being said, +1 for the suggestion of daily meditation. It doesn't have to be a lot: 10 minutes in the morning and 10 in the evening can do an incredible amount for peace of mind. It's kind of something that someone has to teach you, though. I would suggest googling around.
posted by corn_bread at 3:35 PM on December 8, 2012

I believe her poor behavior only started recently, after 9+ months of pleading for negotiations. So she acts nice, how would that help her get more sleep when he clearly doesn't give two craps about making that happen either way?

9+ months of the baby? If so, the baby should be sleeping relatively through the night, except for regular feedings - which should really only take 20 minutes and then back to sleep. When was her last well-baby appointment? If the baby requires constant attention until 11PM, and is being "fussy", your friend may want to mention it to the pediatrician - that's not normal. And yes, I say this as a mother who was also sleep-deprived for the first several months of my child's life.

However, no matter how long she put up with sleep deprivation before becoming an abuser, that does not make abuse okay. It's not about "acting nice" - I would never suggest that she "act nice", especially if she's having a hard time with the parenting responsibilities breakdown. But yelling and throwing things is abusive. Even if the guy is a shlep - which, yeah, I'm not saying this guy sounds like a prince - it doesn't make it okay.

Also, another key thing to remember is that no one is at their best at 2AM. Your friend or her husband. I can't imagine having any productive discussion, much less fight, at that time. I think avoiding confrontations in the middle of the night might at least help with the children's sleep, even if it doesn't help with your friend's sleep - which would marginally at least ease some of these problems.
posted by corb at 3:40 PM on December 8, 2012

Sleep deprivation is literal torture, so I'm sorry you're feeling defensive towards your friend. There will always be people who don't think it's all that bad to have people waking you up and interrupting your sleep and generally driving you nuts, but that's not her problem. The thing to focus on is getting her support from someone besides her husband, as he has made it very clear that he won't provide it. Is there anywhere else that she can stay? Is anyone willing to come so she can nap during the day? If they can't come, can they hire a sitter or mother's helper to come a few times? You don't have to answer me, but these are just things to think about in terms of keeping her healthy.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:46 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

For fuck's sake. Her husband is not abusive. Those words have meaning. I hit the snooze button five times myself this morning, I'd be horrified if people were telling my partner it was domestic abuse.

Yes, it is abuse. You didn't read half the details and know nothing about the process of raising a baby but feel qualified to make this statement. Please don't encourage the normalization of abusive behavior.
posted by i feel possessed at 8:03 PM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

There is absolutely a very good chance that what the friend's husband is doing is abuse. I'm just chiming in because it's so ridiculous to say that the friend is being abusive while the husband is doing nothing wrong. Sleep deprivation is classified under types of emotional/psychological abuse in many contexts. This man either knows what is happening and is an abusive asshole, or is being so thick and self-centered that she'd be better off leaving (temporarily or permanently) anyhow. He is not just "not a prince"-- this is the kind of behavior that shows no regard whatsoever for the rest of the family. The fact that he's not even pulling the weight of the household makes it even more bizarre.

Obviously your friend should not throw things, but taking a victim of abuse to task for lashing out or lashing back is really not the root of the issue.

I am speaking from personal experience here-- a family member was in an abusive relationship where her husband mostly controlled her through sleep deprivation (insisting the television was on all night) and food (making her eat when she didn't want to, &c.) and the sleep deprivation took a horrible toll on her frame of mind. I really get where your friend is coming from-- doing this to someone is really like terrorizing them, depriving them of an essential need. Even in the best case scenario he is not being a good father or a good husband and is being alarmingly selfish about his schedule, habits, and refusal to get treatment.

When you're in an abusive situation, details (like sleep or being stonewalled) suddenly seem 100x more important, and you gradually start thinking you're getting crazier and crazier until you are unable to find outside help. Hooking your friend up with outside resources now would be a great step to take as her friend.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:50 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think you mentioned if she has any family or friends or any other support system at all. Is there anyone who can pull together and help her?

I don't know what state you are in, but here are some non-state-specific links:

National Parent Helpline (there is a section that directs you to state-specific support)

Lotsa Helping Hands (Assuming there are friends and family to help, this will help coordinate who does what and when)

National Domestic Violence Hotline

ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline (which includes links to help for parents and families)

You can google state-specific services as well. California has "crisis nurseries" where they can take the kids for a few hours or a day when parents are overwhelmed - I don't know if there are any in your state but you can check.

I still think that calling CPS should not be off the table. Frankly, if the children's pediatrician suspects abuse, or the older child's teacher or daycare provider suspects abuse, then they are mandated reporters who HAVE to call CPS anyway.

Do all you can to rally your friend's support system around her and get her professional help, but you cannot fix this all by yourself. Good luck.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:01 AM on December 9, 2012

A couple who are friends of mine say that they would sleep with the baby lying between them, in their bed, and she would simply nurse whenever she needed to. There evidently was substantial cultural censure of this (Mid-Atlantic state in the U.S.) and family members, friends, and nosy strangers whose opinion hadn't been solicited would predict terrible, terrible things would befall them and their child. - XMLicious

This is horrifyingly dangerous advice and I coslept. Sleep apnoea and smoking are two of the most critical dangers in bedsharing, as is drinking. Please do not recommend cosleeping with someone who does all three.

If I were you I would be suggesting a visit for a week somewhere. You, parents, siblings, SOMEONE who is willing to do some night stuff if needs be, and to let her sleep during the day if she can. I always resented the people who say 'sleep when the baby does' - I have never ever fallen asleep before her. Ever. And baby naps are a different beast to adult naps and it never worked out. What worked was going to bed with her. A possible side effect of the break is him getting a clue - particularly if you maybe taped exactly what he sounds like. Most people with apnoea or who snore have no clue what it actually sounds like. If she wanted to, she could tape it and say "see how you stopped breathing for 30 seconds? That is why I'm worried. I'm a mother, I am programmed to wake up any time the baby stops breathing, or you because I care about you, and you do this X times a night". The fact he is sleep eating and smoking is faintly terrifying too. Beyond anything, the addiction level that needs midnight cigarettes is not conducive to any sleep for anyone.

The baby should probably have an earlier bed time, but that isn't going to be able to get sorted if the baby is also constantly sleep deprived (sleep begets sleep - overtired children may fall asleep quick but constantly overtired children have disrupted and disordered sleep, particularly if they are getting woken up by arguments). Particularly if he is making no concessions to having an infant in the house. A week of sleep for all three might be enough to get a better routine in place that can survive the onslaught this man is subjecting his family to. Particularly if she can get a single mattress on the floor in the kid's room and sleep there.

(For me, I'd keep my own routine and fuck his nonsense. If he can't act like part of the family he can get fucked.)
posted by geek anachronism at 9:30 PM on December 9, 2012

Please do not recommend cosleeping with someone who does all three.

I didn't. If you read what I wrote in the part of my comment you didn't quote you'll see that I agreed with the other posters saying that she should try to sleep in the childrens' room.
posted by XMLicious at 10:38 PM on December 9, 2012

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