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I may be some time

When I feel I'm failing — and I do, all the time, in a thousand different ways — I don't worry I'm shortchanging Charlie. It's Paul who gets the shaft, over and over again.

When I'm napping alongside Charlie and get jerked awake by his sudden cries, I call down the stairs to Paul, "Can you come take him, please?" so that I can get more sleep. "Sure," he says invariably, ready and goodnatured. Later I go down to the kitchen and find Paul's dinner halfway made, abandoned when he came to take the baby.

When it's time to pump, I come into my office, shut the door, and sit at my desk. I pump for twenty minutes, then relax in my chair for another fifteen. When Charlie's being captivating, I push the pumping off for a while, eager to spend more time with him. When he's howling, I claim asylum, leaving the screaming baby with Paul while I retreat to my quiet room. I don't think Paul has checked his e-mail in the last seventeen weeks — seventeen weeks today — but I regularly have time to visit blogs, make my own posts, and chat with friends.

Sometimes at night when Charlie begins to make fretful peeping sounds, I lie beside him and will him to go back to sleep, hoping for just a few more minutes of peace. Of course he does not, but I let his noises escalate until there's no ignoring them, which is usually long enough for them to wake Paul as well.

Now and then when Charlie's having a rough night, I sit in the den with him patting him as he cries. Sometimes Paul wakes, despite the distance between our bedroom and the den, and comes to see if there's anything he can do. I know in his place I would lie in bed and hope that the crying will stop.

At least I don't tell him yes, there is something he can do: Will you take the baby for two seconds? I am just going outside. I may be some time.

I always tell him to go back to bed. But before you take that as proof that I'm not as unfair to him as I might be, consider this: why don't I ever close the two doors between bedroom and den before the baby howls?