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Rugrat Reprieve

Threesome: Why Mommy and Daddy Need a Special Helper

By Rachael Brownell



The concept of threesomes has been employed by unhappy spouses (or marriage partners with superior imaginations, depending on your view) since time immemorial.  As an antidote to the occasional doldrums of monogamy, it seems perfectly wise and preferable to adultery. Why then can’t we imagine a similar relief from the monotonous isolation of modern-day nuclear families? My husband and I could both really use a helper sort of person around the house. Someone like Donna Reed, pretty and cheerful and wearing gowns of one kind or another, who fetches our slippers when we get home after a long day so we can lounge around and read the paper. Just the thought of this evokes deep feelings of peace and love, similar to how I feel watching Daniel Craig emerge from the blue ocean in “Casino Royale,” like all is right exactly where it should be.

Who wouldn’t want another adult around? I think kids need an adult-child ratio of at least 1:1. When you’re tired or they’re sick, 2:1 is probably more like it. Grandparents can provide some of this type of assistance, especially if your crew is as divorced and remarried as mine, but grandparents usually come with strings attached, and much less energy than they need to wrangle little people. When we have a babysitter around (every other year or so) to help with bath-time or cooking or cleaning up, it is astounding how much easier childrearing becomes. I think some of the wisdom of days gone by (boarding schools and governesses and “children should be seen and not heard”) is not fully appreciated by modern parents. We are so hands-on much of the time. Even when we work full-time, we’re full-throttle with the child psychology books and the guilt and the creeping belief that every little thing we do will land our kids in years of therapy.



And we’re so isolated. Many of us are so nuclear about the nuclear family that we’re all going a bit cuckoo from breathing all the closed-in air. Sometimes I think we must be more shut-in than prior generations, who at least had the good sense to gather in the afternoons for bridge parties and other adult-friendly social hours, a time when 10 year olds were allowed to babysit and babies slept on their formula-full tummies, and people still took vacations. Families today tend to be closed systems – with fewer extended family members around and more fear of neighborhood child molesters. 

I think having another parent / adult-type in the mix is the perfect method for bringing in some outside air. The idea of a threesome childrearing group seemed like an even better idea after my recent trip to Rhode Island to visit an old college roommate, her husband, their three kids, and their friend Trevor. She and her husband both work more than full-time and they have daycare for the kids, but Trevor helps with cooking, cleaning, and shuttling to sports and concerts and lessons. He also sings and plays bass in their evening RockBand jam sessions, and spices up after-dinner conversations with talk of politics, books, travels, and the perils of dating 20-something women on-line. I’ll admit I wondered what other things Trevor might “help” with around the house, but that was mostly for my own perverse pleasure. I’m pretty sure the whole arrangement was above board.

Most of the families I know are so stressed out and exhausted most of the time it's amazing we are able to serve anything other than gruel for dinner. In my house, I've cut back on work obligations mostly because I love to put groceries on credit cards I find it much less stressful to work less and do the schlepping and running and cooking myself than to try and figure out a sustainable childcare arrangement that works and is affordable. When I realized that net of my childcare and dry-cleaning expenses I was bringing home a whopping $200 per month that pretty much decided it for me. Still, this current situation leaves something to be desired. And let's just say I could use a Trevor around here. And how!

Sometimes when my husband walks in the door and I have the kids sitting down for a reasonably healthy dinner and the house is clean and there is a place set at the table for him, I feel envious (and resentful). When I was working full-time, I never got to walk in to a nice-smelling home with cheerful children sitting down to eat. Usually, I came home to fighting hungry kids and a husband whose unemployment nearly drove him to the loony bin. And I think he’s forgotten what it takes to stay home with kids most days and try and keep heart and soul together, or maybe he just needs some Man Candy. Most of the time we simply have too few personnel around here to do all that needs to be done. And rather than sing the blues, I think we need to find ourselves a Trevor. And if he’s also beautiful taut and young, who am I to discriminate?

All I know is my friend’s home in Rhode Island seemed like an island of calm. Plus the adults were having fun! If this is the only threesome I can imagine having the energy for these days, then I’ll take it!


Rachael Brownell is the author of Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore (Conari Press, 2009). A former contributor at Babble.com (which put Rugrat Reprieve on their Top 50 Mommy Bloggers list), she writes, edits, and raises children in the beautiful and blessedly cloudy Pacific NW. She spends time in between yoga classes shuttling kids and cleaning the kitchen. You can find out more about her and her Bikram journey at RachaelBrownell.com.

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"Try as hard as we may for perfection, the net result of our labors is an amazing variety of imperfectness. We are surprised at our own versatility in being able to fail in so many different ways." -- Samuel McChord Crothers