Being a Good Mom is Making me a Bad Wife

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tired-mom

“I’m losing my mind.  I’m trying to make dinner and they won’t stop demanding things and there are THREE of them and only ONE of me and I can’t get the fucking LIGHTBULB into the RIDICULOUS bathroom LIGHT!”

That’s how I greeted my husband when he came through the door last night.  No hello.  No smile.  Certainly no kiss, but I hadn’t showered that day anyway, so he probably dodged a bullet there.  Just rage and profanity and some nonsense about lightbulbs.  It was me at my worst and that’s what he was met with the second he got home.  He’s witnessed my meltdowns plenty of times before, but right as he walked in the door?  It was a new low.

Things calmed down after everyone was finally fed.  I was cleaning up the kitchen when he came in, gave me a hug, and said, “I’m sorry you had such a rough day.”

And at that moment I felt really terrible because the thing is that it wasn’t a rough day.  It was a pretty normal day.  There were good moments and difficult moments, but nothing all that stressful had happened for most of the day.  The girls drew pictures and then we used their colorful creations to decorate their cardboard tunnel.  They loved their lunch because it involved applesauce and cheese.  And although the twins didn’t nap, the baby slept for almost three hours.  So as a whole, the day could have been much worse.

It’s just that everything came down on top of me all at once.

Related post: Motherhood: The Big, Fat Fuck You

I was sautéing mushrooms and stirring beans and microwaving rice.

The twins “needed” me to commune with them while they sat on their potties and insisted that I replace the bulb in our obnoxious old-house bathroom light fixture because it was apparently “too dark to pee.”

The baby ripped apart the pictures that everyone had so carefully colored and I had so carefully taped to their tunnel.  And then screeched about it.  So her sisters started screeching about it too.

The dog puked on the floor and that smell mingled with the smell of beans and spices burning to the bottom of a pan.

So of course all of that was going on at exactly the time that my husband was walking through the door.

He came home to a sweaty, angry wife and assumed that it had been a rough day.  Once I had a second to think, I felt terrible because I realized something huge:

My husband never sees me at my best.

At my best, I’m witty, creative, and enthusiastic.  At my worst, I’m short-tempered, grouchy, and cold.  I can usually be found somewhere between those two, and although my kids often get my best, and my writing sometimes does, my husband just doesn’t.

I worry that this is how marriages fall apart.

I worry that he thinks I’m always stressed out and yelling when I’m home alone with the kids.  Because I’m not.  He doesn’t see me on a good day at about 10 a.m. when I’ve had coffee and the morning rush is over.  Sometimes I’ve managed to clean the kitchen, brush my teeth, and maybe even sneak in a shower by then.  That’s when we snuggle and have a book-reading marathon.  Or we dance.  Or I decide it’s a good idea to take out some pipe cleaners and glue and make a “craft.”  That’s when I have fun with my kids and they get my best self.

But my husband?  He sees me first thing in the morning when I’m groggy and up to my eyeballs in cups of milk and custom orders for toast.  Then he sees me at the end of the day, when I’m just plain worn out.

There are weekends sure, but weekends with little kids aren’t very weekend-y.  We get out for dates every once in a while, but not nearly enough.

Related post: The 5 Stages of Parents’ Sex Life

I love that I can be myself with my husband.  He honestly doesn’t care if I’m wearing makeup or anything like that.  I know that he loves me.  I know that he loves how we’ve created a family together.  We’re partners and we signed up for this life together.

But I want to be fun and interesting and sexy when I’m with him, at least sometimes.  I want him to know that I’m more than just a frazzled nutcase in an applesauce-covered Target t-shirt.  And I’m sure he does know that, in a sense, but how long is he going to believe it without any evidence to the contrary?  How do I give him my best?  How do other stay-at-home-moms do it?  Does he worry about any of these things too?

Maybe this is just a by-product of the baby-and-little-kid years of parenting.  Maybe once I get some time to myself for things like reading, writing, thinking, and exercising, I’ll have enough energy to be my best when my husband is actually around.  Maybe then I can stop yelling about lightbulbs and put on a clean t-shirt once in a while.

We both deserve that.  We really do.

Why Mothers Should Never, Ever Know Best

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Baby-And-Mother

When you’re pregnant or a new mom, people like to bestow all kinds of useless advice on you. Pearls of wisdom like “enjoy every moment” or “sleep when the baby sleeps.”

Please. I don’t know much, but I have one piece of advice that I think might actually help some new mommies out there. This is what I sorely wish someone had said to me when that little one arrived: You Don’t Want to Be That Mother Who Knows Best.

I see you over there, Control Freak New Mommy. You’re just like I was, reading and Googling and list-making. You’re figuring that with all this knowledge you’ll know pretty much what the hell to do with your baby, but take it from this mentally exhausted, overwhelmed mom of five: you’re setting things up all wrong.  Whether you have one or five babies, YOU DON’T WANT TO BE THE EXPERT.  Here’s why:

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane back to when I had my first baby. There we were, yours truly and my dear husband and our precious baby boy. The hubs was home from work for two weeks as we got settled, but I was generally the one caring for the baby. I spent more time with him and knew better what to do, you know what I mean? Plus I’d read all those nifty books!

So I would change him, and burp him, and feed him, and decide what he needed to do and when, and make all the little plans for his little life.  If my husband picked the baby up, I’d usually give him some “helpful” pointers about how he was holding him wrong or burping him wrong and oh, now he’s crying…better give him back to me.

Now let’s fast forward, shall we, to last Saturday morning, chez moi.

Mommy wakes up (very early).  She puts out breakfast because only she knows what the kids eat that day. Mommy tells the chitlins what to wear, because only she knows what they are doing that day (soccer), even though they have been playing soccer for two months.  And only she knows where each kids soccer clothes are (including shin guards, cleats, uniforms).

Time to head out? Mommy crouches down tying all the shoe laces while Daddy catches up on the iPad because Daddy doesn’t get the kids ready because he doesn’t know all the ins and outs.  Mommy hands Daddy the bag with the change of clothes, lunch and the water bottles.  The kids are firing questions at Mommy and she’s fielding them like a catcher during bating practice.  “Can I do this?”  “Why did he get that?” It’s only 9 a.m. and you’re so drained from the excess of planning, details and decision-making that you’re ready to head back to bed.

The afternoon?  Mommy’s spends her “downtime hour” answering emails from schools and coaches and teachers and PTA groups all starting with the refrain “Just a friendly reminder!”  Picking a library hour for each of her kids. Deciding which insipid birthday party we are going to have to go to and trying to find a creative way to lie her way out of at least some of them.  Oh, summer is around the corner — better start researching camps!  Meanwhile, the kids are parked in front of the TV which leaves Mommy guilt-ridden …and what’s Daddy doing? Downloading music onto his iPod!

Oh wait, it’s time for dinner.  Time to order the Saturday night pizza.  This is “Daddy’s job.” And even though we’ve ordered exactly the same pizza from the same restaurant every single Saturday night for around 6 years – that’s about 336 times – Daddy still waits for Mommy to TELL HIM to order the pizza and TELL HIM what type of pizza to order because she has trained him NOT TO MAKE ANY DECISION WHATSOEVER REGARDING THE KIDS.

So, who would you rather be? The 1-800 Call Center or the pinch hitter brought in to do the only task that is actually fulfilling as a parent: having fun with the kids?

I thought so. But if you aren’t careful, you’re going to turn out just like me.  And if this happens to you, you might bitch and moan, sister, like almost all of us mommies, but fact of the matter is that it’s pretty much your fault.

You told the hubs the second that baby came to let YOU be the one.  You told him NOT to make the decisions, nor to sweat the details but rather to be instructed and guided by your wisdom at every turn.  Now he’s been well trained, for years, in WAITING IN THE WINGS TO BE ASKED TO APPEAR.  Go Mom!

So STOP. Nip this baby in the bud. Stains, mismatched outfits, missed naps, unfinished bottles, leaking loose diapers, letting the baby watch TV on his lap while he downs a beer during the game …BRING IT ON.

Get the hell away from that baby and let Daddy do his messy, sloppy, imperfect, thing.  He’s setting you up to be happier with every mis-hap.  You might actually get a shot at enjoying something once in a while and having one moment’s peace.  And when you get home, zip your mouth shut and don’t say one single critical word when you see spit up on the carpet!!

I’m trying to change my ways, but I have to be honest, it’s too late for me. So I’m trying to save you.

You’ll thank me later.

The New Dad’s Guide to Surviving Your Wife

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1. If you’re going to be late coming home don’t wait until the last minute to tell her. Remember when you’d have to do chin ups and you knew you had to do 20? You’d get to 18 and think “I only have two more to go, I can make it” then some asshat comes along and says “Gimme 10 more”. How much do you like that guy? Not so much. 

2. Come home and get in the house. When you get home this is not the time to chit chat with the neighbor over the fence about how it’s gong with the new baby. Assume that it is always Lord of the Rings orc war in the house and get inside to relieve the day shift because your wife has probably been walking around with that baby thinking “I only have to hang in there 30 more minutes….29…..28.” (see point above).

3. Get excited about the baby. I know, I know, you love that little weeble more that anything, but most new mothers are wired with this demented sense of responsibility so even if their baby is screaming like a rabid howler monkey they don’t want to leave it. So if you go in and say something like “take a shower, I’ve missed him all day and I can’t wait to hold him” she will be more willing to go bathe, eat or generally reset to be less crazy. It’s win-win.

4. Don’t ask “What’s for Dinner” If everyone in the house is alive when you get home that’s a successful day. My friend’s husband asked her why dinner wasn’t ready because “she’d been sitting at home all day doing nothing”. Aw, Buddy, c’mon. If you ask “What’s for dinner?” the answer may very well be “Your left testicle”. Eat cereal, order take-out or drink pumped breastmilk. Wing it.

5. Don’t go on about how hard your day was. Even if your day consisted of being gang raped by angry silver back gorillas, she can probably trump you. Not only can she trump you but it may include details that you otherwise wouldn’t have known about and don’t want to hear. You’re tired. You’re stressed. But it will just open Pandora’s box and it ain’t worth it. Also consider that this is someone who is up all night looking at your peaceful, sleeping vulnerable body. Don’t give her a reason to smother you with a nursing pillow. She’s probably already plotted your death a couple of times by now so don’t push her over the edge.

6. Don’t say you’re babysitting. The mother of your child may be too tired to catch this slip but any woman who has had more than 20 minutes of consecutive sleep is going to do a slow, Chucky-head-turn and hiss “You’re not babysitting. You’re parenting.” In your defense, I totally understand this statement. If you’re not the primary caregiver and you’re stepping in to take care of the baby then you are technically babysitting. Terms like “Daddy Duty”, “On call” and “At the helm” are always safer alternatives.

7. Don’t lie on your back and hold the baby above your head facing you. They puke. It’s the infant equivalent of the Funny Home Video guy pitching to the kid with the baseball bat and getting squared in the pills. Everybody likes lying on their backs, holding the baby in the air and fly them over their face. Babies LOVE this and this joy often sends a surge of yak right into your who’s-daddy’s-airplane-open-mouth. They give no warning. They are vomit grenades.

8. Be CIA guy. Too often I think fathers get shoved to the side and it’s all about the baby, and to a lesser extent, the mom. Don’t worry about it and just be a gazelle in the grassland because you’re in the trenches, and there’s no glory in the trenches. Be like those awesome CIA guys with the silly putty in their ear who silently, seamlessly gets the odd glass of water, loads the dishwasher and does that slow motion body block when your dirty cousin with the cold sores tries to stick her finger in the baby’s mouth. Your work will go unnoticed at first but when the dust settles you’ll be revered and adored.

Your job at this time is really important. Some guys totally get it right of the bat, and to you I say, “right on”. You’re the voice of reason, the pillar of strength and the cavalry wrapped in to one. You need to be there for your partner because she’s probably like Newt when Ripley first finds her in Aliens – terrified, tired, dirty and overwhelmed and the worst time is mostly at night. Mostly.

It takes a great guy to step up and dig in during those first few months. But a guy who says “I’ll be home early, I’m bringing dinner and I want to take the baby for a walk as soon as I get home”, now that’s a fucking man. Be a man, dude.

Puzzles

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puzzle-pieces

We have several wooden, peg puzzles for our children. I started purchasing them when our first child was barely a year old. We have letters, numbers, shapes, colors, animals… you get the picture. I thought it would be a wonderful way to teach my children the basics. My three-year-old has all but abandoned them having tired of the basic puzzles long ago but because of those puzzles, she now associates the letter K with Key, X with X-Ray and T with Daddy’s Tie.

My 16-month-old plays with them regularly. He isn’t proficient enough yet to put them all back together but we do it together, just like I did with his sister. At the end of the day they are inevitably scattered into a pile of mixed up pieces and upturned boards and each night I sit on my knees putting the A back in the Apple slot and matching the blue fish tale with the blue fish head. It’s a nightly chore, like any other. Sometimes pieces go missing for days and I am on the look out for them because if the puzzles don’t have all their pieces and aren’t reassembled, what’s the point of having them? At which point will my son learn how to match the number 5 puzzle piece with the 5 butterflies if the pieces are forever scattered and missing?

My husband, he doesn’t see the point in such nonsense. His answer is to brush all the pieces aside in a heap each night. Sometimes, when he steps on an errant pig peg piece, in a huff he suggests throwing them all away because they make such a mess. He doesn’t understand my logic and why I insist on putting them all back together each night. I can’t ever get him to help me put the puzzles back together, either. It is always my job. And I do it, usually, no matter how tired.

We’ve been together for over 11 years, married for 7 of them. We met when I was 23 and he was 24. Previous to meeting my husband I had a couple of “serious” relationships, but nothing that lasted more than a year. Mostly, it was tragic lineage of one mistake after another but on the bright side; by the time I met Brian, I was pretty sure I knew what I didn’t want and decently sure I knew what I did.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune when he came along. He was everything I’d been looking for and much more. I fell, we moved and then married. Eight years in to our relationship, and four years into our marriage, we had our first child. How could we have ever known what to expect? How does anyone?

Personally, becoming a mother rocked me to my core. I knew it would be hard. I knew it would be wonderful. I knew it would be one of the most important things I would ever do and I knew (logically) that it would “change everything” (or so people liked to advise), but how was I to really know what that meant? How does anyone?

How was I to know that I would become a different person from that girl 11 years ago who was pretty sure of what she didn’t want and only decently sure of what she did? How was I to know that having children would push me to the precipice of all my shortcomings and then throw me into the fire of change? How was I supposed to know that wooden puzzles, writing and women’s issues would become important pieces in my life’s puzzle? How was I supposed to know that in the process of shifting the lens of my life onto a child, it would create such a profound shift in me that I no longer recognized the piece of ground on which I stood?

When we first became a couple we fit together so well. We were two people with the same ideas about the same ideas and what differed, didn’t seem to matter. We wanted the same things about the same things and those were the most important things, so it seemed. But then, the two pieces multiplied and at the same time divided into four. Now the puzzle contains more pieces than available slots and some pieces are missing all-together. Right now, there’s a difference in opinion as to how it should all be put back together.

It’s hard enough to make you want to run away.

But the biggest piece of this puzzle we’re facing, is that no one is doing that. No one is running and no one is giving up on trying to solve it. No one is ready to shove all the pieces in a pile and move on. I do know that, and for that, I am grateful.

As for my half of this conundrum; I’m trying to focus on the fact that he knows all these wooden puzzles by heart because he has gotten down on his knees dozens of times to put them back together again with our children. I’m trying to become softer, to fit into places I’ve never been before and learn to mold myself to a new, better shape so that it might complement this new structure because I love this structure.

I won’t stop putting the puzzles back together anytime soon because that’s my job, but I’m also trying to respect the fact that he doesn’t feel the same way. My intuition tells me that all married couples traverse these crossroads at some point in their marriage. There is always a moment (or moments) when you look around at the pieces of your life and have to make hard changes and choices as to how they’re all going to fit together on the new ground on which you stand.

Still, some parts seem too hard and all are requiring change.

Right now, we are both being forged by the fires of change and I won’t lie, it hurts. It hurts like hell. There is no definitive answers as to what shape we’re going to be in when we emerge from this crucible, but because we’re here together, my hope is that we’ll find a way to fit together again. There are a few pieces coming together as I write this.

Right now, I’m trying to withstand the heat for the sake of the structure as a whole. I’m trying to put aside the pain and focus on the hand that’s shaping me blow-by-blow because the only way to make something as strong as steel into something softer and more malleable… is with flames and pressure. It’s hard work becoming soft, but I’m trying like hell.

We’re trying like hell. And that’s got to be worth something… right?

13 Things My Husband Can Learn From My Toddler

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toddler

Obviously our three year old son has years of schooling and life lessons ahead of him, but I’ve also noticed that he’s already picked up some positive behaviors that many of us have either forgotten or never learned ourselves. And by “many of us,” I mean my husband.

Of course, I love my husband and his good traits far outweigh the not so good. But I have been seeing some behaviors in our son that I wish my husband would adopt more frequently (and to be honest, I could probably use a refresher course on as well). Like these…

1. When all else fails, try giving a compliment. At my wit’s end, I recently yelled at my son “Why can’t you sit still?” He replied, “Because, Mommy, I love your hair.” Bad behavior? What bad behavior? I was swooning. Damn! A little itty bitty compliment and I forgot why I was upset. Hubby can learn to do this, too. Compliments won’t make my head swell to proportions he cannot live with. Instead, they will make me feel loved, like a schoolgirl whose crush notices her. And, it would turn my frown upside down. Every. Single. Time.

2. Say you’re sorry first, ask questions later (or never). When I am upset, really upset, justified or not, rational or irrational, just say you are sorry. Maybe add in an “I love you” or “Can I give you a hug?” It makes everything better. My son freely says he’s sorry when he sees me upset. My husband, however, needs to understand why I am upset and have a reason to justify an apology before he will offer one. Needless to say, his inquiries don’t usually end with a happier wife.

3. Ask for help. My husband is too proud to ask for help and will spend hours bashing his head against a problem that I might be able to fix in a jiffy. My son feels no such shame. He doesn’t hesitate to ask for help and only feels appreciation for a helping hand.

4. Cuddling is not foreplay. It has a purpose in and of itself. My son has no ulterior motive when he gives or requests affection. Why does my husband think that every hug, kiss, or cuddle is an invitation to pounce on me? On the other hand, I am so grateful he still wants to jump my bones!

5. Fess up. My son is not yet potty trained, but he loudly and proudly announces when he has pooped or tooted. By letting me know, I can run the other way. I wish my hubby did this as well. He needs to start owning his toots, maybe even give me some warning beforehand rather than blaming them on his imaginary friend “Not Me”. While we’re at it, I also wish he’d learn that the air freshener spray in the bathroom isn’t there for decoration purposes only. (I did enjoy a little payback during my pregnancies, however, when I had more gas than the Goodyear Blimp).

6. Seek out my presence and attention. For whatever reason, my son thinks I am a rock star and he is my groupie. He often just wants me to sit next to him no matter what he is doing, and he will also pull up a chair to my desk and hang out while I’m working. As clingy and overbearing as this might seem sometimes, it makes me feel special and loved. My husband, though, prefers to go to his man cave for some alone time. I do understand, encourage, and respect this. However, he only seems to emerge whenever he thinks it’s feeding time or mating season. A little more of wanting to just be in the same room as me because he enjoys my company would be nice for a change. With the chaos that surrounds us, though, I can’t exactly blame him. Maybe I’m just envious I don’t have a cave to retreat into myself.

7. Let loose and have fun. My son can switch gears in an instant to let loose and have fun. I think my husband could stand to join more of our impromptu dance parties. I think we all have to consciously let go of our worries sometimes and just have fun. My husband works so hard to support our family that I want him to be able to enjoy the fruits of his labors.

8. Show some sympathy. If I’m not feeling well or scream in pain when I step on a friggin’ Lego, my son will stroke my hair, sing “sana sana” (a cute little Spanish nursery rhyme), and kiss my boo boo so it will feel better. But unless I have a gaping wound that is gushing blood into a visibly growing pool on the floor, my husband thinks I should grit my teeth and get on with it.

9. Don’t be a drama queen. My little man is one tough toddler. He bumps into solid objects, knows the ground intimately, and gets bumped, bruised, and bitten during playtime. Yet, even though he sometimes looks like Evel Knievel’s stunt double, he never complains. That does have its downside. One time, he had an ear infection that went unnoticed for two weeks because he never let on that his ear hurt.  On the other hand, my husband puts on a show every time he stubs his toe. Jumping up and down, howling in (supposed) pain, you would think he’d been trained by a personal injury lawyer.

10. Express gratitude. My son says thank you all the time, even when it’s not necessary. Me: “I love you.” Him: “Thank you, mommy!” But to get my husband to say thank you for a meal I cooked, it feels like I’m fishing for compliments…with dynamite.

11. The best things to share are laughs and smiles. It doesn’t take much to make my son laugh. He’s pretty much having fun all the time, except when he’s not. My husband has one of the best laughs I know – a cackling, hearty guffaw that is totally infectious. I just wish he would share it more often! I am hoping when we start getting some sleep that we will both lighten up a bit.

12. Be a cheerleader for your family. My son likes to watch his daddy play games on the iPad, and whenever daddy gets a high score he will yell at the top of his lungs, “Good job, daddy!”  But that’s not enough.  He will then interrupt me, “Mommy, mommy!  Excuse me, mommy!  Daddy got three stars!”  Wow, what I wouldn’t give for that kind of acclaim!  This is what a typical conversation looks like with my husband… Me: “I just got published on Scary Mommy!  I’m so excited!  Can you like it on Facebook?”  Husband: “Uuuuuugh.  Can you just log in as me and like it yourself?”

13. Wake up happy. My son pops up in the morning like a jack in the box, bursting with joy. He greets every new day with wonder. His father, not so much. Until he has his cup of coffee, he’s a grump monster. Problem is, he’s not really a coffee drinker. However, he makes me my coffee every morning so at least we both won’t be grouchy.

Driftwood

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Seven years ago, I was looking out the window of a hotel room onto an habitually grey, Seattle sky trying not to bite my acrylic nails. I was thinking that the worst thing that could ever happen to me would be rain on my outdoor wedding.

On the list of things I could never know in that moment was that it wouldn’t rain that day. The clouds would dissipate, taking my worries with them, and I would be married under a perfect, bright, blue sky. Of course I would proclaim it providence—surely a sign! that my marriage was destined to be similarly divine.

Today, and no longer on the list of things I could never know, is that rain on my outdoor wedding isn’t the worst thing that could happen to me, or my marriage.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know if I’m doing this whole married thing well. I spend half the time thinking we’re on a collision course for disaster, and the other half reveling in my smugness that we are the best married couple in the history of married people. This vacillation usually leaves me exhausted and more than one definition of the word confused.

Honestly, there are days that I want to run away, take a vow of silence and solitude and live out my days on a remote, uninhabited island just so I don’t ever have to make one more god damn compromise. That’s the child in me, which (all too often) voices her opinions louder than she should.

Speaking of my inner child… when I was 12 my best friend moved to a new house and thus, to a new middle school. She and I would be in the same high school in two more years, but back then, it felt like an eternity. I was so upset by her “leaving me” that months before she moved I picked a silly, frivolous fight which I blew up into epic proportions. I became indignant and righteous over essentially nothing. On the list of things I didn’t know then, was that this was my preferred self-preservation tactic. I could abuse her, but I could not lose her. I could alienate her, but I could not face my own aloneness. Instead of missing her, I could hate her and my anger could take up all the space available in my heart so that pain could not take root.

I know this tendency of mine runs deep because it is the cycle I find myself in now. Anger is a feeling I sit well inside. I’m accustomed to shoring myself up with barbed wire and a pile of sticks and stones by my side. To me, that feels safer, physically stronger and more in control than sitting alone in a room made of glass and reflections.

And yet, on the list of things I should know by now, is that this never works. My highest self knows that beyond that glass room is a view worth beholding and my reflection in it, is worth beholding, too. It is only through the strictest of vigilance and mindful practice that I can calm myself amidst all that transparency and admire the view for what it is, and accept it for what it is not.

It’s not easy, but I’m trying; same story goes for mothering.

Marriage and motherhood, they are like water to me. Like the rain that I feared on my wedding day they are necessary for my growth. They imperceptibly shape me; nourish me, make me easier to hold and behold by smoothing out my rough edges and taking away my splinters. It’s like the driftwood that bobs endlessly in the Pacific Northwest tides; it goes in rough, covered in a thick layer of bark, but over time and water, it comes out something else entirely, something beautiful, worthy of being called “art.”

Seven years ago, on the shore of these Pacific Northwest waters, my husband and I agreed to intertwine our lives. With the best of intentions we committed to building a life together, and with all the arrogance and naivety required of young newlyweds we believed we knew what that meant. On the list of things I now know, is that no young, newlywed couple ever knows what that means because time and water will change everything you think you know.

The trick to this marriage thing, is to love the wood in all it’s many forms, for what it is, and is not. To know that it will change, over time and waters, but that change is a part of life. To hold in reverence the water, the ocean and the rain for the power they wield and the life they give, but know at the same time that it is not punishment or providence. That we must find a way to take the waves however they come, and yet remain entwined by a force greater than the ocean. A big part of this is letting the expectations that cling to us like bark be washed away with the tides.

What I know now is that I need to lay down my sticks and stones for good. I need to realize them not as comfort, but as combat which only leads to greater discomfort.  I need to learn to behold and accept the view that is in front of me for everything it is, and is not. To let life be life, and let it wash over me, smooth my rough edges and reveal something greater underneath. To love whatever is underneath and inside me, first, before I can love it inside him, too.

Because we are all just driftwood bobbing in the tide. A few of us tangled together, most of us mangled by time and water, all of us connected through the experience.

A Gold Star

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LS018644

My husband and I have four children.

Included in these four children in a set of triplets. So we have one older child (6) and a set of triplets (3). Yes, our life is as crazy as you think it would be.

Thankfully, my husband and I are a very good team. When you are given, er blessed, with a set of triplets which bring the number of kids you have from 1 to 4 kids ages 2 and under, you need to come together and work together to survive.

It is simple as that.

I know that this is not as the case because after all, parents of multiples have a 75 to 80% divorce rate.

Jeff, my husband, and I pretty much share the parenting duties as much as we can. But since I only work two days a week, more of my time is spent with the kids. So more often than not, I am the one meeting the needs of the kids.

I take them grocery shopping with me. I fix all the meals. I make sure that everyone gets to school, clothed and fed. I make sure that everything is done in terms of keeping them healthy. I make sure they are wearing appropriate clothes for the season. I make sure they are clean. I wake up with the crying in the night.

Jeff helps out when he is home but most of the time all tasks kid are completed by me.

That being said, there is one weekend a month that I have to work. I am an RN and I work 12 hour shifts, 7am to 7pm. So on Saturday and Sunday once a month, Jeff and the kids are without me.

On the last weekend that I had to work, Jeff decided that he should take the kids to church since we recently got back in the habit of going and had just overcome all the kid’s fears of being left in Sunday school

I agreed with him and since the kids were awake before I left for work, I laid out their Sunday clothes and did Claire’s hair, just to help him out a little.

To be honest, I had my doubts that he would be able to pull this off because normally on a Sunday morning when we are getting ready, I am the one that feeds the kids, gets them dressed, packs snacks, and dresses myself in the time it takes him to shower and dress himself.

When I called Jeff later in the day, I found out that he not only successfully took the kids to church but he also took them to visit his Grandma in the nursing home and took them out to eat for lunch.

I hung up the phone with him and began to sulk.

“What’s wrong?” a co-worker friend of mine asked.

“Oh nothing. I am just in a bad mood.” I replied.

“Why?” she asked probing for more information.

“Oh, Jeff took the kids to church and his Grandma’s and out to lunch and nothing happened,” I answered.

My answer was met with a blank look from my friend so I went on, “He took the kids out all by himself and it was no big deal. The kids all behaved. There were no melt downs, no peeing in the store, no fighting, no begging, nothing. His outing went off without a hitch.”

My friend looked at my sympathetically.

“And you know what is worst of all?” I said. “Now he will give me that look when I tell him of the terrible trip to the store I had with the kids. You know the one I am talking about, the look that says, ‘I don’t know what you are bitching about, taking the kids out is not hard’ Oh man, I hate that look.”

“So what did you want to happen?” she asked.

“Well for starters,” I said, “they don’t have to get on so well without me. Maybe a phone call or too asking me how to do stuff or something going wrong like a kid pooping their pants. You know the stuff that happens to me.”

My friend just looked at me, “You wanted him to fail?” she asked with a tone that said I had lost my mind.

“Well, no. That would be kind of mean,” I said, “But I just don’t want to have to go to church next week and hear from all the other woman about what an awesome husband I have. I don’t want them to tell me that he is a ‘super dad’ and ‘should get a big gold star’. He just took the kids out, something that I do almost daily. It really is no big deal.”

“So basically,” she said, “You want a gold star too?”

“Yeah.” I said, “where is my mother effing gold star?”

Competing With The Dog

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the-dog

Princess Diana once famously said, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

I can relate.

But instead of a throne-grabbing former lover elbowing in on my marriage, there’s someone more guileless, someone who doesn’t have an agenda but nonetheless is in competition for my husband’s affections. Casting meaningful glances with his big, brown eyes and wafting into the room with what can only be described as an unholy stench, that someone is the dog.

And the feeling’s mutual. The dog, it seems, is the center of my husband’s universe.

Type “my husband loves the dog more” into your favorite search engine and it will spit back 39.7 million results. That’s a lot of disgruntled wives.

So I know I’m not alone in this scenario: my husband comes bounding in from work and heads straight for a cuddle. With the dog. Eventually, after ascertaining the dog has had his basic needs met – and then some – he might inquire how I am. He won’t rush to see if I need a drink or pat me on the head. To be fair, I’d be more likely to punch him than lick his face if he tried ruffling my ears, but a post-work gin & tonic wouldn’t go amiss.

So what am I to do? Ignore and rise above it? Turn myself into a shedding, drooling, geriatric doofus with an odor problem and a taste for roadkill? Join forces with the canine contender for my family’s love?

Oh, yes, my family. Did I neglect to mention that it isn’t just my husband, but everyone else who seems to hold the dog in some kind of saintly status, no matter how many times he does an oopsie in the night (guess who cleans that up) or leaves another sock mate-less (the root cause of most morning mopping sessions)?

What’s more, no expense is spared on the dog. Where we might go out on some sort of ‘date’ once every two or three years, my husband and the dog take long, meaningful walks at least twice a day. Our children are forced to exist on potatoes and Spam while the dog is treated to the finest raw-meat diet available. The dog enjoys regular luxurious spa sessions while the closest I get to a bubble bath is when I’m scouring the tub.

(Ok, these are more or less an exaggeration. Our kids wouldn’t know a can of Spam if it fell into their wholewheat pasta bake and the dog has never actually been to a spa. He prefers an actual mud bath, with actual mud).

I’ve considered having a frank discussion along the lines of “Who do you love more,” but that just looks pathetic and insane. After all, he married me, not the dog – though I suspect if the law and society was more accepting, this might not be the case.

They’ve been together 14 years to our 10, so perhaps their bond is only natural, even if I pay more attention to my personal hygiene and contribute to the household income rather than depleting it through worming treatments and regular surgical procedures to remove plastic toys, rocks and items of clothing.

It’s not that I don’t like the dog. He’s fine. Cute, even. He doesn’t hump things and he’s good-natured. He’s also totally neurotic when it comes to his lifelong partner, the pair of them having developed a codependency so impenetrable that it could inspire Hall & Oates to write a ballad for them – but on the whole he isn’t a bad dog. It’s just that he’s neurotic and needy and the day I never have to pick another black dog hair from my cream carpet will be a thrilling one indeed.

Except that’s the thing: that day is coming, and it is going to cast such an overwhelming pall over our household that I fear the only consolation will be a new, wriggling, four-legged soulmate. Next time it’s my turn to choose the home-wrecker.

The Better Parent Contest

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A father and his young son walk hand in hand.

My wife and I have two children, and by every objective measure, I am the superior parent. More patient, more even-tempered, more punctual. I am a firm keeper of bedtimes and a strict enforcer of television viewing times. I am forceful, yes. A disciplinarian, yes. Yet I am also a boon companion when wrestling is to be done or tickling to be had. If one were to devise a method by which to keep score on parenting, and pit my parenting skills against my wife’s, it wouldn’t even be a fair contest. I would win said competition without even breaking a sweat.

Actually, such a scoring system already exists. In fact, I keep a running point tally in my mind of all the times when I have displayed worthier parenting acumen. By this system, I am kicking my wife’s ass. She is too much of a pushover, too willing to buy the children Gummi worms regardless of proximity to dinnertime, too lax when a new episode of Adventure Time is on EVEN THOUGH IT IS AFTER THEIR BEDTIMES. When the children claim to be sick on school mornings, she is too willing to believe their lies. For all these offenses, and more, she loses points.

And yet, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, my wife sometimes acts as though it is she – not I – who is the better parent. Laughable, I know. How dare she inform me, as she did this very evening, that I am a “birdbrain” for not making my son’s bed in her preferred manner, which involves some sort of bed sheet origami known only to her and the ancient emperors of Japan’s Asuka period.

I know there are “experts” out there who say parenting should not be a competitive endeavor, but I suspect the only reason those experts are saying such things is because they are losing their own child-rearing wars at home.

Let me be clear: parenting is a blood sport. Mother and father fight to the death to raise their offspring in the best possible manner (ie: as much like themselves as possible). How else to ensure that we pass on, not only half of our genes, but A HUNDRED PERCENT of our manga, or “fighting spirit”?

An example: while putting my son to bed last night, my wife and I got into a small dispute over which of us is “more stubborn.” I, of course, insisted that she is the more stubborn of us. Because she is so stubborn, she refused to accept my verdict, and, unbelievably, insisted the opposite to be true. An impasse. To resolve the issue, I asked my son. “Which of us is more stubborn?” I asked.

He demurred, perhaps not wanting to be forced to choose between his parents. Nonsense. Twaddle. I persisted. “Which is it?” I demanded.

“You are,” he said, looking at me.

“I told you,” smirked my wife as she exited his room.

“Thank you,” I said to my son, kissing him on the forehead.

For proving my point, young man, for proving my point.

Allow me to explain: were she the better parent, my son would have pointed the accusatory finger in her direction, knowing that a truly great parent will be more forgiving and understanding when indicted. But because I am the better parent, he, rightly, risked my wrath secure in the knowledge that I would instantly forgive him his obvious lie for the sake of keeping harmony in our happy home.

My son instinctively understood what I have done a masterful job of articulating herein, namely that in the death match known as “raising children,” I am the clear cut, undisputed winner.

(Please don’t show this to my wife.)