I'm Falling Short Every Day

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My husband is perfect, and it’s annoying.

He’s the kind of guy who always writes stuff down, never forgets a single bill, and always remembers to change the air filter. His closet never looks like a bomb went off, and he doesn’t have a single six-month-old French fry on the floor of his car. He generally has a mind like an elephant and pretty much never forgets anything. Ever.

Basically, he’s my exact opposite.

While from the outside it looks like I have my act together, I more or less have a Walmart on the day after Christmas thing going on in every aspect of my life. My laundry is constantly overflowing, my car could probably feed a small Third World nation with leftovers from six months ago, and I spend my days putting out fires created by my teen and tween. To put it bluntly: I am falling short most days.

Before kids, I was really good at adulting and remembering details. I kept meticulous lists, I had a schedule that allowed for regular laundering, and my car was always vacuumed. I even wore makeup every day, and when I wore yoga pants, it meant I was going to actually work-out. I was always up for intimate encounters, and my husband was always a priority.

But somewhere between diapers and braces, I lost control. And it doesn’t appear that I’m going to regain it any time soon.

When we made the decision to have kids, our finances allowed for me to stay home and be the primary caregiver. With that role, I gladly took over the day-to-day chores and errands in favor of being the spouse who didn’t regularly have to put on real pants. I gave up my career but figured my skills could be applied to running our little family corporation with ease. My job on the home front would be just as valuable as my husband’s outside the home.

And that worked for a little while. But then motherhood took over, and the Lego pile started to overflow. Tantrums interrupted emptying the dishwasher and playdates that ran over ruined naptime. Kids and their constant needs ruined any semblance of a schedule I had carved out in my early days of parenting. For a control freak like myself, losing control is like finding out Starbucks has gone caffeine-free. And there was just so damned much laundry.

I’m 13 years into this parenting thing, and every day, I feel like I’m not holding up my end of the deal. My husband is so good at holding up his end—providing for us, remembering tiny details like the mortgage and retirement and always making sure I have enough gas in the car. He’s just as busy as I am, busier some days, and yet he never fails our family or me. On the days when he comes home and the house is a war zone, I feel a tad bit guilty. Some days, I’ve had to ignore the dishes while I argue with the insurance company and others; the laundry goes untouched because the dog had diarrhea. I fight the good fight every day, and I wish I was able to provide my family with clean underwear with much more regularity than I’m providing these days.

Even though I struggle with the day-to-day tasks of stay-at-home parenting, I try to let myself off the hook, to use a kinder voice in my head. I make my family a priority every day, and thanks to my nursing training, I’m pretty damned good at triaging the daily emergencies kids create. Everyone always has what he or she needs when they need it; it’s just not a week in advance like it used to be, and that’s OK.

Marriage isn’t about being perfect. It’s not about doing it right every single day. It’s about waking up every day and knowing that your partner is doing the best he or she can. My husband knows that I give it my all from sun up to sundown and has learned to laugh when I screw up. He never expects me to be Superwoman and never makes me feel like I’m not good enough. And when he looks at me across the disaster that is our house in the same way he did 20 years ago when I was a list-making, organized dynamo, I realize he’s not in love with my lists.

He accepts my flaws and knows that when he messes up, I’m going to accept his too. It’s just what you do when you are married.

Every relationship has the partner who is the glue of the family, and that’s a role I can own. Glue is messy, runny, and sticky. It’s obvious when you’ve used too much or too little, and the trick is to find just the right amount. Glue covers up a multitude of sins and can rebuild even the most broken of objects. Glue is firm, it’s sturdy, and it’s strong. So, yes, I’m the glue in this relationship, the really smelly rubber cement stuff that fixes the best kind of mess. And my husband is stuck with me, cracks and all.

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