I wanted to write a follow up to those last two posts for Friday, but I’m glad it didn’t happen. My perspective has changed a little since the weekend and now I appreciate the time and space these last days have given me.
As I expected, publishing those posts was cathartic. While I didn’t feel like I learned much from writing them–there was no revelatory moment as I processed those feelings, in fact I don’t feel like I processed them so much as vomited them, but it was all I was able to manage, so I’ll have to take it–the comments were so eye-opening and validating and interesting, I feel like I can look at this topic with a new perspective and that is something I value more than words can say.
I was thinking a lot about my posts and everyone’s responses over the weekend, as my family and I spent two days at a beach house with my parents. My husband came, which is a rare occurrence, and I’m so glad I had those two posts, and their comments in the back of my mind as we meandered through the weekend.
It ended up being a really nice two days. The kids were pretty manageable, all things considered. We got decent sleep, it wasn’t torture keeping my son safe (and the house undamaged) despite the fact that it wasn’t child-proofed. The weather was beautiful and we didn’t have any grand expectation. The kids played at the beach a lot, shivering with their feet in the waves, then warming up in the dry sand. My parents provided just enough support to allow us to make small, but important, strategic moves throughout the day, but didn’t get in the way of our parenting. The close proximity to the beach meant our son’s nap schedule could be accommodated for without trapping our daughter in the house. We each had time with the kids one-on-one and also hung out as a family.
Actually, it was a pretty perfect weekend. It was exactly what I was lamenting we don’t do in my last two posts. It was exactly what I envisioned having a family would be like.
Sure there were meltdowns. Sure my daughter was being difficult a lot of the time. Sure my son required constant supervision (and still managed to give himself a few shiners). Sure my husband and I hardly got to exchange two not-parenting related words with each other. Sure it was exhausting. But it was also fun, and I made some really wonderful memories with both my kids, and I felt closer to my family for having braved the weekend away.
It was in coming home from that weekend, awash in the salt and sand and sun of a successful trip, that I realized what has really been bothering me about parenting. It’s not so much that I think it’s hard and that I don’t feel like anyone talks about that. It’s that I disappointed, heartbroken really, that it doesn’t resemble my expectations in the slightest.
When I wrote before that my greatest aspiration in life was to parent, I thought I was explaining that my current ambivalence toward parenting was not rooted in some previous ambivalence about becoming a parent. But what I was actually doing was explaining why I am so deeply disappointed by my reality of raising two kids. This was supposed to be my life, and it was supposed to look and feel… well… positive. But it doesn’t. And I think there is a part of me that is mourning the life I thought I’d have. The life I fought so hard for. The life that I thought I couldn’t live without.
Part of the disconnect, for me, is rooted in the idealized version of parenting we, as a culture, espouse. But ultimately, my disillusions about parenting are wrapped up in my disillusions about my marriage.
Ultimately, the vast majority of this is actually about my relationship with my husband.
It’s not that I hate parenting, it’s that I hate how we handle parenting together. It’s not that I’m overwhelmed managing my children, it’s that I’m overwhelmed managing my children without the support of my husband.
It’s that most of the time, I feel like I have to manage him.
I’ve started reading a book about marriage. I’ve read parts of it before, but never finished it. I REALLY want to finish it this time. I want to do the exercises. I want to do the work so that we can get to a better place. I think, if we came to some kind of understanding, all of this would be so, so much better. And I think we can arrive at that better place.
At least, I’m making myself believe it right now.
Because if I don’t believe it, what is the point?
Just the first fifty pages of this book have been really eye opening. I have been reminded of all the negativity I bring to our marriage, all the things I’m doing wrong, and there are a lot of them. A LOT. I have been kind of mortified by how much antagonism I’ve bringing to our interactions. I really need to change the way I do things.
I’ve talked to my husband about it. I know it’s not his thing to read a book or see a professional (I think both would be IMMENSELY helpful for him, but I’m trying hard to accept what he is and isn’t willing to do), but he has said he’s willing to do some exercises with me on Friday evenings when we have a little time. I’m letting myself believe that things will get better between us and that I can be happy with where we end up, even if my husband never has the attitude toward raising kids I’d hoped he would have.
I think, if we get to a better place, the parenting challenges will seem a lot more manageable. There will still be issues that I have to accept to enjoy the arduous task of raising small children, but I think I can get there. And even if I never truly enjoy it, I hope I can get to a place where I feel some contentment at the end of the day.
Does your marriage mitigate or exacerbate the challenges of your daily life?