Thursday, January 07, 2010

Every morning

Every morning I got up and got dressed in the dark. I'd wait in bed as long as possible and stumble to the sink to brush my teeth. I'd fall into the shower. Every morning I tried not to bang the cupboard doors or slam the toilet lid. I'd decide that jeans and a pair of flats would do it. I'd twist my curls into place and squirt some contact solution on sticky eyes. I'd grab a vanilla yogurt and head out the door. Every morning I left to go to work while he stayed home with the babies. Every morning there was a twinge in my heart like tin foil on a filling. He was with them. I was working. He was lucky. I didn't have a choice. Every morning.

How much time have you spent thinking about the roles of a husband and wife in a marriage? I've mentioned this before, but I never wanted to be the breadwinner. It just ended up that way--the combination of my drive to finish school early and his need to figure out his own path. It made sense on paper. I made more money. I already had a career. He wasn't done with school. I should work. One of us should be with our babies. It should be him. Those kinds of plans never account for hormones and emotions. Nothing in my educated mind prepared me for what it would feel like to leave a nursing baby and go to work. It hurt my sense of myself as a mother as badly as it ached in my chest. So did hearing people say things like the kids responded better to E because we had switched roles. I didn't give my role away. I still wanted it. I thought I was just doing it differently. That wounded me deeply.

I think our arrangement hurt E, though, too. It didn't hurt him to be home with either of the kids as babies and it certainly gave them all time that was incredibly special and bonds them to this day. But I think it hurt his sense of self just like it hurt mine. Maybe hurt isn't the word. Colored? Influenced? Distorted? He was perpetually a student, he was isolated from the world of adults and spent his day with toddlers. When I came home to him I was a tired heap, and no more help with the kids than I had been when I was gone--I was fatigued from my full day of "mothering" at school. He started to feel like he was never going to finish. He would decide on something he wanted to do and grow tired of it before he could begin. He compared himself to his friends and he compared us to other people for what we didn't have or couldn't do. I don't mean that materialistically, but he felt like he was missing out or missing something. I believe that it's important for a man to be the head of his family, for him to feel like he's steering the direction of the ship, and he didn't have that.

I don't think E was handing over his brains on a platter, but for so long we didn't realize the difficulties we were adding to an already trying situation; we had school, teaching, babies, and tight finances. To that we added role reversal that didn't give either one of us a fulfilling sense of self, but instead stole our pride and sapped a bit of our happiness. When you come together like that, you're bound to be in the wrong frame of mind. Of course if you've read this blog for any amount of time you know that's not the only problem we had, but I feel like it's important. I'm not advocating any certain family model, but I do believe that we tried to academically ignore traditional male and female roles in order to survive, and it hurt us as individuals in the long run. For a long time it hurt our relationship too, and ours was not a relationship that needed any more hurt.

This is all on my mind as I'm writing because the months since May have been difficult, but they've been stepping stones toward normalcy. The joy of our vow renewal was easy to forget in the recent months when we couldn't pay all our bills, but financial struggles often blind you to your shared suffering. The difference these past few months has been proximity, honesty, and trust. We're in it together, good or bad; unfortunately it's been pretty bad but that's being young and married, apparently. Suddenly we've arrived at this place where he wears a tie and I pack his lunch. He has work stories. I have kid stories. He comes home to me handsome, a good three years older than he was last month; I slip easily away from pressures of school and glide on my wings at home.

This must be what happy feels like. This must be what people do. I'm lucky that I've had E to witness all my growing, and it amazes me how much my sense of myself as a mother has developed even in this last year. I'd glad that change is possible and the rotten pit where we spun our wheels for so long wasn't interminable. I'm glad that it was okay to cut back at work for the benefit of my family, and that E is building his way in the world. I'm glad this is where our story goes, for right now.


  1. Seriously...I think this is my favorite post from you, ever. It makes my heart happy. :)

  2. Yup, I agree with that statement, it makes my heart happy too. I'm glad your lives are going in this new direction, it sounds like a good place. :-)

  3. Thanks guys. I'm glad we're in a good place too.

  4. Seeeeeeee.... This is an example of what I said... Stunning writing abilities my dear! I am so glad things are working out for you guys! You all deserve it!