Not only is he uber private and uncomfortable with my sharing our stuff to anyone who will read it, I think he was also trying to think up a nice way to say, You? You’re going to write about marriage?
Truth is, I mostly suck at being a wife. Just this morning I actually yelled Shut Up! to him. That was unnecessarily mean, he replied. And he was right. And that was just a regular morning, without a lot of drama attached to it. So, no, I’m not writing because I hope to inspire anyone with my wife-ing.
I tried to explain to him what I wanted to say about marriage, but I got a bit tongue tied and flustered. I don’t want to tell the whole world how great ours is, or even try to talk other people into tying the knot themselves. I’ve just been reading so many beautiful blogs about marriage lately (here’s one from Lysa, one from Sarah, and finally one from Amber), but in my real life, tons of couples around me are still struggling to figure it out. It seems like marriage is messy and needs to be nurtured constantly.
Marriage also has been on my mind recently because a few weeks ago one of my favorite girlfriends got left in the lurch by her husband of seventeen years. Although I’ve had plenty of friends get divorced or go through rough patches, this is one situation that has hit closest to home. It’s the one that made me say, omg, if it could happen to them, it could happen to us! Our stories are similar: Two high-achieving men married two talented, gorgeous, vivacious young women who birthed them beautiful babies. With great gusto we gals poured ourselves into motherhood and raising children who feel good about themselves. We completely ignored the corporate world around us and trusted those men with our very souls to take care of their families to the best of their ability. This allowed them to pursue, travel, climb and achieve. Yeah, maybe the bearing of power, responsibility, accountability and stress was not always fair and balanced. Some of us hoarded the veto power on all parenting choices while others of us may have hoarded all of the big financial decisions. Perhaps some of us saw exciting parts of the world while others of us saw all the parks in town and had to get our thrills from occasional trips to the emergency room.
But somehow we stumbled through those weighty, exhausting years of parenting. We fell asleep before we hit the pillows – sometimes as couples, sometimes with various children lying diagonally around us, and sometimes separated by continents. We read picture books until we thought we’d vomit at another rendition of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and we racked up millions of frequent flyer miles. Hindsight is 20-20, so we can all look back and see moments where our marriages were especially vulnerable. But, boy, has it gotten so much easier. The men have proven themselves and despite the current economy, simply do not need to work as hard as they once did. We are not dealing with the back breaking season of parenting that includes diapers, spit up, car naps, double jogger strollers and train set clean-up. Instead we’re trying to raise bully-proof kids and teens with loads of self-esteem. Rather than pondering what to make for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we’re trying to figure out when to allow facebook and ear piercing and how to raise musicians without becoming tiger moms. We are all thriving in our various roles.
And then he walked out.
Our friends have three children. She has not worked outside of the home in fourteen years. The court awarded her $2500 a month in child support and no alimony or any part of his 401K. For fourteen years he has worked his way up the corporate ladder and has arrived. She will eventually get there, but she has a long way to go and is beginning this working journey late in life. And seriously, if you are looking to hire an entry-level professional, are you likely to go for the forty-five-year-old mother of three whose last work computer did not include the Internet, or a fresh college graduate?
While I was driving my husband to work last week, I slammed my hands on the steering wheel and my voice became a little yelly as I got him up to date on what the other slime ball-used-to-be-our-friend husband has finagled. Here’s the deal, I said to him. I am trusting you not to do this to me. Every day that I choose to work a part-time job, volunteer precious hours at your children’s school, cancel my plans when they are sick, or stay up late helping with a school project is a day I am trusting you.
Last year’s popular essay by Katy Read tried to address the imbalance of the working father and stay-at-home mother. It shook me up then as much as it shakes me up to call my friend right now and feel what she is feeling. When I read it last year I remember saying to a friend. Yeah, we’ve put all of our eggs in one basket haven’t we? She said, Yep, and we put them all in our husband’s basket.
Last night when I told that sweet man I wanted to write about marriage, I didn’t mean to imply that we’ve got a great one, or that I think I’m holding the key. And I don’t mean to suggest that stay-at-homing or working are better choices. We’ve all got to figure out the best plan for each of us and for all of our kids.
I guess I’m writing because I want my husband and all the husbands out there to understand this: Your wife trusts you. Buddy, don’t screw it up!
And just to my own long-suffering, patient one I need to add this: I know it’s not always easy for us, but thanks for sticking it out with me thus far. I want to take walks with you when we’re eighty-five-years-old, and I hope we still want to hold hands.