Love and marriage are foreign languages for many of us. For me, marriage is harder than my hardest day of parenting. I speak French, and although my husband says he understands me, he can't speak it back. We are often both left feeling very misunderstood. Sometimes it feels lonely, but I think these are ALL things that we think we are the ONLY ones thinking about. Here are 10 tips for you husbands to help understand your wife (and, as a bonus, it may help you get more of #2).
Never mention how tired we are.
Chances are we are constantly tired. Daily. Please don't talk about it unless it's to say, "You look really tired. If you would like I can take charge while you go take a deserved nap." Please do not ask -- "What did you do today that is making you so tired?" I am not sick, nothing is wrong with me -- I'm a mom. I could never do what you do. Make myself leave the house and so fully engage in work. I love you and admire you for that. If income was up to me, we would have to live in a tent. I worked until my first-born, Greyson, was a year old and it was the hardest thing I've ever done physically and emotionally. We gave up everything and moved from Los Angeles to the Central Valley of California so that I could stay home with him. In the book Glitter and Glue, author Kelly Corrigan is discussing her love and growing protection for the little girl she nannied... "For better or worse, I've latched on to Milly's ecosystem. What happens to her happens -- in some weird refracted way that seems slightly dangerous -- to me too. And it occurs to me that maybe the reason my mother was so exhausted all the time wasn't because she was doing so much but because she was feeling so much."
That's EXACTLY it with Mom-ing, but times a million. When I'm at speech therapy with the boys, I'm REALLY at speech with them. My heart leaps high in my chest when a new sound comes out of their little mouth. I rejoice. And when they get frustrated or start to scream, a tiny part of me dies every time. Some days I don't think there is anything left inside me to die. I start to worry about their future. Their health. Their well-being. Their daily activities. Their doctor's appointments. Their schooling and social activities. Plus about eleven-hundred-million other things daily. And I don't tell you much -- because it's like telling you a zebra has stripes -- but our children are really FREAKING EXHAUSTING. When we check out at the grocery store, the checker is EXHAUSTED from the 11 minute interaction we just had. They are 20 times more emotional than I am when I'm PMSing.
I listen to 4,346 tantrums a day. According to the screams -- I frequently do EVERYTHING wrong. And the more time I spend with them, the exponentially harder and more mind numbing it gets. I was supposed to write my phone number on a form the other day, and I left it blank because I couldn't remember it. I'm so poured into them that sometimes I spill out all over the place. I love my job. It makes me glow on the inside. It's the best thing I've ever done in my whole entire life, and I'm so grateful to stay at home with them -- AND I'm exhausted. Exhilarated and exhausted. You can be both.
But it's also SO amazing and enlightening to be the one to get to watch their stories unfold. Some days I still ask God, "You promise? I really get to keep them?"
Lets not argue about sex.
Ever. Perhaps you'd like to have more sex. Perhaps I should be having more sex with you. But arguing about it never ever ever creates more sex. (Also see #1 -- I am exhausted.) Especially if I am nursing. Especially if our children are little. I am clawed at and climbed on every single moment of most days. My shirt is tugged at, my plate is eaten from and I am accompanied at all times -- even in the restroom. I've daydreamed about getting an appendicitis so I could just relax in a hospital bed alone for a day or two. That's crazy. Having small children fulfills every human touch requirement, and some days, I can't bare being touched at all anymore. I hope it helps you to know it's not personal. It's not you -- it's them. It won't always be like this.
Notice the small things we do.
The work environment is tough. Sometimes you are criticized. You get your butt whipped. Often times you work hard and receive no job well done type sentiments. But sometimes, you do the right thing. You put a piece in that fits. You close a deal. You build a thing. You connect a wire. You do something that results in something productive and good. I remember how good that feels. I remember glowing while they told me what a great job I did. I buy circle waffles and I should have bought the square ones, and the little people go ape shit. Or I cut the hot dog the wrong way. The hot dog I feel guilty about making in the first place. I mess up constantly. I finally get it together to make a healthy meal, and no one will touch it. Last week I locked the kids in our running car. I screw up daily. If this were a regular job -- I'd be monitored daily on a sub-par performance plan. There is no finish line. I often feel like an incapable ass and I tell myself that I am one in my head over and over again. There is no -- "Great job mom! I like the way you (blank)." It would be so nice to hear it on occasion. Don't just say, "Great job with the kids." Say something specific and real. Say "I love how patient were when Johnny went ape shit over that hot dog. Man, I couldn't have held it together like you did. I love the way you love him."
Working and Moming feels impossible.
If I work and Mom, please just understand I struggle with it every single day. I feel like a crap Mom and a crap career person. Feeling like a crap Mom is by far the hardest of the two, though. I hate missing out on all the things. And I know all the things aren't things but it's impossible to know before hand which moments will be important ones and which ones will be instantly forgotten. I hate being gone when they are sick. I hate always feeling rushed and tired and not enough for anyone. I feel different when I'm around the stay at home Moms. I may think they are some combination of lucky and boring. I struggle with guilt and inadequacy -- in ways you probably don't understand. I just need you to know this feeling exists. Don't say -- "Don't feel that way," don't say "We can't afford for you not to work." I'm not looking to hear either of those things. Just remind me that I am also teaching my children that they too can do things that are hard by my very own example. It helps teach them that they can grow up and work and have a family too. There is no one right way. It reminds them that work to help pay the bills is important and responsible. It reminds them that work in which we follow our own personal passions is also a sacred way to live our life. We want them to grow up feeling as if the world is full of endless possibilities -- because it actually is.
Do not tell me that you emptied the dish washer.
Do not say it a second time because you are still standing there waiting to be thanked. I will silently argue with you in my head 17 times from that one seemingly tiny (to you) incident. I will make your voice into a high whine in my head and make you say "Oh, I emptied the dishwasher" in a really annoying stupid tone. Then in an angry and sarcastic voice I will say back to you say -- "OH WOW! The entire dish washer?! All by yourself? And you seriously knew where to put every single thing? Aren't you amazing?! I THANKLESSLY EMPTY THE DISHWASHER EVERY DAY AND HAVE BEEN FOR SEVEN YEARS AND NO ONE THANKS ME." So, instead, every so often thank me for a thankless job. I promise I will try to remember to do the same. Or, perhaps we can start some sort of frequent punch card program, and for every 12 times you empty the dishwasher, we can have sex!
Help me find and then follow my passion.
My dreams. Let's talk about the future in a happy light. It's hard to remember I was a person with my own hopes and wishes. Maybe you feel that way too. Help me recklessly pursue my dreams. Remind me I'm important enough to do so. Tell me what your dreams are too. I promise to help you do the same.
Get into my phone and arrange a babysitter.
I don't want to be the only one who does it. Help me try to remember who we were before we had kids. I don't always know what to talk to you about when we go out because we always talk about the kids. Maybe we could act like we are dating and get to know each other again. We can go to the bookstore or the bowling alley or the movies and just play young again.
When you come home from work and are with the kids please be with the kids.
Keep your phone down. It's probably just a couple of hours before their bedtime anyway. Show them they are important. Try to be the fresh set of eyes that I most certainly am not anymore. I know it's so hard to go to work and then come home and parent. But I'm so darn spent and they are so darn worth it.
Do not mention the slime/dirt/mucus/poop on my clothes or in my hair.
Do not ask me: "Do you want to change your shirt first?" Before we go somewhere. I know it's there so completely that I actually don't even remember it's there in the first place. If I wanted to change it I know where my shirts are and I would have done so. There's already enough dirty laundry in the house. Let's just look at it as conserving water and energy. It's our contribution to green.
Listen. Please just listen.
Throw in a question to show you are listening. Not to fix. If I tell you I was late dropping the kids off to school for the 100th time please don't say: "Why don't you wake up earlier? How about you set the stuff out the night before?" Just listen. Ask if I'm still so annoyed with my annoying friend. Ask specifics about the kids to remind me what I do with them daily is really important. Ask how the book I'm reading is. If there's something you want to talk about, I promise to listen too.
These ten tips will possibly help us all feel a little more understood and a little less alone. Feel free to add your own in the comments. And you too husbands! What do you wish we knew?