Every classroom has one. Maybe she's even you. She's the mom who lives and breathes all things motherhood, using every ounce of energy to provide the precious little ones with the ultimate childhood experience. She bakes from scratch, has dinner on the table every night at 5:00 p.m. sharp and can whip together homemade costumes for the entire 5th grade cast of Wizard of Oz faster than you can say "And your little dog, too."
Don't even get me started on her crafting skills. While I try to avoid eye contact when I see that my son's teacher needs tiny fall trees cut out, that lady knows her way around a glue gun like nobody's business. She's like a cross between Martha Stewart and MacGyver, using pipe cleaner and a rock to create memorable holiday gifts.
Sure, most of us struggle with the simple task of juggling homework and soccer practice -- there's no shame in that, right? Nope, not her. She not only gets it all done but heads up the carnival committee and organizes the next class party at the same time. I want to scream at her "My God, woman, don't you sleep?" But I'm starting to think that if you showed up at her house in the middle of the night, you'd see her put away on a shelf with the rest of the wind-up robots.
But for every other mom who thinks that she's perfect, setting the bar the rest of us can't even come close to, there's a certain someone who's anything but impressed... her husband. Because while she's spending sleepless nights frosting cupcakes and sewing costumes, he's feeling neglected and going to bed alone. Which brings me to my question...
Do good moms make bad wives?
Jessica is no stranger to the good mom, bad wife question. In a recent conversation, she revealed to me that she believes her dedication to the kids was a major contributing factor in the recent demise of her marriage, creating resentment, competition and feelings of neglect in her husband. "He hated that [I always volunteered] because it set into the time that should've been fed into him."
But was he partially responsible for leading her to a life of extreme motherhood in the first place? Jessica admits that throughout her marriage, she's often felt unappreciated and not supported emotionally, leaving her with unmet needs. Using her time with the kids to fill those needs was good for the kids and her. "Because I needed validation and emotional gratification that he wasn't providing, the kid stuff was easy to take on. I always get a 'thank you.' Volunteering is very validating for me; it's rewarding and fulfilling."
I think almost anyone who's walked into their young child's classroom can relate. The feeling you get when your kid notices your arrival can be pretty intoxicating, and knowing you're making an impact is exhilarating. But what happens in a few years when your kid begs you not to come and refuses to be seen with you? After years letting your marriage run on auto pilot, I wouldn't be so sure your spouse will be waiting with open arms.
The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center cites spending time together, showing respect and exploring common interests as a few of their 10 tips to having a healthy marriage. I'm no therapist, but I've got my own tips:
Call each other names. There's nothing worse than hearing a couple call each other "mommy" and "daddy" when there are no kids in a 100-yard radius. Referring to each other by name is a tiny, yet effective, way to recall the person you loved pre-kids.
Just say no. Say it with me... "I can't volunteer to run the bake sale this time." Say it, own it, live it. I promise you, if you utter those words, you will not die.
Just say yes. Rumor has it, men often lose interest in alone time after hitting a certain age. Turn him down time after time and I guarantee he'll lose it with you much earlier. Just sayin'.
Prioritize. Listen, I'm not saying you shouldn't be involved with the kids. Volunteering and running the activities show is a positive thing and helps connect you with the kids. But do you really think Groundhog Day requires individually-wrapped holiday gift bags filled with pencils and Punxsutawney Phil-shaped erasers?
Forsake all others. That's right, it's in the vows. Somewhere between sickness and health and richer/poorer, you agreed to forsake all others. While we think about staying faithful to our partner in the biblical sense, vows were about putting each other first. I'm not saying to neglect the kids, but they won't exactly suffer by seeing their parents put each other at the top of the list, instead serving as relationship role models.
Stop making excuses. I know I can be the first to suggest skipping date night in order to save a little cash. But the price of dinner and a sitter is nothing compared to the cost of divorce. So put on some lipstick and get your butt out the door.
Skip the crayons. Here's a date night rule to live by: If there's a play area in the restaurant, find somewhere else to eat. Chain restaurants are packed with screaming kids and stressed-out parents, not the atmosphere to encourage kid-free conversation and romance. I know you love your never-ending breadsticks, but save Olive Garden for family night, OK?
Are you a better mom or wife? Share your tips to a healthy marriage and how you balance both!
Follow Jackie Morgan MacDougall on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JackieMacD