“Sometimes I think that all you want from me is to be the perfect babysitter. That’s it. Nothing else. Nothing about our relationship or you and me.”
These are the words that stopped me cold as my husband was driving us to the mall one weekend. We had just had another big argument the previous day and while I thought we had moved on from it, my husband was still apparently dealing with the aftermath. He had been quiet, sullen, short, and pretty much dead-pan since the previous day but I just dismissed it as sulking behavior and moved forward because toddlers, like K, don’t wait for their parents to gain closure. Ain’t no one got time for that and surely not the energy. So once enough time had passed after the argument I had mistakenly thought we had moved on from it. Surely, my mind had. But my husband was still back there, dealing with his feelings and I was too exhausted and focused on the now to care. Until he said those words. Because… it was the truth. And he was hurt.
I think at some point, while first time mommying a toddler and pregnant with my second, I became all consumed with parenthood. I think it’s especially hard for me because I’m a stay at home mom and there’s no clock to punch out or leave. It’s a constant 24/7, 365/6 days a year beast that can swallow you whole if you aren’t on your toes, alert, and agiley juggling all the different balls representing the rest of your life. And what happened was, I couldn’t keep up. I was tired and said to myself, “You can’t do it all. Let things go that aren’t that important.” So I slowly started putting things down. It first started with easy stuff like showers, make-up, clothes… Then things like food, social activities… And finally without realizing it, I put down working on having a good and intimate relationship with my husband.
He said, “I could handle being third when K got here. I expected it and that’s fine. But to not even be on the list…”
Ouch. Becuse that’s true too. After putting K as the top priority above all else in my life, I put myself next. Hey, a gal has to survive right? And I thought I had kept my husband third and was doing a good job checking in with him here and there, but to be completely bare faced honest, by the time I was done putting her down for the night, I just wanted to sit and rest. Take care of myself. Restore. Reset. And there was nothing left for my husband.
When he comes home from working, at least, a ten hour day, I practically throw K into his arms and rush to make or eat dinner. I want to live too! He doesn’t complain. He just puts his lunch box down, takes off his shoes and on cue, takes over with K. But even when I know he’s watching her, I can’t seem to completely disconnect myself and clock out of the job for a bit. One ear is always listening, or it can’t help but hear. And I’m thinking thoughts in my head like, “She’s called him four times, why isn’t he answering her?” , “She’s saying ‘water!’ Give her the dang water!” , “OMG he’s so slow. She’s going to lose it soon.” , “Did he wash her hands yet?” And so forth. When I bring these things, and many more, to his attention, he, for the most part, will comply with my “requests” to “parent better.” He’s actually a great dad. Very involved. Takes her out on his own for father daughter time, does her hair in the mornings, teaches her new things, and gives every single bath at night followed by blow drying and singing.
He said, “You know, some people think that it should all be about their kids and the marriage comes second, but I’m the opposite. I believe the marriage should come first, before the kids.”
This one really stung because I actually have always said I believed this too. That the very best gift I could give my children was to love their father, in a way that they could witness or even emulate, and provide a happy, healthy home. … but I put that ball down. Not consciously, not intentionally, but I did. And I felt so sorry to my husband. I just was focused on wanting his help. Help keeping my head above the water. I didn’t realize that he wasn’t getting much from me. Or maybe I did and I rationalized it away by minimalizing his situation. He’s not the one home all day trying to raise a healthy and decent human being. He’s not the one running around after a toddler all day with a giant pregnant belly. He gets to pee alone. He gets to drive in a car without singing “The Wheels on the Bus” twenty times over just to avoid a freeway meltdown. He can eat warm food. Heck, he can eat! He got a shower today. He gets adult interaction and conversation at work! And so, he gets to be third at home. Nevermind that none of that stuff equates to… a wife.
This holiday season I’m so thankful for my husband who after almost twelve years of marriage, seventeen years of companionship, stopped me and told me that having a deep and meaningful relationship with me is his priority over everything else. Regardless of my hair, my shower, my overtired attitude… He still wants me. Not just as his daughter’s mom (who he acknowledges is doing a fantastic job) but first and foremost, as his woman. His lifemate. I’m thankful that even though I put down his ball after pretending it was even in third place, he’s always kept me and my ball first.
I have no idea how I’m doing now but I’ve started making a conscious effort towards him. To touch him affectionately more. To listen about his day more. To try and enjoy a TV show with him after K is down. These little things are the small steps I’m taking to reintroduce our marriage to my busy list of things I’ve created for raising K and surviving it. Lol. Because really, nothing horrific will happen if I give her store bought meatballs versus homemade ones, but something absolutely wonderful might happen when K sees me and her dad laughing together, arms around each other, on a regular basis. So I’ve recommitted myself to putting my marriage first, over parenting, and that ultimately puts everyone in the same place.