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I really wish when you start telling people you’re planning a family that married folks with kids would pipe up.  I wish instead of saying “Get your sleep now!” they’d say “Honey.  Listen up.  Marriage didn’t change my relationship.  Children did.  Don’t work hard to keep it the same because that’s a pointless battle.  You’re going to have to work really hard to evolve as a couple and to keep it together.  Oh and always feed the baby veggies first and then go with fruits.”  That’s what I wish people would say as they rub a pregnant lady’s belly.  But I’m guessing that if someone had told me, I’d nod my head and silently think: They’re wrong.  We’re different.  But no one told me that.  I didn’t have to fake listen to a wise woman’s advice.  Two years later, there was no one for me to say, “Damn Wise Woman, you were right.  I’m sorry I doubted you.”

Pre-kids, we could stay up late and I didn’t care if he was still sleeping until 10 a.m.  I actually enjoyed the alone time in the morning.  Pre-kids if we went to Target, we only went down the toy aisle if a new line was released.  And it was for a few minutes tops.  He never whined when I said “No” to a purchase.  Hell, I never said “No!”  Pre-kids we might have chicken for dinner.  Just chicken.  No fruits or vegetables.  Chicken.  Pre-kids we both had ample free time to invest in our solo hobbies.  Pre-kids we could see a movie he wanted and then my movie choice.  Pre-kids we could wait an hour for a table at our favorite restaurant.  Pre-kids if we fought, we could be also loud as we needed to be for our points to be heard.  Marriage was easy pre-kids.

Then Coop came along.  He wasn’t the kind of newborn who nursed and slept.  He was the kind of newborn that nursed, and nursed, and nursed, and then cried when he wasn’t nursing.  He was the kind of newborn who needed to be walked around for an hour before he was slapped back on the boob for another hour.  Those kind of nights can lead to quick and vicious fights, but still marriage wasn’t difficult.  Because we could still do all of the above.  Minus the movie.  And there was a romantic feel to all of it.  I was holding a baby who was part me and part my husband.  And despite the long nights and constant nursing, we were making a family work.

I don’t think marriage got to be work until Cooper had very definite opinions maybe around two-ish.  Yes, my kid had opinions before two.  He liked the right boob over the left.  He loved reading Richard Scarrry books, but I could hide them and he’d move on.  Two hit and he was more independent.  He had opinions.  The kind of opinions that wore you down or the kind that made you stand your ground and look as irrational as a two year-old.  Those kind of opinions.  Plus there was just more to do.  Toddler and normal daily activities can be exhausting.  We had to have dinners with more than just chicken.  Our free time to devote to leisure activities was being whittled down.  By Year Two, all the time spent getting to daycare, doctors appointment, and sick days made Free Time feel like it was a mythical being.  Solo time felt amazing, but also could be resentful.  If Mark went to a movie, I wondered about my movie time.  It never seemed to happen because my friends never did movies.  After two years, that didn’t seem fair any longer.  When he slept until 9 a.m., I was pissed.  And when I slept until 9 a.m., he was pissed.  Two is when I realized that marriage was going to be work.  Since then, I’ve noticed it goes in waves.  Peaceful and steady.  And when one of us starts to take the other for granted, the waters get choppy and dangerous.  Last week, it was dangerous.  And it was my fault.

When I’m really busy with work, I want a break at home.  But that never happens.  I’ll come home from driving five hours and I’m bombarded with homework questions, dinner, grocery trips, and I usually step on a Lego.  He works all day and then pulls single Daddy duty when I’m away.  I know that’s hard work.  But when I’m in the midst of really busy work, I don’t care.  He’s supposed to take care of the kids.  He’s their father!  And that’s where I get in trouble.  It’s not appreciating him fully.  And if I want him to appreciate I’m working full-time and can still put dinner on the table at least four nights a week, I have to appreciate him.  Last week was a Two Hotels-in-a-Week week.  I can get particularly snippy and all Martyr-ish during those weeks.  I got home from the first hotel and was pissy.  We fought.  We went to bed pissy.  We woke up pissy and I drove to Michigan pissy.  He was pissy, but at home.

When I called from the hotel to check in, our anger was still alive.  I ate my dinner at the bar and a man came and sat next to me.  People love to talk when you eat at the bar.  This man told me his wife was about to retire from the FBI.  When I asked what she was planning to do with her free time, he said she’s a quilter.  Finally, someone I wanted to talk with.  He said she loves to make t-shirt quilts.  “My husband really wants one, but I have no desire to make one” I said.  He asked me why.  I listed my reasons: sewing on knit scares me, wanting to quilt makes me finish the quilt, and I love fabric not t-shirts.  He paused and said, “You should really make your husband that quilt.  It’s a nice quilt to have.”  He said good-bye.  I was still too mad at my husband to even entertain making him a quilt.  He was lucky I was coming home.

I woke up, worked, and drove home.  During the four hours back, I couldn’t get the stranger’s voice out of my head.  And that’s when I realized that I behaved like a big ole bitch.  And marriage was like that damn t-shirt quilt.  We do nice things for each other because parenting is hard work.  I didn’t want to make it, but he would really love it.  And that’s exactly why I had to do it.  It wasn’t going to kill me.  I wasn’t changing my morals by making a quilt.  I wasn’t saying, “I’ll do whatever you want from now on.”  It was simply a nice thing to do.  It was only a little time and work.  He deserves that.

The waters of our marriage will always flow from peaceful to choppy and back again.  Sometimes he’s the reason we’ve got waves and sometimes it’s me.  Right now, there’s no other person I want on my boat.*

*I reserve the right to change that because he could be a huge asshole next week.  Can’t we all go from sweet to assholely in a week’s time?

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  1. April 23, 2012

    thanks for this post! i’m about to get married, + my fiancee + i go back + forth between being sweet with each other + taking each other for granted horribly. he has a daughter, so we’ve had a bit of experience ‘parenting’ together, but i’m positive we’ll be in for one hell of a learning curve.

    • April 23, 2012

      I’m positive you’ll figure it out. It’s all trial and error.

  2. lisamac333 #
    April 23, 2012

    shit…I didnt want to read this this morning…but I really needed to.

    thanks…I think x

    • April 23, 2012

      Oh shit. I wish I would have read it last week. I need to remember my own words often.

  3. Carol #
    April 23, 2012

    It’s all hands on deck – there’s no captain.

    • April 23, 2012

      So true. Too bad we forget sometimes.

  4. mary #
    April 23, 2012

    keep piling on the guilt and eventually i will make a quilt.

  5. Common Sense Mom #
    April 23, 2012

    I find myself sarcastically and knowingly laughing a little as I read this (just a little). While this is a good post for newly marrieds to read it’s still a bit lacking in the full knowledge of what life is like with kids. The mere fact that you can even CONSIDER 1) Sitting down and 2) Sitting down long enough to MAKE something…shows that you have not yet hit the full pace of married life with kids. As a working mother of 2 young children (1 and 4) there is NO WAY I could even dream of sitting down and doing something as time consuming as
    making a quilt. NO WAY IN HELL.

    So my advice? Drop your grudge, just let it go and make that quilt now while you can. In a few years (if you have more kids) you’ll read back over this post and knowingly laugh (just a little) at yourself. Marriage with kids is a lot like a slowly progressing 18 year boot camp. It breaks you down and forces you to let go….let go….let go….let go…..(more than you thought you’d ever be able to let go) while simultaneously building you up as a stronger person and, hopefully, as a stronger married couple.

    Your husband sleeps till 9am? Let it go honey. Let it go.

    • April 23, 2012

      I always reserve the right to look back and laugh at my own belief system, but Year Two was five years ago. Coop is 7 and his brother is 4: my toe is a little deeper than your own in this Boot Camp. But every now and then the stress of motherhood, working, being in a couple, and my own self interest becomes stressful and it takes a toll on the marriage. A fact that no one can fully understand when thinking about becoming a parent. Also a fact which is nice to discuss in an open forum rather than one the phone with one girlfriend. Because lots people struggle with going from a couple and then being a couple who parents. That transition is difficult and is constantly changing as our childern gain more and more independence.

      Also in Year Two I decided that I would always make time for hobbies like quilting, reading, and photography. Sometimes I only get a few minutes and other times, my husband takes them out so I can finish projects. So honey, if you really love something, you find the time to do it.

      Sometimes, yes my husbands sleeps until 9. And sometimes, I sleep until 9 and he gets up with our youngest at 7.

      • jess lewis #
        April 23, 2012

        fuck yeah! to finding and making time for yourself (and allowing your partner to do the same). when things are running smoothly around here (HA!) we try to give each other at least one night a week to do our own thing (***edited to add: if this running smoothly thing can last for a month at a time we’re lucky. it’s more of a goal that we think we should reach for. the rest of the time we’re just going for whatever time can be found.) for me it used to be going to knit night every week, now it’s a night to do whatever the fuck i want since i’m not knitting as much (i’ve picked a pattern, so now it looks like i will be locking myself in our room one night a week to quilt).

        the constant transitioning as the kids get older is one of my biggest challenges. i get so used to a routine and then it changes. i know it’s coming, but figuring out the right adjustments can be a struggle for all involved.

  6. April 23, 2012

    i feel you on this post. matt has been working tirelessly the past few weeks and we’ve been on the downward slope of taking each other and what we do for granted. it’s definitely one of those phases of marriage that you just work through knowing that all will be okay, but it’s still difficult. and it doubly sucks when you know you’ve been the asshole (as i have been recently). mark’s going to love that quilt, and he’s going to appreciate that you took the time to make it for him. in the meantime, i hope work slows down a little bit for you and you get to be home more.

    • April 23, 2012

      June is starting to look good. Fingers crossed.

  7. April 23, 2012

    Great post, Erika. I totally feel you. Scott and I have been together almost 18 years and 9 of those have included children. It was so much easier to be nice to each other when there weren’t mouths to feed and butts to wipe. Sometimes resentment is par for the course, but underneath it all there’s a shit ton of love. I’m pretty sure it’s the same for you and Mark.

    Can’t wait to see that quilt finished. Are you using the kids’ old t-shirts?

    • April 23, 2012

      After I read that, I started to think “Shit we had the same number of years without kids.” And then I felt old. But good that lots of years don’t necessarily mean easy parenting.

  8. Becky #
    April 23, 2012

    Certainly we have to let some things go, of course. But I would argue that we shouldn’t let things go, just as our spouses can (and should!) call us on our own shit. Because sometimes the NOT letting it go is what makes us better people, spouses, and parents. I let it go for years and (for me) all that it led to was resentment and a rocky marriage. Instead we now challenge each other- if you get to sleep in on saturday, I get to on sunday. It’s fair. If you get some time to see a movie,I get some time to quilt. It’s not a one for one, and it never will be, but for me if I don’t get the time to do what I want to do, I’m no good to anyone. I too have two small children and am working, but if I don’t find (make) time for me I’ve found that it leads to an unequal, and unhappy marriage. Plus I want to show my kids that they need to a. respect my time, and b. the world doesn’t always revolve around them, and c. that women have the right to do their own thing, just as much as men do. We’ve been actively doing this work for a few years now, and we’re so much better off for it.

    • April 23, 2012

      that’s exactly how we try to work things out around here, too. sometimes it can be a challenge, but i don’t know any other way to do it and still remain (somewhat) sane.

    • Common Sense Mom #
      April 23, 2012

      I agree. You can’t let everything go. Otherwise you wouldn’t be an individual any more. But for me the lesson I have had to learn is let go…then let go a little more….then let go even more…. I have had to let A LOT go (including my own guilt)…and you know what? It’s good to let go! It’s been a real struggle at times but overall it has made me stronger, kinder, more loving, more free. And thankfully my husband has learned to let a lot go too. So far, for us, it’s working. Fingers crossed. Will keep you posted….

      • joelynnej #
        April 23, 2012

        One time I let go…then let go a little more….then let go even more…. And the next thing I knew I was looking in the mirror and noticed I grew a mustache!! So now I stick strictly with a level one let go and if we get to level two I call code red and visit my waxer.

    • Laura #
      April 23, 2012

      I could not agree with you more Becky!! All the way. We work hard toward keeping things fair and balanced in our house, though it’s suck a trick sometimes. And I definitely want my kids to see that their mother had enough self respect to do her own thing ….to have her own identity.

    • April 23, 2012

      About as spot on as it can get.

  9. April 23, 2012

    dude marriage is the hardest work i have ever done. oh wait maybe second. oh crap , let’s say its a draw, but yeah that lovely hot for you all the time can’t live without you beginning honeymooney love flickers out and then you get to the work of friendship, and companionship, and work and compromise, and anger management, and you trip and fall down and say mean things in your anger frustration exhaustion that is motherhood and fatherhood. so yes, i feel ya on this Erika.

    • April 23, 2012

      Oh honeymooney. I miss those days. But I love the “Take the Kids for the Weekend Mimi” days.

      • April 24, 2012

        yeah shit , our “mimi” moved to FL… maybe we pissed her off. :) can i borrow your mimi?

  10. April 23, 2012

    It is work. I’m about to get married for the first time and we both have kids. I’ve become used to putting my kids needs first for so long I often forget about my man’s needs. It helps to know that all couples have these struggles though, a good reminder to keep working at it.

    • April 23, 2012

      It’s so easy to put our partner’s needs last. It so easy it can be scary. Note to self: knock it off. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Amelia #
    April 23, 2012

    I feel compelled to share something I say often…”everyone’s an asshole(a jerk, when speaking to my kids!) sometimes…” and then, unfortunately, I have had to add, once or twice, “and today that someone IS ME” :) great post.

    • April 23, 2012

      I’m going to start using that phrase as well! Thanks!

  12. April 23, 2012

    It is just figuring out what to let go and what not to let go that makes all the difference, while managing to remember, often, that you will have time again for all the stuff you let go now but you won’t have this time with your partner and your kids together as a family for long. But in the frustrations of the day to day it is hard, we all know. I have also found that it really helps if you partner up with someone that you can stand the sight of day in and day out ;)

    • April 23, 2012

      So true, but difficult to remember when things are crappy or heated.

      • April 24, 2012

        Loved your post by the way – ment to add that but got caught up in my and all the other comment/s. This blog that you girls have put together is awesome.

  13. kate #
    April 23, 2012

    Is that what this is??? I’ve never really put words to this (or realized other couples did it too), but we do that choppy waters/calm waters thing too! I just thought it was us! Taking the other for granted is really the root of almost any choppy period for us. That and not being able to vent about our 2 year old to the spouse (I’m the SAHM; spouse does behaviour modification with troubled kids for a living, so when I say “omg, our child ignores me repeatedly whenever I ask her to X, Y or Z”, I don’t hear “crap, that drives me nuts when she does that”, I hear “you’re teaching her to ignore you, it’s called learned blah-de-blah-de-fucking-blah”). Holy shit, nothing brings her closer to being smothered in her sleep than pulling that “I would recommend you try….” crap. Even writing about it raised my blood pressure! But she’s learning to be a co-parent, not a behavioural consultant at home (slowly, slowly learning). For me, letting go is really hard, but I’m slowly, slowly learning. Good on you for doing that t-shirt quilt – takes a lot to put that kind of time and work into something you’re not crazy about because you love your hubby. And thanks for defining that phenomenon, I’m glad it’s actually a thing and not just some random endless cycle we’re on.

    • Jill #
      April 23, 2012

      Nearly pissed myself laughing at the “learned blah-de-blah-de-fucking-blah” comment . . . and you would get smothered in your sleep for that in my house (or find a suspicious amount of bugs in your mouth while you are sleeping). My daughters would call me on the “You’re doing the teacher voice shit” all the time when I was pissed at them . . . so then I uncork on them and they wanted the “teacher voice shit” back.

    • April 23, 2012

      Ditto what my sister said! That might be one of the funniest comments. Sorry that I’m smiling at your frustration. :)

  14. Amanda W. #
    April 23, 2012

    Great post, Erika. I only have one kid so far (19 mo.), but I found myself nodding, saying, “Yes, so true…” as I was reading along. When I was pregnant, two women (mothers) told me things that really REALLY gave me some perspective. 1) “Having children really stressed my marriage. We have had to actually work on our relationship since becoming parents.” 2) “The first few months with a baby suck. It’s really hard, no one gets any sleep, and the baby isn’t any fun yet.” I am so glad that these friends of mine leveled with me rather than sugar-coated everything. Their comments helped to temper my expectations somewhat, but of course it’s been just as much work to keep our marriage going strong. It’s been hard enough at times that I’ve wondered if our relationship could survive having another baby. Ebb and flow, ebb and flow.

    Six months into motherhood I found that I had become very, and secretly, resentful when my husband went out to play on sports teams three nights per week, but I couldn’t even get out once for knit night. Then I realized that it was my fault – I hadn’t ASKED to have some time to get out. He’s a guy, so he had no idea. So I asked, and out I went. Such a small thing, but actually huge. Alone time. Creative time. Time to laugh and talk with other adults, other women. So completely necessary.

    Thanks for this post. It helps to hear that having to work at a marriage is normal.

    • April 23, 2012

      i love that, “such a small thing, but actually huge.”.
      it’s so true. i don’t know why, but sometimes we really do forget to ask for what we need not realizing that to the other person it might not be such a big thing to ask. i think as women we tend to internalize things a little more. or maybe that’s just me. anyway, what you said struck a chord with me. really, you’re lucky you figured it out six months in. it took me much longer than that : )

    • April 23, 2012

      Yes to 6 months!! It literally took me almost 2 years. I felt like work trips were my alone time. That’s so funny when I even read that. Work alone isn’t the same as enjoyable alone time.

  15. Jill #
    April 23, 2012

    Guess what? Just as soon as you figure out how to balance all this shit, something drastic will change like the boys getting jobs or driving or leaving. And the leaving sucked the hardest, not because they were gone but because they weren’t there. It’s amazing the amount of buffer that kids provide throughout the years. And when they aren’t there . . . then you really have to figure out the whole choppy waters thing. But when you do . . . god, is it nice? Then again, you have a sister to tell you all this shit.

    • April 23, 2012

      i can’t even mentally go there right now. promise we’ll still be friends when i hit that stage and you can slap me around with some real advice. because i’m not going to get it from anyone but you guys.

    • April 23, 2012

      Like I said earlier, every transition freaks me out. It’s a good thing you’re around.

    • April 24, 2012

      amen.

  16. joelynnej #
    April 23, 2012

    “I wasn’t changing my morals by making a quilt. I wasn’t saying, “I’ll do whatever you want from now on.” It was simply a nice thing to do.” HUGE. That statement changed my life White Oprah. Hats off to you!

    I get so frustrated with marriage and used to vent to my Mom. Once I was doing a lot more giving than taking, I felt, and she sent me this wee cast iron frying pan in the mail. When I called to ask her why, she said: “Every time he’s being a prick imagine hitting him the face with it.” I highly recommend it, the stress relief of that one fantasy played over and over again is phenomenal. Or you could just make a tshirt quilt.

    • April 23, 2012

      One day White Oprah will bring you a car. Only so we can find a DD and drive out drunk asses all over Canada spewing our own brand of bullshit.

      • joelynnej #
        April 23, 2012

        Don’t bring me no Ford Focus.

        YOU get a Maybach and YOU …. don’t. White Oprah’s too stingy for that shit. Don’t be cuttin’ into my booze budget!

        And yes, it has to be Canada, because quite frankly I don’t think I’m allowed in the States….. ;)

  17. Laura #
    April 23, 2012

    My marriage with children is without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And just when we think we’ve found a rhythm, something changes with the kids, etc. and we have to find a new rhythm. It’s a challenge and some weeks are harder than others, for sure. Lately, I feel like the asshole. The hardest thing for me has been to ask for what I want and need. Thank you for this post, Erika. Something I really admire about you is your ability to speak your truth. You are a brave and courageous soul. I’m excited to see the quilt when you’re finished!

    • April 23, 2012

      Thanks. Sometimes I wonder why it’s so hard. I want a solid reason. Maybe it’s 4 independent beings in one house. Maybe it’s really good things are worth the work. Maybe a bit of both. And I’m actually really excited about working on the quilt. For as much as I dragged my feet, it’s fun to revisit the memories.

  18. kathy #
    April 25, 2012

    truth

  19. Goda Ona #
    April 27, 2012

    I so love this post.. and reading all the comments.. such sense of belonging to the female gender I take from it.. Thanks for your authenticity! What I realize more than anything that for me personally the key to a successful relationship (with anyone really) is self awareness.. Being in touch with my feelings, needs in order to be able to communicate and avert/talk thru any issues.. Get angry and acknowledge it.. Get pissy and realize that maybe you’re unhappy with yourself and not the person you’re directing it to.. Like running late and finding myself pissed at my sound asleep boyfriend..

    That frying pan in the mail from mom thing joelynnej mentioned – had be cracking up :)

    • April 29, 2012

      Thanks and your words are so true!

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