Posts Filed Under cohabitating with a man.

Honest Valentine’s, For Married People (Vol. III)

by renegademama

Alright at this point it’s just a tradition. Happy Valentine’s Day, lovebirds…

***

The other day, while scowling at the absurdity of one of those feel-good chocolate hearts and roses Valentine’s ads, I placed my pointer finger against my face in the classic thinking posture and asked myself… “Hmmmm…what would an honest Valentine’s Day card say?”

And then, as this thought rolled around in my [acutely insane] brain, I realized that this is no simple question, but rather depends entirely on how long the couple has been together.

Because as you probably know…that shit CHANGES. (Relationships, that is. Men, not so much.)

So this small, profound monologue got me thinking about the fact that there are (in my opinion) three stages in a relationship/marriage, each of them obviously necessitating a different Valentine, were it to be honest and real and able to speak the truth of the insanity. Err, I mean “budding love story.”

Wow. Deep.

Anyhoo, I give you this. I ask that you please enjoy the clip art.

Stage 1

Years 0-2: The “I haven’t Been With You Long Enough to Realize How Much You Annoy Me” stage, comprised of long walks and hand-holding, starry-eyed dinners, cocktails, discussions, movie-watching, reasonable arguments, cuddling and pet names. Also, smug looks directed at women who are in Stages 2 and 3 with their men, and a distinct feeling of superiority, having obviously been deemed the first woman in history to not wonder if she could turn herself into a lesbian to avoid further intimacy with the male population. Also, women in this stage rest easy in the comfort and surety that they will never, ever want to pummel their little love kitten with a meat cleaver. Because he’s PERFECT. Duh.

A Stage 1 Valentine looks something like one of these:

val1e

val1a

val1n

And now…

Stage 2, Years 2-5: The “Holy Shit I had no Idea You Had These Sorts of Habits” Stage, also known as the “I Must Mold You Into Something More Like What I Had In Mind” Stage, characterized by a lot of discussions with girlfriends regarding the man’s deficiencies, as well as a decent amount of wonderment and awe as the female discovers The Male is not at all perfect (and may actually have some sort of disability, as evidenced by the fact that he can’t find stuff that’s 3 inches from his forehead and insists on passing gas in bed). This stage also involves the surfacing of all other incomprehensible tendencies, causing the female to realize she’s going have to fix this character if they’re ever going to make it. And therefore, she begins to WORK, which of course results in long, long, long discussions, unreasonable bickering, maybe therapy but for sure tears, cajoling, threatening, flailing and general malaise, and, most likely, the arrival of an infant or two.

Honest Valentines at this stage may look like this:

valentine2f

val2a

 

And then, if the couple in question makes it past Stage 2, they enter Stage 3 (years 6 – ?), commonly known as the “Well Obviously You are not Going to Change and I’m Tired of Fighting so I’ve Accepted you and your Weirdness” Stage. (Yes, these stages have awkwardly long titles. Not particularly catchy, I know. Don’t blame me. I didn’t make it up.) Oh wait.

As you can see, this is something of a deal-breaker stage – since it’s pretty much Stage 3 or Stage Bye-Bye. Stage 3 is characterized by a lot of glaring but less complaining, fewer divorce threats and a surface-level acceptance of small, irritating habits (such as buying odd gadgets that will never ever be used EVER, or eating onions before bed). It also involves some strange compromises (“Honey, if you pick up your bath towel from the floor every day, I’ll start squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom.”) and subtle retaliation (as opposed to the long, long, long discussions in stage 2 (or therapy)). On the plus side, this Stage results in a weird peace and vague sense of serenity and, occasionally, some intense relief  regarding the fact that you didn’t throw in the towel when things got rough (and therefore, thank god, you don’t have to deal with these hoodlum children alone). Women in this stage feel a little like badass survivors of some great calamity, like a tsunami, or fire. “We almost didn’t make it, kids. We really had to work HARD to make this marriage work. Ah, but look at us now…”

And we feel a little victorious. And yeah, alright, I’ll say it: A little in love.

Enough of the sappy crap.

Real valentines in this stage may look something like this:

val3a val3c

val3t

Sometimes people ask where I come up with this crap.

In response, I give you one word: LIFE.

As proof, I give you this…

My own real life Stage 3 Valentine (from last year, but not much has changed).

xoxoxo

 

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10 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | February 14, 2014

No really, what does love have to do with it?

by renegademama

I am officially tired of people talking about “love” as the glue that seals a marriage. You know, the “all you need is love” mentality. Like if you “love” each other enough, things will stay cool. If your “love” is strong enough you will end up together in 59 years, rocking in old oak chairs on the porch of the home where your family was raised.

This all sounds nice in theory, and it sure looks good in Meg Ryan movies, but there is one [rather enormous] problem with this approach: When your marriage is really, really in trouble – when it’s actually at risk of disintegrating – the last thing you fucking feel is “love.”

Profound irritation? Yes.

Rage? Probably.

Desperation? For sure.

Loathing? (Did I say that?)

Boredom, disillusion and a profound sense of regret? Good chance.

But love? Nah. That’s something you wish you could remember from those early days when it still seemed a possibility. It’s that elusive thing you think will fix your marriage, if you could only get a hold of the slippery little bastard.

You see it around every corner: Your annoying little sister and her new wife. The love songs. The movies. The Hallmark cards. Damn. The adoration is palpable. It’s so believable, so seductive. That feeling you had with your first love in high school – what if I could have that again? I deserve that! Why don’t I have that anymore?

You remember those first few months or year or two you spent with the person you married – that feeling of falling home in their arms – when “soul mate” made sense to you and “you complete me” actually resonated.

What the hell happened? What exactly is this pile of shit I’m living in now?

Damn. If you could just “fall in love again.” If you could just “rekindle the old spark.”

Find that lost love.

But while you ache for the love that’s gone, there’s this man (or woman), in the house, annoying the shit out of you. He’s like all human. Excessively flawed. It’s not hot. It’s not interesting. And it’s certainly not love-inducing. You’ve become the worst of yourself and you know it. You can’t communicate with this person. He’s a stranger you know everything about, so you’re not just irritated, you’re BORED. You walk around raw, in a state of isolation surrounded by your family. Falling into a pit of “I can’t believe this has become my life,” you sink deeper in the surety that you made a huge, terrible mistake.

I guess you never loved him. Or maybe he never loved you.

It feels that way to the depths of your bones. It becomes like air to you. You grieve, but eventually you’re done fighting and you grow numb. There’s a chance you don’t care anymore.  You just want peace. You just want things to change.

In that moment you make a choice: Stay or go. Drop the bastard like a bad habit or settle for a shit life with a subpar human.

And in my experience, “love” is not the determining factor of that decision.

Why? Because in that moment I can’t feel “love,” so how the hell can it help me?

How can something I can’t feel have any effect on my life? How can something that doesn’t exist guide my choices like some sort of shining beacon of hope?

That’s right. IT CAN’T.

My husband and I have had some dark times. We separated for two years once. I was sure we were done. He reached a point where he agreed.  And yet, on December 19 we celebrated 12 years of marriage. (Of course I’m using that term “celebrated” rather loosely. We were actually fighting all day and didn’t “make up” until it was too late to “celebrate,” but whatevs.)

You know what’s kept my marriage together? You know what’s kept us from pulling the plug permanently?

WORK.

Just work. Sweat and blood and grime. Nasty, dirty WORK. The super ugly kind. The kind that covers you with black dust of unknown origin and clogs your nostrils and nearly stops your breath from exhaustion.

If that’s “romance,” well then shit, romance saved our marriage.1010675_10201533207475101_154869193_n

But it’s not. It’s not romance, not a rediscovery of sparks or whatever the fuck. Not a renewed commitment to love. Just work, fueled by a relentless, slightly irrational refusal to give up.

As in, I gritted my teeth, screamed “FUCK IT” into the universe and held on for dear life.

Why?

Because I could not stomach the alternative.

Another woman around my kids, co-parenting, the kids darting back and forth between houses the way I did when I was young, shared holidays, the fact that I would have to go through this same damn process with another man. SO yeah. That’s why I stayed. Isn’t that sweet?

No. It’s not sweet. It’s desperate. I couldn’t win. If I left, I faced a life I didn’t want. If I stayed, I faced a life I didn’t want.

And friends, I had some solid evidence for the “this whole thing was a mistake” theory. Most of you know this, but I’ll repeat anyway: My husband and I met in a drunken stupor at the ages of 19 (him) and 21 (me). I knew him for three months when I found out I was pregnant. We were both drunk for the majority of our three-month “courtship.” Though I was “sure: I “loved him” and there was something in him I had never seen before in a man, the truth is we were kids who married and had a kid. We “got to know each other” while engaging in the work of pregnancy and child-rearing. We had no business doing either. (Incidentally, I’m still shocked that baby has grown into a totally decent kid, which furthers my theory that parents have very little effect on the outcome, but I digress.)

After I had the baby, we moved into his parents’ house so I could stay home with her. We got married when she was one-month old, at the courthouse, on a cold December day. As if it were a sign, I wore all black. Ha! (No really I did.)

mac2

I’ll never forget the first time I realized without a doubt I had made the biggest mistake of my life. My baby was a day or two old. She had woken in the night and I got up with her. There was a rocking chair in our bedroom, facing a big window. I sat in that rocking chair and nursed my baby with aching nipples and fear. I looked back at the barely man sleeping behind me. I looked at my baby in the moonlight. I looked back at the man in the bed and I said to myself “You’ve ruined your life.” The words roared into my brain and planted themselves right at the center. They were true.

And I knew it.

But I also knew I was inextricably connected to both of these humans, for the duration, and I was terrified. I wanted out but there was no out. I had a life I was going to live, before. It’s gone now.

What had I done?

And that, my friends, serves as the foundation of my love story.

I realize not everybody has this experience. I realize some of you took your time and dated and shit and got married when you knew this was a human who could work with you as a domestic life partner (as opposed to having a kid and hoping for the best). Maybe you’re all swooning in love all the time and it’s always been smooth and good and loving. And you know what? Good for you. I mean it. I think that’s rad sauce. BUT I’M NOT TALKING TO YOU.

I’m talking to those of you who can’t see in and can’t see out. I’m talking to those of you who can’t find the love. And I’m talking to the people who have straight evidence (as I did) that they were stupid fucks and made a giant mistake.

So many people divorce because “they love him but they’re not ‘in love’ with him.”

Every time I hear that I want to respond: OF COURSE YOU’RE NOT. That’s what marriage is, dude: Loving somebody despite the fact that the “sparks” have gone. Committing to somebody beyond the initial “OMG let’s have sex in all the places.”

The “in love” period is a phase, the beginning phase of three-phase deal. That’s my theory, anyway.

Am I telling you to stay with your partner? God no.

Am I telling you not to divorce? Fuck no.

Photo by Tracy Teague

What the hell do I care what you do? I don’t know shit about marriage. I only know what happened to me, and it’s this: It was only after I settled, gave up, surrendered to a crap marriage with a man I knew I didn’t love that I fell into a love deeper than I ever knew possible.

It’s so backwards I can’t explain it. It makes no sense.

It was only after I threw up my arms and gave up fighting, figured “Well this is hell, but it’s your hell, Janelle, so get used to it” that I was, a year or two or three later, able to recognize that while I was busy hating my marriage and trying to “fix” the man I married, love had found its way between us and I stood across from a human who made my stomach flutter, a little, when he called. But not because of romance or newness or fresh flirtation, but because a life had been built beneath us – 13 years of struggle and work and joy and I was only 21 when we met. I’m 34 now. And there is so much meaning there. That’s the hottest shit there is.

I look at him and I see history. I see shit that matters. I see life and growth. And I’m grateful there’s been no cheating, or beating, or other absolute deal-breakers. And I’m grateful he’s been willing to work too, because it cannot be a one-sided mission. And I can’t believe he stayed with me, waited for me, a once worthless alcoholic, a woman who abandoned him and our kids and life. And I can’t believe he knew the moment to say “Kick rocks, bitch” and the strength of his soul and arms and heart complete me. Ha. Like a motherfucking soul mate.

No. Not like that.

Rather, like I see I’ve got a damn good deal with a fucking great man who I love with a depth beyond the surface, because of WHO HE IS and WHAT HE’S DONE in the time that I’ve been lucky enough to know him.

40382_1575895720353_4927693_nLove is not something that held us together.

Love is something that developed over the years that we were held together through bulldog like tenacity.

It sure as hell blindsided me, friends.

I guess because I had given up, I was able to see him for the man he is, not the projection of what I wanted him to be (cause that ain’t love, folks). Not the screen onto which I cast my expectations and needs, but rather a man who has stood by my side and built with me an insane gorgeous disastrous perfect life.

And I fucking love him for it.

And I want to get older with him, to see where it all goes.

And when our kids leave I’ll stand somewhere more wrinkly and kinda old and a little spent and I’ll look at him and remember 21 and 34 and 40 and 50 and he will be the constant, like a long lost beacon of hope – Ha! As if.

Nah, he’ll be what he is now: the one who’s committed to me as I’ve committed to him. The one who agreed to let go of the bullshit in light of that one single interest, in light of a life we’re building together, in light of this partnership. And what’s happened is that partnership has found its spot in the motherfucking cosmos – a little life of its own – and we flirt and laugh and hold hands again because it’s bigger than us, because it holds us up with a love we never knew was possible, a friendship that spans a decade and a connection that’s reborn in newborn breath and the squeals of our tween’s attitude and Santa Cruz and camping trips and each night when we crash into the same bed, over years, in pain and boredom and delight – and that alone is breathtaking.

It doesn’t always work. I know that. All I want to tell you is that there’s a chance it might.

Because that was something I never believed, until I saw it with my own eyes, and felt it with my own gut – the slippery little bastard that sits now like an old friend on a worn-out bedside table.

www.renegademothering.com

Stealing a kiss and taking a photo at the fair like a couple of goddamn newlyweds.

 

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If you tilt your head to one side and squint, my yelling will look like “gratefulness”

by renegademama

I would just like to announce that I have officially lost control of my children.

I thought I lost control when child 3 entered the world, but I hadn’t.

I lost it Sunday. Or at least I realized it Sunday. It was confirmed today.

You see, child 3 has grown old enough to follow the directions of her older siblings, which brings the number of insane noise-makers with remarkably poor judgment to THREE.

You know how many there are of me? ONE.

So we’re driving home on Sunday in our big-ass SUV and all three kids are lined up in one seat (long story), and they start having “fun.” You know, “fun,” as in the silly crap kids do that I’m supposed to think is “cute” but really I just find annoying, which simultaneously makes me feel guilty and inadequate, because as a mother I’m supposed to bask in the antics of my little ones, RIGHT? So I’m irritated, guilt-ridden and questioning my capacity for mothering while wanting to stab myself in the face. Just another day in paradise.

More on that later.

So anyway they get bored and start making Georgia repeat some line from horrible show like 27,000 times, and they’re squealing and laughing and making noises that remind me of what I imagine a donkey on meth might sound like. It’s as if the noises are actually SCRATCHING MY BRAIN OUT. Like I can see it in shreds at my feet. A big pile of it.

Ok that was graphic, but you feel me, right?

I gently ask them to settle down. IGNORED.

I sternly ask them to settle down. They’re quiet for approximately 47 seconds.

They giggle and start up again.

I look over at Mac (I’m driving, of course. I’m always driving. It’s not my fault the man can’t drive properly.), and you know what he’s doing? SMILING.

I swear to you he’s giggling. AS IF IT’S CUTE.

His eyes mock my agony: “Aren’t they sweet?” they seem to say, “Aren’t you glad we have kids?”

No joke, this strange species of human thinks this crap is charming. I want to kill myself and he’s looking at me like “Let’s have another, please?”

And that, people, is why my kids will always, ALWAYS like their dad more than they like me. On the plus side, I figure he’ll balance out my generally poor attitude and short temper. I mean one patient parent is enough, right? You know, to raise well-adjusted children? Let’s talk about something else.

So clearly he’s no help. I’m in this alone.

I plug in my phone and turn up Macklemore really, really loud, hoping to drown out the sound of their death screams. I meant “playful songs.”

Doesn’t work. Just gets them louder.

I tell myself I’m a rock in a stream.

I follow my breath like Thich Nhat Hanh says I should.

I remind myself it’s just 20 more minutes to the house.

Then I yell. Loud.

“BE QUIET! I can’t take this anymore!! NO MORE TALKING! NOT ANOTHER SOUND! The next kid to scream is doing an hour of chores when we get home!”

That shit used to work. You know what happened this time? They made church straight-faces for about 12 seconds then burst into laughter when Georgia announced “I pedo” (I fart).

And that’s when I knew: I’ve yelled so much they don’t even hear me anymore. Well shit, that’s rad. My kids have become immune to me.  Parenting WIN!

I recalled reading somewhere once that if you yell at your kids too much eventually they stop acknowledging your yells. Apparently that’s true. Who knew? Guess I’ll have to start some more advanced parenting approaches, maybe like, um, well fuck. I don’t actually know any advanced parenting approaches.

Please don’t share any with me. I have a mental block against improving as a parent. Actually I just hate helpful parenting advice. We’ve been over that. I much rather prefer blowing it enough times I give up and try something new.

Don’t ever say I don’t have a system.

So I resign myself to the chaos. I give the whole situation a mental “fuck it” and turn on Kingsley Flood (my most recent band obsession) as loud as I want, and start singing.

Eventually I forget the demon spawn. Sort of.

As we drive along my mind drifts to the words I’ve heard so many times: “Why do you have children if you’re just going to complain about them?”  Having just done a large amount of mental complaining about my children, the sentiment was particularly poignant.

You chose to have kids. Deal with it.

As if deciding to do something in life negates the possibility that that thing might get hard at some point, and you’ll want to express that. As if pursuing a path results in nothing but infinite joy as you follow it through the years.

You made this bed, sleep in it. Don’t expect us to listen to you whine.

And I wonder if this sentiment is equally distributed among all professions, or if there is a special expectation reserved for mothers, a special spot carved out just for us: Because we’re “mothers,” we’re “nurturers,” right?

And nurturers don’t want to launch themselves out of a moving Expedition on account of the horrible noises being emitted by their offspring.

They love that shit. They match chaos with fortitude, serenity, perspective.

They had these kids because they just love it. All of it: the noise chaos squeals cackling kicking crying and bickering. Obviously.

[Or, they marry a dude who loves it hoping he’ll make up for their deficiencies. I jest. I had no idea he was like that. ]

Well, check this out, my friends. I’m going to say this loud and clear: I don’t love it all. I particularly don’t love feeling like I’ve lost control of my kids. Some people are going to read this and say “Well, if she were a better mother she wouldn’t be having these problems.”

AND I’M SURE THAT’S TRUE.

But the fact is I’m not a better mother. I’m this mother and my kids irritate the hell out of me sometimes and I don’t handle it well. I’m this mother and I don’t love every second of child-rearing and this is my job and sometimes it FEELS LIKE A JOB just like any other job a human might have, and if the world thinks I need to shut my mouth and suck it up like some grateful puppy begging at the door of my master, well the world can bite me.

Mothers are doing some seriously hard work, as hard as any work being done anywhere. And we won’t hide our sweat or shut the hell up because society thinks we should bow our heads in gratefulness at the profound opportunity to be mothers.

We are grateful, and it is profound. OTHERWISE WE WOULDN’T BE DOING IT – day in and day out. It’s not that we’re doing more or less than anybody else in the world. We are just doing a very particular kind of work, sometimes thankless work, and for some reason we face an expectation that we do it gracefully, gratefully, smiling, full of laughter and sunshine, all the time. Because it’s beautiful, pastel motherhood!

Frankly, it’s fucking ridiculous.

Motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it’s raw and messy and real. And yet, I’m doing it. I’m always already doing it. Against my better judgment, I keep on keepin’ on.

As do you.

But we don’t have to do this alone, and we sure as hell don’t need to do it quietly.

 

Forgive us if our voices grate on your ears, upset your groove, irritate the living hell out of you.

We know how that feels.

We deal with it every day.

 

What's the big deal, mom?

What’s the big deal, mom?

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To the Childless People Wondering Why We’re Such Losers

by renegademama

Occasionally I come across a blog post saying something like this “So all my friends are having babies and I just really don’t understand why they’ve all lost themselves. I mean does having a baby mean the end of life? Of adulthood? Why do they put their kids first all the time? Why can’t they hang out with friends like they used to, drink some cocktails, GET A LIFE?”

I read a blog recently by some childless bag – wait, I didn’t mean that – I meant “blogger” who was simply appalled, aghast, offended, by the way her friends had just morphed into these pathetic adult imposters, consumed by their children, simply lifeless. I would link to it but I’m afraid you all would slaughter her with your wit and intelligence. That was not a sarcastic statement.

I’ll be honest, the first thing I wanted to do was rant like a psycho, but I’m not going to. Because I’m above that. Right?

Oh of course I’m not. I think I’ve proven that enough times.

However, in an entirely uncustomary gesture, I’m going to give these people the benefit of the doubt and assume they aren’t simply pricks, but instead really just don’t get it.

Yeah, I know. Mother Theresa and whatnot.

So, as a sort of public service announcement to people who write things like the aforementioned, I’m going to provide a little insider info on the topic, hoping to help them understand how their new-parent friends morphed into such despicably boring, haggard versions of their former selves.

First of all, childless people who can’t understand the degradation of your friends (NOT ALL CHILDLESS PEOPLE, OBVIOUSLY), I need to clear something up, right out of the gate: Most of the time you’re hanging out with us, WE’RE FUCKING FAKING IT. We only LOOK normal. We’re not normal. We’re losing our shit. But we don’t want you to see that because you’re childless and won’t understand. You’re still living in this alternate universe where things like “dinner dates” are enjoyable, or at least have the potential to be enjoyable.

Allow me to illustrate:

You want us to “hang out with friends” more often, presumably without kids, right? Did I get that right? Okay, check this out.

We’re meeting you and your significant other for dinner. Dinner on a Friday evening at a restaurant 45-minutes away, at 7pm. That sounds, easy, RIGHT? Well yes it is.

For you.

Here’s your experience: Come home from work, screw around on the internet, have a glass of wine, a snack, hop in the shower, bathe yourself leisurely, get out, towel off, peruse the closet, get dressed. Have your partner get ready. Pour another class of wine, maybe chat with a friend on speakerphone while you put on make-up, do your hair, put on shoes, get in the car at 6pm so you don’t have to rush…order a cocktail when you get there. Have dinner with friends, go out for a drink after, dance a little to work off dinner. Come home around 1am, have sex, sleep til 9am or 10am. Wake up to some coffee, chat about how sad it is that your friends have all “lost themselves” after they have kids.

Do you know what this little soiree looks like for us? No, no you don’t. But because I love you, I’m going to tell you. Here you go.

Dinner date with another couple at 7pm on a Friday at a restaurant 45 minutes away for a couple with a toddler and a baby…

Begin worrying about it approximately 5 minutes after the date is made because:

Who the fuck is going to watch the kids?

  1. Grandparents? Best option, but they live 30 minutes away, which will make getting to the restaurant in time impossible because there’s Friday traffic. You could leave work early but not really because you already did it twice this month for baby doctor appointments. Plus, after dinner you’ll have to drive super far and Childless Friends are probably going to want drinks after…
  2. Hire a babysitter? Well, at $20.00/hour, from 6pm until at least 11pm, that’s $100, which will make this evening (not including gas) at least $200. Holy SHIT!
  3. One of us goes and the other stays home? No, then our Childless Friends will think we’ve lost ourselves and can’t “date” anymore, and all those stupid online forums say you simply MUST “date” your husband if you want the marriage to last. DAMNITALLTOHELL.

Guess we’ll go with babysitter. Hire the babysitter.

Spend the next two weeks going about your life, completely forgetting about the dinner date because life is insane and chaotic and never stops, until that afternoon when the reminder pops up on your iPhone and you almost wet your pants in fear (shoulda done those kegels!).

Race from work to daycare, call husband fifty times to remind him of the damn dinner date because you KNOW he’s forgotten. Plus, he was up all night with the baby who’s teething so he’ll definitely not be into this. Holy shit he’s teething! OMG I’m leaving my baby when he’s teething!

I can’t do it.

Call husband to announce teething and discuss how the hell you’re going to leave an insane infant with a non-family-member. Realize your husband has no opinion on the subject. DEMAND A DIVORCE IMMEDIATELY (in your head).

Figure out on your own what to do (as always, I mean seriously): baby Tylenol. Remember you used the last of it. Remember husband was supposed to buy some yesterday.

Ask husband. Hear “I forgot.”

KICK HIM IN THE BALLS. (in your head). Tell him to get Tylenol on the way home and you can’t live under these conditions anymore. Answer approximately 750 questions from your toddler girl as you drive home trying to figure out the maelstrom ahead of you. Pull in the driveway. Leave all the kids’ daycare stuff (bags bottles, nap mat sheet, 12 pounds of paperwork, art work, etc.) in the car because you can’t handle it.

Walk in the door, realize you left one of the dogs in the house so there’s piss on the kitchen floor. The toddler just walked in it. It’s 5:35. Freak out because it’s 5:35.

Try to plug toddler into television. Nurse pissed off infant. Make sure there’s pumped milk in the freezer. O thank god, two bags. Hear the husband come home. Want to punch him in the face.

Give baby to husband and get in the shower. Remember you haven’t shaved in three weeks and the only dress you have that fits your post-partum body is knee-length, which requires shaving but THERE’S NO TIME. Consider other clothes. None. Tights? Yeah right.

Shave. Wonder how to do your hair. Wonder how long it’s been. Wonder if you even have a blow-dryer.

Hear your baby screaming. Try to block it out.

Babysitter arrives. Get out of the shower while yelling instructions to the babysitter through the door. Wonder why the hell your husband isn’t getting ready. Yell at him too. Wonder if you have any clean underwear.

Put on Spanx, nursing pads and the dress. Look for shoes. Realize there’s only one shoe. Remember toddler playing in the closet this morning so you could take care of the baby. Holy fuck the toddler has REMOVED THE SHOE.

The only dress shoes I have!

Mayday! Mayday! I’m missing a shoe. It’s been deposited somewhere by a TODDLER, which means it’s in the ONLY PLACE IN THE WORLD you’d NEVER think it will be, possibly in the toilet.

Run around the house like a madwoman looking for the godforsaken shoe, find it in the dog crate, chewed by the other bastard canine.

Put on shoes that don’t go with the dress at all, realize Childless Friends will think you’ve lost all fashion sense. Realize you have.

See that it’s 6:10. Squeal.

Freak out at your husband. Notice he’s dressed, but wearing a shirt that needs about 20-minutes of ironing. Also observe he hasn’t showered even though he’s an ironworker. (Wait. Maybe that’s just me.)

Bolt out the door anyway, leaving behind a forlorn toddler and a baby who’s teething and OMG the dog piss on the floor and shit I forgot to tell the babysitter about the Tylenol and potty-training and not to put the breast milk in the microwave – wait, I told her that, right? – I mean she’s done it before. Look down and see baby vomit.

On the only dress you have that fits.

Wipe it off. Tell yourself breast milk puke doesn’t smell that bad.

Get in the car, start driving, spend the whole trip on the phone with the baby sitter, giving her details you forgot and trying to apply make-up.

Arrive at the restaurant at 7:10, smiling calmly with your hand in your husband’s, ready to “enjoy a relaxing, adult evening.” Act pulled-together, happy to be there, adult, social.

“How are you guys? How are the kids?”

“We’re great! It’s so great to see you! It’s just so great to be OUT, having a LIFE!”

Want to vomit as you realize your baby is at home, teething, without you.

Go through dinner…enjoying yourself, sort of, but also kind of faking it, because honesty will scare these people away and possibly result in the discontinuation of humanity. I mean who’s going to have kids when they realize The Truth?

Wait, was that my outside voice? Totally didn’t mean that.

 

So there, Childless People wondering why we’re such losers, do you get it a little better? Are you seeing things a little more clearly?

Maybe you see two adults who’ve added this baby to their lives, like an accessory, like a pet, like this new cute thing you carry around when you want it and drop when you don’t.

That’s what you see.

We, however, are LIVING something different.

We are having fundamentally different experiences of reality.

At every moment. In every interaction. We may look normal, we may look right there with ya, but you have NO IDEA HOW MUCH WORK it took to get ourselves to where we sit right now, in this restaurant, dressed, childless…

So please, don’t hate, when after a bottle or two of wine you and your Childless Cohort suggest a cocktail at this great place down the road and we look at you with a smile, trying to muster the energy, remembering the babysitter money rolling down the bowl of the toilet, and the toddler snoozing in her big-girl bed, and the baby…who could be crying…wait, do I have a text from the babysitter? – and the exhaustion, of the new life, the priorities that have shifted.

Don’t hate, just see, that you aren’t the most important thing in our lives anymore, and frankly, neither is that damn cocktail.

Also, we’re really fucking tired. Like really, really really tired. Like a tired that rests on our bones, all the time.

And there’s no sleeping in for those “adult imposters.”

You know, those people with “no life,” raising life, providing life, trying to adjust to a new life, remembering their old life, with people like you in it, kind of wishing we could go back there, when things were simpler and easier and more glamorous, and there was leisure and after-dinner cocktails, and…

then again, maybe not.

 

Nope, no life. No life at all.

Nope, no life. No life at all.

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Meg Ryan Ruins Marriages

by renegademama

 

There’s that line from When Harry Met Sally: “You look like a normal person, but actually, you are the angel of death.”

We should rewrite that about Meg: “You look like the epitome of marital felicity, but actually, you are the destroyer of marriages.”

Oh come on. I know Meg Ryan doesn’t write the scripts for those romantic comedies. Duh. I realize there’s a good chance she thinks that stuff is inane drivel, but you have to admit, Ms. Ryan and her perky blonde curls, the unbelievably heartfelt love stories she tells, the “true love,” the best friendship, the soul mate stuff…she’s like the quintessential depiction of “all that a marriage should be.”

Or, as I like to call it “The Shit that Ruins Marriages.”

Let me explain: We watch movies like that from the time we’re young and it gives us ideas. Expectations. Beliefs.

And then we meet that special someone and we’re all “OMG I’ve found my soul mate, just like in the movies!”

And we’re just SURE he’s the one and the love story is coming true and OMG it’s all so good.

But then we get married, and one or two or three years later we’re like “Who is this douchebag and why is he in my house?”

And every day feels like work and work and MORE WORK. You hate your husband and he pretty much hates you.

There’s no romance. There’s only confusion and miscommunication and yelling and silence. There are tears and reflection of the “old days” when you were new to the relationship and actually liked each other. And you’re sure you’ve made a tragic mistake. Something’s happened to your marriage; the love has died. The friendship has flickered. Something is terribly wrong.

And all you can do when nobody’s around is think: But it’s not supposed to be like this! Marriage is supposed to be fulfilling! It’s supposed to be fun and interesting and enlightening! We’re supposed to laugh and flirt and have sex on the kitchen floor. Witty banter, coy smiles, dancing!

No, that’s not it. And since nobody else seems to be saying it, I guess I’ll take the plunge and just throw this out: “Marriage is the hardest fucking work in the world and the only thing that makes it last is bulldog-like tenacity and full acceptance of the fact that your partner is not supposed to give your life meaning.”

I can’t believe I just said that out loud.

But it’s true.

I’m no authority on marriage. OBVIOUSLY.

But sometimes, my friends get married. Then, about a year later, I get a phone call or fifty, generally announcing something along the lines of “I made a mistake. I hate being married. Screw this shit.”

And I’m like, “Yes, well. Welcome to the club.”

Them: “This is nothing like what I expected.”

Me: “Yeah. I know.”

Them: “I’m not fulfilled. This is totally not fulfilling. In fact, I hate the motherfucker.”

Me: “Yeah. I know.”

Them: “How did you and Mac make it so long?”

Me: “We didn’t divorce.”

And then there’s a weird silence while they try to think of a friend to call who’s actually helpful.

Having gotten married too young on a cold December day with a baby in a sling across my body, under a tree in front of a courthouse of a hideous town, dressed in all black, I started my marriage in a highly unromantic way.

We were insanely in love when we first met. You can read about it here. But after that, for a variety of reasons (mostly involving immaturity and Captain Morgan), we spent years and years doing everything in our power to obliterate our little love story. We often loathed one another.

Like seriously hated each other. We separated a couple times, but always came back together. I just never left for good. Why?

You want the truth?

Because I couldn’t stomach the thought of another woman being around my children.

Yeah, I know. It’s profound. Super romantic. Real Sleepless in Seattle shit.

But it’s the truth. I’m telling you this so you understand that THAT is how little “love” I felt. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t feel it. All I knew is that I didn’t want a broken family. So I held on and held on and so did he and I’ll be damned if eleven years later, we’re still here, and we’re doing alright.

Most of the time. The rest of the time it’s yelling and screaming and wishing I could whack him with blunt objects. But that’s rare these days. Much to my astonishment, it’s pretty rare. And I’ll even say, we’re happy.

But nobody talks about the price you have to pay to get that “happy.” The longed-for “happy marriage.” Nobody talks about the screaming and the agony and the silent nights – after night, after night, of the same. The cruel insults and utter dismissal. The depression. The counseling. The soul-crushing inability to connect with a person you used to feel inextricably connected to.

The moment you realize “Whatever. Fuck it. I guess this is as good as it gets.”

And you surrender.

Because there’s nowhere  else to go and the thought of starting over with a NEW MAN is about as appealing as stabbing yourself in the eye with a razor blade, so you just give up. You “resign” yourself, even though you swore you’d never do such a thing…I mean how SAD! How pathetic!

You’ve sold out. It’s over. You’ve never been so down.

And in that moment of total desperation, in the deepest sorrow you’ve ever felt, the insane thought enters your mind… “Maybe marriage isn’t supposed to ‘fulfill’ me.”

Maybe I’m meant to live my life fully and completely and let him live his, and independently we build this thing together, but separately, and I let him be and he lets me be, because the “change each other” plan isn’t working, and I can’t live with him and I can’t live without him.

Maybe those movies were wrong, you think to yourself. Maybe Meg fucking Ryan lied.

Maybe I had it all wrong.

And with your heart in your gut and the surety your life is over, you stop fighting and accept the douchebag for who he is, and you make peace with the fact that he’ll never fully meet your expectations, he’ll never be your perfect “soul mate,” the one who makes your life whole and full and meaningful like the italicized poetry in those Hallmark cards.

[Alright maybe some people have Hallmark marriages from day one. Yeah, well, some people also experience “orgasms” during childbirth. The only thing to do with those people is assume they’re fucking lying and move on.]

For the rest of us, staying married often feels like stepping into an abyss and falling, forever, into the unknown.

Until two or three or four years go by, and one day you’re sitting on the couch with that same man and you break into laughter about something only you two understand, or you tell a friend about 10 years ago, when you first met, or you see him sleeping with your son curled against his chest, and in a flash you realize you’re desperately, terribly in love. That something has happened when you weren’t looking, that some new man stands before you and you hold him in respect with all your heart and there’s admiration and true, lasting friendship. He’s there, still, through history and hell and somehow, a life built itself while you were busy arguing, tearing each other apart, sure this couldn’t possibly be life.

And like war survivors you think back and know you’ve got each other only, a dark crazy history, and a family so gorgeous it makes your head spin.

My god, you think, I’ve got a goddamned love story.

And with everything you’ve got you want to thank your younger self and the universe for not giving up, for staying there, for this, even though you never knew it possible, to have this, with the man you were sure you “didn’t love anymore.”

You sit back, watching your friends get married, still a little amazed they look at you and him as a picture of a “happy marriage.” But mostly you can’t believe you really are happy, usually, and in love, mostly, and okay with all of it, the way it’s turned out, in the big picture, the only picture that really matters.

A Meg Ryan love story.

Fused perfectly with Apocalypse Now.

In the greatest love story ever told.

Or this, which is good enough for me.

 

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