Today’s story starts here:
Aren’t we lovely?
But not the point. The point is this is us waving good-bye to life as we both knew it.
You don’t believe it before you get the marriage, house and kids.
People tell you.
But it’s kind of like when people told me it would be expensive to do a university school term in London, England.
I understood. But I didn’t really understand until I ran out of money mid-way through school term.
Regardless of how you order the whole mortgage, marriage and kids package, once you check those three items off your bucket list ….
… life is different.
My husband, during our engagement, had this joke (that he thought was brilliant) about how I was Killing Independent Chris!
I remember knowing at the time that I was supposed to smile and think it was funny.
But it grated.
At one point, as he was delivering this line to a close male friend of both of ours, I remember asking, “What about Independent Louise? Can we hold a wake for her too?”
It was an odd moment. And everyone looked sort of awkward.
Because women aren’t suppose to lament their loss of independence in that same way as men joke about, right?
Instead, it’s presented as the ultimate goal. The “all about the gown – OMG those were AMAZING centrepieces day” is marketed to us before we can fully form words as the ultimate female touchdown (complete with happy dance).
It’s how every princess gets to happily ever after.
I am happy.
But the death of Independent Louise was hard on me, once I’d realized it had happened.
The mortgage, marriage, kids stage of my life was like this four-year whirlwind of persistent new and exciting life milestone chart toppers.
YAY! We bought a house!
YAY! We got married!
YAY! Shared mat leave! This is about equal partnership!
YAY! Back to work! We’re totally gonna make this work!
YAY! “We’re” pregnant again! (Thank God! I miss mat leave.)
YAY! ‘Nother Baby! (‘Nother mat leave!!!!)
Yay(?) Back to work! I’m gonna take this itty bitty world by storm! And I’m just getting warm!
Uhh … right, with two kids and day care pick up by 5:15.
We’re TOTALLY gonna make this …
… transition back to regular programming … and readjustment to the realities of our thirties.
What exactly is that again?
For the visual people in the house, I made this collage of our last few years:
Figuring out how to make working motherhood and marriage work is hard.
I would still make no other choice.
I love my husband, I love my kids, and I love working.
But the transition to marriage and motherhood and where I am now, while at times exciting, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, wonderful and fulfilling, was also at times a confidence-breaking, frustrating, dreams meet reality crushing, exhausting, lonely and alienating experience.
Finding friends and ways to connect with those sharing your experiences is important to getting through life – at whatever stage you are in and with whatever path you’ve chosen. And, at least for me, with marriage and kids, I found the rules – as well as the time I had to invest – seemed to suddenly change.
Every time I’m invited (with three weeks notice and homework assignments) to a book club, cookie exchange or Arbonne party with the expectation that I should look on any of these as an honestly enjoyable experience and the way I’d like to best spend my increasingly limited free-time, I wonder where it was that I suddenly signalled that I found baking, buying make-up, (which I’ve never really worn), and assigned reading way more enjoyable than, say, the spontaneous outings to the bar of my pre-MRS years.
But I watched many of my female friends embrace and honestly appear to enjoy these activities.
I kept wondering if I would suddenly take to it. But I didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve done all the above and found them okay. And some of the best people I know enjoy baking and scouring Arbonne catalogues. If I didn’t feel like I was faking it, I’m sure I’d meet some great people at such events, but instead I found myself wondering if there was anyone at my age and stage who just wanted to go out for sushi and beer.
It took a while to find them and connect, but I now include them within the circle of people who help keep me being me.
We all NEED to connect.
And I’m pretty sure we all struggle with it at some point.
I blog to fill a connection gap.
And besides that?
Six years into marriage and five years into parenthood, here’s where I’ve landed on connection:
- my husband and I try really hard to have date nights, or to at least head out to the front porch after the kids are in bed to have a few drinks and, well, catch up.
- we aim for creating memories and events with the kids and stuff they look forward to doing with each of us. The girls and I have a weekly swim date with granny; we do movie nights on Fridays; T-ball has now become a twice-weekly outing for the whole family; dad takes them dancing Sunday mornings; I do manicures; the folks at Boston Pizza know our kids and my husband’s order etc…
- my husband and I give each other nights out with friends. We’d each be fine inviting the other into our circles and do from time to time, but having our own friends is healthy.
- we cultivate our own interests. He plays football and has a group of friends who all watch NASCAR. I’m involved with my university alumni association and blog. We give each other space to “do our stuff”.
- we eat dinner at my parents’ house every Sunday. They dote on the grandkids; we get a break; my mom cooks; it’s all kinds of awesome. My husband reserves the right to not attend if there is a NASCAR race. My father now follows NASCAR so they can have informed discussion on the topic when he does.
I’d love to tell you this makes it all work seamlessly.
No. But it mostly works. And I’ll take that.
What about you? If you are in the preschool-zombie zone of parenthood, what do you do to find connection with your spouse, kids, friends and yourself? Do you manage it and still keep true to you? If yes, share your secrets!