Ok. I can’t write one more word on this blog without talking about my marriage.
This knowing that I have to write about us has been looming since I started writing about motherhood. Because, motherhood is not a solo endeavor for me. My experience as a mother is deeply entwined within the context of my marriage.
Being married is another area that I’m privileged as a mother. When I think about doing any of my life without Jayson right now, I want to run and hide. All I know is everything in my life would look TOTALLY different if it weren’t for my marriage.
As a mother, I rely on my husband for all kinds of things. Over the years, he has taken on the role of the family cook, middle of the night lactation consultant, expert swaddler of crying babies, and human jungle gym for our kids. He the one who pulls the all nighters with whoever has the fever, he’s our primary financial provider, and the one who bravely oversees a lot of the risky stuff my kids like to do (climbing things taller than 6 ft, whittling wood with knives, rock jumping in freezing creeks, you get the idea).
Ok, fine. That’s all helpful.
However, most importantly, my husband is the one who tracks me better than me.
He has helped to intervene when I am busy creating the perfect storm for my own demise (usually some version of doing too much and receiving too little, know that one? My acupuncturist calls it “yin depletion,” feminists call it “sacrificial mothering,” I think of it as the latest form of societal female oppression: exhaustion). My husband steps in and points out patterns that I engage in that contribute to me feeling depleted and overwhelmed.
He saves me from myself on a regular basis.
Take last night. I had just closed my computer and was beginning to feel the onset of a massive Facebook hangover (intensified by this full moon, I totally feel that stuff). You know, the one where I perceive every mother out there to somehow be running a business while also raising her children and seeming to have a fabulous time doing it all. (If you have this nightmare, too, read this spot on blog post).
I was sitting in a deep well of discouragement. I could feel my heartfelt aspirations as a mother and as a therapist: I want nothing more than to contribute to the growth and well being of others, and yet was totally overwhelmed by how the hell I’m going to do it without sacrificing my own well being in the process.
So my husband listens to me paint the picture of doom for myself. He listens as I doubt myself and all the difficult choices I have made over the last seven years since becoming a mother. He listens as I describe my struggle in this moment: how I can mother the way I want to and attend to my work in the world? How will I ever do this? How does anyone do this?! He watches as I slip into the fantasy that every other mother is figuring out something that I can’t seem to grasp.
He has seen me here before. So, it would be understandable if he tuned me out. Instead, he listens. He conveys his care with his eyes, words, and presence. I have total permission to be a mess. His response is consistent, loving, and simple, along the lines of “I love you and I believe in you.”
You know what? Its a fucking life changing experience to have the person that sees me in the midst of my meltdowns not check out, give me advice, or lose faith in me. On the contrary, he appreciates my struggles. He appreciates my depth and how I relate to my life. He gets that sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees. He hangs with me as I bushwhack my way out, which I do, over and over again.
So, really, when I talk about motherhood, I have to talk about this guy. This man who stands next to me, watching and holding my journey with me. He allows himself to learn about me and what maybe a lot of mothers go through as they navigate modern female life. He appreciates being trusted, included, and relied on.
With his calm and wise ways, he has pulled me off many motherhood cliffs.
So when I write about my life as a mother, and finding my way through the beautiful and dismantling maze of it, it is never by myself. It is always within the context of the strength, respect, and love of the man I married.
And before I get written off as simply “lucky,” I must acknowledge that I have put all of myself into making this marriage exactly what I want it to be. And so has he. We have worked hard for this relationship. Just ask anyone who was around while we were dating: it didn’t look promising.
My husband and I continue to make our marriage one of our highest priorities. Marriage isn’t easy, obviously. Undoubtedly, some of the hardest things I have ever done have to do with showing up for this relationship. And, everything in my life benefits when I do.
If you are in the fortunate position of having a partner, a husband, a person alongside you doing this whole thing with you, I have one thing to say: give it everything you have. Teach that person how to support you, and utilize their support. Also teach them how to challenge you and intervene when they see you fucking things up. That part may be even more important, depending on the day.
We only hurt ourselves if we take our partners for granted. It is a privilege to have someone to do this with, and we have nothing to lose by investing ourselves fully into it.
How do I show my appreciation for my husband showing up for me, saving my ass repeatedly, in a way I never believed was possible? I extend the same effort and intention to him. We do this for each other. So, I thank him by offering back to him what I am so grateful for him offering me.
Over and over again.