Husbands, You Can Help Us Give You What You Desire.
As a one-time stay at home mother, wife and therapist, let me tell you, I get it. I agree wholeheartedly with your plight. I’ve seen all of the complaints you have played back in my memory. On behalf of women who are able to recognize this behavior in themselves, let me explain.
As a mother, I’ve spent hours doing hair, scrubbing vomit from carpet, and driving to gymnastics. I’ve let my love life crumble and resented the eight hours my spouse spent away at work, while my job seemed to be never-ending. As a therapist, I’ve spoken with many women who no longer feel they can wear white (unless, of course, they don’t mind the visible mud and boogers), and see their calling in life as The Divine’s idea of Groundhog’s Day. Mother is a badge we proudly wear, because we’ve told ourselves that to want more or different is wrong, or it’s all we’ve ever wanted in life, having prepared for this moment since before we can remember. And somehow we should be able to handle it all. It’s hard to do the same things over and over, see your body change in a way you could never imagine, and sacrifice the notion of “spare time”. We either get serious about it, or lay on the sofa while the kids write on the walls. And in some ways, we lose ourselves.
I hear that you want to be close, to feel some kind of pre-child intimacy (that doesn’t involve doing the dishes). I hear that you want to be a more active dad without being criticized for it. I hear that you want to see a healthy balance of wife and mother. And most of all, you don’t want to feel like you’re fading into the background as some silent ghost. Let me tell you how you can help us give you all that you desire:
Help Me Remember Myself
You would not believe how many times I’ve asked a mother “Tell me about your interests, what do YOU like to do?”, and been met with a bewildered stare. You know that time when you had your first baby, and your wife said to you, “It’s only been a [minuscule amount of time] and I can’t even remember what it was like before they were born!” Well, she was serious. When we set aside 22 hours of the day to a newborn, we tend to forget who we are. However, you remember. You can encourage us to do some of those things that we used to love. And you will happily arrange child care, or take on the duty yourself (breathe deep). The wife that you’ll have coming home to you after an hour of yoga will be more ready for serious cuddling than the one who stayed home.
Help Me Remember Our Love
Rituals play a significant role in a couple’s perception of marital satisfaction. Unfortunately, it seems that when children are introduced into the relationship, parent rituals take the place of romantic ones. My life can easily become marked by fall soccer, Santa Claus letters and summer vacation. When date night rolls around, and I ask you what you’d like to do, please don’t always say, “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” Otherwise you may detect annoyance, grumbling, or indifference. Our date nights will diminish to movies on the sofa, or disappear altogether. It’s just another expectation to keep up with. If I feel like I’m on kid-duty 24/7 and then get to plan every time we go out, I’ll prioritize my sleep and sanity over a romantic candlelight dinner. Sadly, it starts feeling like a part time job. Talk to your darling about taking turns (or taking over), do something you know she enjoys at least half of the time, and all night she’ll only have eyes for you.
Do you remember when the two of you first met? The flowers, scandalous texts or calls, the sweet nothings whispered? Throwback, and remind her of how incredible her laugh sounds, how her eyes are as bright as the day you two met, or how sexy her curves are when she’s on her side in bed. It’s easy to forget the romance when the dark circles under her eyes speak more often than you do.
Help Me Perceive Our Family as a Team
Did you notice that the article I’m responding to was titled “An Open Letter to Wives about Your Children…“? Of course you did, and it probably is exactly what enticed you to read the article. It’s a great title. But for some reason when I read it, all I could see were the words “Your”. It struck a nerve for me. Yes, I may have misconstrued the meaning as some crazy feminist zealot, but I wanted to yell on behalf of all mothers…. “Your children?!? What about OUR children?!?” And there is some real weight to that. Examine your expectations of your partner, and the language you use to express those expectations. If you make them MY children, I’m going to get on your case about how you parent. Because they are MINE after all. If they are OUR children, then WE parent together, right? We talk openly about parenting decisions, we discuss concerns regarding over-scheduling, and we heartily embrace when they successfully fly out of the nest. If you talk to your wife about your desire to walk through this life by her side, not as her “helper”, but as a true companion, a partner, she’ll be yours forever. She’ll promise to close her eyes when you let the kiddos jump off the roof onto the trampoline, right after you grab a dishrag and dry while she hand washes all those infernal sippy cups.
But seriously, sometimes when we take on the role of “mother” it becomes so heady, deep and time consuming that we get a little nutty. If you wouldn’t mind reminding us that we are runners, singers, lovers, speakers, knitters, musicians, swimmers, incredibly beautiful in your eyes, just can’t get off your mind, irreplaceable, not because you don’t want to be alone with our kids, but because you love the sound of our voice when we read aloud, then we’ll be ready to go upstairs and take a bath with you. Let’s light some candles while we’re at it, eh?