OH, I’ll ya what happened to the girl he married

girl i marriedTom and I celebrated 13 years of marriage last week, and have been together for almost 16. It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses and unicorns farting rainbows, oh no. Far from it. There have been roses, but also a lot of storms and I have yet to see a unicorn, rainbow-farting or otherwise. I’d say we have a pretty good marriage.

Something I’ve never done here, in the 3 1/2 years I’ve written this blog, is vamp on my marriage. I complain about my children, I whine about my life, but I’ve only ever spoken positively of my marriage, if at all. I’m pretty sure this post will be my first, last, and only reflection on my marriage, for two reasons. One, I owe it to Tom to not air it all and two, if I start, I may never stop.

I know how lucky I am, with the situation we are in. Tom works from home and makes good money. He can be a responsible adult presence if I need to leave one or both of the boys here while he’s working. He knows if I’ve had a good day or a bad one. Compared to his previous profession (high school band director), he’s actually home evenings and weekends, and irate parents don’t call at night.

But.

After J was born five years ago I made the difficult decision to give up my remaining flute students and become a completely Stay At Home Mom. And with that decision went the last poof of the girl Tom married. When we first met, I was a very driven musician, practicing a lot to reach goals I wanted to hit. I was taking auditions for military bands and was being accepted (for many reasons I decided to let those go). I was successful and have recordings to prove it, if only to myself. Then, gradually, that person disappeared. Decisions that had to be made for the good of both of us, then for the good of the family when the boys arrived, gradually chipped away at Musician Jen. That last decision, to give up flute teaching, finally erased that last little bit.

I threw myself into raising the boys and managing the household. A challenging job for anyone…add in a twice-exceptional son and a son who is challenging to understand and a husband who is unable to manage stress well and a wife/mom who absorbs all the emotional detritus…well, we just put the fun in dysfunctional! My mad organizational skillz rose to the challenge and kept everything going.

It hasn’t always been easy. It hasn’t always been fun. It’s hardly been worthwhile some days. I gave up a career for myself to raise my boys and support Tom as he grew more successful. And in the process I became more of a business partner than a wife, a whip-snapping shrew more than a mom, and lost a lot of myself in the process. The guilt of being “just a mom” and not bringing in a paycheck, of feeling “beholden” to my husband, of not getting everything done that needs to be done because I’m home and it should be possible…it’s almost overwhelming some days. These are things I’ve been working on and making progress. With the boys in school this year, I hope to make even more progress.

I love my husband. Deeply. And while I know I couldn’t possibly be happier with or more loved by anyone else, I have fantasized about picking up and getting the hell out. I’m sure most women have. Maybe it’s because he works from home and I.am.never.alone.in.the.house or maybe it’s because we are so very much alike or maybe it’s just because I just can’t handle his pinned-in-the-red-zone-level of stress on top of my oldest having an anxiety meltdown while his brother whines he’s hungry as the dog has another seizure. Probably a bit of all of that.

The girl Tom married is long gone. In her place is a strong woman turning the next page of her life story and wanting more from the next page than the previous pages have given her.

*********************************************************

This semi-psychotic rant brought to you by What happened to the girl I married? by Michael Miller, Silicon Valley Moms Blog July book club selection. It’s a quick read, and I suggest sticking it in your husband’s reading pile after you’re done. Underlined passages are up to you.

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8 Responses

  1. Progress, it is all about progress.

    BUT

    I am never alone in my house either. It is one of the biggest things that drives me crazy! I just want some peace and quiet to myself every once and a while.

  2. I applaud your decisions, but I beg to differ. You are still very much the girl your hubby married, only now you’re devoting your life to raise your sons: a selfless and loving decision. It will pay off in the long run. Before you know it, as the boys mature, you’ll have time to embark upon your own adventures once again.

  3. sometimes i don’t think i would recognize the girl he married if she walked in the door right now. it seems long, long ago…

  4. Happy anniversary! I recall, about a year into our marriage someone asked me for advice, as she was just engaged. Even in my “honeymoon” I recall telling her that as happy as I was, marriage was a job. It was something you definitely had to work at.

    And if marriage is a job, then how do you even begin to quantify parenting?!

  5. I’m SO with you… I just want to be ALONE sometimes. I am selfishly staying at BlogHer without a roomie because that’s the ONLY break I’ll get all year… and I want those (albeit late) evenings and mornings in total silence and peace. I can’t wait.

  6. Once again, you wrote a post I could have written myself. If you think too much about the sacrifices, then you get overwhelmed and bitter. That said, you do need to start playing again. On general principles.

  7. So I read this book in one night… and it is now on my husbands reading list.

    I asked him to read it – and not ask me any questions.

    I am hoping that this will spark many conversations about OUR relationship and the way was interact as a couple.

    BTW – I underlined MANY sections…. in hope that he GET’S IT!!!! :)

    Great post!!!

  8. Happy Anniversary! Thanks for taking the time to read the book. Your post touched on several of the lessons that were my biggest “Aha Moments” in the journey.

    I’ll start with the most important first, I had to be a stronger man in the year I was walking in my wife’s shoes as a SAHM than any other time in my life. I only did it for 1 year, and it was such a revelation I had to write a book about it. My wife Linda did it for 10, which for me – with what I know now – demonstrates an amazing amount of personal strength. However, over time based on the fragmented nature of the job, lack of recognition for the efforts, my ignorance, etc., she didn’t always feel strong. One of the many great things that has come out of my journey and the book for her is validation of how strong she is and always had been. As she has “turned her next page” with a new career, being a working Mom, that feeling of strength has blossomed even more.

    You talk about the guilt you have felt for “just being a mom” and not bringing home a paycheck. Linda also carried that guilt for years and it weighed heavily on her. It was one of the main reasons she didn’t take enough time for herself to reassemble “her Apple”. Through this process we have learned how to think about it differently, the person staying home with the kids, managing the house, etc., is enabling the other spouse to be out earning the money – it’s a team effort. If you weren’t doing everything your doing, Tom wouldn’t be able to provide the level of income he is either. If for no other reason than he just wouldn’t be able to give it the same time commitment. The shift that needs to happen is realizing that and recognizing, validating and appreciating the efforts equally.

    Lastly, the effect of the emotional waste left behind for the stay-at-home parent was big revelation for both of us. When I started to experience it, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt weighed down by it all day. I felt guilty that I couldn’t relieve them of it and resentful that I had to carry it around at the same time. The changes we have made as a family in this area have made a HUGE difference in how we communicate our emotions, manage them ourselves and what we take on (if any) of someone else.

    I wish you all the best on the “next page” of your story. I’m certain that you have the strength to do anything you set your mind to. Linda and I are going on 20 years soon and our relationship has never been better. I hope you and Tom are saying the same at 20 years. Thanks again for your thoughtful review of the book…..Michael.

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