As a stay-at-home mom, my to-do list is large. As a work-from-home mom, it is even larger. It is a rare day where I get even half of my list done. This can be demoralizing. Sometimes I shorten my list so I can be successful at the end of the day. (Actually, I have started to make more realistic lists. Hugely helpful.) Sometimes I add things to the list that I have already done. Am I right???
When we were in marriage counseling the wasband opened up one day and listed some of the things that I did, or didn't do, that broke our marriage. In my head it became two truths and a lie. The first truth?I didn't cook or do dishes. The second truth? The house was often a mess when he came home. The lie? These things broke our marriage.
I don't cook. It's not a comfortable place for me. And he is a great cook. It worked. I had talked about meal planning forever. I would be happy to cook. But I needed a plan. An assigned day, meal and ingredient list. I cannot look in the fridge and know what to cook. He can. Maybe because of this, it was hard to sit every Sunday and plan. So we didn't and it turned into me not cooking. Then as he would cook late and I would be managing the kids, he would often do the dishes as well. Even those that had piled up from the day. Truth.
When we finally brought the littlest home from the NICU, I was able to start recovering physically and emotionally from the trauma of the birth. NICU moms take longer to physically recover as instead of sleeping when the baby sleeps or taking things more slowly, we are driving to and from the NICU and caring for the baby in a different way. I was also managing the 4 and 7 year old. Homework, pick-up, drop-off, all various school activities and any social activities. For them and myself. As well as up every 3 hours nursing a newborn. When he would come home after a long day of working and providing for the family financially, the house was often in a bit of chaos. Truth.
Did these things create stresses? Sure. Resentment? Yup. Problems? Totally. They existed and they were hard to navigate on both of our ends. I first heard of them only after the girlfriend arrived and they had declared their love. Part of the draw being the different life, no? The lure of cooking as a couple and a clean, quiet home. But those things don't make a relationship work. Just like they don't make a marriage fail. These things did not break our marriage. Nope. Lie.
The kicker? I agreed with him. I beat myself up about those empty check boxes every day. Every. Damn. Day. When I sat down for the first time at 9pm and looked around? I was stressed about the house and dishes and such. Partly because of his reaction and partly because I felt like I was failing at my "duties" as a stay at home mom. Let's not even get into the part where I was failing with my business and bringing in income. My friends' houses were clean and serene. Something savory was always bubbling on the stove. The sink was always empty. So he was tapping on my already weakened sense of successful mothering and wife-ing and friend-ing.
After he listed these things, before I knew he was already gone, I tried to fix them. I tried to cook and clean and maintain the house. I tried to have the kids calm and quiet when he got home to let him ease back into family life. I tried to do it even though I knew these were excuses. Eventually it came out that he felt unappreciated and overworked. Ummmm, hi! Same here. But hallelujah. Truth! It wasn't about dishes and cooking and cleaning. It was about feeling appreciated and seen and respected. The feelings associated with these things did not come out until the marriage was beyond...well, I guess beyond reach. Sadly.
I still have tremendous guilt. I could see how this would be frustrating and maddening. I wish I did better in these areas. Was more adept or accomplished or able. I think, I could have done better. I should have done better. But I had a list, too. Of annoyances and frustrations. And what I learned? These things don't break a marriage. They don't. Unless you let them. So I will own the things I need to own. The truths. As I see them. Obviously. But the other? That last one? Nope. That I won't own. That's not my lie.
Thanks for coming along on this journey with me. Think that what I am saying is worth sharing? Please do. Facebook, Twitter, email, text. Heck, write a note and mail a copy. I accept all kinds. Plus, it'll help a girl out!