Sniffles. A tissue gets passed across the table.
“We are going through such a hard time right now. His work has been crazy busy and I’ve been home alone with the baby all the time. When he gets home, he just wants to sit back and relax. It makes me crazy! I need him to help me out. I need a break!”
As I sit at the table at starbucks and blatantly eavesdrop on the two moms next to me, I can’t help but have flashbacks to 101 conversations I have had just like this one. Sometimes I am the sniffler. Sometimes I am the one passing the tissue. The script, however, is always the same.
I was chatting with a friend recently about the ups and downs of marriage once you have kids. The stages we are in, the ones we’d been through along the way. We sat and stared at one another and wondered how we could have been so woefully unprepared for the challenge.
Why didn’t someone tell us that children are hell on a marriage. We love the hell out of them and treasure (almost) every moment with them, but we’d be lying if we said that the sleep deprivation, loss of self, loss of privacy and upheaval in lifestyle didn’t have an impact. Having a “good marriage” has not made us immune to the doubts. Why won’t someone tell us if we have what it takes to make it through?
I definitely gave my parents hell. The mother of one of my childhood friends recently reminded me of the time we poured out a 5lb bag of sugar. In my bed. And then proceeded to eat it. My friend and I were so bad that the sugar incident barely stands out. I asked my friend’s mom how they managed to not kill us. She said, “You guys were awful! But, we loved you.” Such a classic mom response.
I wish I had the courage to ask my mom how she really survived. How she juggled two kids, a job, going back for a masters and PhD and a happy marriage. My mom impresses the hell out of me. Her biting wit, her quick mind and the husband that she’s mostly whipped into shape. I am torn between wanting to ask her secret and wanting to stick my fingers in my ears and say “lalalallala” rather than admit that my parents are real people with lives behind closed doors.
I’m willing to bet that a lot of you feel the same. An unspoken awe, a desperate desire to know and an ounce of fear of finding out that she might not have a secret to share.
This is why I write this blog. Someday, years from now, my daughters may go through these same struggles. I suspect that much like my own mom, I won’t have any idea how to tell them that I went through it all too. I’ll tell them, “you guys were awful, but we loved you,” and I’ll smile and walk away.
But before I go, I’ll leave this little book on their table. Late at night they can open it up and read about all the times they made me crazy. All the silly things their father did. They’ll read and laugh and slowly round out the happy stories we’ve shared with the gritty ones that we hid. And they will know. They will know that we thought raising children was hard, at times almost too hard. They will see us for the simple humans that we are and know that everything they are facing is normal. We made it through to the other side and they can too.