Do you love your children more than your spouse? Have you ever even allowed yourself to ponder that question? Probably not because it feels kind of dirty and wrong and then there comes the guilt, the all-consuming mommy guilt.
Parenting in America has somehow become a blood sport with the devotion of a religion. Not only do we parent like our lives depend on it, we know our reputations do and failure is not an option. This is the dogma upon which the church of helicopter parenting was founded. I used to embrace this very way of parenting, but I'm a recent convert.
The year I got engaged, I enrolled in a class at university about the sociology of marriage. I don't know why I took it. I wasn't engaged yet or even thinking about marriage but I thought it was a pretty good idea for everyone. In fact, I think a "how to keep a baby alive for the first year," "how to have great sex" and "what never to expect again after expecting" classes should be mandatory for all people even considering marriage and parenthood.
Anyway, the first rule you learn is that the first year of marriage is the hardest. The second thing you learn is that once children enter the mix, maintaining a loving and enduring relationship with your spouse is even harder. It takes a lot of concerted effort on both people's parts. This is one of the main reasons we didn't get pregnant until our 5-year anniversary. (Well, that and a little too much alcohol in New Orleans.)
Basically, the rule is that you must cherish your spouse because they are forever. Your children are just a temporary horror show. Anyone who's been paying attention knows that parenthood, especially the toddler years, is misery peppered with profound moments of bliss.
We treat parenthood like a religion and our offspring as our deities. We believe that nothing is more important than our children and their happiness. In fact, we are afraid to even think about our own happiness.
Unfortunately, many parents believe that in order to qualify as a good parent you must love and worship your children to the exclusion of all else. We treat parenthood like a religion and our offspring as our deities. We believe that nothing is more important than our children and their happiness. In fact, we are afraid to even think about our own happiness.
I do love my children more than everything else in the world, except for my husband because before there was ever a family of four, it was just him and me. He is my partner in crime, my best friend and quite frankly, without him I'd be outnumbered and then the shit would really hit the fan.
I love my children and I probably do too often make them the focus of my attention, but I never forget that my husband is my forever. Sure, there were times in the toddler years when we were too tired to even care what each other thought and sex was something that took a real concerted effort and imagination with two co-sleepers. (Calm down, we went to another room.) But eventually we got some sleep and regained our senses. He's my ever-after and that's what we have to remember as parents and partners even when it gets tough.
When I find myself slipping back into my martyr mom ways, I remind myself that I have two little girls and it is my job to show them what being a strong woman can be. I don't want to be the example that teaches them to always put others first because self-care and personal happiness is important too.
As parents, we spend our lives on call, but after a certain point, we are needed less and less to guide them step-by-step, every minute of forever. We teach them, love them and give them the foundation they need to go out into the world and be good people with strong minds and beliefs.
Being a parent is probably the most profound thing many of us will ever do, but you can't sacrifice everything for them, or what you have left to give won't be worth anything. When I find myself slipping back into my martyr mom ways, I remind myself that I have two little girls and it is my job to show them what being a strong woman can be. I don't want to be the example that teaches them to always put others first because self-care and personal happiness is important too.
I want to show them that they can have a loving marriage, beautiful children, a fulfilling career and maybe even a social life at some point. I want them to know that they can travel and live to the fullest, even after giving birth. Mostly I want them to know that having someone you love to share your life with is a luxury that we all deserve and shouldn't have to sacrifice just because we choose to become parents.