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Sad But True: Motherhood Has Made Me a Nag

Photograph by Twenty20

It probably seems as if I write about the imbalanced work load between mothers and fathers all the damn time. That may be because I often sit down to write these posts after spending my entire morning frantically multitasking.

This morning, for example, I discovered I needed to launder my daughter's pee-soaked sheets while I was in the midst of changing her diaper. So I strapped her down and ripped the sheets off the bed and decided to sort all of her laundry (she was out of socks) all before putting her into an outfit. Then, because I had to get the both of us ready to go to story time at the library, I blow dried my hair in the kitchen while supervising her breakfast. Then I talked to the contractor working in our basement about an issue he had come across. This while simultaneously getting my child into her sneakers and hoodie. I didn't realize I'd put her sneakers onto the wrong feet until an hour later... when my husband pointed it out.

Clearly, I spend huge swaths of time in a permanent state of frazzle.

And oftentimes, frazzle begets resentment. As a result, I sometimes feel as if my husband and I are no longer partners but adversaries. I'm no longer the cool chick he married but, instead, have come to embody the role of the nagging wife.

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It's in the death glare I give him when I'm feeding our daughter breakfast while he watches TV and sips coffee in the back room.

It's in the not-child-appropriate words I mutter under my breath when I carry her upstairs to change her diaper only to find that the floor around both her changing table and Diaper Genie is flooded with board books.

It's in the way I ask him to put away her books or beg him to take over tubby time or remind him to rinse off his dishes before he puts them in the dishwasher, over and over and over again. At a certain point, it comes to feel that all of our conversations are snipe sessions.

I've written in the past that our daughter made our marriage stronger. And I still feel that this is true. But at the same time, my marriage no longer feels like it once did, so consumed am I with being the Perfect Mother. Sometimes, I look at the neurotic control freak I've become and wonder what keeps us chugging along, beyond our mutual adoration of our daughter.

Last week, my curiosity got the best of me and, because I say the things that are in my head without filtering them first, I actually asked my husband what he thought was keeping our marriage going. Which then led to a long discussion about responsibility and resentment and communication. Here's what I learned:

In the midst of all the stress, I should remember to be grateful for what I have. Years ago, I had a dream. It was a dream in which I would build a freelance career and become a mother and have the ability to simultaneously grow as a professional and raise my daughter. That dream has one hundred percent come true. And while it's not always easy, it's important to remember that I now have exactly what I wanted.

When I am losing my damn mind, I should remember that I'm not the only one with great responsibility. While my husband has literally zero capacity for multitasking, he still manages to do a great deal. Every morning, he brews a pot of coffee, cleans the dirty dishes, feeds the cats, and gives them their anti-anxiety meds. Every evening, he takes our daughter for a walk and, every other evening, he gives her a bath. He does all the yard work. The list goes on. And on top of all of this, he shoulders the burden of being the family breadwinner while I follow my elusive writerly dreams.

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I need to choose my battles. This is exactly what my husband said to me. "You need to choose your battles." At which point my stress-induced acid reflux caused my brain to ignite and my head exploded and our entire house went up in flames and we all perished.

Except we didn't.

Instead, I came to the realization that, yeah, I could definitely be less of a control freak while still standing firm on the things that are truly important to me.

Finally, we could both stand to work on our communication skills. "You need to be nicer," said my husband. "Maybe I'm not nice because I'm preemptively anticipating your nasty temper," I said. "You snap at me every time I interrupt your work." The truth is, we're both on edge a lot of the time and, as a result, we're constantly on the defensive. If we each made more of an effort to sweeten up our requests and acknowledge each other's efforts, we might spend less time sniping and more time remembering why we ended up together in the first place.

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