Thursday, August 23, 2007

My kids are destroying my marriage

I'm not going to go all universal on you all, because hey, maybe having kids actually made your marriage better, and who am I to say it didn't? (I mean, it didn't. There's just no way. But if you want to believe it did, who am I to burst your bubble?) Over here in the land of the Temporarily Confused, however, not so much on the better as a result of the kiddage.

And so I state: After nine days of just me and Baroy--after nine days of candlelight dinners at home where I got to try out recipes the kids wouldn't consider touching, after nine days of sex in places without a bed and movies and talking and just sitting together--it's quite clear that, at least in my household, the kids are destroying our marriage.

This isn't news to me, mind you. I'd always pretty much assumed that was the case. I often talk about how Baroy and I didn't have a single fight--not even a single significant argument that I can think of--until approximately three weeks after Em was born, which has become known as The Night When Baroy Threw Me Out of the House. (The story, in case I haven't told it ad nauseum: I wouldn't let him try to soothe a crying Em, because I knew I could calm her down more quickly and every single mommy hormone in my body freaked out whenever she he screamed at me to let him take care of it, put my car keys in my hand, shoved me out the door and locked it behind me. I drove around for 40 minutes, bawling my postpartum eyes out, but came home to a sleeping kid. I realized how right he was, and what an ass I was being, all SuperMommy and condescending, but I never really have forgiven him. Especially after he admitted to me, a few weeks later, that she'd cried for 37 minutes of the time I was gone and had only JUST passed out, exhausted, when I walked in the door. I'm sure she was permanently damaged by the experience, even if she does seem to be nothing but fabulous and brilliant and sweet and such at the moment. I'm sure there's a psychiatrist in her future who will back me up.)

In the ten years since, there have been too many skirmishes to count. Which is not to say we have a lousy marriage, because we don't. And it's not to say that we despise each other, because we don't. But it wasn't until somewhere around Day 5 of No Kids In The House that I realized...not only do we still really like each other, but when we're childless, we STILL don't fight. Because there's nothing to fight ABOUT. If Baroy wants to sit down in the front of the TV from the time dinner's over until the time he comes to bed, what does it matter...if there are no kids around whose baths need supervising or whose homework needs checking or who need a parent to help them floss, read them a book, tuck them into bed. When there are no kids, neither of us needs to give the other one a look that says, "Why are you being so hard on them?" or "Why are you being such a doormat?" or "What is WRONG with you? That's not the way to handle it." The bottom line: Neither of us needs a break from the constant demands of parenting if there is no one to parent. And that is what we fight about most often. Or at least it's what *I* get pissy about most often. I won't speak for Baroy.

But even the "we don't fight except about the kids and things related to the kids" wasn't the most interesting revelation about life in a kidless house. The most interesting revelation was how much TIME we spent with each other. On purpose. Because we wanted to. As if we enjoyed each other's company.

Frankly, it was almost creepy. Except for how much I enjoyed it.

So why don't we hang out together when the kids are home? Because there's tension. (See above.) But mostly because there's no alone time, and alone time is the most precious thing in the world to me. So, instead of hanging out together, we hand the kids off to one another. I'll take them to the park to give Baroy a chance to do whatever he needs to do, then come home and expect him to watch them while I go for a walk. Or he'll leave them with me while he goes running for a few hours, and then he'll take them to the movies while I catch up on some work. We do stuff as a foursome, but not as often or as enthusiastically as I would have assumed in my idealistic pre-kid world. And when there's down time at home, well, it's every man for himself. The first person to say, "Keep an eye on the kids while I..." is the one who gets to take a nap/watch an inappropriate movie/run to the store without taking a kid with him or her. Do stuff together? Well, sure, it sounds fun in theory. But in reality, it usually means that there's one more parent around than absolutely necessary, giving up the chance to work on his or her book/read/watch something the kids aren't interested in on TV/do crafts/fix stuff around the house/make some phone calls/send out some resumes/run errands/get in some exercise/etc., etc., etc. And that stuff is so precious. Even if it does make me a Bad Mom to admit it. I love my alone time. More than I love my kid time, quite often. There, I said it.

Which is not to say that I'm not deliriously happy to have my kids home. I am. Truly. Deliriously. I love those kids. They rock. They crack me up, and make me feel needed and important, and I love watching them live their lives and grow and learn and all that cool that's-why-I-had-kids stuff. It's worth it, even if my marriage does suck, relatively speaking, because of them.

In the end, here's what I realized: Despite all the doomsday psychologists who proclaim that if you neglect your marriage, there will be nothing left when the kids leave home, my marriage is doing fine...even great...despite the neglect. It's just not obvious right now. But when the kids are gone, and the nest is empty, and I'm desolate without my babies to cluck over (and trust me, despite it all, I will indeed be desolate), I have time with my husband to look forward to. We'll do just fine as empty nesters, in terms of our relationship. In fact, desolation aside, I'm looking forward to it now, having seen--in just nine days--just how nice it can be.


Anonymous said...

Oh my god, I relate so much I just can't even say anything profound.

po said...

Oh yeah, I totally hear ya. Ross and I went from over 10 years of being The Best Couple We or Anyone We Knew had Ever Known, to, well, it's a miracle we're still married. That's why I was SOOOOO jealous of your week alone with Baroy; I joked about non-stop sex, but what I really craved was dinners and going out and seeing movies and talking.

We talk all the time about all the fun stuff we're going to do when the kids go to college. The idea of being released from the constant tension and trauma of everyday, immediate parenting (esp. with the state Matthew's been in since the spring) makes me positively giddy. I know I'll always worry about them, and meddle in their lives, but that 24/7 immersion has totally ruined my marriage too.

Ambre said...

Yeah, my kids were gone for a week and I barely talked to my husband. Don't even tell me what that means for my marriage!

po said...

Oh, but I forgot to say, what is destroyed and ruined does NOT have to STAY destroyed and ruined. Keep on keepin' on.