April 15, 2007

Marriage, a house and two kids

Why is it that when you are young and dream of "marriage, a house and two kids", it seems so easy and idyllic and shiny? I just find myself struggling with this lately, trying to find the balance.

1) I'm the mom to two little girls, both of whom need my undivided attention almost all the time, sometimes even when they are sleeping and I may wish I was sleeping.
2) I'm the homemaker to a rather large house with 4 people's laundry, dishes and bathrooms to clean, plus a huge amount of toys to keep track of, and daily meals to prepare, serve and clean up after.
3) I'm the wife to a wonderful husband and father, which entails way more work and maintenance than I EVER would have thought possible as a little girl playing with dolls.

My hubbie tends to be passive aggressive. Instead of just telling me he's beat and wishes I would do the dishes more/the laundry more/pick up the toys/etc, he just gets quieter and quieter and does EVERYTHING before I have a chance to blink, much less step in of my own free will. And me, I'm the denial type; I'll just pretend that it's fine that my kids laundry has built an empire in the laundry room and is planning the downfall of the rest of the house, and I'll take the first peaceful moment to read my book for a bit or catch up on my Tivo.

Tonight we had a chat. A State of the Union. I finally got it out of him that he wishes I'd figure out how to do more around the house, and I finally told him that the whole stomping around in "silent" martyrdom was driving me insane. You could hear the deep breaths around the block as the tension finally started to ease out of the room. For the first time in our marriage, we've had to actually sit, talk and divvy up responsibilities. We had to sit there and decide on what few things were the most important to each of us and try and figure out a way to start making those things happen. For him, having a clean kitchen every morning and getting back to the gym on a regular schedule were high on the list. For me, having him give up his "silent protests" (AKA, pout-fest 2007) and getting him to come to bed before 1 A.M. were right up there, too.

Sitting here now, with the important things, big and small, aknowledged and made known, makes me realize once again how much of my happiness rests, balances, on communication. If we hadn't talked about the housework tonight, the whole week would have continued in a downward spiral, probably culminating in a weepy fight where I felt taken for granted and he felt overburdened and we both felt misunderstood. Instead, he joked about his passive aggressive behavior ("Umm... by the way, when you go upstairs... sorry about dumping your laundry in a pile on the floor.") and we both laughed, decided on some goals to put more focus on, and felt better and more respected all around.

The thing is, it doesn't get easier. It just gets more complicated; the details change, but there's always going to be this disconnect. I wish there was a road map to show me how to balance two kids and house and a marriage, but it's just a day to day thing, isn't it? It seems ridiculous and absurd that, in the constant struggle to stay connected, something like who does the dishes after dinner could get in the way, but that's the honest reality. I'm not sure when my definition of romance changed from flowers and candlelight to , "Oh, look! He emptied the diaper pail! That's so sweet!".

I want to find the balance. I want to be the best mother that I can to my kids, get the laundry done, keep the groceries stocked, have dinner on the table at night and still find a way to take a shower and be presentable and smile at my husband and maybe, just maybe, remember what we had in common before we had children. Not that we don't have things in common now, but... sometimes the easiest thing to see about the other person is what's missing, what's left undone, instead of what's right in front of you, invisible in it's obviousness.

Instead of resenting the burden of it, I have to remember to appreciate the achievement of a childhood fantasy: A wonderful marriage, a beautiful home and two amazing kids.

April 08, 2007

Thirty and other things

My 30th birthday was this week. I know it's supposed to be a monumental occassion, a time to reflect on where you've been and where you're going, but generally... I didn't do any of that. I simply had a wonderful time with friends and family, got a brief break from my kids and indulged in some serious relaxation.

It's been a rough couple months and I am happy to be able to look around my own mind and say, "It's me! I live in here and it's me and I can recognize myself!". I feel as though the medication I am taking hasn't changed me but rather, it's added layers to me, like wraps of gauze, to hold me together and keep me whole.

All of that is not to say that I don't still get upset, that situations don't still get to me. That would be great, but not particularly human. I just feel capable of living and I feel that my potential for happiness is limitless, given the right circumstances.

These mysterious "circumstances", however are not exactly in grand supply lately when it comes to my oldest child. She has the worst tantrums I've ever seen and they keep getting worst. She gets set off by NOTHING and once a bad day starts, there's no turning back; it lasts all day.

Offer her breakfast when she's not ready? Screaming.
Tell her it's time to do something else after reading 5 long books in a row? Screaming.
Tell her it's time to go? Screaming. Tell her we're not going anywhere, we're staying home? Screaming.

It's everything and it's nothing. Yesterday she had a massive tantrum, screaming, thrashing, drooling, complete meltdown of apocalyptic proportion for absolutely no reason. One minute she was fine, the next... she was insane.

I had tried time out, I've tried sitting it out, I've tried holding her and singing, I've tried putting her in a safe place until she's all cried out. Nothing seems to work, and certainly not in the longterm. I can put her in her crib, tell her sympathetically that I understand that she's very frustrated and sad and that she can call me when she feels better. She'll immediately calm down, play in her crib, sing to herself.

But within minutes of getting her back up, trying to return her to the framework of our day-to-day lives... she freaks out. What am I supposed to do, leave her in her crib all day?

Of course, that's on the bad days. It's not every day. She's not totally heinous all the time, in fact she's often absolutely charming. But the bad days are really, really awful. And there's no break, it just carries on straight through to bedtime.

I know it's frustration for her, I know that she's more susceptible to frustration that other kids, (it's a byproduct of her unique developmental set). I know that, in general, kids cry and express rage because they can't control it and need to have an outlet and that crying is healthy. But she's driving me nuts. She's driving my husband nuts.

So. Turning 30 and re-hashing all the journeys of my life so far seems sort of back burner to simply making it to 31 without all my hair falling out. Here's hopin'.