If I had to pinpoint the most difficult part of my "early" experience, it would be that I took on every single adult role at the same exact time. I was a wife, a mother and a full-time employee all in a matter of months. And sometimes when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I remind myself that most women don't do this all at once. Most have at least a year or two for their current roles to sink in. Most have a firm grasp on one situation before jumping into the next. But it happened so fast for me -- so unexpectedly -- that the first year was a little bit like fumbling around in the dark, feeling our way from one day to the next. And while it was certainly daunting to launch my career with so many competing responsibilities, I poured the majority of my energy and thoughts into the most uncharted, unfamiliar role of them all: mother.
But saying my vows? That was the easy part.
While I married younger than I ever imagined I would, I still had my fair share of relationships, flings, disappointing men. And while many would say it's impossible for me to have truly experienced men before making my life-long choice, I didn't have any desire to explore further. I still don't. By the time my now-husband and I settled in together -- after living together for a few years, talking about our futures -- I learned a lot about myself and how to sustain a healthy relationship. What I didn't realize was how different my role as girlfriend would be to my role as wife -- and how much more difficult it is than my role as mother.
Maybe I shouldn't say more difficult, because motherhood certainly requires more sacrifice, more discipline, more time. But I've come to realize that being a good mother is largely intuitive. We're biologically hardwired to do this job -- despite the blogs and articles and never-ending advice. But being a good wife? I mean, we all know what it means to be a good mother -- but what does it mean to be a good wife?
If the Internet existed 60 years ago, I'd be willing to bet that women would be talking more about their role as "wife" rather than their role as "mother." But where are the inspirational blogs on keeping a marriage strong and happy? Where are the how-tos on keeping a relationship healthy? They're buried under pregnancy guidelines, baby tutorials, parenting hot-topics, motherhood forums, discussions about poop and vomit and milestones. And of course under complaints about "DH" not pulling his weight.
Does anyone else find this slightly silly? As much as we pretend this isn't true, marriages and partnerships don't have that element of unconditionality. We can snap at our siblings, get attitude-y with our parents, punish our kids -- but they'll always love us, no matter what. (And as long we're not beating or ignoring or being completely irresponsible, our kids will be fine -- whether we sleep trained or not.) Can we say the same about our partners? Will they always love us no matter what?
Yet a marriage is the easiest responsibility to ignore. When tantrums are raging, dishes are piling and deadlines are looming, it's easy to put our husbands on the back burner. It's easy to snap about housework. It's easy to spend money on useless baby gadgets rather than sexy lingerie.
And at the end of the day (life), it's all about love, love, love. And I don't mean from our children -- because they'll inevitably grow up and find love of their own. And don't we want it to be a happy love? A fulfilled love? I think teaching my son how to respect a partner, treat a partner, love a partner is one of my highest responsibilities. And that starts with making my husband, our relationship, one of my highest priorities. For me, being a wife is harder because the stakes are higher.
Which role do you find more challenging: Wife or Mother?