The other day my son asked, “Where am I?” while looking at a picture of my husband and me.
“You weren’t born yet,” I said.
His three-year-old brain processed this and asked what I’m sure seemed like a logical question; ‘Were you sad?”
I looked at the picture of us and thought carefully about how to answer him. My husband and I met at 19, in our junior year of college. We dated for three years long distance after graduation when our jobs took us to different states. While it was hard in some ways, it also gave us experience learning how to communicate. We spent A LOT of time on the phone. When I moved to be with him we continued to date for a few years, enjoying fun vacations together and a stress free dating life. When we got married we decided to wait a little while to try for children. We wanted to enjoy each stage we were in. I remember the excitement of grocery shopping with my HUSBAND for the first time. It seems like a lifetime ago.
“Mama, were you sad?”
I looked at him and said, “No, we were so in love we couldn’t wait to have you, but we were still just wishing for you here.”
I began to think about what life had been like before we had him. Before figuring out if one income was right, or daycare would be best. Before bills and college savings plans. Before life felt so, so complicated. I began to think of the things I used to feel every day, and more importantly, the things I actually SAID everyday.
I still love my husband as much as before, more actually in a lot of ways. Life is different though. I pour my affection into my son, validating and encouraging him.
By the time my husband gets home my son is dying to play with him. Our conversations are constantly interrupted and often filled more with information passing than emotional outpouring. So I began a list of the things we used to say that we both still need to hear.
1. “I miss you.” Not just the off-handed comment, but the look-in-his-eyes-and-mean-it kind of miss. These days I have little-to-no personal space. Like most moms I don’t pee alone, cook alone or grocery shop alone. It’s a joke. Those memes about vacation is grocery shopping alone cut close to the bone. But what about the reality of what this lack of personal space is doing to my marriage? Have I become so over come with the constant touching and being hung on to by my son that I forgot how much I miss my husband at the end of the day?
2. “I was wrong.” I spend my day being the “boss.” I set the rules (even though they are not followed as well as I would like). I determine where we will go and how our time will be spent. I am MOM, and I am right. It’s hard to hand over the reigns. Not in an old fashioned, super submissive way, but in a true partnership, depending on each other kind of way. Often I am tired, cranky and bossy, and don’t feel too sorry for my husband. He isn’t perfect either. We can both be stubborn and while it’s hard say, it is nice to hear. So, I am working on admitting and actually saying, “I was wrong,” because we both deserve to hear that from each other.
3. “You are my favorite.” This is a big one for me. I say this to my son a lot. My mom said it to me. It’s nice to hear. Who doesn’t want to be the favorite? I said it to my husband after making this list and he actually said, “I can’t remember the last time you said that to me.” He is my favorite. I chose to spend the rest of my life with him and he chose me. I get to be a mom because of him. There are more reasons but aren’t these enough?
4. “I need help.” As previously mentioned, I can be bossy. And stubborn. Along with these lovely traits often comes pride. I feel like I can handle anything that is in my domain. For added pressure, I feel like I should be handling everything since my full-time job is being a stay at home mom. I struggle with asking for help. When I fall short of what I think I “should” be doing I feel guilty and often defensive. We all have bad days. Admitting it and just saying, “I need help,” instead of acting insulted when my husband asks if it was a hard day would go a long way. Sometimes I just want to check out so I can empty the dishwasher without a little helper, or go take a shower while my husband cleans up dinner. Simply asking gives us a shot at working on the same team. My husband knows what I need and I don’t have to be defensive about it.
5. “I want you.” I have lost count of how many times a day I hear, “Mommy!! I want you!” or, “I want mama.” This phrase can mean different things. The truth is I can apply every definition of it to my husband. Not all the time, in every way. But every day, in some way, I want him. I want him to hug me and kiss me. I want him to be my partner. I want him to lean on me when he has a hard day. I want him to listen to me and love me. There is a reason ‘I want you to want me’ is the right fit in cute, teeny-bopper movies. It’s a good feeling to know your love interest shares your feelings. It’s also nice to know this after many years, long days and real life settles in.
There are more I could add to the list. For now, I can try to say these five simple phrases that might just make my marriage feel a little more like it did before kids; when love was so uncomplicated that even grocery shopping together seemed romantic.