Identity Crisis

We got the news today that some friends of ours are getting a divorce. It’s not entirely unexpected—they’ve been struggling for a while. Still, it made my heart feel heavy. Marriage is hard.

Before Charlotte was born, I felt like my own marriage was rock solid. We had a great life, and we loved living it—together. Having Charlotte completely upended our world.

Our old home didn’t work with a baby, so we left the best friends/neighbors/community we ever could have hoped for and moved to a house where we have none of that.

Our old friends don’t have kids, and we’ve drifted apart.

Old hobbies have faded into the background because they require time away from Charlotte, and our time with her is already so limited that the hobbies just don’t feel worth it anymore.

Gone are the days of extended happy hours and last minute trips to wine country.

This weekend, we fought. We weren’t communicating on the same level. I was hurt and angry. She was hurt and angry. We exploded at each other in the kitchen during nap time as we stood awkwardly in front of the refrigerator. As we talked through everything, Catch said that we’ve both changed. I was adamant that we’re still us, but we’re just too tired to do anything about it. In hindsight, I think we’re both right.

Motherhood has changed us, for certain. We have new joys and fears and responsibilities. New priorities. But the old “us” is still tucked away in there somewhere. It’s just that in all of our efforts to make Charlotte’s life better, we’ve stifled the parts of us that don’t thrive on motherhood—the parts of us that didn’t change.

The solution seems so easy when I write it out: Make time for ourselves—both separately and together.

And we should. We really should. Catch should be playing softball. (There’s a reason I call her Catch!) I should be—something—sitting in a coffee shop knitting, maybe. We should be venturing out together to take selfies in a vineyard—we have no shortage of willing babysitters!

It’s not that complicated, and I really believe it would make us better, happier people—both as spouses and as mothers.

It’s just so hard to convince myself to take time away from my little girl. She is all I think about at work. I wait all day to come home and hold her in my arms (for the ten seconds she will allow). Weekends are a mix of uninterrupted Charlotte time and time to get our lives put back together after a long week and ready for the next long week.

It feels like we can’t win. When we fill our hearts up with motherhood, we’re not leaving enough room for us—as individuals or as a couple… but if we don’t fill up on motherhood, it feels like we’re missing out on precious time with this little girl who is growing up too fast.

What we really need is about 6 more hours in the day. Or to win the lottery.


34 thoughts on “Identity Crisis

  1. Even just two more hours in the day!
    The balance is very much that, though – a balance. I think the best way to look at it is not how you will be taking time away from Charlotte, but how you will be demonstrating how a real healthy, happy couple works. She needs you two to function together as the indomitable team that you are, and you need a little time away from her occasionally to stay strong as that team.
    Maybe thinking about it as a way to make her life better will make it easier? I know it’s tough and I appreciate you sharing these struggles, because my wife and I both worry about the exact same thing.

    • This is exactly how I’m trying to frame things–that we need to set the example for our daughter on self-care and healthy relationships. It’s important! She deserves that.

  2. Five more minutes would be great!!! I fee your pain. My husband and I do monthly date nights regardless of how tired we are. Our twins are now 15 months old and we force each other to take time for ourselves and each other and our family. We go out when the kids are napping or after they are in bed. Of course we get baby sitters, we don’t leave them alone lol. The house is dirty, the yard is a mess, but it’s our life and we have to be ok with it. I’m not ok with it but I’m getting better…I think! It sucks but it will get better!

  3. This! So feeling this post and have so much to say to it but just can’t right now. Life is hard and being a mommy and a wife are hard and trying to do it all and make it all work together damn near feels impossible.

  4. When we got to this point and started letting Ali have monthlyish overnights with the grandparents, it helped to think of it as time for Ali and the grandparents to develop a relationship instead of time away from us. Maybe reframing like that might help the mental block part of it?

    • I do try to tell myself that–that it’s good for her to have time with her grandparents. We’re not ready for overnights yet (there’s no way my mom could handle it–not until I can get this kid sleeping better), but we’re hoping she’ll have her first night at Grammy’s house in December for my company holiday party so Catch and I can enjoy a night at the Four Seasons. If she’s not sleeping better by then, tough. Grammy’s just gonna have to suck it up for a night because FOUR SEASONS.

      • Ha! We started overnights at 18 months, and did them once every month or two until the boys came along. She might surprise you with the sleeping thing, I know my kid is an angel for everyone else!

  5. I didn’t think that becoming parents would have much of an effect on my marriage. HA. I’m sure D and I have fought more than we ever have before – both of our emotions feel so big these days, and we’re always under slept, stressed, and short on time to ourselves. I don’t resent J one bit, butshe gets the best of both of us, and there often isn’t much left to give to each other. We don’t have reliable childcare so we don’t go on dates, and we’ve spent maybe an hour away from J, ever – which was spent cleaning. We’ve starting doing weekly dinners without J, and are trying to implement rules about technology for ourselves so that we don’t spend the evening absorbed in things where we don’t interact – but it is so hard when we’re both so tired by the evening.

    Wishing you balance. If you come up with a recipe for it, let me know 🙂

    • You said it–with the lack of sleep and the stress, emotions feel SO BIG. We’ve been doing weekly dinners together after C goes to bed, too. It helps a bit. We also have trouble turning off the technology and focusing on each other. Like you guys, we’re totally dead by the time C goes to sleep and all we want to do is zone out and put our feet up. I’m like a broken record, but I keep reminding Catch that it won’t always be this way and that it will be easier as she gets to be more independent.

      • Yes, definitely easier as they grow. I lose track of that and tend to think that whatever is bad now will always be bad. But you’re right, more independence for them means more for us, too. I don’t know how we’ll deal if we add another baby to the mix. Lately I want to ask everyone with more than one kid, “HOW?? How do you do it?” Because people do, but yikes, the prospect scares me more than a little.

      • When we started out, we assumed we’d have two kids. Now we’re pretty firmly in the nope camp. I just don’t want to do this again. I can’t even fathom doing this while keeping up with ANOTHER one. All I ever wanted was to be a mom, and Charlotte made me a mom. The buck stops with her. I even joined some One and Done groups on Facebook the other day!

  6. Yes, this is all so hard. I have never doubted the strength of my marriage as much as I have these past few months and for the first time ever, I had a friend ask me, with real concern, if my wife and I were doing okay. Thank goodness we have a date scheduled for this weekend?

    I agree that time away from Charlotte to recharge your relationship is crucial. Good luck carving out the time. It will be worth it!

    • I’m sorry you’re feeling the strain, too. It’s so hard to have any sort of balance when you have kid(s) in your life. I keep telling Catch that it will get easier as C gets older and becomes more independent. I feel like that hope is the life vest that I cling to in the midst of a hurricane… I sure hope I’m right.

      • as a wise old mom of a three year old (hehe), I’ll say that things are infinitely better now that we are almost out of toddlerhood. And I hear from people with slightly older kids that after toddlerhood they become awesome little creatures who are a joy to be around and parent, so there’s hope!

  7. This post is everything. I never really “kept score” until after Mabel was born. Now if S gets a couple more hours of sleep than me, I feel really resentful and then hate myself for it. So hard. Especially with us both back at work, taking even more time away from Mabel breaks my heart. But I know we should. Sigh.

    • We’ve left Charlotte 3 times in 13 months, and every time we do we say we should do it more often but then we don’t. But it really is worth it to have the time to just connect with each other. And I feel you on the score keeping. It’s hard when you’re so sleep deprived. Catch kept feeling like she needed to get up with me so that things were “fair,” but I told her that it’s important that at least one of us gets some sleep–that way she can give me some relief during the day. Especially on the weekends. Usually she’ll get up with C when she wakes for the day and she’ll let me sleep for an extra hour or so.

  8. Yup, I get this!! Marriage is so hard with a kid to care for! Just like you and Catch, we put Baby MPB above all. And that means our marriage suffers and we suffer. Heck, we’ve even fought over my decision to register for spin class simply because I realized I needed ME time and likely Mr. MPB saw it as me not doing enough with or for Baby MPB and he probably was also keeping score of which one of us was doing more (I don’t blame him for keeping score, I know I do it too). And alone time together as a couple, I don’t even know what that is right now! I think the alone time together is a big thing because there is no way it good for our marriage to simply be two adults co-habitating together to raise a child. This shit is hard.
    As an aside, just so you know your not alone, our last nap time argument in front of the refrigerator turned into a massive argument about me not cleaning out the refrigerator because apparently that is my job and I never got the memo – needless to say I have never been so bitter while cleaning a refrigerator in my life.

    • It is so hard to find balance. And I would have probably kicked your husband in the balls for saying that about the refrigerator. I’m not a violent person, but jeez. I think it’s GREAT that you’re taking those spin classes! Does he do anything that gets him out of the house (other than work)? Sounds like he needs to find his equivalent of spin class!

      • So I think I should have mentioned he helped clean the entire refrigerator, it wasnt just my job. Although I was so mad I don’t think I said more then 10 words the entire time. And those 1p words were not very nice!!
        He runs but not as regularly as my classes, which is why I signed up for the classes – if I’m paying for it I’m going to do it! And I always feel so much better after spin so it’s totally with my little bit of ‘me’ time. 😊

  9. Oh friend. You know how I feel about this. We are of the thought that we do not need to take a lot of time away from Gus. We have for special things and continue to now and then (we also don’t have babysitters so there’s that). We both feel like now we would rather be with him and we are willing to put other stuff on hold. Sometimes I see glimpses of our pre Gus relationship and take comfort in knowing it’s still there just a little buried. I will say that the older he gets the easier it is to take a little space. I think we only went out without him three times in his first year. I’m not saying don’t do it or that we have the perfect balance – we don’t. Lesley still pursues her hobbies, I have forgotten what mine are. (I think they are mainly getting drunk, shouting, and recreational drug use so…) We’d like more time the two of us, sure, but we both make the choice to spend it with our child. It is what it is. If this is what it is for you I’m just here to say that’s okay.

    • We’ve left C with a babysitter 3x in 13 months! Sounds like we’re right there with you. I don’t think I can keep this up, though. We’re both unhappy, and it’s not the example I want to set for Charlotte. It feels like we’re just adult roommates who jointly care for a child. Charlotte hates giving kisses and I realized the other day that she NEVER sees us kiss each other. I just don’t feel like this is us. For a while, it felt like this was how it needed to be, but I’m starting to feel like we need to change it up a bit.

  10. Yup. Yup. And yup, yup. I also recently learned of a dear friend’s divorce, and it shook me and Mr. O a little. Our own petty arguments got pushed aside and we made a promise not to drift from each other. (Best laid plans and all that, but at least we’re trying.)

    It boils down to what made your marriage work before baby. For me and Mr. O, the best part of our marriage was actually time we spent apart. No, really… here me out. We’re both fiercely independent people, and would never have survived relationships that required a lot of togetherness. We’ve actually had to make a point of giving each other permission to be by ourselves now that Chick is around.

    My point is that you have to get to the root of what makes your marriage awesome, then find ways in your new reality to honor it. Don’t worry about what other people say should work– to thine own self (and thine own marriage) be true.

    • We are very much the same in terms of the alone time. We always had things that gave us space from our relationship. She played softball a lot, and sometimes I was resentful of how much, but I realize now how good that was for us because I got time to order Indian food (she won’t eat it) and knit while she did her thing. It was really good for us.

  11. I read somewhere that having kids is like throwing a grenade into the middle of a marriage. Not that it wrecks it necessarily, but it’s not gonna look anything like it used to. Once when Darwin was younger Rachel and I were fighting (i couldn’t tell you over what, though) and I remember thinking “we’ll be divorced by the time this kid is 2.” Well we have about 3 days until I’m proven wrong and I don’t really think that’s going to happen. It’s not easy, and I’m not sure it even gets easier it just gets different (so far, anyway) but I do think it can be ok. And I agree with potandlid that it’s ok to choose to spend your couples time with your kid, too. The important thing is doing what feeds you, whether that’s knitting or date night or hiding in a dark room alone or having another baby while attempting a doctoral degree…….. you know. Whatever gets you through. 😉

  12. Pingback: The Appearance of Parenthood & Partnership | Not Sisters

  13. Oh friend, this is my life right now, every damn day! We kill ourselves every day at work so that we can do the best we can for our babies, and then we take care of the those babies and we neglect ourselves and our marriage, not on purpose, but sort of out of ommision because there is a shit ton of other stuff that takes priority, like, I dunno, keeping my kids alive and happy?!? So we end up putting our relationship on the back burner and hope that we get back in time to turn that burner off before a)everything in the pot evaporates b)everything in the pot burns or c)you realize that you thought you had turned the burner on and whoopsie! it’s been sitting there for a week festering and now you have to deal with whatever mess you unknowingly made! So even though it pains us, and we sit at dinner and talk about our kids the whole time, or work, and it’s not much, but it’s enough to remind us that this is so worth working towards and that managing our relationship and making things work is ALSO taking care of our children! So, ya know, we simultaneouly love and hate alone time….love because we can have an uninterupted conversation and glass of wine, and hate because we are away from our kids even though we left them sleeping and wouldn’t have been spending time with them anyway! Now, self-care is a little harder, but at least once a month we both get a day where we spend a day/few hours doing whatever we want…alone! These are the best days…for reals! And i kinda feel guilty saying that because when people hear “YASSSS ALONE!!!” “people” think I’m saying, “FUCK THESE KIDS!” and i’m not! I’m saying, “Oh thank you sweet lord baby jesus for allowing me a few hours to refresh and rejuvenate and clear my head so i can be a better mama to this family.” So i guess what i’m saying is, it’s necessary to take time, even if just an hour, once a month for you, or the two of you. At a minimum. I think it helps remind us how cool we are, and how awesome our partners are too. 😉

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