Just as the dust has settled from the inundation of Facebook photos of smiling families in matching Santa pajamas, surrounded by mountains of shiny gifts and happy children, the rigmarole of Valentine’s pressures arrive.
I look at my own husband and hope he has plans to give me the gift of a night out. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to go on a date. I want to take an uninterrupted shower, cover myself to my chin in an oversized blanket, pour wine from a box (because I’m classy), and binge watch Netflix.
Ugh! He is driving me crazy! I think to myself, as I pick up his smelly gym shorts from our floor for the eleventieth time this week. The thought is immediately followed by the guilt of a woman who is beyond thankful for a loving husband and feels ashamed just for wanting some alone time.
But haven’t we all been in this place? Am I the only one? I am beyond over the photos of fancy families, smiles polished, gluing paper hearts onto shiny foil-covered boxes for Valentines. That is not what our real life looks like.
Parenting and marriage is messy and hard and filled with teary trips to the Target parking lot just so I can have a moment of quiet while I pump myself full of caffeine infused lattes and try to wipe the mascara smears off of my eyes.
When my husband and I first met in our twenties we were young and vibrant. We had energy. We could stay up all hours talking and investing in each other–laughing until our sides hurt. We could drink a margarita at dinner and see movies…in a theatre!
Now, in our late 30’s, we are tired. Please hear me when I say we are ttttiiiiiiirrreeeedddd. I am talking the kind of next level exhausted that is reserved for people who end up in white padded rooms.
We have been through buying houses, selling houses, losing jobs and getting new ones, two difficult births, the diagnosis of our son, and deaths of family members. As you approach 40 as a married couple with kids, holidays are more about your children and less about the lovey-dovey stuff. Your conversations are about mortgages, how to pay for college, and planning for how to cope as our parents get older.
Now we spend our time shuffling this kid to soccer and that one to karate. We are making sure we make it to birthday parties and shopping for last minute snacks for preschool.
We used to thrive and now we’re strictly in survival mode. Marriage in your late 30’s and 40’s can easily flip onto autopilot.
Friends, we have to be careful. We must continue to fight for our spouses and remind ourselves of why we were attracted to them in the first place. We need to make a big deal out of little things and reserve time to talk…and not just about the kids.
We need to leave notes for each other, send a picture or a text in the middle of the day, and make putting an effort into our relationship a priority among all of the other color coded duties on our overflowing calendar of to-do’s. We need to stop trying to win arguments and start remembering why we started fighting to begin with.
We need to listen. Oh, we really need to listen. We need to actually hear each other. We are always changing, growing, making steps forward and sometimes back. We need to ask questions of each other and stay engaged in conversations.
So don’t allow yourselves to slip into that place where we start to believe that the polished faces of families on Facebook aren’t just as dusty as ours are in real life. They have Target runs and spilled coffee and vans full of Cheerios too. They are having difficult conversations and attending funerals and scrambling for jobs just like you are. Don’t fall for the facade.