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More than anything else, one stupid false ideal poisons my happiness and joy as a mother:
Equality. Well, equality is the nice name for it. More specifically, jealousy.
As a product of this culture I seek equality at all costs–but not equality for others. Equality for myself. My life, my portion, my situation must be as good as everyone else’s. That is only fair. That is only equal.
This approach was fine (not virtuous) when I was single, but as a mother it is dangerous, destructive and toxic. I know because it is something I struggle with everyday.
Especially when I compare my life to my husband’s.
Motherhood is an all-demanding job. Even things as simple as sleep-habits, body shape and career are gobbled up in the work of a mother. No matter how I want to change it, fathers will never be asked to sacrifice in the way a mother is. Never. They will never endure pregnancy, scream through delivery or struggle with breast feeding. As women and mothers it is written in our very DNA to do these things–and for men it simply is not.
It took me a long time to see that this pursuit of equality was deeply rooted in jealousy.
It just never occurred to me that I could be more jealous of my husband than anyone else on earth.
I am married to a wonderful (the best?) man–terrific husband and father. I love him to the absolute core of my being. But even so, it is hard to not feel bitter at the inequity of it all. Why does he get to waltz out of the house with his hands in his pockets when I am constantly lugging around a 25 pound baby and 2 wild toddlers? Why does he get to avoid stretch-marks and night-time feedings? Why are there certain parts of parenthood I have do by myself?
Often I try to find (false) peace in the idea that we were actually somehow equal after all–that in some cock-eyed, voo-doo math equation the 7 diapers I changed, 13 tantrums I endured and 2 times I scrubbed the floor that day were equal to his work stress, getting caught in traffic for 45 minutes and his computer crashing. Well, they would be equal after he did the dishes. I worked very hard to see (or create) the equality–and was convinced I would find it if I just moved some things around, carried the one, divided by 4 and got to go shopping by myself Saturday morning.
But this is all crap, even I know that. No, actually it isn’t crap. It’s poison.
It’s poison because instead of loving my husband and rejoicing with him in his joy I’m calculating, always calculating. He got that, and I was shorted, and that’s not far, and poor me, and how are we going to make this equal?
This was made even worse by the fact that my husband is often sent on long (exotic) business trips. Well, probably more exotic on the outside than in reality. Just this month he spend over 2 weeks in Thailand. While there he worked incredibly hard, but also enjoyed a beautiful weekend in the mountains, riding elephants, playing tourist and getting a Thai massage.
While he was there doing all of that I was here, with 3 kids under 4, doing what I do every day.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but a part of me didn’t want to hear about the things he was doing, eating, seeing, riding, buying. The deepest, darkest, most ugly part of me was jealous, so jealous I was unable to share in his joy. When I was up in the middle of the night with a teething baby, when I was wiping butt after butt after butt, when I was hauling the trash out to the curb while holding a baby, when I was sitting alone at night, night after night, because the kids were sleeping upstairs and I had to be there, alone…it felt so terribly unfair.
During those nights I’d sometimes sit and think up ways that we can even the score. Maybe I could buy something, go somewhere…
What was happening was unfair and unequal!
But no matter how I added it up, no matter what I got when he returned I felt as if I’d always be shorted, denied and dealt with unfairly. I can see now what I trap it was–all that calculating and brooding. It made me feel and think and act so ugly.
After much prayer and reflection I am starting to see things a little bit differently. Starting to…
I am starting to see that striving for equality (whatever that is) between me and my husband is not only pointless, it’s killing me, it’s attacking our love and it’s turning me into something I am not. I don’t want to keep score. I don’t want to be bitter. I live rejoicing!
I want my children to rise up and call me happy!
And what is more, my life is good, really. My kids are beautiful. I get to spend every day with them–and they make me laugh every single day. We have wonderful family, amazing friends. We have been blessed beyond what we deserve and nothing my husband gets to do–even riding an elephant–can change that. I don’t need to list all of the tiny miracles that happened while he was gone, all of the hugs my kids gave me, the sunny days, the time with cousins and friends and giggles to make myself fell better about what I didn’t get to do.
Just because his experience was good does not make mine bad.
Just because his experience was good does not make mine bad.
Sorry to repeat myself–but this mantra has changed my heart. Just because his experience was good does not make mine bad.
My husband and I have been asked to play different roles in our family. I stay home and along with that comes many challenges and joys and blessing and heartaches. He goes to work and through that work travels the world. And along with that comes different challenges and joys and blessing and heartaches.
I am secure in his love for me and our family and even though I still struggle with these creeping thoughts I am determined to rejoice with him as he rejoices with me because I do love him.
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