Role Reversal

As a woman married to the same man for fourteen years, I’ve begun to notice a shift in our relationship. And I’ve seen it not only in my own experience, but also in the lives of several other women I know. I’m going to speak in generalities here, but from my sample size of approximately seven or eight or nine, I have noticed a role reversal the longer the couple stays together.

On Friday morning my husband was shuffling around the kitchen, packing binders and snacks into the kids’ book bags and organizing himself for his weekend away for golf with the guys. He may have chattered something about the NFL draft last night and I may have grunted in reply. “Are you going to miss me at all while I’m gone?” he asked next. “Yes,” I said dryly without looking up from my oatmeal.

There was a time when we were freshly dating that I didn’t want to take my eyes off him, enjoying sipping my bud light from a bar stool, and still keeping my gaze on him as I tipped my beer back for another swig. Later on I ended up “between apartments” for an extended period of time which conveniently landed me at his apartment for over a month. We rode to and from work together, ran together, and picked up our take-out dinner together. Oh yeah, and because I was so smitten with this guy, I watched four hours of wrestling per week with him. FOUR hours! (I admit he taught me the soap-opera-ish beauty of WWE wrestling, which I still like in small doses to this day. Unless the Rock is on. I’ll watch him all day long!)

I don’t really know how it is in today’s terms, but being in a new relationship used to mean getting excited to check your email or answering machine to see if he has called or written. Now, I guess it’s the same but with texts.

In Stage One it is also the man who usually plays it pretty aloof. I wonder if long eyelashes and aloofness are related to the male peacock’s showy feathers? It seems aloofness makes a woman want to date a man all the more. Why won’t he answer the phone?! Why didn’t he come by when he said he would?!

When the hubs and I were newlyweds, I remember asking him if he was sure he really wanted to go play poker with the guys. I was so yearning for his company to sit on the sofa and watch T.V. together. Once I complained to my mom about this weekly abandonment issue, and my mom said, “Why aren’t you glad he’s out of your hair?!”

Fourteen years in, it seems my husband talks more than me and makes the occasional comment if I mention out loud my thought of traveling overnight with the kids, leaving him potentially home alone.

As I was noticing all of these feelings and non-feelings run through me, I got feisty and texted my love: I bet you miss the days when I begged you to stay with me instead of go play poker! Ok, I never begged; that’s just sick. But the gist was there. Then I thought ouch, that was pretty harsh and vaguely open-ended. So I added another: I still love you though. I’ll be scared when I go to bed without you tonight. Granted, I’m afraid of the dark and my own shadow, but there are some things I am very used to after fourteen years under the same roof – and having another adult in the house at bedtime is one of them.

It’s just funny to me that we women crave our significant other’s attention so much in the beginning, where later down the line, we can get very comfortable doing what we want, when we want, without male interference. The guys, on the other hand, after playing it cool for so long on the front end, now crave the female attention.

The hubs comes home tomorrow. I’ll certainly be glad. He’ll tell me about when so-and-so shot a bogey or a par on such-and-such hole, and I’ll listen with half an ear while one kid interrupts him about her lack of playdates and the other walks between our legs to rummage through the refrigerator for a snack too close to meal time. I’m not saying that the men become giddy teenage girls starving for attention. Maybe it’s just that their timing for communicating is off. Maybe as a couple our goals become more balanced between us now that we gals are no longer lunging for the remote to cue up WWE as he brings the bowl of popcorn to the coffee table (or seeing the newest action movie in the theatres or attending the Auto Show or Boat Show.) I remember one of the longest trips my husband went on when we were dating, and when he finally arrived at my doorstep, I grabbed him around the neck as I exclaimed, “It’s about time!” I was so eager to see him! I’m ready for the hubs to come home, but that probably won’t be my same reaction. And that’s ok because some of that eagerness from years ago has been replaced by things I’ve learned about my guy – how caring he is for our kids, what a great coach he is, how fantastic at his job he is, how much he roots for me to achieve my goals, and how he can pick out a wine that I will guarantee like every time. Fellas, you are loved, but there is a reason Girls Night exists. Back in the day, we may have skipped Girls Night just to watch your intramural softball game. Now that we are older and wiser, and as much as we love you, we need time to un-hear all of the man-gossip that you bring home in your old age.


Help! I Want to Fall in Love With my Child Again

Help! I want to fall in love with my child again. Ugh, it feels awful just saying that. Of course I love her. But I want to like her and be smitten with her, too! Only eight short years ago I was my baby’s Number One. My husband was right up there, too, with lots of diaper changing, rocking, swaddling, and singing to our little infant. But back in those days I really was top dog. At least it felt like it. In hindsight, I guess it is pretty easy to get a baby to be pleased with you – feed it, love it, give it a comfy bed, and they’ll coo and smile at you and grab your fingers. That makes you feel pretty loved.

So what the heck happened in the last few years? My eight year old is an internalizer. She’s not quick to come asking for help because she’s usually determined to do it herself. The downside to that is that by the time she is completely exhausted and frustrated from trying to jam her big green arm cast into her shirt sleeve, she is sweating and crying. Hearing her grunts and cries, I ask if she needs help, but I get greeted with a fierce, screaming, “No, I don’t need any help!” while she whips herself sideways, away from me, so that her long, blonde uncombed hair swats me on the arm as she rejects my offer and effort (I just climbed all sixteen stairs to come to your rescue, kid!) to help.

I know it’s probably not humanly possible to like any person all of the time, but I’d sure be happy to like my girl for the majority of the day. I feel like I am constantly having to try to figure her out. My five year old is crystal clear. She’s just like me – happy, smile; sad, frown. (angry, yell.) Well I’m trying to make a concerted effort not to yell unneccesarily. My Ellie tells it like it is.“ I HATE THESE SHOES! I DON’T WANT TO WEAR THEM!” she’ll scream if her shoe is too tight (or loose, or the wrong color or style.) As much as I hate noise, this screaming does not faze me. She’s being completely authentic – she’s telling me exactly what her problem is and I know how to fix it. And ten minutes later she comes up to me with a sad, ashamed face and says, “I’m sorry I yelled, Mommy.” I understand everything about this entire situation!

Meanwhile, I can only speculate what’s going on with Sammy. Before she gets feisty, she must be working on some kind of internal monologue. Maybe I keep showing up in Act II and only Sammy knows what Act I was?!

At my church’s women’s retreat last weekend, our leader declared, “Being loved is giving love.” I think there was a little more to it than that, but the gist was that if you want to be loved by God, you give your love away to others. I heard it and thought, “hmm, interesting, and kind of sweet. But I’m not sure I’m always in the mood for that.” I feel like I give a lot for my kids, rarely receiving a thank you for the 1.1 million tasks it takes just to make it through the day with a child. But today, after my ears got blown out by the great blonde beast (her teachers would never believe a word of this!) I took a short walk down to the cul-de-sac. I was so emotionally exhausted and beat up that I didn’t know if I was going to scream or cry or throw myself on the ground. I was thinking about how much I want to love her even though I don’t feel loved. (And of being a giant failure for experiencing this lack of adoration in the first place.) By the time I made it back to the house, Ellie was on the doorstep, ready to walk to the cul-de-sac with me. I shouted through the window, asking if Sammy wanted to come, but being greeted by her shoulder, Ellie and I headed down the hill as I called out, “Back in a minute!”

From the corner, we saw Sammy standing at the edge of the grass, so I waved for her to join us. In a pretty blue dress with her blonde mop trailing behind her, she ran like a dainty princess down the hill. I thought, “Dang, she sure is cute like that.” I stooped down as she got closer and I said, “I just want to help you. I always want to help you. I’m your momma. I want to fix your problems. I just don’t always know what to do to help.” I picked her up and she snuggled me tight which told me I must have finally said something right today. And maybe being loved is indeed giving love even when you don’t feel like it. But just in case, I bought both of my kids T-shirts from Target that say Mom is my Superhero because sometimes you need to see it in black and white.


What’s For Dinner?

I want a home-cooked meal, but I don’t want to cook. I want my kids to eat a home-cooked meal, but I don’t want to cook. I’d kinda like for my husband to eat a home-cooked meal because it’s healthy but A- I don’t care all that much because he can worry about his own needs and B- I don’t want to cook.

I enjoy watching cooking shows and think if I had things prepped and chopped and ready and waiting in small bowls and ramekins, sure, I’d be more eager, or rather, less displeased about cooking. I hear people who say, “I love to cook.” And all I can think is you are a strange being. Like those beings who don’t like chocolate. I cannot relate.

There are several obstacles in my way regarding cooking for pleasure. OMG I almost threw up a little bit writing that. Cooking and pleasure together to me are as natural a combination as hamburgers and chocolate chips.

My mom cooked a ton for us when I was growing up. Our family’s favorite meal was pork chops and mashed potatoes night. We also loved spaghetti night. But pork chops and mashed potatoes was the winner.

As a newlywed, I offered my cooking “abilities” to my husband. I suggested one night to make pork chops and mashed potatoes. He does not like mashed potatoes he informed me. So I made them for myself and made him chicken and rice. Two and a half hours later my legs and feet and back were aching, and I was fed but frustrated. Too much work, this cooking thing! On another occasion I tried again for mashed potato night. Chris gave in and “tried” it. So there you have it, once in fourteen years of marriage I made my mom’s famous pork chops and mashed potato meal.

I know there is that famous book out there called The Five Love Languages and although I purchased it, I have not read it (more on that sometime for sure.) But from looking at the title and the table of contents, I can tell you this: Cooking is NOT my love language!!!!!

As kids, my sister and I would run in and out of the house, playing tennis in the street, jumping on our friend’s trampoline, dashing inside for a sip of water, and dashing right back out again. But before we did, we’d quickly ask, “Mom, what’s for supper?” Sometimes she’d say chicken or tacos, but sometimes she’d snap, “Go play! I’ll let you know what’s for supper when I know what’s for supper!” Mom, I feel ya!

There is no happy ending coming from answering the “Mom, what’s for dinner” question. If my five year old asks and I tell her chicken, she’ll wine (although she almost always eats what is served.) If my eight year old asks, only two possible answers please her: Papa John’s pizza or heart shaped pasta (any variety of novelty shaped pasta, actually, thanks to TJ Maxx.) Of course instead of pizza, she is likely to earn a heap of cottage cheese on her plate accompanied by watermelon or strawberries. I am thinking very seriously of sending my little vegetarian to Vegetable Camp. Please let me know if that exists.

Alas, the hubs is the final component of the dinner time bomb disaster. First of all, if he is calling and asking this most annoying question at 3:45 or 4:00 pm, there is clearly not a plan in place. And aside from cleaning house, nothing wears me out more than going to the grocery store and cooking in the same afternoon. I may happily jog three miles, do sit-ups, and push-ups, but when it comes to the kitchen, I’m a wimp who tires quickly!

My poor husband has a few things working against him already. First of all, the hubs and I clearly do not have the same eating preferences. I like chicken cooked in the pan; he likes it baked in the oven. He wants roasted potatoes; I prefer some sautéed kale. I like to cook things quickly and everything he wants to eat takes over an hour to prep and bake.

But the invisible part is this: Even though my mom cooked for us three kids and Pop, she raised me and my sister as feminists. Not crazy feminists, but healthy, independent, aware women. High school and college boyfriends were allowed, but they were not doted on. Emphasis was placed on having sincere friendships and making oneself happy from within. So I grew up knowing “I don’t need no man!” I can still remember my sister and me moving my furniture out of my last college apartment. We had to take all six drawers out of the dresser to move it, but hell yeah, we moved that beast of a solid wooden dresser! We also chanted, “We are strong, powerful women!” while we gripped tightly, sweated, laughed, and took baby steps toward the U-Haul. But we did it! And we did it without a man.

My grandma Jack-Jack was a millennial woman, but Grandpa was pretty happy living in the shadows of the 1950s. Jack-Jack worked in real estate, kept house amazingly, cooked deliciously, and baked even more scrumptiously. She always stayed on her feet, feeding all of us the fresh, hot pancakes while she kept flipping new ones on the pan. By the time I was scraping every last bit of syrup up with my fork and trying with all my might not to lick my plate because it was bad manners, she’d come sit at the table and eat her pancake. But I also have this image of her serving us dinner when my sister and I spent the night. Grandpa would always sit in his chair, practically with fork in hand, and look over his shoulder to ask a question or give a comment while Jack-Jack was scurrying to the table with his food. It worked for them. But man, I just can’t stand that image. I know they served each other in their marriage in various ways and had different love languages (Grandpa brought Jack-Jack a bar of soap from practically every hotel he stayed at while traveling as a salesman. I have those soaps displayed in my bathroom.) Hubs, you may think you are asking an innocent question, but in reality, if you ask me what is for dinner, you are setting free the anti-cooking feminist in me by conjuring up all of these images. It’s not your fault. You didn’t know. Now you know.

My poor family is just gonna have to come to terms that Mommy doesn’t like to cook. If there were a perfect storm of goodness (smiles, hip-hip-hoorays, excitement, and yummy comments,) then maybe mommy could tolerate cooking. But until then, my sweet family, know there will be food of some kind or other and know that asking those three words, “what’s for dinner” sounds as lovely as nails on a chalkboard.

Would You Like Some Attitude With That?

I’m really not a judgmental person. I really aim not to be. But it’s about to get real judg-y in here. Disclaimer: I know some really sweet, responsible, intelligent, talented millennials. This article does not apply to you.

On a recent trip to the beach, I was shopping for a new visor and my mom and I ended up chatting with the guy at the shop. He was definitely “young-ish,” meaning visibly younger than my thirty-nine year old self. He mentioned working as a store designer at Starbucks, so I pegged him, a two-job fellow, around twenty-five-ish. (Also he asked.) Do not ask me how old I think you look. I will be wrong. So wrong. Plus, I was the kind of girl who had a young face forever, so I was ecstatic to eventually be able to tell people, “I’m thirty!” Yeah, I still looked about nineteen then. Which means I looked about twelve when I got my driver’s license. Funny how the young face phenomenon disappeared around the age of thirty-six.

But during our chat with the beach visor guy, he confessed to his legal drinking age status and immediately apologized for his entire age group. Yup, that’s right. “I’m embarrassed to be a millennial,” he said. “They are so lame.” Or awful. Or obnoxious. Or idiotic. I can’t remember exactly which adjective he so fittingly chose.

Here’s the thing. I’m just over the millennials. I’m looking forward to a day when “millennial” replaces the word “jerk,” because they’re practically interchangeable. Let’s look at some for instances.

Not giving a shit. Millennials are really good at not giving a shit. Like if they, Lord help us, work in customer service, you are not likely to feel heard if you voice a small complaint or suggestion. What you will get is a blank stare, a fake, empty “apology” if you blatantly ask for one, and basically your run of the mill not giving a shit so that you feel pretty much invisible.

Giving a Big Shit when it affects them. While this group is adept at not giving a shit for others, their voracity to give a shit when something displeases themselves is great. They can talk for hours, loudly, oblivious of others, in public spaces about the unjust occurring to them or their smart phone.

They send texts to people sitting across the table from them! And if that is necessary, let’s be honest, they are talking trash about the person next to them.

Beware. There are millennials among us. They like to blend in. In fact, many of them like to buy the same outfits, purses, and necklaces just to keep us guessing who is who among their tribe.

But, have hope, America. Among the millennials are some anti-millennials. These are the ones who have broken away from the tribe. They may even work at Chic-Fil-A. Yes, if you are wondering “Who gives a shit about me?” then head to Chic-Fil-A and you might just have your faith in humanity restored. Someone might actually look you in the eyeballs when they talk to you. They might smile. And they might even go the extra mile of getting you something that you need exactly when you need it.

I do have a lot of respect for the hard-working anti-millennials. I see some of these kids making good grades in college, hold down a part-time job, and get involved in the community. This makes me able to breathe again.

But it won’t be long till I have an encounter with a millennial again. I have to brace myself because you never know when it’s coming. You might do someone the favor of letting an employee know that the toilet paper has run out in their store/restaurant/place of business and get that glassy-eyed stare. And then you know that all of the customers for the next several hours are going to have to desperately search their purse for any remnant of tissue just to relieve their old-ass bladder. But don’t worry. Those millennials will just sit there on their stool giving all the customers blank stares instead of fresh TP. They won’t get up and go change it. That’s what they need their mommy for. Mom and Dad still change out their toilet paper and sometimes even call up their college professors to ask how they can bump up their B to an A.

No, no, no, I don’t hate millennials. I have had several irksome encounters with them for sure. For. Sure. But I think I just empathize with visor shop guy. Millennials get a bad rap just like teenagers get (used to get?) a bad rap just for being teenagers. There are obnoxious ones in those groups that magnify their horrible traits so much that one begins to equate millennial with their pathetic counterparts.

But in reality, the majority of the millennials I come into contact with have jobs, work with children, work with my own children, are friendly, caring, and think of others. My children’s babysitters in particular fit this bill. Aside from babysitting, they have braided my girls’ hair, taught them about music, horses, German, soccer, and dance. I am one lucky momma to have my kids exposed to these incredible young women who model such fine character traits. So Go, Millenials, Go! Outperform those anti toilet paper fetching types and maybe eventually one day visor shop guy can be proud of his age bracket.