I slammed the cupboard door with a firm hand and it defiantly popped back open. Instinctively, I pulled my hand back with a frustrating draw and then suddenly caught myself. I stared at the shelves of innocent coffee mugs. Was I really about to duke it out with an inanimate object? This isn’t a Disney movie where a little chipped mug was going to hop down and start consoling me. Keep it together. I was on a door slamming binge and it wasn’t even 8 o’clock in the morning. When I came to, I flipped around to see my husband and kids greeting me with blank stares. Silently. Cautiously. Waiting. My Big Bad Wolf to their Three Little Pigs. Not my shining moment.
Have I really turned into this person? The one who is watched with confusion and fear? My frustration quickly melted into embarrassment as I busily warmed up my coffee, mumbled something about having to get dressed and slid out of the kitchen like a sulking teenager.
Instead of calmly and assertively voicing that I was incredibly overwhelmed and needing a little help from my husband, I chose the higher road of pouting, slamming doors and seeing if my huffing and puffing, could in fact, really blow a house down. (FYI, it can’t.)
I was left feeling shallow, gross and incredibly weak. I am always dumping on passive aggressive behavior and then – wow – yep – there I was. Instead of blowing our house down I was one slam away from blowing her up. Eh, not really any different.
What was the fear of confronting my husband? If I really admitted it, spotlighting that I didn’t have my shit completely together was the driving force here. You know, just in case slamming cupboards and stomping around like a four-year-old wasn’t clue enough.
What I need to realize is that me not asking my husband directly for help is comparable to slowly adding cyanide to our marriage until it dies out. Doing it all and expecting accolades for it is a recipe for disaster. This theme runs on a loop endlessly through every generational female circle. From circle to circle to circle. What are we doing to stop it?
Are we just creating a baby boom of man babies?
The only surge that we will see, if women keep working at doing it all, is in the number of Xanax prescriptions and high-demand divorce lawyers. Letting guys off the hook to take it easy and relax is only adding fuel to the resentment and divorce rate fire. I know that when my husband increases his drives to drop-off he’s also surging my sex drive for lift-off. Because when we’re filled with to-do lists, everyday responsibilities, appointments, and minute by minute decision making, we have no room to stick anything else in us. It’s as simple as that. Or is it?
In Baby Boom*, Diane Keaton’s character, J.C. Wiatt, is a no-nonsense businesswoman who can hold her own against the boys and really rock the 80’s power suit like a champ. Her career is on the up and up and life is groovy. That is until she is sidelined with the news that a distant relative has passed away and she has now inherited six-month-old baby, Elizabeth. She debates options and in the end, decides to raise the baby. In true Hollywood fashion, her romantic relationship and career suffer so she leaves the big city for the Vermont countryside. There she becomes the utopian version of a single mother. Although she hits her share of kinks straight out of the gate, she soon manages to create a booming baby food business and land the local stud veterinarian (played by an easily lovable Sam Shepard) as her love interest.
FADE IN: Synthesizer
But you know what I want to see? A Baby Boom that shows what life is like after the guy is in the picture. Do they push forward and teach us all how to be copacetic under one roof or do they break-up and call it quits before baby Elizabeth is even potty-trained? Who knows?
What I do know, is there’s something equally incredible and terrifying about having little eyes looking to you to be their living and breathing moral and social compass. It’s no coincidence that James Baldwin’s quote has found its way into my life twice in one week:
We are bombarded on a regular basis with solicited and unsolicited parenting advice. Brash judgments and calming reminders. Sideways glances and supportive smiles. However, the best advice I ever received was simple: Happy marriages = Happy Kids. Work on the marriage, the kids will follow suit. Now, this isn’t saying that kids from divorced homes can’t be happy. I’ve seen divorce that is the “happy” needed to straighten things out. Sometimes staying together is not in the cards and admitting this ends up being the best hand played.
But since I have no plans on being a divorcé anytime in the near future, I have some work to do. And so does he. That’s how it is. We both work at it and hope to meet somewhere in the middle. And if you’re completely lost, (or want some prep material) your next purchase needs to be Jancee Dunn’s “How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids”.
She delivers laugh out loud, yet honest and real advice, she’s solidly done her homework (she interviews an FBI hostage negotiator for God’s sakes!) and is completely on the nose with both people having to step up to make it work. She even uses her own marriage as the threaded case study and peppers in her name-calling phrase of choice (“dick wad”) throughout. I mean, “dick wad”? C’mon. Sold. She’s the real deal. The book really could be called “How to Keep Loving Your Husband After Kids” but who in the hell is going to buy that? There were more times than I’d like to admit that I was the live version of the clenched teeth emoji while reading. Since when did they start putting mirrors in books? Weird. The refreshing part is that I realized that I’m not alone. I have great girlfriends and we swap stories, for sure, but the raw truth is sometimes harder to come by. It’s easier to bitch than it is to snitch on yourself for being wrong. But sometimes calling yourself out is the best-made plan, even if you do have to headlock a cupboard door to get there.
*In honor of Baby Boom’s 30th anniversary I decided to give it a re-watch. It’s a pretty risky decision to watch movies as an adult that you loved as a kid. There’s a lot at stake here. It’s quite a brave move. What if it doesn’t live up to your nostalgic childhood memory? Then what? The suspense. The pressure. I’m happy to say that Baby Boom delivered just the same, if not more, as it did 30 years ago. Changing vantage points and watching as a mom was pretty awesome. (Almost as awesome as having a young Sam Shepard in my living room for 90 minutes.)
Fritz Curtis: [to an executive] This is Elizabeth. J.C. is taking care of her for a while.
J.C. Wiatt: Well, Fritz, I’m actually keeping her a little longer than that.
Fritz Curtis: Oh? How long?
J.C. Wiatt: [distracted] Oh, forever!