5.13.2011

Mental space for spouse-hood

On Mother’s Day, the Mountain Man and I dropped the Pie off at her Oma & Opa’s, and we went off on our own to have lunch, look at cars, go to the produce stand, buy a baby gate for the stairs (and some super cute little spring clothes) and just be with each other. I wanted nothing more on Mother’s Day than to feel like more than a mom… a woman and a wife and a friend.

And then I promptly felt guilty. This day was about celebrating my motherhood, about being honored for my role as my child’s caregiver, and I was nothing if not eager to pass her off to my parents and have a day (afternoon) alone with my mountain man.

We went about our errands, and as we drove I found myself looking out the window and feeling bad about having taken advantage of this day to spend time with my husband, as a couple – not as co-parents – and make mental space for each other.

Every time we have a “date night” or a mother’s day drop-off, every time we’re home together during a long nap or have a few moments with each other, it’s like a bittersweet reminder of what we used to be. We used to talk with each other for hours about everything and nothing, sit snuggled into the curves and recesses of each other and read on the couch, walk with his hip pressed right into the curve of my waist.

Now we talk with each other over the noise of the hood fan about whether we got the paperwork signed or which day I have a meeting and won’t be home for dinner. We sit at the kitchen table slurping dinner and trading baby entertainment duties and toy retrieval. Now we walk next to each other, trying to hold hands with a squirming baby who wants down, no up, no down again.

Time with each other to eat a meal without toys being thrown into our plates, to run into the market without carriers and carts, to take a quick test-drive without moving car seats and unbuckling and re-buckling is refreshing and reminds us of how good we can be.

I never planned for my hips to widen and for us to no longer fit perfectly side-at-side. I didn’t intend to lose all couch time and converse in fragments. I didn’t intend to lose the physical touch, the emotional structure, the mental space of our relationship. It is very bittersweet. We’ve gained so much while we’ve endured the losses. We are better people for it – more focused, more responsible, more motivated to be the best selves, couple and parents we can be. We share joy and hardship in a new way because of this child, this beautiful little baby. But sometimes, we need our old selves back.

Having the mental space for a conversation with each other is so critical. Before deciding to have a baby, I of course had to do plenty of research. I read about how a baby changes everything, but couldn’t internalize it. I read about how much stress is put on a marriage in the first year after birth, especially after the first born, and vowed to combat it. I promised myself nightly re-connection with the mountain man, after the Pie was neatly tucked into bed. Ha!

It’s a constant battle for a feeling of true connection, but if we continue to make mental space for each other on those rare days when we can get “away”, and if we continue to work through the tasks and errands and calendar syncing with kindness and love; if we can take joy in the small moments and remember fondly the times we have had, we can improve what we have - albeit a slight diversion from where we started - and continue to create a life where we are better people, better parents, a better family.

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