How do we get these right? Do we ever get them correct? And how do we prioritize; as a woman? As a wife? As a mom? A human being? Which is the correct one and if we must do them all, which of the priorities is the priority?
I’d like to say I wake up every morning, grab my coffee and prioritize the day in my head or on paper. But I don’t I usually have a laundry list, a to do list, an events calendar and a running calendar, as well as an agenda constantly looping through my mind.
Before I met Derrick; I was always a Type A personality. I believed in order, organization and had a plan, well, many plans.
I wanted to finish school, graduate, join the Air Force and go to college and somewhere after that I prioritized marriage and kids mixed in with a fantastic career that utilized both my smarts and my Type A personality.
Then I fell in love and priorities shifted. A lot. Everything I had planned was wiped off the table and a new, uncharted path was laid before me. I dropped out of school and didn’t even remember what the Air Force was. It was late night conversations about dreams and hopes and making out until my whole face was either raw or numb. A spontaneous engagement moved things along a lot quicker than I anticipated. I moved away from home and got a job working at a fast food restaurant. I didn’t even have my driver’s license. But I was in love.
My dream of a big wedding with all my friends and family was traded in for a ceremony with the Justice of the Peace and all 7 of Derrick’s college friends as our witnesses. I didn’t even have one person on my side there. I wore a simple $10 clearance dress from Old Navy and ate rice and beans for my wedding dinner feast. I didn’t have a first dance or even a wedding cake. I didn’t have a wedding night, nor a honeymoon. But I was in love.
Motherhood sprung on me as if I were a ripe little lamb and it was a ferocious lion. I wasn’t ready for it. My husband was throat deep in college and working and I stayed home, running from the bed to the toilet 50 times a day with horrible morning sickness. I was lonely and depressed, living a whole state away from the people I knew, trying to navigate a new marriage and now parenthood. And I was doing it alone–until my mom or grandparents mailed me a calling card in the mail and I’d finally be able to call and race everything across a 15 minute short phone call and prayed they’d give me solace before the operator cut in and told me my card amount was up. I got another job; working at a sandwich shoppe across from ASU and it pained my heart every time a happy college student busily strolled in for a working lunch and I watched that dream fizzle away too. But I was in love.
I reached my breaking point when my oldest was about 6 months old and I gave Derrick and ultimatum; move us back to California or we were over. I’m sure he still resents me for taking him away from his art school, his friends, his stay-up-until 3 am-playing-video-game friends and everything he built in Tempe. I knew I was depressed and I had tried to get help; but no one told me what Postpartum Depression was, they just said I needed antidepressants and I’d be fine. I wasn’t fine. But I was in love.
We somehow moved back to Arizona once again when I gave birth to our second child and life hadn’t changed much for me. Derrick had all his buddies from high school around and even some of the weasels tried to get me to sleep with them. One even tried to rape me once. I wish that would’ve been handled differently, and though I was upset, I stayed and I dealt with it; continuing to live and work in that tiny ass city where word spreads quickly and I became even more depressed. But I was in love.
When I found out I was pregnant with my third, I was so depressed I contemplated an abortion. I was in my very early 20’s, in a tiny apartment, with 2, soon to be 3 kids, no job, no schooling and living in a town where my in-laws hated me and I had no friends. I tried my damnedest to befriend my husband’s friend’s spouses, but they just weren’t my cup of tea. Signs of Bipolar Disorder were manifesting, but I still wasn’t even diagnosed with depression at this point. We moved to a bigger house on the river and I got a job working reception at the front desk of where we lived. But I was lonely and depressed. Derrick was working a lot; mostly nights at Denny’s and he had this bond with the women he worked with and I was always jealous. One even professed her undying love for Derrick and how she wanted him to be her daughters dad and all kinds of shit. I was dying inside; a mother of 3, struggling, and this woman was telling me that she was going to take my children’s father away from them, to build a family with him. I began to act out. I drank almost daily. I smoked. I skinny-dipped with one of Derrick’s co-workers and two strange men we just met. I began having affairs. I was acting immature and childish, to MAKE Derrick finally notice just how lonely and depressed I was. And rather than working on it like mature adults; he began making plans to visit his ex-girlfriend, the model. I wanted to leave. But I was in love.
I don’t know how we survived him being injured and nearly dying and me being so depressed I was suicidal and self-harming, but we did. When he lost his job and mine wasn’t enough to keep the bills afloat, we moved back to California, this time moving in with my grandparents. That was…not awesome. Seven of us in a broke down, run down, shanty shack of a house with the five of us cramped in one bedroom. Derrick eventually found another job and we moved out as soon as we could and within a year, I was pregnant again. It wasn’t until that year that I finally spoke with specialists that told me I had a rare allergy that allowed me to become pregnant more easily when I’m taking birth control and that really screwed with my mind. I was 28, with 4 kids. In a tiny 2 bedroom apartment. But I was in love.
When Stephanie died, a piece of me went with her and I don’t know how I’ve been able to survive since. She was my ONLY person. She talked me down from so much. I don’t know how it’s been two years without her and I haven’t self-harmed once, not to say I haven’t wanted too. Not to say I haven’t tried. I try to talk to Derrick the way I talked to her. I tried to talk to my therapist and psychiatrist the way I talked to her. Nothing. I could relax around her and NEVER feel judgment. I’m afraid of hurting Derrick, so I filter myself when we talk. And with my doctors, well, I’m afraid they’ll have me committed and take my kids away if I’m honest with them, so I censor myself or I make sure I word things in a way that make me appear “more stable” than I actually am. I keep my appointments. I tend to my children. I clean my house. I see my doctors. I’m (am now) taking my medication. I wanna leave. I don’t. We fight and I want to leave him and kids. But I’m in love.
I read and read and read and listen to so many different sides and view points on priorities these days; on the news, in magazines, in books, on blogs, podcasts, vlogs, and I’m always left confused. When did my priorities shift? When did I no longer make my own list? I’m not even on my list. I have one version in my ear and in my head telling me that I MUST keep a clean house and it must be pristine because I am a SAHM and that’s my job: clean house. Healthy kids. That’s it. Then there’s others telling me; don’t worry so much about the house; spend time with your kids making memories; take them to events, craft with them, take them on expensive vacations so they have things to share. Then there’s another voice telling me that my husband should be my priority because he works the hardest. He makes the income. He’s gone all day. He provides; so keep his castle clean, make sure his laundry for work is fresh, keep his magazines in the bathroom, don’t complain about his gaming because that’s his outlet. Stock the fridge with beer because he deserves it. And I do that. Because I’m in love.
And then there’s the feminist-ic viewpoint. Make myself the priority. Break glass ceilings. Venture out. Demand a tribe. Join the resistance. And I can’t because I feel like I am denying my husband of a wife and my children of a mother. And yet, I sit here, thoroughly unhappy, listening to a wailing baby in her mamaRoo, who wants to nurse again, even though I’ve already nursed her twice while trying to write this. My older kids are disappointed I said no to dessert. They think I’m being mean. Truth is; no one is doing their chores and honestly, I haven’t been grocery shopping and I really don’t want to go. There was barely enough chicken to feed the kids dinner, so I came in here to write while they eat. And I’m saving yesterday’s leftovers for my husband because he’s worked all day and still has to work again tonight, so he deserves a meal more than me. Because I’m in love.
I can’t look in a mirror without being disappointed. Both physically and mentally. I am a hard person to love, even for myself. I can honestly say I do not love myself. I love my husband and my children and I’d do anything to make them happy. But for the love of all things, I cannot bring myself to love myself. I argue with myself a lot too. I talk myself out of a lot of things too. I miss running; but I know the baby will need nursing, so I can’t be too far away–and I can’t take her along because a month later, my stroller is still broken in the garage. I was supposed to go on a bike ride today with Maverick, but Derrick had to work, so I had to cancel those plans. I wanna relax and read a book but either the baby cries or I’m just so dead tired, reading ANYTHING puts me to sleep. And even though I am tired, I force myself to stay awake when Derrick comes home because he’s been gone all day and I want to show him my appreciation for him working so hard. I feel bad that I zone out sometimes when he talks about his day; but I am just so tired from the lists that keep repeating in my head. Beating me for all the things I didn’t get to. So I sit, awake, listening to him, watching the shows he likes in bed, because I’m in love.
And this is my worry. When the kids all grow up and move out and have lives and priorities of their own, and it’s just me and Derrick left behind, will he still be my priority? Am I actually in love or am I prioritizing love because that’s what a wife is supposed to do and honestly, because I’m terrified of ending up like my mom. Do I love him out of guilt; he’s a great dad, a great provider, a decent tech guy and from what I witness, a good friend to his friends, and I am constantly reminded how I’m the lucky one to get such a good one? Is he not lucky to have me? Am I a priority for him? Or is he just working his ass off to provide for his kids, so he’s nothing like his father? Are we actually in a happy marriage, or are we terrified of doing anything else because we see how the outcome was for our predecessors? If we didn’t have all these kids, can we actually say we’re still together because we’re in love?
We hear and read the stories all the time, about the parents that are super hopeful about their kids growing up and moving out, and how they’re excited to be “empty nesters” and they can go out and travel and rediscover each other. Is that a myth? Or are those future plans just a hopeful priority? It really isn’t fair to say I have to wait and see. I don’t want to “rediscover” my husband later. I might not like him and I know he won’t like me. I am no where near the girl I was when I was 16 and hopeful. I am tired and worn and constantly telling myself that “Lots of women get their shit together by 40” and that I’ll lose the weight, and my tits will perk back up and all these kegels are actually doing something. And then the kids move out. And the house is quiet. And empty. And it’s just me, him, and his Playstation55 or some shit. Will the resentment and loneliness I’ve experienced for all these decades going to eat us alive? I won’t be bombarded with a constant list of remembering to wash work uniforms and PE clothes, and who has what papers signed for school, and tracing ABC’s and 123’s before dinner, or scheduling doctors appointments and planning events and activities and trips between Girl Scouts and play dates. Then what? Go back to school? Why? I missed my opportunity to enjoy getting an education with a youthful and sponge-worthy mind. Too old for the Air Force and even if I wasn’t, I’m nowhere near in shape. And sex isn’t even a priority anymore. So that’s rarely talked about either. I’ve been a mom for a decade and a half. I have nothing interesting to say. And even if I did have something interesting to talk about, and I’ve tagged Derrick in it to have him read it so we can talk about it later, he ignores it and I ignore him ignoring it and he sips a beer and I mind my coffee and cigarette and we do this until bed time because we’re in love.