So what are us married mamas doing?
Enjoying the ride, for the most part. If Tolstoy was onto something with his insistence that “all happy families are alike”, then my happiness will resonate to other happily married moms. Being happy in marriage and motherhood doesn’t seem, to me, like an accident so much as a choice. I choose to celebrate my partner, my kids and the life we share together.
My personal happily ever after is no fairy tale. There are a lot of chores. But there’s also a lot of laughter and joy. I wouldn’t, at the end of the day, have it any other way.
It’s not that I’m any great fan of marriage as an institution. I often wish we’d skipped that part, because the social weight of “married life” can get in the way of my great relationship with this awesome guy I live with. And being The Mommy can interfere with just enjoying time with our fantastic kids.
But when I can shake loose those labels, it’s easy to see that I’ve got it pretty good. Great, even. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My colleague Helaine thinks a lot of the press about how rotten marriage and family life secretly is must be simple kvetching. Sure. As a culture, we don’t spend a lot of energy on simple gratitude.
But it’s also probably a mismatch of expectations and reality. Being married and having kids is nothing at all like the Barbie Dream life. It doesn’t come with an endless parade of matching accessories, an effortlessly perfect home and a magic Ken doll you can animate to do and be anything you want.
When I met my husband, I didn’t fall madly in love with him. I just liked him. I thought he was charming and sweet and I liked the way he hugged me. I wanted to know him a little better, so when he invited me to an anti-war demonstration with some mutual friends, I said yes. I kept saying yes, and I’m still saying yes.
The gift of marriage isn’t that we have the perfect love, or the perfect life. It’s that every day I have a chance to know this amazing person a little better.
Having kids, too, isn’t without it’s challenges. It’s exhausting: physically, mentally and emotionally. I’ve seen and said and done things in the past six years as a mom that I never would have believed myself capable of. Some of those were awful. Who knew I could pull more than one all-nighter in a row? Go a month without sex? Scream at a three-year-old? I wouldn’t want to relive any of those moments.
But those are the rare missteps in an otherwise wonder-filled journey, watching my kids become independent people. As with my marriage, the gift my children bring to me is the chance to walk with them as they discover the world.
There’s no happy ending for marriage or motherhood. Both are the work of a lifetime. In most cases, we take on these tasks out of love, and carry them through with love. That doesn’t mean they’re easy, or always fun. But they are, for me and many of the other mamas I know, infinitely rewarding.