She has to decide–for herself and herself only–what will make her happy.
Because once upon a time, I thought that the key to my happiness lay in my husband’s ability to make me happy. I thought, erroneously, of course, that if I was having a bad day, he should pick up on it and make me feel better. I thought, foolishly, that marriage would be a lot like that one coffee creamer commercial, with a handsome husband who would make me my favorite drink in the morning and hand it to me over a gleaming granite countertop while we both smiled at each other with perfect hair.
Today, I know a little better.
Not only do we still not have granite countertops in our outdated kitchen, but our hair is a little lacking as well. More importantly, however, I have finally realized that the key to a happy marriage actually has nothing to do with marriage itself.
But it has everything to do with me.
If I want to make my marriage a good one–and on most days, this is actually what I want–I have to fight, sometimes tooth and nail, for my own independence.
There are times when I feel like I’m being a horrible wife, mother, and overall human being in fighting for what feels like maintaining some semblance of myself. Like today, for instance, when my husband wanted to mow the lawn and I had four articles due. I agreed to sit outside and try to “work” while watching our three young children in the kiddie pool while he mowed. I got about 0.4 seconds of work in, when my two-year-old son, who had stripped down to only his birthday suit and a hat, took off sprinting across the lawn towards the mower. I was forced to haul my eight-month-pregnant body in what was definitely not a graceful run after him and by the time I snatched him up, I was almost in irrational tears to my husband.
“Why can’t it ever just be easy?” I complained. “Why do I always have to base my day and my work around you and the kids?!”
It might sound like a silly, selfish complaint and perhaps it was.
But tell me there’s not another wife and mother who hasn’t felt the same way? That always, always, what we need to do, even for something as basic as the work that brings our bread and butter, falls last?
For me, the solution to finding and keeping my independence hasn’t been easy. I struggle in the smallest of ways to keep my independence as a wife — resisting the urge to micromanage my husband’s schedule, handing the kids off without detailed instructions to him when I would like to exercise, trying to show my kids that life, in fact, does not revolve solely around them. Some days, I feel like I am fighting a losing battle, like it’s more effort than it’s worth, and on other days, I feel like a horrible person for even wanting to keep my independence. After all, aren’t “good” mothers and wives completely selfless? Bottomless pits of endless home-cooked meals and everyone else’s needs put before theirs?
In some ways, yes.
The great majority of the time, my life right now does revolve around little people and my husband’s schedule because that’s the point of our lives that we are in.
But I’m not a bottomless pit of servitude.
I am still a woman.
A woman who once had no children. Or husband. Or home to call her own.
A woman with her own wants and needs and dreams and goals.
A woman who is simply just me.
A woman who needs a little independence to feel whole. The freedom to hire a babysitter, even when guilt tells her it’s not practical. The self-forgiveness to pursue work that she loves, even if it means saying “no” to the request for a tea party now and then. The ability to realize that there is no one path to motherhood or marriage. The independence of income and the knowledge of security. The fight for an hour or two of time that is just her own. The recognition of the strange mystery that is marriage, in becoming one, yet still growing as individuals. The marveling at a life so intertwined with little people that it’s hard to tell where (and if) the mother ends and the woman begins.
I love these people in my life, the ones borne from my body and the husband that raises them alongside of me, because let’s face it: they make me a better person than I could ever be on my own.
But I love them not because they are a part of me. But because they are each separate individuals who hold a piece of my heart.
So it’s only fair that I recognize that I, too, am my own person.
Even with a heart that doesn’t always beat for me alone.
Image via Chaunie Brusie/Instagram