I knew when I married him, what kind of man he was.
Strong, generous, kind. But also in many ways my complete opposite. I’m sure I thought that I could probably change him to some degree. Surely he would plan just one date night for us. Surely he would get over his fear of doing, well, anything out of his comfort zone.
But I couldn’t have predicted what having children would to do us, what stepping right into marriage and parenthood at the same time would make our natural tendencies more pronounced, our gifts and abilities not just cutesy personality traits, but tools for survival.
And there are days — most days in fact — that I am OK with it. That I accept that the doctor’s appointments and the teeth cleanings and the bill payments and the meal planning and the childcare arrangements all rest firmly on my shoulders. You’ve always been a planner, I tell myself. You wouldn’t feel comfortable not being in control anyways, so just relax.
But then there are other days, like today, when I admit that I am tired. Just so very tired. And I’ve realized that for once — just once — I would like to be the one who is taken care of for a change.
Sometimes I daydream about what it would be like to have him focused on me. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that but I suspect I’m not the only one who has done this. I daydream that I will wake up to a gentle kiss, with blankets tucked around my shoulders and a whispered, “You stay in bed. I got this.” To have an entire day where someone asked me what I wanted to eat or what they could do for me. A day where they thought about my every need 10 steps ahead of me, anticipating what I wanted before I could even articulate it, like I do each and every day for almost every single member of my family.
Here’s your favorite water bottle, sweetie. Here’s the lunch I packed for you, honey. Oh, watch that puddle of water it will get your feet wet. The baby’s going to impale herself with that stick, grab it would you? The kids have swim classes at 6, so I’m going to have dinner ready for you by 5:30, and I already paid the babysitter so don’t worry about it.
Every need, every emotion, every whim and want, wrapped around my shoulders that seem to tremble under the weight of the world.
And him? Who is this man I share my life with? This man that sees right through me, forgets who I am, does not know that I am more, that I want more. Does not know that I cry at night beside him on my pillow because I want him to want what I cannot ask of him — to want me. Not wife me, not mom me, just me.
To want to whisk me off of my feet, to want to wrap me in his arms, to want to plan one night, just one measly night, out or at home or in the car. I really don’t care, and the details don’t matter as much as the fact that just once, I want someone to take care of every last detail without me. No “what do you think?” or “what do you want?,” just total and complete silence in my mind that never seems to still.
I want what I cannot have and what I have never had, because our relationship does not work that way and never has worked that way. Left to his own devices, his is a life much different than mine. I am the keeper of the dates, the manager of the marriage, the planner of our days. I don’t know how to ask for what makes my heart soar without feeling like it’s yet another task upon my shoulders, a responsibility that I didn’t know I was signing up for.
I’m sure I’m not the only woman in the world who has slid a ring upon her finger, pushed with all of her might in a delivery room, then blinked and realized that she was standing alone amongst a pile of laundry, wondering what in the world just happened and asking herself, “Is this the way it’s supposed to feel?”
Sometimes I get so frustrated with all the experts urging women to put self-care on our “to-do” list. It just shows how messed up we are that we need someone else reminding us to take care of ourselves. It also implies that women don’t know what’s best for ourselves while highlighting how conditioned we are to put everyone else first.
Obviously, it’s a paradox. Quite simply, the definition of motherhood is giving to another, in every way, shape, and form. We literally give away our blood supply. That little placenta parasite physically hacks into our blood vessels and burrows itself into the warm nest of our uterine lining and aggressively takes and takes and takes in order to make a new life for itself.
We give so that others may live. It’s just what we do, from the very beginning.
But today, just for today, I am dreaming that someone, just once, would take care of me.