As a self-proclaimed “cool girl” for many years of my unmarried life, I could sit there and tell you exactly what kind of wife and mother I was going to be.
“My kids will never eat hot dogs, watch television, or play with any plastic toys. My husband and I will have sex every night, travel around the world with our children, and we will never, ever fight,” I would self-righteously announce to anyone bored enough to listen.
In retrospect, I’m sure every one of my poor, verbal vomit victims who were in fact married themselves or had children were silently scoffing at the absurd ideals that me and every other husbandless, childless woman swears they will abide by and unwittingly abandons as soon as their water breaks.
Since having children, I have become the ultimate hypocrite of my former self. Not only do my children feast on McDonald’s Happy Meals, know the names of every Sesame Street character, and have a playroom filled with junk from Toys ‘R’ Us, but my husband and I manage to argue about things that I didn’t even know were debatable.
Forget about amateur topics like money and sex, there are far more uninteresting things to bicker about when it’s not just the two of you anymore.
1. The accumulation of stuff, or as he likes to call it: packratting.
What I consider saving memorabilia (and there’s a lot more of it now that I have kids), my husband vilifies as straight up hoarding, treating me like one of those glutinous slobs on the documentary series Hoarders.
Birthday cards from great Aunt Edna, “art” projects my son brings back from preschool (most likely executed by one of his teachers), articles of clothing from my emaciated years that will probably never fit again, and dried flowers from Valentine’s Days past are just a few of the things I cannot bring myself to toss in the trash, which flares up my husband’s OCD.
“Oh c’mon,” he moans when I rescue another beautiful coloring book page decorated with a stroke of crayon from the trash can, to which I respond, “But it’s art.”
My husband swears he trashes loads of my crap when I’m not looking and that I don’t realize any of it is missing. I can’t decide if he’s just saying this to piss me off, or if he’s actually telling the truth.
2. The art of tidying up.
I’ll be totally frank: I’m not the most organized person in the world and I hate cleaning. My husband, on the other hand, is a bona fide Type-A, borderline-sociopathic neat freak. Add a baby and a toddler into the equation, and chaos erupts.
Over the last few years, we have endured countless battles over what defines a clean house, and despite the two of us continuing to compromise and work toward unison on the subject matter (me, making an effort to clean more, and him, adjusting his unrealistic expectations), we can’t seem to find common ground.
He doesn’t understand why there is an apple juice straw wrapper on the ground, scissors laying on the counter, or a single mac n’ cheese noodle below the dining room table, and will liberally declare that the house should be condemned if one of these violations should occur.
I simply attribute the “mess” to having children and explain to him that for every choo choo train I put back in our son’s playroom, three of them end up on our bedroom floor.
And so the argument goes. Every. Single. Time.
3. The DVR.
My husband, who went from a super-regimented, in-control, and solitude-loving bachelor to a married father of two in less than three years, has reluctantly surrendered to the fact that life is no longer the calm abyss he became accustomed to and that he is powerless over most people, places, and things in our household — EXCEPT the DVR.
That little black box has become the electronic equivalent of his man cave, and he spends hours every week diligently hand-recording shows like Vice, The Americans, and Teen Mom. While some men enjoy a scotch and Cuban cigar after a long day at the office, my husband enjoys coming home, kicking his feet up on the couch, and watching really bad docudramas. I have no problem with this, but as the unofficial Keeper of the DVR, he has become quite territorial of the device’s memory card, which I use to record shows for our son and I, as well.
“Is it really necessary to have four episodes of Thomas and Friends on here?” moans the man who keeps 16 reruns of Cops in queue at all times.
If one of my Scandal episodes hangs out in our Saved section for more than one day, every single evening he will ask me if I am really going to watch it and can he please delete it because it is taking up space. While I would never go to the extent of deleting one of his precious, unwatched shows in a moment of rage, I admit that I have watched a show and purposely “forgotten” to delete it.
4. Quinoa vs. mac ‘n’ cheese.
I am from Los Angeles where I spent years getting used to eating really healthy food that tastes similar to dirt. My husband is from the Midwest, where his mother, an impeccable cook, adds a stick of butter to nearly every meal and people eat things like fast food, macaroni with neon orange cheese, and canned soup with more sodium than you are supposed to consume in a week, let alone a single serving. When it comes to feeding our children, we often bash heads on what they should or shouldn’t be eating.
For example, for some time I would only serve our son organic mac ‘n’ cheese, and my husband would grimace whenever he’d steal a bite of it. “This tastes like garbage,” he would chide me. “No wonder he never eats anything.”
The next time he joined me at the grocery store, he snuck “regular” mac into the cart and made it for him despite my protests. Of course our son devoured the entire box in a single sitting. Now hot dogs, Chicken McNuggets, and canned beans have become staples in his diet.
I admit, I lost. But I still manage to sneak a significant amount of chia, flax seeds, and spinach into my son’s smoothie every morning (my husband refuses to even try them) and serve him quinoa and lentils on the sly, so we’re all good.
5. Dining in public with our children.
“Do you want to go out to dinner?” is a simple, harmless, and easily answered yes-or-no question when you don’t have kids, but with a toddler and a baby, it has the potential for monumental disaster. While my friends and I are used to spending hours on-end in public settings with selfish, misbehaved mini-people who have no regard for the enjoyment and pleasure of other people, there is nothing that mortifies my husband more than sharing a meal in the real world with our beloved children.
“Do you think they will behave?” he asks me, like I am a 1-800 psychic.
It’s always a total crapshoot, but in the occasion I answer “yes” and we end up in a public eatery, there is a good chance our food will end up in takeout containers and my husband and I won’t be talking to each other on the drive home.
While I have surrendered to the fact that my 2-and-a-half-year-old entertains himself by watching his ketchup-covered chicken nuggets fall to the ground and our 3-month-old daughter screams so loud the entire eatery turns and looks at us like we are child abusers, my husband just can’t deal.
After several failed attempts, we decided to play it safe and are now on first-name basis with all the local food delivery drivers.
6. Parenting 101.
I went to a liberal arts prep school and have this laid-back SoCal disposition when it comes to parenting. My husband, a Type-A, gifted creature who went to a military academy and has lived in the Midwest his entire life, has incorporated a conservative outlook on most things in life, including the topic of discipline.
He firmly believes that our toddler has no respect for me, as he never listens to me or does what I tell him to because I do not set boundaries, while I attribute it to the fact that he is, well, a toddler.
And then there’s the issue of potty training. As my husband started using the toilet before he could even speak, he expects our children to do the same, which just isn’t happening with our 2-and-a-half-year-old son, who knows all about pooping and peeing in the toilet, but insists on “diaper first.” Most people have told me that he will learn when he’s ready, so though I do promote the use of the toilet, I don’t plan on enlisting him in potty boot camp until he’s at least 3. My husband attributes this laissez faire approach to laziness and believes I should be spending hours a day holding our son hostage on his Baby Bjorn toilet until he’s pooping like a pro.
Bedtime is another source of conflict, as I am a little more lenient when it comes to extending our son’s day than he is. By lack of default (the simple fact my husband works up to 12 hours a day and isn’t around as much as I am), my parenting style usually dominates.
7. The leaving on of lights.
For reasons I will never be able to understand, I am constitutionally incapable of turning off lights, which frustrates my husband to unimaginable degrees. Call it mom brain, ADD, or lack of sleep, but I can’t tell you how many times I forget to flip the switch when I leave a room.
Being that our bathroom opens right up into our bedroom and is directly next to our television set, the light bulbs in this room have become death to our marriage. “I was planning on going back in there in a second,” I will lie to him when he confronts me, for the millionth time, about my bad habit.
I wish I could flip a switch (no pun intended) in my brain and never do it again, but I just can’t see it happening anytime soon.More On