Recently I was surfing the internet looking at the professional background of CMO’s – Chief Marketing Officers – to see what I’d need to do to get there in the next 5-7 years. One thing most of them had in common, a MBA or a Master’s in a subject related to their field.
Later that evening I was studying my real estate course to prepare for the exam. The process is time-consuming and I’m continuously surprised there are so many realtors out there.
The next day was a holiday so my husband and I were home with the kids. Holidays are not days off. They are simply days we parents are full-time at our other, more important job – the job of parent.
We had to be adults all day. Negotiating with a nine month old and six year old. Taking turns to get away for a minute to shower, eat, or God willing, nap. We both were looking in the bar for something hard to drink right around noon. It was a full day of adulting.
By the end of the day, it was time to be with my husband, just the two of us. This used to be a chore, I’ll admit. I was so wiped out from the day and giving myself to others that I just wanted to be alone.
Luckily about six months ago we agreed to marriage counseling and are now doing things differently. When we are not talking about paying bills or our in-laws, being married is fun. Yet and still, it’s work. Constant, never-ending work. For us, work that is at the top of our list because this time one year ago, we weren’t confident our marriage would last.
As I was falling asleep that evening, tired from the day, I had a thought.
To even be considered for a job as a CMO, I need to go back to school to complete my Masters. And to simply get my real estate license, I have to complete 60 credit hours and then pass an exam with 80% or better. But to do two of the most important and most difficult jobs – being married and being a parent – all you have to do is fill out some paperwork, say “I do” and have sex? That’s some twisted sh#%.
Unless you have a priest who won’t marry you and your future spouse before you complete marriage counseling, you’ll be like the rest of us who will be figuring it out as you go along. Every day of your marriage will be a learning lesson and some days won’t be fun.
Add kids to your family and it will get more difficult.
Your time will no longer be yours. And you’ll have less time with your spouse. You’ll question yourself at times, “Am I a good parent or am I totally screwing up my kid(s)?!” And there may even be moments where you feel like you’re one step from falling off the edge.
I’ve been there. This morning, actually.
The good thing is, marriage can be a beautiful relationship if you make your marriage a priority. And being a parent is one of the greatest gifts. Yes, your kids will drive you nutz and make you do crazy things but it also comes with a love so deep that you wouldn’t have it any other way.
No one told me about marriage or being Mom. But with some on-the-job training, here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Marriage is a living, breathing object. Feed it or it will die.
If you want a happy marriage, you’ve got to do all it takes to get there. Being more focused on everything else sure as hell won’t get you there. If you want happiness, work together and go get it.
Choose your battles.
I used to fight every fight. Then, well, I friggin’ got tired of fighting. Learn quickly that every fight does not have to be a battle. Sometimes you should get over yourself and move on. Seriously. Be an adult and get over it.
Human touch is a powerful thing.
Want to be a better runner? Run more. Want to be a better artist? Draw more. Want to be a happier couple? Put your hands on your spouse’s skin, caress his or her body without being asked, hug and kiss without being in a rush and for goodness sakes, have sex as often as possible. Trust me, this helps.
Sometimes it really is you.
I know I’m not perfect but nine times out of 10 I pegged my husband as the problem, not me. Marriage counseling helped me to put this in check quickly. I’ve become more aware of what I was doing that caused my husband to pull away or resent me. It’s hard to look in the mirror and admit you are wrong. But learn to do just that. When you are wrong, say you are wrong and then do all you can to correct it.
Give your kids the gift of time.
When my husband and I are together with my kids, their eyes light up. On the other hand, when we are working late or traveling without them, their eyes are the exact opposite. I think back to my childhood. I remember both of my parents being there at every step, every performance, every game. Those are the good memories. You’ll never hear a child say, “I loved how my Mom worked so hard and was never home. And I loved how my Dad worked 70 hours a week so that we could have a better life. Oh, I loved that.” Spend as much time as you can with your kids. And when you do, be present.
When it’s getting too much, take a break.
Going from one child to two was a difficult transition for me. One on one, I feel like supermom. One on two, I too often feel like I might lose my mind. Putting on a movie and sticking your kids in front of the TV so that they are not focused on you for a minute is not a crime. And telling your spouse, or Mom, or friend, “Please keep the kids for a min. I’m about to lose my mind,” is also okay. Oh, and keeping your child in daycare a little while longer so that you can get a few hours to yourself? This too is not a crime. Take a break. You’ll be a better parent if you do.
You’re not an expert, honey. This is my child.
I can’t tell you how much advice I’ve been given. Some of it has been good, yes. But the other bad advice givers get a big thumbs down, or middle finger, whichever finger you prefer. See, just because you raised kids doesn’t mean you know how to raise mine. Listen to others because you very well may learn something but trust yourself as well. You are that child’s parent and no one will ever know him or her like you do.
Be a little bit crazy. (Just a little).
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve said, “Eat!” or “Close your eyes and go to sleep,” or my favorite, “For the love of God, stop talking!” Yep. I actually say that. You’ll pretty much get tired of hearing yourself say things over and over that one day, you may even shut down and say nothing. For that moment, you’ll actually not care if they eat or not. You’ll let them roll around the bed until they pass out from rolling around too much. Or you’ll zone out to a peaceful place where the birds chirp and the waves crash into the shore so that you no longer hear the excessive talking. Your kids will think you’ve gone mad. This is not a bad thing. I think good things come from our kids thinking we are a little bit crazy. (Just a little.)