Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kaboom

You know when something has been building inside you for quite some time? And then, there is some seemingly innocuous event that sets it off in an explosion so catastrophic no bystander is left untouched? Yeah, I had one of THOSE days yesterday.

I'll start by saying I have a wonderful husband, and we have a wonderful marriage. Just like any lifelong commitment, we are constantly working to grow, change and evolve together. It is a constant work in progress, but we both knew that is what marriage was when we signed up for it.

However, I think one of the hardest things we've gone through to date is the birth of Kate. While she has added unparalleled joy to both of our lives, she also adds a layer of complexity to our relationship as a couple. I've struggled with feelings of inadequacy as a parent, lacking the support and validation that a traditional job provides. Ben has felt more pressure in his new job to be successful and provide for the family. And because of the whirlwind that is life, the discussions and support we should have for one another isn't always there.

This month has been a tough one for us. Ben has brought three distinct things to my attention that made me feel like I was failing in my "job" as a stay at home mother. It would take too much time to go into each item, but needless to say, I felt I was getting a "needs improvement" on my annual review, and that didn't feel good at all.

Going from a competitive and successful professional to a full-time mom has been my greatest challenge. I've always thrived on getting ahead, being good at what I do. I'm used to annual promotions, bonuses and verbal praise from superiors. All things missing in my life at the moment. So when I heard Ben's comments, I heard criticism. I felt defensive, and honestly, devastated. But of course, I said nothing. Our communication had dwindled to surface talks about our days and schedules, and there was no time for talking about feelings or emotions.

So when Ben came home last night with flowers and asked me for a date night, I was ready to bury the hatchet and just have a good time. With Kate sick for the last two weeks, I've been stuck at home and needed some time in the world. We started the drive to our favorite patio and started bantering about random things. At one point, after a particularly bad joke (I admit), Ben said "that wasn't funny." I snapped back that he wasn't funny either. Kind of the "I'm rubber, you are glue" strategy, so obviously not very mature, but I have to admit. I was wounded. Because when you are already raw with negative feelings, it doesn't take much to bring them to the surface.

A few moments later I thought traffic was slowing down and muttered something about hating traffic, and Ben leaned forward and asked, very innocently, "Where is traffic? There isn't any up there."

Kaboom.

I. Lost. My. Shit.

I called him passive aggressive. I told him I didn't appreciate being talked to that way. I told him that he wasn't helpful, he was mean, that he said things just to make me feel bad about myself. All the negativity and emotion from the month just boiled to the surface and I spewed my hurt and anger all over him, like a great, heaving, hormonal Mount Vesuvius (Pompeii reference. Anyone? Anyone? Sigh). Of course, this did not go over well. Instead of an apology (which I didn't really deserve), I was faced with Ben's anger. Because he didn't know what he did. And how could he have? I was angry about something completely unrelated to this moment in time.

We rode home in silence and I was able to analyze what I was feeling. Why I had this hot rush of anger when he questioned me about traffic. And I knew. I knew that in my mind, he had been questioning me all month about my decisions, my actions. I realized we had come to this by ignoring our problems, and I felt ashamed.

We skipped dinner and went home. I sat Ben down. I told him what I was feeling. I cried. I laid myself bare. And we really talked. He explained his comments throughout the month, how his personal feelings and stresses led to many of his criticisms. I shared how difficult it was to have no positive reinforcement at home, and how that had led to some of my actions. It was good. We really heard each other, and healed.

And while last night was painful, sometimes its okay to go KABOOM. After the dust settles, things can be better for the explosion.

4 comments:

Nikki - Lilybug_Designs said...

I'm telling you being a stay at home mom is one of the hardest jobs out there. You question yourself daily and hope that you are doing the right thing by staying at home. I just have to keep reminding myself that it is such a short time that I will enjoy them being little babies and kids before they turn into snotty teenagers. :)

Rachael said...

I really love reading your posts... especially ones like this, because I too am struggling with many of the same things as a first-time stay at home mom (who NEVER thought she'd be staying home). It's hard. And there's no instruction manual or any way to know what you're supposed to be doing, or if you're doing it right. This particular post made me cry because I related to all of the feelings you described. It totally sucks to fight with your spouse, but it was comforting to know that I'm not the only one going through these bouts of feeling inadequate and frustrated. So.... thanks. Thanks for being candid and for sharing your experiences and struggles so that the rest of us don't feel alone in this crazy baby journey. :)

therunningfamily said...

This is why I love you Liz! Always willing to put it all out there. Because some of those "perfect world" blogs taht I read sometimes make me want to throw up, I like reading ones like yours because it's all there, spills, messes, mistakes, everything that EVERYONE deals with.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Liz, this same thing happens when you are working too. You have the guilt palooza from hubby that your aren't living up to supermom standards, you also feel it every time you have to say no to a late conference call, business trip or extra project. Oh the joys of motherhood. Hug a mom today - working or not - she have the toughest (but best) job in the world!