Tonight at dinner, my husband was telling me about his day. It was just the two of us, since he usually gets home after the kids are in bed, and he'd had a busy and frustrating day at the office. I was trying to "listen actively" and be supportive, really I was, but all I kept hearing was, "Yada yada blah blah blah." Yes, I'm a Slacker Wife at times, too, but it's just that I was so tired and had so much on my mind that still had to get done - lunches to pack, a birthday cake to make, laundry to wash/dry/fold/put away, reading logs to fill out (will NO ONE ever listen?!?) - that I just couldn't stay focused on his monologue. (Similar to the time my roommates and I met some very cute, very drunk Irish guys we couldn't understand - smile and nod, smile and nod - my technique was much the same. Just take away the Guinness and add some pot roast, and substitute over-tired for drunk, and it was pretty close.) I tried to toss out a few well placed "uh huhs", but I think he was on to me.
So I'm sitting there, my mind racing, nodding away like a bobble head, fake smile plastered on my face, when it hit me: This is EXACTLY what he does to me when I'm going on about something while he's reading. And when he does, it makes me CRAZY. I mean, how hard is it to just hear my voice, attend to what I'm saying, and pay some attention? And now I know. Sometimes, now and then, it's a tall order.
While motherhood can be tough, this marriage thing can be pretty challenging, too. At least with the kids, I rule all. They're small, they don't take up much space, they don't snore or shed hair on the counter. They sleep a lot and don't eat very much, they're easy to clean, and their stuff is generally confined to the upstairs area. They pretty much have to listen to me and do whatever I tell them or face the wrath of Mommy. My husband? Not so much. He'll ask me the same thing 4 times in one day. No matter how many times I ask him not to put my tweezers in his drawer, guess where I usually find them? Shoes are anywhere BUT the closet. If he's driven my car all weekend, I can pretty much assure you there won't be gas in it come Monday morning. He can drive me crazy. Don't get me wrong, he's a great guy. But when I've had to pick up his dirty socks off the floor three days in a row, or pull dirty underwear out of the shorts he's left on the bathroom floor every day for a week, or - my personal favorite - when I find a toothpick he left in MY car (and no, I don't know if it was clean or dirty because I was NOT about to investigate too closely!) I start to get a little bit crazy. I start to think about all the ways he makes my life more difficult, about all his annoying little habits. I start thinking about "Friends", about the episode where Rachel is moving out so that Chandler can move in. Monica turns to Rachel and wails, "You get to live with Phoebe, and I have to live with a BOY!" He makes me crazy. He makes extra work. He doesn't always listen to me or remember what I tell him or put my needs ahead of his own.
But what if there were never any socks on the floor? Or toothpicks in the car? What if there was no more Monday morning panic when the gas gauge is a LOT lower than I remember it? What if he weren't around to leave a full water glass teetering on the edge of the kitchen counter every morning, just waiting for the cat to knock it onto the tile floor so it will shatter into a million little pieces, simply because that's what cats do?
Here's what I know: He cleans my hair out of the shower drain every single morning without complaint. He gets up with the girls when they've had a bad dream - even though he's the one who has to go to work the next day. He once drove 3 hours in the middle of the night just to bring me sore throat medicine when I was pregnant and he was on a business trip. He thinks I am beautiful, stretch marks and all, and tells me often. He'll go grocery shopping after a long day of work when I've been stuck home with sick kids all day. He'll stay up half the night to put together toys on Christmas Eve. He held my hand while I cried on the due date of the baby we lost. He shows our daughters in a thousand little ways all the things a husband and father should be. And so I can overlook a few annoying habits, pick up a few dirty socks, separate some stinky gym clothes.
Love is a choice we make, every single day. I choose to love my husband in spite of his annoying habits, and maybe because of them. I choose to believe in him, in us, despite dental floss that doesn't always make it into the garbage, despite the fact that the towels would have to put themselves in the hamper before he'd think to change them, despite the fact that he's not perfect. My friend and mentor Beth recently told me, "Always be sure to maintain your primary relationship - and it's not the one with your kids. When your first child leaves, you'll feel like your heart is being ripped out of your chest. By the time your last one leaves, you'll remember why you got married in the first place." Her kids are grown and gone; she and her husband are taking motorcycle tours and have, as she says, no need for locks - or even doors - anymore. Wink wink. Wise woman. Well said.
Slacker Mom Says... be careful what you wish for. I'd rather pick up his dirty socks than not, because dirty socks on the floor mean he's here with me. The best thing I can do for my kids is to love and cherish their father. Marriage, like motherhood, is messy and inconvenient and annoying and hard. Nobody's perfect, and boys are stinky and messy, it's true. The toilet seat may be up, but that's because my husband is sharing my bathroom - and my life.