…but perhaps all mothers – to some extent – do.
Recently, my younger sister sent me a couple of articles about the changing landscape of marriage once kids enter the picture. The pictures, as told by these two writers, aren’t pretty. The idea is simple: when kids are introduced to a home, a mother falls in love with them and forgets about her husband. One article comes at the issue from a mother who refuses to love her kids more. She loves her kids, she says. But she is IN LOVE WITH her husband. The other article comes from a sad dad perspective (I can’t get a link to it online…it’s from Redbook’s column Whys Guy, February 2011). This husband says he wants his wife back. He wants to be the one she snuggles with.
The articles call for a sort of binary that pits love for husband against love for kids. And I so badly want to resist that dividing line. I mean, can’t I love my husband and my kids? Doesn’t love just grow and grow the more we enhance it with life forms?
But the more I think about it, the more it seems I am cheating on my husband. I am having an affair. With my kids. It’s been going on for a while, and I don’t plan on ending it anytime soon.
Here is the proof:
1. I don’t let my husband anywhere near my chest right now. I live in a nursing bra and even have two nursing pads tucked in for an extra layer of protection/concealment. But Sidney has an all-access pass. Anytime day or night. She starts to root and out they come!
2. I haven’t cuddled with my husband in weeks (except for one night when we just had Sidney). Sometimes, Riley asks me to hold her, and I fall asleep with my arm draped over her. Sometimes, Adrian crawls on top of me and drifts off to sleep there. All the time, I have a little person next to me in the night. We cuddle. We spoon. I breathe in their hair. I kiss their soft, round cheeks. This, I think, is intimacy. This is love.
3. I woo my kids with “special surprises” and “little treats.”
4. When I splurge, it’s on them.
5. When I do talk to my husband, I’m distracted, sometimes even distant. I want to know how Riley’s day was, what Adrian is up to.
6. I can’t even make eye contact with Shawn. I’m too busy smiling at Sidney.
7. I melt when Adrian asks me to hold him. My heart swells when Riley tells me she loves me to ten Plutos and back. And even when she tells me she loves me to snot and back.
8. My perfect date night now: milk shakes at Chic-fil-a.
9. I don’t smell like myself any more. My clothes, my skin no doubt carry unmistakable aromas of otherness: breastmilk, chocolate, and dirt.
10. I notice differently now. When Shawn shaves, his face feels just like it did when he was weekend scruffy. He has to point out changes in his facial hair to me.
And if not with my kids, then something funny is definitely going on with my coursework…