Every little thing

I don’t know all that much about being married. I know that we spend a lot of time talking about bills, and scheduling diaries and not all that much laying in bed together, holding hands, talking of dreams and goals and generally being besotted with each other.

It’s not that we aren’t besotted with each other, it’s just more comfortable. Practical. REAL. 15 years in. As Beyonce says in her album with Jay Z “I want to drown in the depths of you” and I will I swear, just as soon as the kids are in bed and I finish filling out those notes for school and I try and squeeze some work in before bed…

We are in those goals and dreams and man, it’s much more exhausting than we may have thought in our imaginary grown up lives with kids, and imaginary school and imaginary work and careers and houses and LIFE. I’m pretty sure we never discussed putting out bins, who would drive who where and when, or unpacking dishwashers or any other general “life maintenance” when it was just the two of us, back in that bed on lazy weekend mornings. Those “cute quirks” he once had may well be things that make me now huff and audibly sigh and sometimes scream about (seriously what is with ALL THOSE COINS?!). I bet if I saw myself 15 years ago in the “now” I’m in I would think “Man why is she so ANGRY?” Oh “15 years ago” Beth, just you wait and see!

Over the past year I have seen so many articles and thoughts and sharing on the idea of the “mental load”. I have written about it here before and here and here too and there are loads of different articles to read on it if you google “mental load” but what I mean to say is that there is now a term for this HUGE thing that so many of us take on day in, day out being a Mum or even just a female. We had this saying at my all girls Catholic High School that was said by one of the founding nuns “Women in time to come will do much” and there are some days when I sit down after a day of normal running around and life thinking “I wonder if this is what Mother Gonzaga had in mind?!” I’m pretty sure she had more in mind than driving kids to the dentist and scheduling in someone to pick up kid number 2 so that you can wrangle this or that and grab something for dinner on the way home and cook it before getting the kids in the bath and bed and then turn around at night and work.

Or maybe not.

Maybe it’s about choice, and here we are with our choices, living our choices. Knee deep in our choices and that’s a wonderful thing. It really is. No complaints Susan, just feeling the feelings here, bear with me.

I know our own mothers before us and their mothers before them had these loads that they lived with. Maybe they had the load, I mean of course they did, but maybe not the need to also work or also contribute a wage to make ends meet? And I’m pretty sure that there weren’t as many opinions and thoughts (downloadable printable charts on Pinterest) on it all, that whole world wide web thing that connects us all so well, makes us feel less alone on the loneliest of days can also make us feel so inadequate at times, look at Susan doing it all, and with fucking fancy lunchboxes too why can’t I do that too?! See? It’s a double edged sword. So connected and lonelier and more tired than ever. There’s expectations that we have put on ourselves that far outweigh any practical way to live. It’s EXHAUSTING right?

So many women (myself included) find to easier to just get on with it and occasionally lose our shit over things rather than having to keep reminding and showing what needs to be done, because shit, aren’t we all adults here? I mean, why can’t they just SEE it? They just can’t see it. It’s obviously not the best way to deal with things and I have definitely been working on ways to make things more fair this year, explaining my frustrations and putting actions into place to make things better for both of us, and that’s good, but still, so many years and generations are in place that it will take some time for the male/female equality thing when it comes to the home and family life some time to change. It just will. And yes I will keep reminding people whenever Rob is looking after the kids that in fact, he’s just being a Dad Susan, he’s not a good Dad (I mean he is a WONDERFUL Dad) but when he is ‘minding’ the girls he is just doing what you do when you are a parent.

One thing I have noticed in all this marriage business is how important kindness is. Patience and kindness. Patience and kindness for the way we do things in our own ways, in our own times. In our own huffs and sighs at times. Forgiveness and kindness for being ourselves this deep into a relationship and marriage when things are not sexy or even remotely attractive, but real. This is us, and I see you in it, through it all, and I love you. Still.

I think there are lots of people that get to this part of a marriage or relationship, the old crisis kicks in and things can fall apart. People can walk away. It’s hard, because it just IS HARD with kids and being at this stage in your life, and get on with it, it will get easier. And every day that I look over and see my husband when I might be being “angry Beth”, or “eye rolling Beth” or “resentful for booking in a dentist appointment 6 months in and no one knows this shit but ME” Beth and I am glad that he’s still here, that we are both still here, turning up and being in those dreams that we dreamed of. It might not look exactly how we thought it would, but we are here, turning up. Doing our best.

I am certain that one of the ways to show this kindness and patience for each other is the unexpected moments of them. The moments where a simple action can say “I see that you do this every day, and I appreciate it, and here, let me do it for you without being asked.” Daisy showed this to me last school holidays when I asked her the night before we had to leave if she could pack her bags, strip the bed and get it into the washing machine, bags packed etc and the next morning SHE DID ALL OF THOSE THINGS WITHOUT BEING ASKED. It blew my mind and had me SO appreciative for just seeing and listening to what I had asked and then doing it. I mean, of course she should, but she’s 11 and that just isn’t going to happen. Except when it did.

Maybe it’s taking the washing off the line and putting it away without being asked and certainly not asking for a fucking medal for doing so. It’s taking the toddler out to the park without being asked for longer than 15 minutes so that you can have the house to yourself or a shower by yourself. That’ll do. It’s a here, I made you a coffee because I know you do it for me every day and I never really say thank you, but here, thank you. Or this morning to my delight when I saw that Rob had put some wood on the fire so that when I was up it was roaring. I see you. I see what you do every day. I appreciate you. Thank you. Those little things.

As Bey said, life right now is “slowing down the dance to a different type of speed”. It’s about being kind. And seeing that in those little moments, that’s where the real magic of marriage and partnership lies.

Maybe? As I said at the start, I don’t know much.

I do know that I need to work on this, try harder. SEE those things that Rob does and say thank you, because I am almost certain that I don’t do it enough. I hope he sees the things I do too. I know he does. And I look forward to dancing to this speed for a bit, because sure as shit it will change again soon enough, the pace will pick up and on we go before we start to spin into another waltz.

As the Leonard Cohen words were read at our wedding in 2005 said…

“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love

Oh, let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love”

Oh Leonard, such wise words. And a timely reminder for us over the years. But I would love to know about you. Because I am nosey like that.

What are your secrets to a happy marriage?
Kindness? Small, unexpected moments?
Do you feel the pressure of the Mental load? How do you share it?

And I challenge you to do one small, unexpected thing for someone that you love. You know what’s better than their reaction to it? The feeling you get from doing it. It’s true!

Comments

  1. Wow. I’m 22 years in and struggling I tell you. But I do love him much as he drives me nuts. This was such a lovely post to wake up to. I swear you are inside my head. Thank you Beth. x

  2. My husband and I were talking about all the little things we do for each other that shows we care. He was told it is called the language of love. It is only when you stop and appreciate all those little things that you realise how lucky you are. I’m in my 24th year of marriage and we both turned 50. Lots of big moments and remembering to just breath and think…it’s a lovely life we have created. The highlight? Watching our children become adults and venture into the world. We haven’t been together for a long time due to my son being in Canberra so looking forward to when our family of four reconnects. Life is short…enjoy the little moments.

  3. Oh Bev. I love your post. I think every woman with three children has felt what your feeling. I’m 57 now and at the other end of raising three adult children with my darling husband. It’s been pretty amazing as we did a couple of postings overseas with the kids too during that time and I worked full time since my youngest went to school. I also studied when they were babies. None of that would of been possible without the support and love of my husband. I also think women do bear the biggest load especially if they love their home and want to make it a special place for the family. I know I worked my butt off. As I look back though I don’t so much recall all the hard work but take immense pride in the people my children have become. Knowing that we contributed to that. I also had the privilege of sharing some of those wonderful family moments, dinners, parties, building LEGO, playing games, reading, library, ready steady go activities, outings, holidays, movies etc with my three grandchildren while they lived down the road for two years when my son was on a posting in Canberra. He’s now in Dubai. It’s all a blessing. I think what I’ve learnt is how lucky am I, too have the strength to do all these things and share these moments with the people I love. My husband I now get to relish our quiet time together and do as much travel as we can. We are also relocating up North to enjoy the coastal climate.

  4. That mental load is a killer & I sometimes get so furious about having to carry it but if I don’t tell people I need help how will they ever know?
    We are almost 18 years into marriage, 22 years together, and it has not always been easy or fun but he is still my favourite person & the one I want to share my life with so we must be doing something right.
    I think what works for us is that we are total opposites & still have lives that are seperate to each other. It means when I’m losing my shit, he’s calm. When I’m uptight, he’s relaxed. When he’s a moody bastard I’m all sunshine. We just even things out for each other & that works for us.
    We aren’t that couple whose overly physical with each other, we aren’t sitting on the couch snuggling or walking holding hands, it’s just not us. But I get up each morning before the sun rises to make his breakfast & lunch, have a little chat before he goes to work & the kids are up. He’s the one who will tell all the kids on a Sunday “ right, Lets all get this place in order so mum doesn’t have to worry about it”.
    I think we both know what works & what doesn’t. Sure, we still drive each other batty at times & throw hissy fits (that’s mainly me) but we know that our marriage is important so we work on it. The 21 year old me had no clue what marriage was really about or how much work it takes to keep us going. I had no idea of the reality of it all, that things woukd be boring & monotonous at times & that sometimes you can really not like your partner at all but can still love them. I do know that I’m so damn proud of us, of what we’ve created & continue to create. It’s a good life, nothing fancy or over the top, just simple & solid. Can’t ask for than that really.

  5. Love reading your posts before I start MY day. Lol the real day started two hours ago, I get up help do my lads lunches ( they seem to always add stuff ) and sort out washing, for the umpteenth time unpack dishwasher even though three others have walked past it, support them emotionally and wave them all off. My lads are so grown up that my year 6 one didn’t want me to come watch him at his last ever Primary school athletics carnival (😢). I’ll prob shoot off soon and do some shopping get dinner sorted before I head to my work place just after lunch. You’re in the deep trenches with a toddler too but every morning my hubby once he gets to work sends me a kiss emoji that’s all it takes and I give him one back normally with commentary LOL. Romance – it’s hard but like everything else we schedule we sometimes schedule that, a night out, a walk together and god help us even doing domestic shopping 🤣. It is what I envisioned when I was much younger caught up in all that fairy tale bs – no – but it’s heaps better. Those little glimpses, the eye connect, the whispered convos and the little smooches here & there are more real and mean more to us. Keep going gorgeous, communicate, schedule and remember the kids won’t be hurt if you puts yourselves first on the odd occasion 😘😘😘

  6. Anne Davis says:

    We are 34 years married next month! Sometimes wondering where all those years went?? The early years with children went by in a blur really, we don’t remember it all haha. The challenge is to look after your relationship with your partner because the day does eventually come that all the kids have left home and if you haven’t put that effort in, you’ve become strangers raising kids!
    We have just spent the last 6 years traveling and working around the country. Our daughter (27) told us it’s lovely to see us still loving each other and enjoying spending time together. Our 3 kids have turned out happy adults who like to share their lives with us. In fact, 2 of them are just moving their families back to our local area (from Adelaide) because they want ‘country kids’ not ‘city kids’ !
    I’ve spent numerous weeks away from home, when sick little people can’t go to childcare, so the grandparenting will be done so much closer/easier now haha!

  7. Seoul sista says:

    I have always wondered why most men are not great at predicting and getting on with what needs to be done, without being asked – often it’s the neglect of the the small things that do my head in. I’m not man hating or stereotyping or being gender biased, but it is the norm in my experience. Then I listened to a podcast about periods. Bearing the mental load begins when we get our period. We begin planning ahead, predicting, anticipating, washing the embarrassment away before anyone notices etc. it made so much sense. I have a 20 year old daughter and an 18 year old son. My son is beautiful and kind and gentle and book smart and caring. But my eldest daughter is laps ahead of him in being organized and emotionally intelligent. Could it be because she gets her period, which means she’s a woman, which means she’s going to bear the mental load? Anyhoo, my two cents.

  8. 23 years into it here and 5 kids later. Running our own business, running kids to extra-curricular activities, part-time jobs, Uni applications, the list never ends. Nothing too romantic or sexy anymore but still a good partnership and feeling all the feels you’ve written about. As the saying goes, “this to shall pass” and there will be a time when life does slow down. Hopefully all the annoying little habits that were once cute wont drive me insane😂

    • Can you even imagine that time when it’s just the two of us alone? It’s going to be SO weird. And then I will complain too not doubts!!!

  9. Super touching post Beth. Thank you for sharing your beautiful observations and wisdom in marriage. And what an exquisite choice in song/poem for your wedding. My fave ever from Cohen. ❤️

  10. 28 years here, and the last 5 have been the hardest by far. It’s the mental load by far that is the heaviest, why do men not notice things, can’t check the calendar to see what is coming up etc. In some ways though I kind of envy my man, he lives in the moment, every moment. How zen would that be??
    I wouldn’t trade him in though, not going through all that awkward getting to know you stuff again. Sure it’s not the exciting, earth moving, thrill that it once was, but it’s a comfortable ease now, and although sometimes he drives me nuts and I think about living alone, I don’t really want that. Im sure I annoy him just as much, bloody hope I do anyway.
    I read once that a man marries a woman thinking she won’t change and she does, while a woman marries a man thinking he will change and he doesn’t. I think in my case that is pretty accurate.
    For the life of me though, I will never understand how he can move the clean laundry off the couch to watch tv and not fold it up…ffs!
    cheers kate

  11. I love this post, Beth. It has come at the perfect time for me. I am 18 years married, 25 together. Parenting 17 and 12 year old boys. We are in the thick of mundane but still so appreciative that we are still together, doing this parenting thing together when so many around us are calling it quits on their marriages. Since being diagnosed with an auto-immune condition a couple of years ago I know I am tough to live with at times, but my husband still shows up, loves me and helps me along when I can’t. I think our secret to a happy lasting marriage has been that we are a team and we support each other 100%, even when we are rolling our eyes and shaking our heads at each other. I look forward to seeing him at the end of the day and I still LIKE him 🙂

  12. What an awesome post! Thank you for this message Beth. My husband and I have been together for 11 years (married for 5). We have a 2.5 year old daughter and boy oh boy has this changed things! I grieve our ‘young’ relationship sometimes, but our current relationship is a stronger beast and one I wouldn’t change. I feel that we know and understand each other better now.

    My grandfather once told me that love is an unconditional commitment to another persons wellbeing. Sometimes you won’t like your partner very much, but if you keep caring, you will be alright. So far this has been quite useful advice 🙂

  13. 16 years in. Two daughters, one at Uni and one in Year six. Some years have been so very hard. We drive each other CRAZY sometimes but we both believe this is a really good sign after all these years as we still have so many emotions towards each other. We figure it’s when you just don’t give a shit anymore that your really in trouble! I just choose him every single day and I still get a little jittery when I hear his car pull into the driveway at the end of the day. It’s been the hardest and bestest thing of my life xxx

  14. If you hear about a wife murdering her husband over “nothing” in little ole New Zealand … it won’t be “nothing”, it’ll be WET dishes in the cupboards because it is apparently so darn hard to dry them out of the dishwasher. But, yeah, I hear you – 30yrs of marriage, its the little things. Honestly, we’re struggling, 30yrs, 5 kids, working, working, we’ve lost something – your post is a good reminder that I need to take time to see the little GOOD things, not lose my shit over slightly wet dishes (but man, can I, please?).

  15. Great post Beth and very timely! We have been married 22 years with two teenage kids. Things are getting easier – we have time on the weekends to ourselves. Our “date night” is actually walking the dog and a coffee and a quick scan of the newspaper, sitting in the sun. Still most of the conversation is about the kids but we like it that way.
    You are in the hard slog stage Beth and it does get easier. I think in someways, as wonderful as those days were on one hand, they do “scar” you a little. They sure weren’t easy, juggling jobs, house renovations, travelling husband, money etc. But thankfully the happy memories far out way the hard ones – days in the sandpit, morning tea in the cubby house, lego building, camping (geez that’s a whole other level of hard with kids), bath time and reading in bed.
    Hang on to those cuddles and spend a little longer holding them in your arms – there comes a time when you get a quick squeeze as they race out to a party.

    As to the success of our marriage – well I did marry a very patient and caring man. We talk, lots. We walk most mornings of the week with the dog and that is when we calmly chat over things. When the kids were little we would chat at night, often over a wine and/or nibbles. Thankfully he listens and he does really try. I did carry a lot of the mental load, especially when the kids were younger, but that is getting easier now too.

    Your post is so timely. We both feel like we haven’t had a family break in ages and were only saying the other morning that we are in a rut, stuck in the mundane of working full time, never enough money, etc etc. I was going to book us all for a weekend away but it seemed such a lot of money for two nights. But you know what, after reading your post I am going to. Just a little dog friendly cottage down the coast, nothing grand. But a few days for us all to reconnect, catch our breath and recharge a little before the heady pace of December looms. Thanks for making me pause and reassessing things.

    I am grateful for all I have; loving partner, two nice teenagers who I know will be lovely, caring adults. An extended family very close. We all have good health. And to add to all that I live in a wonderful country, safe and warm, with food in the fridge. And a daughter who gets to be free to dream.. play sport, have male friends, dreaming of working for NASA. So much to be thankful for. Thanks for making me take the time to reflect on all that I have and for a day at least, to forget about the overflowing washing basket witht-shirts inside out and socks in balls, the empty toilet roll on the bathroom floor, the wet towels and mountains of dishes in teenage rooms, the heating blasting out in the house and doors and windows left open, empty muesli bar packets in the pantry, ……..xox

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