As a new wife and mother, I experience jubilee and juggling. I receive constant fulfillment yet expend breath and best guesses finishing challenges. I stand in an intersection of past/present/future. This triptych daily positions me to negotiate divergent responsibilities, prior obligations and new undertakings, obliging yet unifying them all. Hopefully my intimacies, epiphanies, and suggestions offer footstools into your own possibilities.
Professionally, my career spans being a high school ELA teacher, assistant professor, educational consultant and fledging writer. I’ve enjoyed fortune and mistakes on my own terms. Then I met my husband, and with him anticipated blessings and unanticipated compromises unfolded.
While single, we’ve been rightfully selfish with our lives, doing what we want to do when we want to do it and how we want to do it. Consequently, we’ve come to this goal of incorporating flesh and future with dissimilar tastes in music, different perspectives on how to manage money, divergent expectations on best uses of time, disparate notions around planning for the future, etc. You get the picture. It’s a clumsy walk. Now we have to collaborate in little and big decisions. Identify priorities for our relationship and agree upon ways to fulfill them. Budget money for immediate expenses AND allocate it toward long term goals. Learn what it means to be a partner while also honoring and providing space for each other’s independence. Accept flaws and mistakes without later using them as leverage against one another. Work in partnership raising our first child.
After the marital oath of cleaving as one flesh, our grafted limbs are evolving to thrive collaboratively. But we have to share in creating answers. What do we need to do to prepare for the future? What are the best approaches to solve problems? How do we nurture interdependence and maintain independence? What do we lose in order to gain? As woman AND wife, a pressing duality I constantly address is how to prosper us AND be true to myself?
Here’s what I am discovering . . .
Being a wife is a new role. Grow into it. You don’t simply step into the role of a wife like a wedding dress. You evolve to fulfill it. So don’t clutter your growth into this role with assumptions or comparisons. Let go of ideals and magazine exaggerations. Explore and invest in what it means for you to be a wife for yourself and to your partner. Give yourself permission and time to experience, evaluate, and even revise accordingly.
Dialogue. Devote space and time to broach and disclose fears, concerns, and dilemmas. Uncomfortable topics that go undiscussed (like money, parenting, a need for quality time alone, etc.) eventually fester. Making them transparent and in the open diffuses their cancerous potential to leach from your primary goal to grow as allies. But be careful not to bulldoze your partner into meetings. While I thought it efficient to have weekly conference calls while planning our wedding—agenda and all—my husband thought these meetings at times were burdensome overkill.
Preserve what is personally important to you. It is very easy (and implicitly expected) that upon becoming a wife to sacrifice personal happiness for the “greater good” of marriage and family. Yet if you are not happy, what fruits of yourself can you offer others? Marriage and parenting WILL impact the amount of time you can devote to fulfilling your passions, but foregoing and sacrificing them altogether is an unhealthy solution. Find ways to maintain what feeds your core. While now I have to fit writing in between schedules I have with my child and husband (like writing blogs at 2am), doing so maintains my wholeness.
I wasn’t tooled with blueprints to structure this marriage. At times I fray at edges and peel at margins. What I am learning from the daily walk is that I unfold the answers through folded hands (physical and spiritual). Surrendering to the unfolding helps me carry out and accomplish these roles as best I can.
(This blogpost occurs simultaneously in MBAMOM’s May 2012 newsletter as “Wife and Mother: What I Wonder”).
(Artwork: Woman Thinking by Stephanie Clair)
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