To the Neglected Husband: I See You

“You put the air in my lungs & the beat in my heart – without you, I’m incomplete.”

Hey there, remember me – the girl you fell in love with?  It’s been more than a decade since our love story began – all wild & carefree. Long nights with friends, spontaneous weekends away, talking until the sun came up… it feels like a lifetime ago. 

I see you there, too – standing in the doorway, exhausted from a long day at the office; the demands of the ‘real’ world & our financial stability resting squarely on your shoulders. And here I stand, over the kitchen sink, with unwashed hair & pureed peas splattered across my white T-shirt.  In between us, one kid is whining, another is throwing her dinner on the floor, and I can’t help yearn for some assurance.

I see you look on empathetically, but I greet your gaze with a glare. “What kept you so late? Dinner is getting cold…” I don’t know why I push you away like that.

I hear you ask how you can help, but I sharply decline your offer.  I want you to think that I’ve got this. That I can be a wife and a mom, a chef and a cleaning lady, a chauffeur and a handyman  and a gardener and a laundromat and keep the world spinning all by myself  because if I can’t, then what am I doing here all day?

I listen to you tell me that I’m beautiful, but even through your sincerity, I don’t believe you. This body has been through so much. I haven’t had a full night sleep in years and it shows on my face (and in my attitude). I need a haircut, a manicure, some makeup maybe. You fell for 18 year old, poised, bubbly, adventurous me – you can’t possibly like this me, too.

I feel you next to me, yearning to be touched – yet I shutter under yours when you put your hands where my abs used to be. My body has been reserved for growing and feeding tiny beings for the past 4 years, and there’s just nothing sexy about that.

I sense you needing me, but I think I need you more.

I say that our children give me purpose, a reason to get up in the morning – they are my reason for living. Those things are true. But here’s my biggest truth: you put the air in my lungs & the beat in my heart – without you, I’m incomplete. 

So I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for being distracted by the kids and the problems that seem HUGE in our tiny world.  I’m sorry for being insecure, and for being defensive, and for blaming you when my superwoman cape falls off & gets drug through the dirt. I’m sorry for valuing tiny bursts of sleep over quality time together. I’m sorry that I often have no clue what’s happening beyond the walls of our house – how dull that must be for you. I’m sorry, but I can’t promise I will change – not yet.

The only thing I can promise, is that I will continue to need you. I need you to be my sounding board & sometimes my punching bag.  I need you to pick up the pieces when the tiny army we made marches all over my heart.  I need you to keep telling me I’m beautiful, because you’re the only one who does. And most of all, I need you to love me through this crazy season we’ve created together.  Your love is the fuel that powers me, that keeps me moving forward, that gives me strength.

Our ‘nine-to-fives’ look pretty different these days – the list of daily priorities on opposite ends of the spectrum. Occasionally, I worry that you’ll become disinterested in my one-dimensional life. So I pray. I pray that we never lose sight of our common goals, our respect for one another and what we each bring to this family. When we focus on our strengths, we make a pretty great team. We have smart, compassionate, incredible kids, a lovely home & a beautiful life – that takes some teamwork. But most importantly, we still have – and will ALWAYS have – each other. We’re the foundation of it all.

xxx,

Your Loving Wife (MamaFulch)

Matthew 19:4-6: 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Stop Telling Me to Enjoy This Stage

Sometimes, after it rains, the smell of the air transports me to a sweet, sticky summer night in the Midwest. I can almost taste the smoldering of a charcoal grill, and feel freshly cut grass under my bare feet. I close my eyes and still see fireflies dancing, and a deck full of faces that I miss. Every. Single. Day. It makes me happy to think about where I come from, but also to think about where I’m going. 

As a self-proclaimed nostalgic, nearly every season of my life holds some sort of sentimental value. I’ve got some really great rose colored glasses, too. Smells, flavors, sounds, songs… They all have the ability to take me back to a time when life was a little simpler, more fun & just a bit sweeter.

So, I know it’s inevitable that as my kids grow up, I’m going to cry a million gallons of tears over just how perfect life was when they were little. Perfect cherub faces and tiny fingers wrapped around mine; our problems no bigger than spilt Cheerios in the backseat.  I will completely overlook the things that make my friends recall these years as “the dark ages”, and my husband to lovingly refer to this season as “the suck” (sorry for outing you, Honey).

The crying, constant boogers, spit-up, potty accidents (we’re talking poop on the carpet), foot stomping fist pounding temper tantrums, middle of the night vomit clean-up, sleep schedules to keep, total lack of privacy, no showers, no dates and NO sleep will be a distant memory, and I’ll recall only the sweetness (of which there really is plenty).

Wherever we go, that sweetness garners a wealth of attention from older folks, and they always leave me with the same words: “Enjoy them”.

Those words hit me square in the gut – every time.

I’m trying. I’m trying so hard to enjoy them that I’m nearly driving myself mad. Heaven forbid I give up just one minute with them – a minute that in ten, fifteen, twenty years…. I would kill to have back.

I’d trade almost anything for a full night of sleep right now, but then I remember that my baby won’t always need me so completely. So I shuffle down the hall to cherish her at 4:00 am, when the rest of the world is sleeping. 

My back aches from holding, bending, rocking, lifting – but someday they’ll be too big for any of it – so I try never to turn down the opportunity. 

And convincing a toddler to go to sleep each night is like negotiating an international peace treaty, but then I realize she won’t always need to be tucked into bed, and I re-read the same fairy book for a third time in a row.

I spend my days so deep in the trenches that I often forget to come up for air. And although a clean house and peaceful evening alone sound luxurious, I’m painfully aware that those things are coming.

So please don’t remind me.

I know that people mean well – their wisdom is all to say “be present” – but raising toddlers is hard.  I’d rather be told about the great times still ahead of us, like birthday parties, family vacations, graduations & weddings – the moments in a mom’s life where her work pays some dividends; moments that I hope to enjoy through the clear lenses of well rested eyes.

“Enjoy them”, feels like some sort of sad ending – like the best days of my life are upon me and quickly fading.  My heart knows that God has so much more in store for us than I can imagine, but I still can’t help but hold on just a little too tight to what will inevitably slip away. 

So, next time you see me with a baby on my hip and a toddler pulling everything off the store shelves, and if you feel inclined to make a comment, just smile sympathetically and tell me that life only gets better, sweeter, and more beautiful with time.

xxx,

MamaFulch

Philippians 3:13-14:  13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The Month of Me

Prioritize yourself, Mama; it will be good for everyone.

You know those women you see leaving their hot pilates class in the morning, dewy skinned & glowing – strutting toned derrières next-door to Starbucks, enjoying their lattes with other Lululemon clad supermodels? Yeah, I’m not one of them.

A few months ago, when I was a pregnant, working mom with a one year old in daycare, teaching barre classes in the evenings & fumbling with my domestic responsibilities, I vowed to become one of those women – a woman of leisure. I planned to have my second baby & put my career on hold, leaving plenty of time for long strolls with a baby carriage and peaceful mornings over a slowly-sipped cup of coffee.  I would be free from the morning rush, free from a corporate calendar, and free to do what I wanted, when I wanted.

Surely I could cart two tiny children to a yoga studio every morning without too much trouble. We’d hit a juice bar and get our groceries at Whole Foods while we were out. We’d return home tired, and they would nap while I dusted the furniture, then painted my toenails.

Hahaha!!!

First, understand that a single fitness class (in Silicon Valley) runs about $28; add $8 (x2) for childcare, and I’m looking at $44 for a drop in. Ugh, I’m sorry – I just quit my job – my income is zero dollars. And when I do make peace with hemorrhaging money on account of a workout, I’m usually waitlisted for the only class time that offers childcare – maximum occupancy: 6 kids. Really?

It’s worth mentioning that my 2 year old won’t sit in a stroller, so those long walks I longed for are out of the question, too.  And I’m just not able to power through a home workout with “Mom Mom Mom MOM….” happening.

Next, remember that I always have two kids in tow. We are calm & collected – never. Someone is always throwing a fit (not even I am above it). Try holding a screaming infant on your lap in the salon just once and you’ll understand why my hair is always pulled into a bun.  My nails, once polished to perfection, are now broken and bare. These new bags under my eyes could use some attention, but self care takes time – and a babysitter. 

The ironic thing about quitting a job and making zero dollars, is that I still have to spend dollars on childcare to get anything done. I’ve given up my income to care for our children – it’s a luxury I’m grateful for – but consequently, I’ve been insecure about asking for help. After all, staying home is my job.

But finally, last month, my husband returned home from a routine business trip to witness an epic temper tantrum – mine. Seventy-two lonely hours without his company, 3+ awakenings each night, no exercise & no break had left me completely depleted. 

So, that night, he sat me down to set 3 goals that would prioritize me. Maybe he did it because he cares so deeply about my happiness, or maybe it was because he’s tired of being my punching bag – the reason doesn’t really matter. The result was the following list of priorities – In this order:

1. Fit in fitness:

I need strength and energy to keep up with my kids, so this is a must.  Plus, I just bought one of those cheeky bikini bottoms that a mom probably has no business wearing – but darn it – I’m going to make it look good.

I [we] decided my physical & mental health is worth the financial investment. I found a place to workout that is only a few blocks from my daughter’s preschool.  Twice a week, I drop her off, then push the stroller on to my strength training class. I sign up for a childcare slot a week in advance to make sure we get in – and yay, I only have to pay for one child!

It takes some logistics & coordination, but twice a week (at least), I get to hit my reset button.

2. Establish regular date nights:

Again, this is a cost with great ROI. It’s no secret that quality time is important for a thriving relationship. And not to be a pessimist, but divorce costs a lot more than a few dinners out each month.

I was fortunate to find an amazing nanny who was looking for filler work; one half day of help per week allows me to squeeze in a few errands (maybe get a manicure?) before a weekly date with my husband. Not only do I get some much needed adult time, my kids are learning from a really neat woman (who’s not me). Double win!

3. Contribute something – beyond the walls of this house:

I need goals that are tangible to get me out of bed in the morning. Motherhood, on the other hand, is a long journey with no destination. While I do want to return to my career someday, I don’t want to sacrifice precious time with my girls right now. So, I write.  I write in hopes that my experiences, thoughts and feelings might resonate with someone who needs a laugh, some advice, or just to know that she’s not alone in this madness.  For now, honesty is my contribution.

And guess what… Most days, I feel great!

I’m beginning to feel less guilty about taking time for myself; it truly makes me a happier, more patient mother & wife. I have a lot more affection to share when I’m thriving. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Happy Indulging!

xxx,

MamaFulch

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

At least I’ll Always be “Mommy”

I turned 30 a couple of months ago, and decided it was time to start referring to myself as an “adult”.  To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out who and what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m one step closer to admitting that grown up is knocking on my door. 

I know, I’m married with two kids, we own a house, have careers; we do things like fertilize the lawn and pay property taxes, but only out of necessity.  At heart, I’m still an awkward kid playing house – trying to fake it till I make it – if you will.

God definitely doesn’t make mistakes, but I often think he must have a pretty good sense of humor, letting me raise two tiny humans. Doesn’t he know that I have no clue what I’m doing?  He must be getting a really good laugh up there, especially knowing that he gave me the smartest (read manipulative), most inquisitive (hello “why” phase) & assertive (seriously bossy) child ever. But despite my inexperience & the chaos that sometimes ensues, I’m so thankful to be her mama. She, and her insomnious baby sister, have completely rocked my world & hijacked my heart.

It doesn’t matter to them that the only child development class I took (of which I remember nothing) was in high school.  They don’t care that most of my answers to “why” are made up, or that they eat the same boxed macaroni and cheese and store bought baby food (gasp!) everyday because I’m not a very creative chef. They have no idea that potty training may be my kryptonite, or that I constantly worry about how I must be damaging them. Truth be told, I’m my own worst critic.

The craziest part? Not only do my kids not care about any of the things that worry me, they’ve never even noticed them.  They think that I can move mountains and kiss away any boo-boo. They think this home is their castle & that Daddy is their prince. In their eyes, I’m fearless & wise, nurturing yet stable, and that gives them confidence to face the world.

I’m not afraid to admit that staying home with my children is a lot harder than I expected it to be –  maybe because of the energy it requires, or maybe because I miss the accolades I used to get from colleagues and clients. But I can say with absolute certainty: the most rewarding things I’ve done have happened at home. It’s witnessing the pride on my daughter’s face when I give her praise.  It’s the excitement in her eyes when we have lunch picnics in the front yard or build princess castles out of play-dough. My attention tells her that she is worthy of my time, that she is a valuable person – and that is invaluable.

We share moments of laughter that bring us to tears. Each milestone they reach fills me with pride.  And so often, when I feel weary, my two year old throws her arms around me in an unsought embrace to say, “I love you, Mommy” – just because.  In those moments, my empty cup refills.

If I do nothing else with my grown up years, If I never win another account or design another building, I’ll have had the most important job there is – shepherding little hearts to become the best they can be. 

At the end of each day, when everyone is tucked in, and the home we’ve worked so hard to provide is quiet & dark, my heart is full.  We’ve made it; this is it. This home, full of crazy love, is exactly where I want to be when I finally grow up.

xxx,

MamaFulch

“Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise” – Andy Stanley

Proverbs 22:6   Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

The Science that Keeps my Marriage Strong

Disagreements are unavoidable, grace is indispensable.

I’ve never met anyone who married the person they wanted to fight with for the rest of their life. Contention, although rarely pleasant, is an inevitable part of even the most blissful unions. A gloomy outlook? Maybe. But when sharing the entirety of your life with someone, they are exposed to it all: the good, the bad and the ugly; chances are, they aren’t going to agree with your every opinion.

When choosing a spouse or partner, we tend to focus on similar interests, chivalry, physical attraction, core values, earning potential…  things that we think will help us avoid conflict. Perhaps we should focus more on how to disagree gracefully, with an emphasis on forgiveness.

Some people find a soulmate with an opposing personality: one confrontational party, one a bit more passive.  The calmer of the two might be a voice of reason or simply a pushover, bringing calm to disagreements. I, on the other hand, was lucky enough to find a man just as stubborn as I am. If you know us, I’m sure you’re stunned by this news (kidding). Twelve years in, we both still have to have the last word. Neither of us really ever thinks we are wrong, and if we are, it’s not something we admit easily. You know how these things escalate… with tiny jabs that start to chisel away at the soul of the person you love most in the world. But why?

It’s science – apparently – at least that’s how our pastor explained it during a sermon a few years back. He said that the term bird brain isn’t just an insult to be cast in the heat of a moment. There’s an actual, physiological change that happens in our brains when we feel threatened or angry, triggering a fight or flight response. In essence, the rational part of our brain (prefrontal cortex, which has evolved with humans over time) shuts down, leaving us only with a heightened sense of emotion and intense memories of events. As birds are generally thought to have inferior brain function to humans, we too become inferior versions of ourselves when we are angry. Our ability to reason is overtaken by our desire to win.  Any selflessness we typically feel dissolves into bitterness.  And sometimes, we just leave. (By the way, men, chase her. She’s always wanted to be chased.)

Understanding this principle has brought grace to our household.  We don’t always avoid conflict, and we’re definitely not exempt from casting hurtful looks or comments on occasion, but with the simple declaration, “bird brain!” – yes, we actually say it to each other – a level of mutual understanding can be reached.  We appreciate that the perpetrator, right or wrong, isn’t acting in a way that’s true to who they are, or to the love that they have in their heart.  We can rest assured in the knowledge that this too shall pass, and forgive each other for what is said when we quite literally aren’t ourselves

If you can reconcile a conflict, you can survive anything (so long irreconcilable differences). Conflict resolution is arguably the most critical skill in keeping a marriage together. Challenges are inevitable. Marriage is hard. None of us are perfect. At one point or another, we will all do and say things that hurt the people we care about – it’s rotten, but it’s true. Don’t cry over split milk. Don’t throw away something great over hurt feelings. Forgive yourself. Forgive others, and let love back in.

xxx,

MamaFulch

“Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us, but the greatest is love” – Alan Jackson & The Bible 😉

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Ephesians 4:31-32 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.