While I was waiting in line for Space Mountain last week, I had this weird, random revelation. Strangely, it happened while I was watching a father and daughter interact while in line, but the revelation had to do with Craig and me. For whatever reason, watching that father and daughter reminded me of how it felt to wait in line with Craig on our last trip to Disney back in December 2007, before Jacob was born. They were having fun little conversations and making the best of the wait (which actually wasn't that bad), and it seemed like such a far cry from the waiting we'd done so far on our trip. Wrangling two kids and trying to avoid meltdowns is a bit nervewracking, and while I'm sure we still didn't particularly enjoy waiting on our last trip, I feel like that was just bonus time to focus on each other. We weren't doing anything crazy as far as PDA or anything, but I'm sure we shared a few hugs and had some decent conversations. We "enjoyed the ride", so to speak. But this time we were just a bundle of nerves, full of frustration, and praying for the best. Long waits were out of the question (aside from Toy Story Mania, which we felt was a priority, so we suffered through an hour in line), as it was just too big a risk. Call me crazy, but that's probably not how we should have felt on our "vacation".
One of the hardest things I've found about being a parent is paying proper attention to our marriage. Before we had kids, we had to battle through crazy work schedules. For a good portion of that time we were in it together since we both worked in the same place. While we didn't let our marriage interfere with work, at least we were physically in the same place, and there was always the postgame festivities to let us enjoy ourselves together. Once I stopped working in sports, I know it was hard to have Craig gone all the time, but I didn't mind the time alone, either. I had time to do things around the house, go shopping, and watch my TV shows without infringing on our time together. I could get all of my stuff out of the way so once Craig was free we had time together. But kids...well, they added in a whole different dimension.
I hear people say all the time how having kids brought them closer together. I know this probably makes me sound like a massive cynic, but seriously...to me that sounds like a load of crap. I mean, I get how working through new things can make you into a dynamic duo. Surviving childbirth class was an entertaining adventure for us, for example, and we had to support each other through Jacob's early days in the hospital. And sure, I think on a larger scale, the more you go through, the more history you create, and the deeper your bond becomes. But on a day-to-day basis, having kids makes marriage hard. Or at least, it makes it harder to put in the time and energy to keep the marriage as fun and exciting as it once was.
Whereas our mornings were once full of cuddling and chit-chat, now we try to maximize our sleep before dividing and conquering getting the kids ready. Getting Jacob ready is a major challenge in itself (I should know, I did it for 4-1/2 years--but now it's even harder), and we're pretty much just sprinting by each other in order to get everyone ready and out the door on time. We spend all day at our separate jobs, then depending on the day, our pickup situation changes. Some days I get both kids. Some days Craig gets both kids. Other days, he'll go pick up Jacob and take him to the baseball diamond while I get Carter and head home to start dinner. Add in any errands that need running on the way home, and we're rushing in later than we'd like. I try to get dinner on the table as soon as possible, and the dinnertime conversation is usually a combination of Jacob's random chatter and us telling him to eat. By the time we're done, it's practically bedtime. And if it's not, usually Jacob is dragging Craig off to play for a bit while I finish cleaning up the kitchen and entertaining Carter. By the time both kids are in bed, we're both exhausted. Mostly we just sit in front of the TV with our respective computers, do a little surfing/blogging/work, and then we drag ourselves to bed. Usually our talking is minimal because we're both ready to veg out after a long day. And yes, afterhours "fun" probably happens far less than it should, particularly lately with all the stress we've been dealing with.
Sad, isn't it? Rest assured, when we get time together, apart from the kids, we still manage to have fun. We very much enjoyed our time out west when I went to the Knighthawks championship game, and even going out to dinner by ourselves has been a nice throwback to the old days. We still love each other very much--there is no doubt about that. But it's hard to continue to build a relationship when you can barely get a word in edgewise or when you're constantly trying to fend off your child who's trying to kick you in sensitive areas. It's hard to form complete thoughts, let alone have deep, meaningful conversations. And when we do talk, often it's about the kids or Craig's work frustrations (or to a lesser extent, mine), because that's pretty much what dominates most of our time. While I'd love to turn off the TV and make the most of the hour or two before bedtime, most days it just seems like we're both so exhausted that good conversation would be hard to come by. I have a feeling we'd be more likely to fall asleep than anything. And while we could certainly use the extra sleep, that still wouldn't enhance our marriage much or make us very productive with anything else. For example, this blog would certainly take a hit, though I'm not sure the cleanliness of my house can get much worse. It's amazing how that hour or two in front of the TV is considered necessary downtime.
We're constantly trying to keep things as equal as we can as far as taking care of the kids, doing things around the house, and finding alone time for things like the gym, probably to a fault. But there's not a lot of "me" time to be had on either side. There's just always something getting in the way. Just this weekend, Craig took Jacob to Buffalo to see his dad, who's still recovering from open heart surgery. That was a huge sacrifice on his part, because God knows Jacob is not easy to manage right now, let alone solo. I obviously appreciated it, but there wasn't much rest for the weary because I still had a sweet but demanding baby to deal with, along with the added pressure of getting things organized after a week away. Plenty of laundry awaited, along with tons of Jacob's school paperwork. My post-bedtime "fun" on Saturday was spending two hours getting my filing system organized. We did sneak in some fun at the zoo and I did snuggle him during a couple naps, which was nice. But I felt guilty knowing what Craig was dealing with, and he's got plenty of stuff (including our pool closing) that he's having a hard time getting to now that it's almost impossible for me to spend any time alone with Jacob.
Probably one of my biggest fears in all of this is that we'll be one of those couples who, once the kids are out of the house, will look at each other and go, "Who are you and why am I married to you?" God forbid that's ever the case, but we're both so task-oriented right now and everything just seems so hard that it's difficult to stop and smell the roses. It's hard to take those little moments, like waiting in line at Disney, and turn them into fun moments. One of the suggestions from Jacob's therapist is that we try to integrate humor into our interactions with him in hopes that it will throw him off of his cranky path--for example, a tickle fight when we're trying to get him dressed. I appreciate the suggestion, but do you know how hard it is to find humor in a situation when you've just told your kid for the 20th time that he needs to put on his pajamas and he responds by trying to punch you? I'd assert that any moments alone with Craig sort of parallel that, minus the punching. It's hard to inject humor and fun into a situation when you're just so exhausted from the rest of your day that you can barely string a coherent sentence together, let alone think of how to make it fun. We can't even agree on how to handle him some days.
While it's far from dire, it is a bit depressing. It sort of gets back to what I was talking about a couple weeks back in regards to my cousin's wedding...that there's a certain naïve simplicity when you get married, and you have no idea what craziness awaits you in your life together. Our reality right now is a far cry from the joy of our wedding day. The longer you're together, the more you share...but all that history can mean some heavy baggage, too. The newness wears off and the wear and tear of daily life can drag you down. And when you have kids, it's extra easy to turn into teammates or business partners as you divvy up responsibilities and carve out a little time to remember who you are, let alone who you are as part of a couple. As for us, we're mostly just...tired. We're fine, but fine shouldn't be enough. But lately, it almost has to be. We're in survival mode...perhaps not our marriage, but our sanity.
Amazing that one little random moment in line at Disney could have spawned a post like this, but I guess it just illustrated to me how much kids have changed things. And while I wouldn't change most of it (let's face it, I'd change Jacob's current situation in a heartbeat), I guess it's just an occupational hazard of long-term marriage and parenthood. I just hope it gets easier...soon.