Being Thankful

So a couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog with five things I’ve learned after being married for five years and people seemed to really respond to tip #4: having an attitude of gratitude.

Well today I got another lesson in gratitude.

A summary of what’s been going on in our lives: when Brian’s mom passed away a couple of years ago, she blessed us with a lot of help to start our lives as a couple. She thought ahead and while I’m sad she didn’t get to enjoy the money she worked so hard to save, I know that she would have been thrilled to know that she gave us a chance to start a family significantly earlier than we would have otherwise. Anyways, after buying a home and vehicles, there was only a little left. We needed to have some to pay for landscaping and then the rest was meant to be saved for a rainy day.

Moving out of the city and back to my home town meant that I left a job behind. And as much as Becka two years ago won’t believe this, I am dying to get out of the house. Some people are cut out to be stay-at-home parents and I am convinced that I am not one of them. Brian and I both believe that I would serve my boys better as a mother and a role model by at least working part time. But there’s not a whole lot out here in our small town. So we talked about me going back to university to finish my degree. I have three terms left in my bachelor so we thought let’s apply and see.

I re-wrote the entrance exam and was accepted, which was great, but by the time that I was able to choose my classes (students who went to school in the last school year got first choice of classes and I had to wait), all the classes I needed were full. There was a time limit for me to finish my degree and with the classes I needed being full, there was no way it was going to work.

Now, without going too deeply into my spiritual journey, I decided that I had to rely on God. If I was supposed to be going to school, He’d make it happen. If I wasn’t, then I’d have to figure that out. So we left it there and continued on with our lives. I applied to a job, but never heard back. September felt so far away anyways so I just pushed the whole thing to the back of my mind.

Then one day I was just checking the classes, just cause I’d exhausted all my social media entertainment while I waited for Eggs to fall asleep in my arms, and the two classes I needed suddenly had a single seat left. My classes had aligned and I’d be able to take all my classes in 3 days a week so that I could spend the other four with my boys. I was thrilled! It was a time of thankfulness and a little uncertainty. Was this a sign that I should go to school? Or just a coincidence?

Now that I finally had a schedule, I had to figure out childcare. And childcare is expensive (which I completely understand because the workers need to earn a living too). We were living more or less paycheque to paycheque now that my maternity leave had ended and we were officially a single income household. Three days of childcare a week would take up a full third of our monthly income. So again I turned to my beliefs and left the stress with God. While September was getting closer, it still seemed like an eon away.

A friend told me about government subsidies for child care for qualifying families. Yes! This is what I was looking for! But wait, you have to have your children enrolled in a licensed, approved family day home. The one that we were looking at was private and, therefore, not eligible. So I did some calling and emailing and got us on a list. Turns out the waiting lists for these things are insane. I was told not to hold my breath. Thankfully, the lady running the day home we originally wanted to go with told us to keep her updated and that she may still have space for us if we couldn’t get into the other homes.

So I dumped that in God’s lap too. But now I was wondering, is this a sign that I’m not supposed to go to school? Is this just character building? Is it just a coincidence? We kept waiting. And waiting. And we fielded off questions about school because I’d been so excited before and now I was a little less so and people were noticing. But people were also praying.

And now it’s today. School is just over a month away. I’ve been stressing a little more as each day passes, but with the definite feeling like I’m supposed to be going back. Brian was stressing too, I could tell. Not that I blame him. He’s being a saint in his support for me and this plan, knowing that he will be taking a huge amount of work with the boys on the days I have school.

This morning I had a dear friend over to visit while she was in town and I told her about the worries we were having. Told her about how I wasn’t sure that there was going to be the money for school and the house and living and maybe how I was afraid that I’d go back to school only to find that now I didn’t have enough money to feed my family and I wasn’t even enjoying the program. She commiserated and encouraged me. She left and while I was enjoying the boys’ nap time, I thought I’d check on our bank account. And there was a lot more money in our chequing than I expected.

Our child tax benefit has come into effect today and we will be receiving enough money to cover 2/3 of our child care costs every month. I know that our government was revamping the child tax benefit and I’d heard people talking about it pretty negatively so I didn’t look too much into it. So now I had this stress-relieving surprise that let me take a deeper breath than I have in a long while.

This school thing has come together in a way that I wasn’t sure it would. I’ve been afraid, but I trusted that it would work out if that was the plan for me. And I feel like it is. So, come September, I’ll be driving 1.5 hours one way to school three days a week with the assurance that I’m going where I am meant to. It’s going to be so hard on Brian, the boys, and myself, but I haven’t been this sure of our direction in a long time. And for that I am so very grateful.

Advertisements

Motherhood is Made of:

  • Cheerios always stuck to the bottom of your feet
  • Clothes that never fit your kids because they are too tall or too short or too chubby or too skinny
  • Never enough sleep because you’re working on years worth of sleep debt
  • Unending streams of loud noises like screaming and crying and giggling and farting and more screaming and crying and, if you have a dog, barking
  • Constant grocery trips because we are out of milk or formula or baby food or diapers or wipes, all of which are never out at the same time
  • “Shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up” under your breath
  • Fear when things are too quiet
  • Counting down until the next nap
  • “Did I eat today?”
  • “I ate everything in our house today.”
  • “Don’t touch that!”
  • “NO! NO! NO! NO!”
  • Pushing things farther and farther back on your table and coffee tables and end tables and desks because the kids grew another inch this month
  • Hiding snacks and remotes and cell phones underneath the couch cushions so your kids can’t get them
  • Searching for snacks and remotes and cell phones and soothers when your kids find your couch stash
  • “I don’t think I can do this.”
  • “Nope, definitely can’t do this.”
  • “Why did I even think I could do this?”
  • Looking outside and wondering if it’s worth it to take the forty-five minutes of packing the kids up to leave just to go for a walk that will probably end in either rain, screaming, or a dirty diaper as soon as you’re three blocks away
  • Looking outside and feeling like you’ve been imprisoned
  • Paw Patrol! Paw Patrol! We’ll be there on the double! 
  • Overly-enthusiastic talking toys
  • Hourly butt sniffing
  • “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”
  • Surety that you’re doing this whole thing wrong
  • “WTF IS WRONG WITH MY KIDS?! I’m pretty sure they are defective.”
  • “I swear to God if you put that in your mouth…”
  • Repeating things thirteen times
  • Talking to yourself because nobody is around and you haven’t actually spoken in three days and you’re pretty sure this is why your kid is taking so long to learn how to speak
  • Telling yourself to calm down, immediately forgetting
  • Doctor appointments that always somehow fall in the middle of nap time
  • Hate for every single person who knocks on your door during nap time
  • Well-meaning, unsolicited advice
  • What you thought was a hug, but was actually the kid smearing snot all over your shoulder
  • Chewed food in your hair
  • Baby poop under your fingernails
  • Wondering what would happen if you just didn’t go and get them out of their cribs for another hour
  • “Did I say ‘I love you’ today? No? Well, I’m the worst parent ever.”
  • And all the mushy stuff that the other lists tell you about. You know what I’m talking about. The lists that are usually topped with a glowing picture of a well-rested mom in white smiling at a clean undressed baby that is not tugging at its diaper to get at whatever is inside. The lists that are usually on a pastel background and uses words like “adorable” and “sweet” and “cherish them while this stage lasts” as if we haven’t been told that six thousand times by every single person who is not in this stage and who looks like they have actually slept more than four hours at a time. The ones who would love to hold the baby until he starts fussing and then, surprise, it’s back to you. Those same lists that enchanted you while you were desperate to have a kid of your own and dreamt about the cuddles and kisses and the sweet smell of their little heads. Yeah, that stuff is real. They can be sweet and quiet and kind and sometimes they even smell good (in between the farting, dirty diapers, old food, formula burps, and spit up). They are those things, but they are also unstable nuclear bombs. Just as a head’s up.

 

FB_IMG_1467418795021
Yup, unstable nuclear bombs

5 Years & Counting

Brian and I celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary this month. It’s crazy to think that it’s been this long, but here we are, staring at the later half of our twenties with two little boys in our arms and five years of wedded bliss behind us.

And by bliss, I mean anything but.

Oh, there has been some incredible moments, but there have been some real tough ones too. My dears, marriage is not an easy thing to be a part of. It requires constant sacrifice, constant compromise, constant selflessness.

Contrary to what I believed when Brian and I got engaged, marriage is not a passive state of being. You have to be an active participant if you want it to do well. You cannot float through marriage. It takes a lot of work, but the reward is well worth the effort. But to make it easier on those of you who are just getting into long-term relationships, I’m going to impart some lessons that I’ve learned that have made our journey a little smoother. Of course, this isn’t a catch-all list and there is no guarantee that any of these tips will work for you. After all, all relationships are different.

5. Ditch Gender Roles

I am not very good at being the epitome of the 1950’s suburban, white housewife. “Clean” always has a layer of dust and dog fur, I need something outside of the home to make me feel like a contributing member of society, and a “home-cooked meal” is fast food eaten on plates. I balk under rules about who I am “supposed” to be as a wife and a mother. So when Brian and I got married, we decided that the “rules” that seemed to be out there weren’t for us and we made our own.

Brian cooks meals and does the dishes. I bake a lot for him. I’ll unload the dishwasher if I remember. He does our laundry and I do the boys’ laundry. We take turns sweeping and mopping and vacuuming. We trade off getting up with the boys. We both take care of the kids. I deal with all of our finances, but Brian makes the money (for now).

Your relationship means your rules. Two people have different strengths and rather than trying to conform to some made up convention, we found it was easier to do the jobs we liked and compromised on the ones we both weren’t fans of. We have found our roles that work for us in and I encourage you to do the same.

4. Focus on Gratitude

Two of the most-used words in our home are “thank you.” We thank each other for everything, even the chores that we expected the other person to do. I thank him for making the meals. He thanks me for tidying up the toys. We make it constant. Sometimes it can sound excessive, but what we are truly saying is:

I see you.

I see what you have done to make this home cleaner, better, and easier to live in. I see that you have expended time to help me. I see you prioritizing our family before your own selfish wants. I see you.

We are stopping the feeling of “they never notice all the work I do” before it starts. I know he knows what I do because he thanks me for it. Even if we don’t feel like thanking each other, we say it. Because the feelings can come with the words and, even if they don’t, feelings aren’t how we govern our marriage. They’re too fleeting to build a foundation on.

So thank each other. Thank them and tell them how their action has positively affected your life. For example, “Thank you for vacuuming the living room. I feel better about the boys rolling on the floor when it’s clean.” It’s simple once you’ve made it a habit.

3. Learn Their Love Language

When we were in our mandatory marriage preparation class, we took a test to determine our “love language.” For those of you who haven’t read the book, Dr. Gary Chapman outlined five different ways that people prefer to show and receive love. He calls these “languages” and like language, you learned it from your family when you were growing up. You have a primary language that you understand love best, but you can become fluent in the other four. Many people don’t have the same language as their partner, so they learn their partner’s language.

The languages are physical touch, acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, and quality time. I have always prioritized acts of service and gifts as my languages. When I am grocery shopping, I love to pick up Brian’s favorite chocolate bar or something that reminds me of him. When I try to make friends, I often send them truckloads of baking. I love getting little gifts back or having someone do something for me that I didn’t want to have to do myself.

Brian, however, needs words of affirmation. He wants to be specifically told that I’m proud of him, that I care for him, that he is a good husband and father. When we struggle in our marriage, it’s often partially due to forgetting to express our spouse’s language. We feel like we are showing love, but it’s not being noticed, which is usually because we are showing love in our own language, which is getting lost in translation. Brian could tell me he was proud of me a million times, but that wouldn’t be the same as if he brought me flowers on his way home from work. I could buy him a hundred chocolate bars, but he’d rather I just tell him that I love him.

If you haven’t done so before, I encourage you to take the test with your partner to see what your primary love language is, and then commit to learning a new language if necessary.

2. No Scoreboards

“Well I changed the last eight diapers so now it’s your turn.” “And when was the last time that you cooked anything?” “I do all the chores around here.”

Fewer things destroy relationships faster than tallying up each other’s actions all in the name of fairness. It leads to resentment, frustration, and unhappiness.

I am bad for this. I am someone who tallies everything in every relationship. Not because I want people to “owe” me, but because I never, ever want to feel like I owe anyone else. I try to go over the top so that the tally is always in my favor so that I never have to feel that action inequity. I know I can ask other people for help because I have made sure to have a higher score. This is dangerous. Sometimes I overspend my time and money to make sure I’m not indebted to others. I burn out or stretch myself thin. I over invest too early in relationships and then I can’t sustain the spending so it seems like I back off and people ask where I’ve gone. Others can tell that I’m counting and want nothing to do with it.

I have to actively stop myself from tallying both in my marriage and in my friendships. I’m better now than I was years ago. I hope each day that I’m better than the day before. I’m going to kick this long-practiced habit once and for all. I’m warning you to stay away from it because it’s not pretty.

1. Support, Support, Support

I’ve got some pretty big dreams. So does Brian. There’s a lot we want to accomplish in this short time on Earth. And now that we are in this together, sometimes one person’s goals require the other to step back or step up for a while. Like right now. I’m going to school in the fall and Brian is going to remain our sole breadwinner until I’ve finished my degree. It’s a lot to ask of him, but he willingly is shouldering this burden to help me complete a goal.

It’s amazing to be in a partnership where you are completely supported. When it’s my turn to do the supporting, I feel honoured. When I’m being supported, I feel grateful and very, very humble. We are in this together and my successes are his successes. His are mine. When you realize this, it’s easier to make the other person’s goals your priority. Together, you can accomplish much.

 

What do you think? What are your tips for a successful, long-lasting relationship? Do yours overlap with mine or do we have completely different lists?