Not the greatest day, today. It started off well, something gave my husband the idea to do breakfast in bed for me, so I was woken up by him and K and S, saying "Happy New Year" and presenting me with a tray and a mug of coffee. Not bad, and totally unexpected. I don't think I've ever had breakfast in bed.
Last night sucked, however, and during our drive to my in-laws' house for lunch, B and I got into another argument which, by the time we were within sight of his parents' house, got pretty ugly. K went into the house crying, and I was sooo very tempted to restart the car, and drive away. After all, given the words B and I exchanged in the car, and were he to have repeated to his family any of what I said to him in the car, the in-laws' house was technically in that moment enemy territory. To put it more simply, should B and I get divorced, I would most definitely never be welcome in my in-laws' house again, and I have no doubt that B's sister would be happy to tear my personality apart.
Marriage is really, really hard. It is probably harder, overall, than the effort and drive and perseverance it takes to climb Mt. Everest. Why? Because marriage is made up of so many valleys, and a precious few peaks. I'm not good at being a married person, and it becomes more and more clear to me that this is because I am not good at sharing. I don't trust humans, and sharing involves trusting others to some extent. Sharing one's life within the context of being married involves making oneself vulnerable....very, very vulnerable. As I said to B today, in a marriage, someone is always being taken advantage of. Always. That can really stink, you know?
Let me tell you the scenario that ignited today's very hostile conversation in the car. It is somewhat of a tradition that every year on New Year's Day, B sprinkles birdseed on the front step, for good luck. Well, I had purchased some birdseed last week, for just this purpose, and had already threw some out on the patio - I can't really just throw it into the backyard as Henry (the dog) would probably eat it. However, over the past few days I had realized that throwing it on the patio wasn't the greatest idea, as the birds generally leave the bits they don't like, and those were getting tracked into the family room every time we took Henry in/outside. Which meant, generally speaking, that throwing birdseed on the patio would inevitably mean more vacuuming for me (of B and I, I do the vacuuming much more often). So today, when I saw that he had thrown birdseed all over the patio and on the back step, I got the broom and swept most of it off to the side, right before I got in the car. I then get into the car, and explain to him why I did that, since he had just thrown it there. I believe I also said, "you're not the one who will be vacuuming all the birdseed off the family-room carpet, so don't make more work for me by throwing birdseed on the patio". So this turned into a hostile discussion which lasted pretty much all the way to his parents' house. Good times. Given what we were saying to each other, K got pretty upset and starting crying. It was unpleasant all the way around. After B and the kids went into the house I sat in the car thinking, somehow I just have to get through this day. B and I did talk some, while at his parents' house, but we didn't solve anything. Life will go on, just as it always does after stuff like this. Maybe I'm petty, sniping at him about the birdseed, because I am the one feeling taken advantage of, most of the time. I very much dislike being on the receiving end of someone else's assumption that, because I'm the wife or the mother, therefore I'm supposed to clean up after everyone AND smile with happiness while I'm doing it - as if that's all I ever wanted to do with my life is be the maid.
That's what really gets to me about the whole structure of marriage, especially where there are children involved. I mean, is that my trade-off, here? Because he's the one out there earning the money, I'm then expected to clean the house/raise the children/take care of everything - or else? Think about it. If I were to say, I can't stomach the unfairness of marriage anymore, and B didn't like this and decided to file for divorce - I'd be left with nothing, right? I'd pretty much be reduced to poverty level, because as a "housewife" I'm not earning a paycheck. I have no pension plan, no 401K, no health insurance. I'm dependent upon my husband for all of that, at the moment. Could I go out and get my own job right now, and so provide myself with some financial safety in these areas? Not really, because then in my opinion, K's and S's lives would be thrown into unhealthy turmoil, at least for a little while. If I decided I really didn't want to deal with the unfairness of the marital relationship anymore, and filed for divorce myself, I would instantly plunge not only myself but also my kids into poverty-level living, simply because I do not have, nor could I earn anytime soon, the salary that my husband makes. The health insurance that covers the medical needs of my children might be thrown into jeopardy. Where does that leave me? Well, it leaves me between a rock and a hard place. Right now, at this time in my life, "marriage" means sucking it up and being the maid/cook/housekeeper/secretary (a role which I often find thankless, demeaning, and demoralizing), as a trade-off for being married to a responsible adult to who goes to work, works hard, and earns a paycheck to pay the bills.
Do you see what I mean, about marriage creating a situation where one of the spouses is very, very vulnerable and almost certainly taken advantage of? "But wait", you say, "what about the love you enjoy from your husband and children? What about the supposed fulfillment involved with being married, with having a companion for life? What about the blessing it is is be able to stay home with your kids?" Ummmm.......well, I guess those are great things - but I can't pay the water bill with those great things. Unfortunately, our society doesn't care about any of that, when it comes to paying the bills. And I say again, I only 'get' those things IF I'm willing to continue on in the thankless, demoralizing roles of maid/cook/housekeeper/secretary. That, my friends, is a very costly trade-off. Very costly. It is starting to cost me my sanity. The unfairness inherent in the institution of marriage just stuns me, most of the time.
But, on the other hand, maybe I'm reading the situation all wrong. I'm certain there are PLENTY of people out there who would look at my situation and say I'm absolutely insane for complaining about any of this. That I have a good man for a husband, we are able to (just) pay the bills (most of the time), our kids are pretty healthy overall, and we live in a safe neighborhood, etc, etc, etc. Maybe I am totally crazy, I don't know. B says he just wants me to be happy....but I'm really afraid that what would make me happy would be to be on my own, not married, not responsible for the kids 24/7. What right do I have to screw up his life, and the kids' lives, by going off on my own? Are they happier with me, or better off without me? I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.
The title of this post comes from a thought I had, sometime in the last week or two - if Adam and Eve had never eaten that blasted apple, what would "marriage" look like today? Would it be more fair, for both parties? Would men play more of a role in the hands-on aspects of raising children and caring for a house? Would women then have and equal opportunity to use their skills and talents in the working world? Would committing oneself to one person for life be as hard? I wonder.
This is me, folks. This is real.