Dooce wrote an interesting post Wednesday asking what her readers found more difficult, marriage or parenthood.
Like her, my answer was immediately parenthood, and I was shocked to read the comments and see that was the minority position. I found myself nodding pretty forcefully along with this paragraph of her post: "And while motherhood has become so much more natural to me there is still so much uncharted territory ahead, and I find that each age is so different than the one that preceded it that sometimes, although infrequently, it feels like we're starting from the beginning all over again. Sure, there are similar surprises in marriage, but right now almost eight years into our relationship I feel like what we share is the rock I use to stabilize myself when being jarred by everything else around me."
I've almost written about this topic several times- how people are always telling me how hard marriage is supposed to be and even if I think I'm happy now, I should "just wait" a few more years until it really gets tough. First off, I hate it when people throw "just wait" into a sentence. It's only used when Person A is expressing happiness and Person B wants to dampen it- why is that necessary? People were big on that when I was engaged and again when I was pregnant and I wanted to say: Look, I get that there are times when being a wife/mother will be hard, but life is hard, so that doesn't come as a shock, and I refuse to tell every random person about all the difficulties I foresee just so they don't think I'm being irresponsively optimistic- fight your urge to kill my happiness! Argh.
Anyway. My point is that I have never found marriage to be particularly difficult; in fact, it's probably the most natural, most happiness-inducing thing I've ever done. Sharing my life with JP comes easily- I've been sharing almost every minute with him since I was 18. And maybe that helps. We grew up together- the night we met we spent hours talking about our dreams- all of which seemed so possible as a freshman and junior year of college, and then we spent the next four years pursuing them with the other in mind. We made compromises easily- there wasn't anything worth doing that didn't involve each other. The little stuff came easy too. We were already living together when we got engaged, and even before we moved in I never slept alone, so I was used to sharing my personal space. We joined finances when we got engaged since I was waiting to go to grad school (and planning a wedding) and he had a job. When we got married I had less than $300 to my name and he didn't have a whole lot more than that- our money has always been "ours" and I can honestly say we've never had a single argument about money or the spending of it.
The big transitions never felt big. I thought the move to Chicago might be difficult, after all, I was 1,000 miles away from anyone I knew, I was absolutely miserable and overwhelmed in law school, and he was working insane hours at a boutique investment bank, but I remember the first year of marriage as one of the happiest I've ever had. We agreed on starting our family at the same time, and while I worried about the strains on our relationship once the baby came, I shouldn't have. When we brought Landon home from the NICU, I was still on summer break and he was working full-time, but as we got in bed he turned and asked, "which feeding do you want to take?" and I knew that we'd sail through this too. All through the sleepless nights, the DCFS hell, and everything else, I worried about everything except us. In my mind it's life that's hard, marriage makes it exponentially easier. I can face anything as long as I have him to cuddle in bed with at the end of the day.
Motherhood, on the other hand, felt like it threw me against a brick wall. Part of it may have been the newness of it all- I'd dated before meeting JP and we'd been together for six years before having Landon, so while I knew how to be a significant other, I had no idea how to be a mom. Motherhood was also physically and emotionally overwhelming in a way that sharing my life with JP just isn't. And it's not that we never fight or have days where we're out of sync, but in the end we can talk about it, share our sides, and figure out whatever is wrong (we do a lot of talking- no TV and generally no lights, just talking before we go to sleep)- I couldn't do that with a baby. JP ultimately wants me to be happy (and well rested!) and will do just about anything to make sure of that- Landon, not so much. And with Landon part of me is always questioning whether I'm doing the right thing for him, especially when he was a newborn, whereas I can trust JP to look out for himself or tell me what he wants. That need to do your best by your baby and not always knowing what that "best" is makes parenthood so hard for me- that and the fact that as soon as I have anything figured out Landon immediately changes.
I love both of them uniquely, separately, and more than myself- that came easy for each. But when I compare the challenge of assuming the new role and the maintenance of each relationship, marriage has been much, much easier than motherhood. And I know we haven't been married that long and I'm sure there will be bumpy times ahead, but we've already been through quite a lot and I can't imagine anything we couldn't face side by side. Someone told me the other day that raising a child is much more rewarding than being married, but I disagree- sharing your life with someone you love is unbelievably rewarding. For me, it's all wrapped up together in one big bundle of love and challenge and happiness and frustration. But if you're comparing the component parts, I think marriage is a breeze compared to being a parent. What do you think?