I'm immersed in Present Over Perfect right now, Shauna Niequist's book that I pre-ordered months ago. I'm 36 pages in, and already, this stands out:
"A friend and I recently talked about how invested we both are in people thinking that we're low maintenance – we both want to be seen as flexible, tough, roll-with-anything kinds of women. And this ends up keeping us from asking for what we need, for fear of being labeled difficult or diva-ish."
I have no fear of being labeled difficult. But I do have a simmering resentment that those fears are not misplaced. I've spoken up about time with my family and have been told that it was a "power play." And no one else protested that label but me. Something is very, very wrong when expressing needs, drawing boundaries, advocating for equal say is labeled as being difficult or controlling.
I work way too hard – both at my actual job, and then again, at home – and am way too tired, you know, growing a human being and all, to be ok with this: being mocked and vilified for asking for partnership, in my marriage and in my family. The price for being "flexible" is steep – exhaustion, disconnection, resentment; the penalty for speaking up is equally heavy – malignment, contempt, and the most emotionally hurtful label any mother can be given, "selfish."
I would love to wake up one day and realize that I was being silly and ridiculous and that what I thought was reality was just a figment of my imagination. But seven years into marriage, and this is still the alternate universe that I'm living in.
The women say, "Self-care! Happy moms are the best moms." And the men say, "Sure, honey, rest up. I'll just be spending the afternoon playing the most expensive, elitist, and time-consuming sport known to man – golf."
I would love to take a spa day – sipping mocktails by the pool after an hour-long pregnancy massage and another hour-long facial. But that would take precious time away from my boys and precious money away from actual needs – diapers, student loans, an umbrella stroller for our upcoming trip.
I was an Econ major. I am well-versed in opportunity cost, trade-offs, optimization models. And yet, how do I optimize this life? How do I check off the boxes of: nourished, fulfilled, connected and also the boxes: good mother, happy wife?
I want to be heard, I want to be acknowledged, I want partnership. When has that turned into too much to ask for?
There's been a lot of talk of injustices lately, and for good reason. There is a danger to silencing voices, a danger to using privilege and your own metrics to compel others to live the same way you do. These inequalities are not just in the space of the "other." They coexist in our own homes and our own families. They play out in our otherwise happy lives, in the early morning silence, behind closed doors.
I don't have an answer to this. I love my husband, I love my family, I love my work. And yet: enough. I'm tired of struggling for partnership. I'm tired of justifying my needs. I'm tired of competing and negotiating and strategizing for a good marriage. I am straight-up, unapologetically tired.