Do Good Moms Make Bad Wives?

Every classroom has one. Maybe she’s even you. She’s the mom who lives and breathes all things motherhood, using every ounce of energy to provide the precious little ones with the ultimate childhood experience. She bakes from scratch, has dinner on the table every night at 5 pm sharp and can whip together homemade costumes for the entire 5th grade cast of Wizard of Oz faster than you can say “And your little dog, too.”

Don’t even get me started on her crafting skills. While I try to avoid eye contact when I see that my son’s teacher needs tiny fall trees cut out, that lady knows her way around a glue gun like nobody’s business. She’s like a cross between Martha Stewart and MacGyver, using pipe cleaner and a rock to create memorable holiday gifts.

Sure, most of us struggle with the simple task of juggling homework and soccer practice — there’s no shame in that, right? Nope, not her. She not only gets it all done but heads up the carnival committee and organizes the next class party at the same time. I want to scream at her “My God, woman, don’t you sleep?” But I’m starting to think that if you showed up at her house in the middle of the night, you’d see her put away on a shelf with the rest of the wind-up robots.

But for every other mom who thinks that she’s perfect, setting the bar the rest of us can’t even come close to, there’s a certain someone who’s anything but impressed… her husband. Because while she’s spending sleepless nights frosting cupcakes and sewing costumes, he’s feeling neglected and going to bed alone. Which brings me to my question…

Do Good Moms Make Bad Wives?

Getty_021113_DivorcePapersJessica is no stranger to the good mom, bad wife question. In a recent conversation, she revealed to me that she believes her dedication to the kids was a major contributing factor in the recent demise of her marriage, creating resentment, competition and feelings of neglect in her husband. “He hated that [I always volunteered] because it set into the time it should’ve been fed into him.”

But was he partially responsible for leading her to a life of extreme motherhood in the first place? Jessica admits that throughout her marriage, she’s often felt unappreciated and not supported emotionally, leaving her with unmet needs. Using her time with the kids to fill those needs was good for the kids and her. “Because I needed validation and emotional gratification that he wasn’t providing, the kid stuff was easy to take on. I always get a ‘thank you.’ Volunteering is very validating for me, it’s rewarding and fulfilling.”

I think almost anyone who’s walked into their young child’s classroom can relate. The feeling you get when your kid notices your arrival can be pretty intoxicating and knowing you’re making an impact is exhilarating. But what happens in a few years when your kid begs you not to come and refuses to be seen with you? After years letting your marriage run on auto pilot, I wouldn’t be so sure your spouse will be waiting with open arms.

The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center cites spending time together, showing respect and exploring common interests as a few of their 10 Tips to having a healthy marriage. I’m no therapist but I’ve got my own tips.

  • Call each other names There’s nothing worse than hearing a couple call each other “mommy” and “daddy” when there are no kids in a 100 yard radius. Referring to each other by name is a tiny, yet effective, way to recall the person you loved pre-kids.
  • Just say NO Say it with me… “I can’t volunteer to run the bake sale this time.” Say it, own it, live it. I promise you, if you utter those words, you will not die.
  • Just say YES Rumor has it, men often lose interest in alone time after hitting a certain age. Turn him down time after time and I guarantee he’ll lose it with you much earlier. Just sayin’.
  • Prioritize Listen, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be involved with the kids. Volunteering and running the activities show is a positive thing and helps connect you with the kids. But do you really think Groundhog Day requires individually-wrapped holiday gift bags filled with pencils and Punxsutawney Phil-shaped erasers?
  • Forsake all others That’s right, it’s in the vows. Somewhere between sickness and health and richer/poorer, you agreed to forsake all others. While we think about staying faithful to our partner in the biblical sense, vows were about putting each other first. I’m not saying to neglect the kids but they won’t exactly suffer by seeing their parents put each other at the top of the list, instead serving as relationship role models.
  • Stop making excuses I know I can be the first to suggest skipping date night in order to save a little cash. But the price of dinner and a sitter is nothing compared to the cost of divorce. So put on some lipstick and get your butt out the door.
  • Skip the crayons Here’s a date night rule to live by: If there’s a play area in the restaurant, find somewhere else to eat. Chain restaurants are packed with screaming kids and stressed-out parents, not the atmosphere to encourage kid-free conversation and romance. I know you love your never-ending breadsticks, but save Olive Garden for family night, OK?

Are you a better mom or wife? Share your tips to a healthy marriage and how you balance both in the comments below!

That Mom

I recently posted this during my blog swap with Jana of The Meanest Mom. For those of you who missed it, here’s a Sunday bonus post.

It was expected to be a hot 90-something California summer day and I wanted to show the kids a good time. Anyone could toss frisbees at the beach, build the perfect lemonade stand or spend hours playing Marco Polo in the pool. But how many kids get to be in the ventilation-challenged indoors, jammed into a giant room with 100 screaming strangers and their parents at the local play area? Scooter’s Jungle – now that’s what lifelong summer memories are made of.

We grabbed our socks and headed to the 90 minute free-for-all. After I signed the rock-solid insurance waiver upon entering, the staff — barely older than the kids they are hired to supervise — recited the rules. I didn’t want to break it to them but I’m thinking if it takes me 45 minutes to get my three kids to put their shoes on, no one’s listening to gum-snappin’ Chelsea’s words of wisdom. As we shoved our way into the play area, I felt something change… it was like the calm before the storm. Next thing I knew, the normal, rational person I like to think I am be was taken over — by THAT MOM.

For the next hour and a half, I walked behind my kids like a crazy woman, righting every wrong, reprimanding ever misstep. But not just my kids… no one’s child was safe. When the cute little 3-year-old boy came barreling down the slide with his tiny Tinkerbell doll in hand, I let him know the rules said no toys. And when the angel-faced kindergartner cut my kids in line, I made sure he knew that it wasn’t cool with me. My kids couldn’t wipe the grins off their faces, they were having so much fun amid the chaos. But not me. I was missing it, too busy playing Jungle Cop.

I took comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone. Here I was, sandwiched between the cheerio-totin’, mom jean wearin’ mom on my left, who was making sure her little Suzie wasn’t accidently brushed up against by the evil forces of preschoolers, and the I-haven’t-missed-a-day-at-the-gym-since-1987 dad, pushing his mohawk-sportin’ son to the front of the line every where he could. As I looked around I noticed we were all on the same mission, to do anything and everything we could to make sure our kids were having the time of their lives… even if it kills us.

But the jungle wasn’t the first time I became THAT MOM. Recently, as I sat on the steps of a hotel swimming pool while the kids floated around me, three pubescent boys started playing an overly active game of peg-each other-in-the-head-with-a-ball. Each time the ball whizzed by, I could feel my body change, my back arch like a cat ready to take the leap. Low and behold, a few minutes later… the ball and my daughter’s leg made contact. I sprang up snapping at them, “What’s wrong with you, boys? Where are your parents?” It’s like I turn into a cross between an elementary school principal and Serial Mom within seconds.

And I can’t forget the grocery store incident. When the teen bagging my items got sassy with the middle-aged cashier, my alter ego reared her ugly head. I tried to convince myself, “Don’t say anything, Jackie. It’s none of your business.” But could I let it go? Heck no. I had to let that boy know that his disrespect was absolutely not acceptable and he should be ashamed of himself. ASHAMED, I SAY!

Because, oh yes, I am THAT MOM.

How have you changed over the years that leaves you wondering who you’ve become?