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!

The Apple Dumpling Gang

If I could sum up my parenting fail in a word, it would have to be — FOOD.

When Jacob was almost a year old, we thought it would be so cute to get him his very first “kid’s meal.” That Sunday afternoon move may have been one of my biggest mistakes — ever. I have spent every day since bribing, threatening, begging and bargaining, hoping my five-year-old would just eat a meal that wasn’t shaped like a dinosaur, covered in pepperoni or come in a color not found in nature. When I do get him to try something, it often ends up in a gag/vomit combo that leaves me on my hands and knees wiping up food that looks nothing like the treats meal I had prepared.

Then, enter Brady.

Our four-year-old is a big time meat and potatoes man — hold the potatoes. He’ll eat the meatball portion of spaghetti and meatballs, chicken nuggets, and pepperoni pizza, with a little mac and cheese thrown in for good measure. While most people would find living four months with no kitchen would be unimaginable, as long as we had a toaster over and microwave, they couldn’t have been happier.

The funny thing is that I really do subscribe to the “two things on the menu” principle — take it or leave it. And if I didn’t have a 6’4″ baby who was the king of all picky eaters, I’d be all over that. I find myself feeling defeated before I even turn the stove on. The only thing that keeps me from moving into the local McDonald’s is knowing that Lucy will at least try 75% of what I cook. It’s fun to share fruits and veggies with at least one normal-eating person.

But things are looking up. On our fall vacation back east, we had the chance to go apple picking. I had very low expectations that the day would be anything other than a hay ride and photo op for some gorgeous fall foliage. But picking apples proved to pique the curiosity of one of my stubborn food men (and his dad). Watching Jacob bite into apple after apple — even when he would randomly spit some of it out — made my heart swell with pride. (Baby steps, right?) And (as you can see above), when we tired of apple picking, there was still Lucy picking to be had. She like to do her best impression of a hanging apple on Daddy’s arm, the hay ride, and anywhere else she could dangle from.

I jumped on the apple-bandwagon and decided to try something else — dumplings. We watch a video called Culture Cubs that has taught the kids not only some vocabulary in Chinese (hearing them name fruits in Mandarin is just too cute), but has introduced new foods and art. And since our little dumplings watch the kids in the video eat dumplings over and over again, a little experiment was in order. So the other night, I announced we were making dumplings and turned on the video. It was brilliant. Dinner became an event, with each of the kids grabbing their chop sticks and chowing down on pot stickers. I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing. Jacob, famous for throwing down in the middle of a Chinese restaurant because he doesn’t like anything, was now shoving pot sticker after pot sticker down his throat — eating a total of five! Brady was even dipping them in sauce!

I know that the food battle is far from over. But it’s important to celebrate the mini-victories as they come. And while tomorrow is more likely to be sandwiches over sushi, we’re one step closer to tossing out the kids’ menu.

What do you get your kids to eat?