Crying In The Car

After the whole mini-van controversy (which I’m just going to refer to in short-hand now), reader Alyssa sent me a email that I kept circling back to. It speaks to what she is going through as a newlywed. While it’s totally different from what I’m going through, but I’m interested in it because it’s real and it’s particular. Part of what I dislike about the discussion about marriage is it’s vagueness, “We’ll all nest and buy pillows and make babies and stuff and be happy and stuff.” Which is great, I suppose, though sometimes I wonder if that’s anyone’s experience, exactly. But I’m far more interested in the particular. Like, “I don’t want a baby want now but I want one later so I’m trying to pack in a lifetime of travel in the next three years,” or, “I know I want a baby right away, but I’m scared too.” or, “I’m not even sure if I want a kid, and I feel like I should *know* already and what the f*ck,” or, “I don’t want a d*mn baby but everyone is asking about babies all the d*mn time,” and on and on and on. Because I’m curious about talking about those moments of newness where you think, “Jesus effing Christ, no one told me it would feel like THIS.” No matter what this is.

So here is Alyssa and her perspective on the mini-van-a-versy:

What people are not getting is that some of us don’t know yet how we feel about being married and being a wife. I’m thinking about it, but I’m also busy with all the post-wedding crap that I don’t always get the time for self-reflection. I went through this big process to change my name and get all the paperwork done that goes with it while on my lunch break, and then I ended up crying in the car at the freakin’ Social Security Office parking lot. Because I was so busy changing my name that I didn’t get a chance to think about what it meant, or how I felt about it, or even to say goodbye to my old name. The same goes with being married right now; sometimes I find myself so busy “doing the married thing” that I don’t give myself a chance to think about what that means. And if I do, I’m torn between the two apparent sides; being a Wifey-Poo and being all “Rarr, I’m my own person and I will rip your face off if you call me Wife!!”

Which. Yes. It’s hard, this transition. Wonderful, but hard sometimes, and big. And… magnificent. All at once.

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  • Alyssa- you are not alone!
    I'm so glad to read this because we got married three months ago, on a beautiful, stress-free, wonderful day. But then it's 'over', and you have to figure out where to go from there. (As in, what do you do after all the gifts are put away, you're waiting on your pictures and you've both gone back to work? I had a very off-week after the honeymoon despite the wonderful-ness of the wedding day and the joy that we could finally 'start our life', which by the way, is harder to define than I could have imagined until recently.) Yes, as for most of us, we as a couple had the discussions about babies, travel plans, etc. That's the easier stuff in my opinion. What you don't talk about is the day-to-day stuff. We didn't live together before we got married; since graduating college two years ago, I've been on my own, he's been back at home. Our reference points are totally different for an array of reasons in addition to that. I'm back in school, still trying to remember to answer to my married name. The hubby feels neglected because of my schedule, and we end up fighting about housework or which set of parents we're going to go see on a given weekend.
    I wouldn't give up a second of it, because I married my best friend, and even the hard stuff is so rewarding when you work it out. But I just wanted to say: you are not alone if you think it's suddenly harder 'after'.

  • I've been married for 4 years now (and still don't have kids) and I can completely relate to that feeling after getting married. I ADORE my husband and feel that marrying him was the best thing I've ever done – but I went through 'independence withdraw' after getting married. I was used to be extremely self-sufficient and when I didn't have to be, it was a shock! I definitly don't think that people want to talk about that part of being newlyweds, but it happens, or at least it happened to me.

    And about babies, I really wish people would shut up about them! I've been married 4 years and am not even close to having kids, even though all of my relative and married friends are pregnant or have newborns. I finally talked to my mom about how I wasn't ready for kids yet and about how I loved my life (and husband) how we currently were and now she has turned into a realy fierce defender anytime my family starts harassing me about it. I love it!

  • I am glad you brought up the "baby talk." I have been totally unprepared by the number of baby comments I have had since getting married (no one made these comments when we were living together). I am getting it from everywhere: work, friends, family, people I barely know. An acquaintance asked me point-blank after a yoga class: "are you pregnant?" (She knows I got married last year.) We are pretty sure we don't want kids, and I find myself alternately irritated and confused and angry when faced with this question. Also, I know my husband is not getting these questions from people, at least not to the degree that I am. To me these assumptions and expectations of baby-making feel like appropriations of my body, and they go way beyond any appropriations of my body that I felt as a bride.

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you again.

    We got married in June. Immediately following, I left for 6 weeks to finish my masters degree. When I got home, we began adjusting to life together as a married couple, and what that meant for us. Hard but so rewarding.

    We jumped into buying a house pretty soon after that. It's been whirlwind and I find myself SO SO excited to "Settle down" and quit living a life on the run. We're unpacking our new home now, and already, the babymaking questions have been bombarding us.

    Can't I just have time to settle into our home and our lives together?

    The other side of it, the fact that we bought a house so quickly after getting married, has also brought on many, many comments about how quickly my husband and I are moving into our relationship – that we should slow down.

    Why do people feel the need to comment, one way or the other??? We are 25/26 years old. We both have jobs that we like. We can have a baby (or not) if we want to. We can certainly buy a house affordable to us if we want to.

    I think people project their experience onto others… if they wish they'd waited and enjoyed coupledom without parentdom more, then they take it out on every young married that they can.

    And though I know its our decision, it's sometimes hard to ignore all the noise.

  • I was very scared of this newlywed stage of being a wife. Because it was at this stage in my first marriage that everything fell apart. And I didn't see it coming whatsoever(after 8 years together not surprising). I knew I felt very differently this time throughout the relationship but I still had the fear of the post-wedding first few months, because, well, I never really made it past them. I never really became a wife properly. This time again I haven't had much time to work out my feelings on being a wife, because, being three months pregnant at our wedding, we have been focussed on become a mother and father, becoming a family of three. I do think we need another honeymoon or something in the next couple of months to properly enjoy our husband and wife stage before two becomes three. I do know however that I love being married to my husband so I'm not scared anymore.

  • Meg

    @Rosalie (and everyone)
    I think we had most of this transition crying in the car stuff pre-wedding, which is just another experance of it. After the wedding we've had individual issues, but the wholesale, "Oh god I'm crying and it's confusing and I do't even know WHY," was all in the 6 month run up.

  • Minta

    The other day I heard something on the radio about women who have kids in their 40's are more likely to live to be 100+ due to more financial security and less stress (vs. women who have kids in their 20s and 30s). I'm not married yet, and don't want kids right away if at all, so this is my new response when people get on my case about a baby day countdown.

  • Fran

    Who wants to be judged by other peoples milestones? And that damn baby question is just so insensitive! Good God you could be trying or at that delicate don't dare tell stage. I guess people just want the best for us all and we need to find a way not to FEEL judged and sometimes that is hard – especially when you sometimes we are not sure where we are heading ourselves….

  • This just rings so completely true. I feel like I can get so caught up in making sure that our wedding really feels authentic to us, and we don't get lost in the process, etc. Which is important. But I sometimes do not spend enough time thinking about what this all will mean after the day is over. We've recently started having deeper discussions about what our relationship means, and where we want to go. And not just with kids, jobs, etc. But with how we want to be in our daily relationship and what we need to work on now. These conversations have been so powerful, and I know we still have a lot to discover and talk about.

    Oh and we are both in the "I don't know if we want kids, and why the f*k don't we know yet" category.

  • Thank you, again, Meg, for providing us all reassurance that what we're going though (pre- or post-nuptually) is OKAY.
    My favorite (and by favorite, i mean most annoying) post-wedding question (1 month post-) is the "So, do you feel different?"
    Well, duh! Of course I do! and Of course I don't! …but how to articulate that to passing aquantances and coworkers…

    It's nice to come here and know i'm not crazy. or alone.

  • Anonymous

    In light of the "baby" talk, our society has ingrained versions of small talk that need to be replaced with more open-minded, open-ended questions (or perhaps fewer inquiries to begin with)… Because conversation is a way of relating, people often impose their perspective in hopes to relate to one another, only to alienate the other. The surest way they will realize this is if it is pointed out to them.
    (Yes, this is the 21st Century, but unfortunately, the evolution of ideas is not always in line with the evolution of behavior.)
    Some of us are just more reflective, thoughtful beings… A polite response/reminder that someone's behavior/comments are inappropriate might give them the chance to practice a little more self-reflection/behavior modification.
    As this post, and its responses, point out – we are all having a very human experience, but we are all very different types of humans. Remember YOU have the power to teach people how to treat you through honest and respectful communication (or through firm boundaries with those unwilling to learn).

  • This is why I love this blog (and why I decided to start my own to join the conversation): It reminds me that I'm not crazy. I don't know yet what it means to be a "wife". I do know that I love my husband and I love being married… but that doesn't mean it's not way more work than I thought it would be. These two months after the wedding have been harder for us than anything leading up to it.

    But at least some of the rest of you are struggling to figure it all out too–and that helps!

  • K

    What's she's talking about it exactly what I went through. It took a good six months and some therapy to clear me up. Now, it's bliss, but that was a HARD adjustment. I wanted to be married to TH more than anything, but when it was all said and done, I found myself struggling to learn how to be independent but fully part of a strong relationship. My inner-feminist raged about the wifely duties…that I was enjoying making a part of my life. I had to learn that Wife is not all that I am. I'm still Kim. I might have a new name, and a new way of life, but the fundamentals haven't changed all that much.

  • What a perfectly written email. I haven't even gotten married yet, but this is the part that weighs on my mind about getting married. Well said.

  • K

    For those in the "Do I want kids?" throes, there's a great book called Maybe Baby.

    It's funny to remember myself reading it given that we're in the middle of infertility treatments. For me, the confusion was really just fear b/c I knew it wouldn't be easy for us. That fear is a tricky thing…

  • The thing that freaks me out the most about the whole "when are you having babies?" thing is the true nature of the question. My fairly conservative family, who would never dream of asking about someone's sex life, are essentially doing just that. I'm not married or engaged (although the questions are definitely starting now), but I wonder what would happen if, after I get married, someone asked me "so when are you having kids?" and I said "Well, we have sex every night, so probably soon." Most of my family members would be horrified, but it would get them to realize how rude the question is!

    On a slightly more emotional note, the question can be downright traumatizing in some situations. My sister-in-law has had three miscarriages, and my sister has had one. My poor sister cries hysterically when people ask her if she's ever going to have kids…because she's wondering the same exact thing. It's their experiences that cause me to never, ever ask people if they are going to have kids. You never know if you're bringing up a subject of true heartbreak to the person.

  • Anonymous

    My boyfriend (of about a year) bought a house that we both renovated and moved into last month. And even though we're not married, that extra-level of settled-down-ness makes me feel like I'm going through a lot of the same stuff. For those who lived together before marriage, did you go through anything similar then and now again? Or is it totally different?

  • Alyssa, this is exactly the moment I had. Literally. Crying in the car in the social security office parking lot. Not kidding. Like so many of the other readers posting here, I looooove being married to my husband. But I have to admit that in the six months since our wedding I have had many moments like that one, kind of lonely moments when the weight of it all just feels like too much.

    The semi-comforting thing is that this seems to be normal. And at least we're talking about it.

    Hang in there!

  • Meg

    @Anon I went through some rough stuff when we moved in together, though even that was a bit different than what some people are talking about because we'd *almost* lived together for two years prior to that. Two years later when we got married, I did *not* go through the same stuff again, since on a day to day basis our lives didn't change. I did go through different stuff though after the wedding, mostly about money, which I'll talk about at some point. We didn't combine finances till after we were married, so that was new.

  • Anonymous

    Man the baby stuff makes me crazy! My fiance's family is very conservative, very southern, and very large. In his family, its expected that women don't work and pop out at least three kids. On my first visit to their home, not a single person asked me what I do, but I had 3 people ask me how many kids I have (0 and it will stay that way…).

    I am not interested in having children and never have been. Some people might think it is small talk, but that is a very personal decision. It feels like people are trying to justify their decision to have children by pressuring me to do the same without any attempt to understand my situation. My fiance doesn't get any of this pressure even though it is HIS FAMILY.

  • Oh, crying in the car, how I have been there. I wrote on my blog about my breakdown at dinner on the first night of our honeymoon, about not wanting kids and what that means, and I will write someday about the name thing and how HUGE that is and how nobody wants to talk about it it's huge. This is all hard, hard, (good) stuff, and we deserve to cry in the car or at dinner as much as we want. That said, if we all talked about how hard it was, maybe we wouldn't feel like we had to cry in the car. That's why this blog is so great :)

  • Jes

    I'm torn about whether or not to post – but it's something I deal with everyday so I figured what the hell.

    I'm a soon-to-be-surgeon…will graduate in May – three weeks after my wedding :-) That's a whole lot of new stuff and new responsibilities this summer.

    Here's where my head is so effed up: Sometimes I just want to scrap my career and be a mother and wife. (even admitting that online makes my own head spin with WTF?) I've worked my tail off to get to where I am – and I love surgery (love!) but I think about missing out on the joys of being a young mom and it really kills me. My mom was way older when she had her kids – she had a life of adventure and fun first – but she was about a decade older than all the other moms at school. And that was tough in some ways…on her and on us (people use to refer to her as our grandmother… honestly)

    I don't want that. AND I'm feeling the pangs of motherhood – it's weird. BUT I don't have the time to be a real mom and I don't want to "hire" a mommy for my baby.

    So that's my quandary. I'm living my dream…I've always been fortunate to call my own shots…I've worked my ass off my whole life…I'm marrying the man I love …I'm going to be a doctor. I kiss the feet of the women before me who fought to ensure these rights!

    But now – I think I'd rather have the minivan.

  • I'm 62 days out from our wedding – so can't comment from the other side yet. I know we've had a few crying in the car moments in the last three months. But the closer we get the more right it all seems to feel, which is great. I was a tad worried there for a while.

    I feel like lots of the stress in the planning (and I imagine the newly married stage) comes from other people and what they expect of you. It's hard to ignore and then you start to measure yourself against others ideas of how things "should" be.

    Sorry everyone jumped on you on the mini van post. I didn't feel like I needed to add my ten cents to that one – there was enough going on. I always love hearing your point of view. It's our differences that make life fun, if everyone was the same it would be boring as bat shit!

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    That's got to be the one of the best emails ever received.

  • Meg

    There is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. I've sort of always wanted to do that. But EFF the minivan. Do it your way.

  • Anonymous

    I love reading all the comments here about indecisions with having kids. I'm going through that now, with more lean towards the "not" side, but it gets frustrating when it seems like EVERYONE is leaning way, waaaaay on the other side, and I feel like something is wrong with me. Feels great to know I'm not the only one thinking about not having any children.

  • Sarah

    i agree with the other posters here… why should we have to decide or answer to anyone about when to have babies? it is so strange to me, b/c last time i checked, it was the 21st century, but apparently, in some parts (many, actually, which scares me) of the country, it is not the 21st century, but more like the 1950s. i think it was actually 3 Christmases ago, wayyyy before we were ever engaged (we're getting married this June), that my then-boyfriend's mom decided that i was going to have babies within the next few years! i was like excuse me?????? first of all, we're not even engaged yet. second of all, i'm 22, and to be quite honest, i never planned on having babies until was at least 30. but she assured me that i would change my mind, much to my chagrin. it was actually so bad at one point, that my bf had to talk to her and tell her to stop saying that i needed to have babies b/c it was upsetting me.

    now we're getting married, and we're not even sure if we actually want kids or not. and personally, i don't think it's anyone else's darn beeswax if we do or not!! but ever since then, it's been pretty much an uphill battle with the future mother-in-law. she's decided that she can wait "up to 5 years" for grand kids… so it's like a ticking time bomb that's just waiting to go off. they don't understand my modern sensibilities, or my desire to obtain a PhD degree. my only hope, i feel, is that they live 800 miles away. so i only have to see them a few times a year. :( :P

  • Ok so I'm not married yet but I feel like the last 2 years have been a huge transition already. We've been together 8 years but in the last 2 we've made a lot of those big decisions, made plans, talked about babies, buying a house, travelling, we've combined finaces, got engaged, figured out the name change stuff, will be married in 6 weeks. Its been a hard to years but soooo rewarding our relationship is so good, strong, and we are both headed towards the same goal together. We've also forwarned people of our decisions. however we haven't offically moved in together (we stay at the same house each night, but not moving in together yet was a finacle decision) and I'm starting to get nervous/scared. Will we be a strong and as good when we live together, we will be good to live with am I going to be as good a wife as I am girlfriend. Its nice to know other go though the same stuff during the transition.

  • I went through a really bizarre period of uncontrollable crying a couple months after were got engaged, but before we got married. It scared the crap out of me because I'm not much of a cryer by nature, but could not seem to get a grip.

    In retrospect, I know that much of it was just wedding planning stress, but I also firmly believe that I was sort of "mourning" my single-self a little bit.

    Also, regarding the baby-talk: I think that's mostly a matter of managing expectations. NO ONE ever asks us about babies – not our friends, not our family, not our coworkers – because for better or worse, they all "know better." And they "know better" because we made sure they knew better a long, long time ago.

    Remember, YOU determine other people's expectations of you, whether you realize it or not.

  • I jumped right from getting married in Massachusetts two months ago to living in a state that did not recognize our (same-sex) marriage. The voters in our new state of Washington will decide this Tuesday whether or not my wife and I can have all of the state rights equated with marriage (all except the actual term "marriage"). Needless to say, it has been a strange transition to married life. (And anyone is WA, PLEASE don't forget to send in your ballot and vote to approve referendum 71!!!!)

    Meg, your post got me thinking about an anti-gay rights television advertisement (;=related) that I saw for a similar initiative that is up for a vote right now in Maine. It centers on the question: "What is marriage for?"

    What I found so interesting about this ad is that is assumes that the only purpose for marriage is to have babies. The ONLY purpose. And further than that, it assumes that that people can't even imagine another way to look at marriage. I've realized that this believe is what the anti-gay marriage argument itself hinges on… the idea that marriage exists for the making of babies only, not for commitment to another person, not for declaring lasting love, not for joining families… for making babies and that's it.

    It's an idea that is so foreign to me that I don't even know how to interact with it when trying to fight for my rights.

  • Ella

    I've been speaking to friends who are trying to juggle the career and child thing — not easy at all. I realized recently that because my mother stayed home with us, I unconsciously internalized these expectations for myself. I never thought I'd hire a nanny or put my child in daycare or not try to be home when they came back from school. The more I square the realities of the career path I'm on with these "expectations," though, the more I realize that something has to give. Like Jes, I often toy with the idea of leaving what is often a frustratingly over-ambitious and stressful work environment in order to spend meaningful time with my children. However, I think that after about 5-10 years of that I would be ready to go back to work… and at that point, given the field I am in, it would be very difficult to re-enter.

    If having a career means that I will have to hire help to clean house and watch babies, at least for the first few years, I think I'm slowly becoming more comfortable with this idea. It surprises me that time with my children when they are young is what I am comfortable with sacrificing. For me, though, I don't want to wake up in 10 years and feel that I've lost part of myself, and I think that's how I'd feel if I sacrificed all the years of professional training I've put in to take up a completely different role.

    This is such a personal choice and I really enjoy reading other women's stories on here. I also think that it says a lot about the society we are in that there is very little institutional and societal support for parents (let's not assume that men don't face this dilemma, too). I saw a book once about creating "on" and "off" ramps, so that people could enter and exit the work force more easily. Compared to the European or Canadian systems, the American one seems a lot more hard to navigate in that respect because it prioritizes work and competition so much.

  • Marie

    Jes- Adrienne CLarkson, Canada's former Governor General (clearly I am Canadian) talked about that quandary. Our current system of education and the job market forces women to make this decision often -carrier or stay at home mom (some women are able to do both, or chose to do one or neither). It is harder to get pregnant for most women after 30, yet if you want to be a surgeon, for instance, you require 8 years post secondary. If you choose to have a child and stay home with them for 5 years, you're not current or competitive when you go back to the job force.

    The system caters to men (and I'm not super feminist, this is just a fact). Men can produce off-spring at anytime and often don't have to make the choice between career and family (of course, some do).

    One thing to keep in mind, if you are creative,if you are willing to compromise on some small things, you will find a solution that works for you and your vision of family (working part-time, working on contract, working for an NGO, etc etc).

    You are obvious a driven, intelligent woman, you will find a way to use your skills/education and raise your children!

  • Sara

    It's wonderful reading everyone's comments because I've been through some and am about to experience others. I remember when I first moved in with my boyfriend (now fiance), calling my sister in tears and telling her how The Boy had just consumed all the groceries I had bought in one week that normally last me a month…and I was a really poor grad student. And wow, the power struggle with him those first 3 months in getting him comfortable with sharing, what was formally his house, with me.
    And then I can relate totally to Jes about wanting to be a stay home mother, but my advanced degree and higher pay than the fiance will result in me having to stay ont he job track and go directly back to work after maternity leave. All this has led me to conclude that our lives will just be against the grain and we're going to embrace it, and let everyone else's cobweb wrapped beliefs roll right off us. My soon to be husband will likely be the one that stays home with the kids (BTW, I think kids that have stay-at-home fathers might just be the luckiest people EVER). And while we're both a little intimidated by parenthood, I think it will be an adventure. Letting conventional crap weigh too hard on you is way too much pressure. A lot of us here didn't have to fight to earn our education, there were women before us who did that. But it appears our generation is still up against the expectations of traditional motherhood. Well, things are different, we are creative, and our new families are going to be creative, and we can do it. And when the going gets tough, admit it, and voice it to your sisters, friends, and forums like this, because you are not alone, obviously.

  • I read many of the emails from the original "mini van" post and was surprised. I read this post not as a rant or a soap box moment, just one girls feelings about being a newlywed. Maybe I am naive, but I feel that we are all on our own adventure of sorts in this new territory. We all have our own fears to overcome, situations that are out of the ordinary, and regular life craziness. I like the fact that I can come here and read that others are in similar situations, or even completely different situations than myself. We all have a story to tell, we could all help someone else out there get through a rough patch, or revel in an awesome one.
    Write on.

  • Lori

    As a 51-year-old, I'm experiencing some deja vu reading the comments.

    I had no desire to have children and didn't have them. What used to frustrate me was that some people assumed that I didn't want children because I didn't like them and knew I would mess up their lives. That used to chap my ass.

    I remember having to explain to one lady that I was actually very good with children and that if I chose to have them, I'd be a good mother. But that didn't make me want to have them. Boy, did she look confused. In her mind, only potentially rotten parents would forgo children.

    But if you do feel yourself longing for children, I say go for it. I think denying yourself the things you really want will eventually cause you to become disenchanted with life.

    It is harder to conceive in your forties, and then before you know it, you enter the land of perimenopause and all bets are off as to how you will physically feel – this can drag on for years. And you don't know how you will experience it until you get there.

    Men may not have to make choices and career tradeoffs when it comes to having children. We always say they can have a career and a family. But usually they don't get the choice to spend hours with their children each day because of their career. Essentially, they have always been more similar to career women who rely on other people for childcare.

    No one has it all. NO ONE.

  • I appreciate the realness of what people are saying. You can have an amazing wedding and honeymoon and come back to work and reality and say wtf?! At least that is what has happened to me this week…three weeks post wedding, back to my job I sorta like and adjusting to "wife"….it's real, good, hard, amazing, scary, uncertain, certain and life…ride the wave and feel the feelings….it's all good, even the crying in the parking lot moments! :)

  • I am so thankful that there are so many thoughtful and intelligent women (and men) that can come from many walks of life and discuss these tough issues. For me, the babies issue is a tough one. I find it incredibly difficult to articulate what I feel on the subject, to be honest. I often feel like if I choose to have children, I will never get to do all the ME or US stuff I want to do. Also, having watched family members have children, it really bothers me how much assumed responsibility other people take over your children. Meg had noted this in a past post, and witnessing it makes me ill.

    On the other side of things, I like kids. I occassionally have maternal pangs. I think my husband and I would be good parents, although he is totally on the fence too. So that's me. Just confused, no clear direction on much of anything, and not sure if I ever will. Sometimes I just have to let myself "go with it" and stop trying to micromanage my own life, ya know?


  • so glad you ladies are taking the time to appreciate and acknowledge all the changes that happen after you get married.

    a little nervous to join the ranks, only seven days left! i'm so glad i found you, not just for wedding advice. but, for advice on staying the same person that my husband fell in love with.

    p.s. that was maybe one of the first times i've typed the word husband in relation to myself. eeek!

  • Anonymous

    this is a bit off the point, but ever since I've changed my status on facebook to "married" all the suggestions and ads are about fertility treatments and groups for moms etc.. one of the best is an ad telling moms to go back to school by some government scheme. I know it's really silly but I find these ads offensive. I don't know what it is about "married" that triggers the "you are obviously baby minded now and probably can't have one/stuck at home raising it" link

  • agirl

    Alyssa put it wonderfully. And thank you Meg for promoting all this discussion about the particular. Having been married for a few months, or over a year depending on how you look at it, created a seismic change. Not in everyday obvious things, but in subtle ways I hadn't expected or thought about. And no one (before this whole discussion got underway) seemed to really talk about it. Personally I'm absolutely loving the honest dialogue.

    And Jes, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I've had the whole, shit I'd rather be barefoot and pregnant discussion with a couple of my very closest friends a couple of times now. And with the husband. Who while 'supportive' is clearly terrified that I'll leave him alone holding us afloat. And clearly wondering where the career bitch (well not quite) he married has gone to. But in some ways I DO want to revert to that traditional nurturing mother-role now that I am married, which makes my 6 years of med school, and 3.5 years of hard slog after it, what? Just a way to pass the time? It wasn't, it's something I love passionately, but I struggle to see how I can do that and these other things I want to do now as well. And no-fricking-body in real life ever admits to feeling this conflicted! Amd all the male tutors and mentors simply cannot understand what the fuss is all about.

    I will stop hi-jacking Meg's comments and reply to you on your blog, but there are so many issues to deal with post-marriage/commitment.

  • brendalynn

    This is why I love this blog! I've struggled with the word "wife" –and all it means, or could mean, or doesn't have to mean–for FIVE years of engagement. I know, ridiculous! But figuring out what terms like wife and marriage could really mean to my life and to my relationship have been the focus of our incredibly drawn-out engagement, and *finally* I'm feeling like I can get on with that marraige-party we all call "wedding."

    Mostly because I've realized that I'll just keep struggling with them… And there's a strange joy and almost-relief in that ;)

    Sounds like something out of "Closer to Fine," but I think it's working for me!

  • Anonymous

    I work for Social Security and I can't tell you how many women hesitate when I ask them how they want their name to read…I always make sure to ask if they want to change their middle name to their maiden name, a lot of women don't even realize they can do that. And a lot of them choose to do that, in order to keep a little bit of their "old" self with their "new" married self…some just plain don't want to change their name and some are SO excited to change their names. basically it is different for every person…but I get what you're saying and thanks for writing your posts meg!

  • Just talked to my wonderful future husband about this life-changing (and sometimes heart-wrenching) name change decision. He told me I could pretend to be a spy and need a new last name to protect my identity.

    This is why I'm marrying him.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Well, for me personally, I'm trying to decide what "having it all" means for me. When I was first married, I got really annoyed at people telling me that I couldn't have it all. I resented the idea that women, in this postmodern age, still are not allowed to be complete and whole persons; that we have to choose and pit one part of ourselves against the other. We can't be wife, mother, brilliant doctor and fabulous sister to our closest friends.

    In reclaiming the word "wife," I am (currently) challenging my own assumptions and beliefs about why "having it all" is so impossible. It occurred to me that it might have been the way I defined these terms that held me back and made me feel restricted.

    I think society tells us as women that we must be all things to all people (i.e., perfect "wife," perfect "mother," perfect "friend" etc). It's almost as though we are set up for failure, because that isn't even remotely realistic for most women. It certainly isn't for me. And so in my journey, reclaiming this word "wife" becomes even more paramount. It is essential my survival as a whole person.

  • Anonymous

    It is really something to see that young women are discussing the same issues that we were discussing in the seventies and eighties.

    We thought we would find a way to manage it all if we could just be creative enough to find the answers. What we got instead was exhaustion.

    As far as "having it all" goes, you CAN have it all. Just realise that means hiring child care workers and not always being there for the milestones in your children's lives.

    Honestly, there are no new solutions. There were only so many hours in the day back then and there are only so many hours in the day now.

  • Cate Subrosa

    "Mini-van-gate"? ;)

  • See, this is why I love this blog. It's like sitting around a girls' night, airing your worries and concerns and going, "OMG, me too!" every five minutes. Brilliant.

    It's so wonderful to know everyone understands (and even had) my crying in the car moment and to know that we all feel pretty much the same and that we all know it will get better. And it has! My hubby is wonderful and awesome and sometimes I just want to punch him in the face because he's also damn irritating. But TOTALLY worth it. Meg put it best, "Wonderful, but hard sometimes, and big. And… magnificent. All at once."

  • Jane

    Just wanted to say that I love that (self-identified) older women are posting here, too…we need your perspective. Please keep posting. It is especially interesting because I think women of my generation (late 20s, early 30s) were raised to think that we can have it all. That is not realistic, and unrealistic expectations only set us up for all kinds of self-doubt and anxiety.

    Marriage = not a walk in the park, no matter how egalitarian or progressive. Work + children = ditto. I love the fact that having a more "feminist" perspective also means that women need to give up some of their illusions about reality and recognize the trade-offs that men have made all along…this is sort of what Beauvoir writes about in the Marriage section of _The Second Sex_.

  • Anonymous


    A self-identified older woman here.

    In truth, it never lets up. There is always going to be a tug-of-war if you live with a man and have a career. I've seen so many couples who don't even have children resort to hiring a housekeeper because they got tired, or tired of arguing about who's turn it was.

    This is a very middle-class college-educated discussion anyway. Ask a man who does manual labor or any work he can find to support a family if he feels he "has it all". Ask a secretary whose work is very repetitive if she feels like she's "losing herself" by deciding to stay home. Ask a factory worker the same questions.

    Even if you're college-educated with a mentally-stimulating career, child-care and life balance realities will not spare you.

    I've seen career women who loved their jobs experience emotional distress once their maternity leave was up and they had to leave their infants. I've seen them shuffle their children around day care places after discovering their children were being neglected in spite of the high costs. They found infants crying in their cribs and being unchanged until just before it was time for parents to pick them up.

    Get ready for the endless illnesses all small children in day care experience.

    Life is gritty. If you expect a stranger to love your child as much as you do, you are living in a fantasy world. If you find someone like that, realize you are luckier than most. The most you can hope for is competent workers.

    If you find people to watch your children that are competent and your children like them, you still won't be spared the second shift – childcare and household duties performed after a long day at the office.

    In the old days when men worked and women stayed home, no one expected the man to come home and cook dinner or do housework. He was expected to relax and play with the children – maybe help with homework.

    So if you have a career and children, you will work harder than a man did in the 1950's. That's the God's honest truth.

  • Anonymous

    Women have more than proven they have the brains and ability to handle any career.

    But we haven't been able to clone ourselves so we can be in two places at one time.

    That last problem is a doozy.

  • Meg

    Marisa (and really everyone)-

    Exactly. I think the point is remembering that we have it all by not making ourselves have it all… or something like that. Part of the problem, I think, is that we tend to hold ourselves to standards we can't possibly reach, and then punish ourselves when we don't reach them. In fact, I'd argue that the idea that we have to have a career that 'fulfills' us is one of those standards of perfection. It's obvious from this discussion that some people here do (and god bless) but some of us don't, or are trying to figure it out, and maybe won't. Letting that be ok too is part of letting go of the quest for perfection.

    I've been having really frustrating career moments of late, and a friend reminded me that *especially* for women, careers are often not liner things. We work, maybe we stay home for a bit, maybe then we freelance, maybe then we work full time again. Maybe we switch careers, maybe we switch a few times. Maybe we're good at several things and try to figure out what we enjoy the most. And that's great. The point is finding something, some pattern of work and life, that is fulfilling. In fact, I think a lot of men really want this, but are still far more locked into the 1950's role of going to work from 22-65 years old, being the provider for the family, not having lots of choices, and then retiring. So in a sense, the fact that as women we're continuing to grapple with "how can we fulfill ourselves?" "how can we bend the rules to get them to work for us," means that as confusing as it is, we're winning. Because at least we're giving ourselves options, at least we're giving ourselves the room for discussion, the chance of imperfection.


  • Anonymous


    I'm glad you said that about men. The "choices" they had were not all it was cracked up to be, i.e. there wasn't much of a choice to begin with. Plus, unless they were in the higher tiers of employment, they were under supervision all day.

    Working is not a day at the beach. A lot of men would love to spend more time with their children too.

    No one has it easy really. Not them and not us.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Great points, Anonymous (both) and Jane. I think, for me, though, I would rather step outside of the box in terms of figuring out how to even "have it all" and what that all means anyway. Traditionally, it consists of a husband + career + child(ren). But why limit ourselves to that stifling definition? I'm sure there are women whose lives are not built around those components, yet they are fulfilled and complete in ways that many of us cannot seem to achieve. Even as I step away from the definition of wife that is task-centered, I find that I can be much more than I ever imagined. I'm optimistic, but wow, what a journey this is going to be.

  • Meg

    This thread is now being edited for kindness. Be kind. If you are not, I will remove the comment.

  • Jane

    Thanks for your comments…you are very right that this is a middle-class/college-educated discussion. In many ways I think sometimes that I'm lucky to have this set of worries.

    I see all the gritty parts coming up ahead, just as you described, and sometimes it seems daunting! All those years of sleep-deprivation. But it also seems like the hardest part is before the children are in school.

    @Meg, that sucks that people are being mean on here. I have to admit that I am curious what they are saying, though…just wondering what kind of perspectives are out there.

  • Meg

    Minivan-gate. Again. I'm done with that now.

  • Jane


  • Anonymous

    "I see all the gritty parts coming up ahead, just as you described, and sometimes it seems daunting! All those years of sleep-deprivation. But it also seems like the hardest part is before the children are in school."


    Anon here again.

    To some extent pre-school is the hardest part. But don't underestimate school-age homework.

    My sister divorced when her daughter was five. I remember her talking about coming home from work and spending literally HOURS every night on homework. Her school gave so much of it. And the other parent couldn't even help because they were divorced.

    What about babies? Consider breastfeeding – we all know it's better, but did you know it takes NINE MONTHS of breastfeeding to develop a child's maximum visual acuity? Forumula can't do that. I actually remember when scientists discovered that fact, but it's not well known.

    How many women can go to work and still breastfeed? It takes time and privacy. There was a headline recently about a working mother who was fired because she needed to pump breast milk and it could not be confined to the designated breaks on her job without her being in misery. She went to court and lost.

    It used to take my sister 45 minutes to an hour for a single session of breastfeeding her baby. Multiply that by several times a day.

    Nature itself doesn't seem to notice work constraints.

    Just saying.

  • Anonymous

    Just thought of one more thing.

    I have a memory that is etched in my mind. After all the women's liberation talk in the 1970's, I remember the moment when I knew that society had really shifted for real.

    It was 1980 and I was 22 years old reading an article in a magazine about women's choices. They profiled various women of different ages and photographed them.

    One of the photos was of a beautiful young mother looking down at her very small infant. The mother had just graduated from law school and was about to begin working as an attorney. She was quoted as saying — "I just hope she doesn't cry at night so I can get some sleep before work."

    For you younger women, that might sound like a reasonable comment. But there is no way I can express the impact of her words back then. At 22, I had NEVER heard that expectation expressed about a baby before.

    I remember thinking – "Wow, I guess a baby isn't allowed to be a baby anymore. They have to cry on schedule now."

    It still haunts me. Looking back, it seems like starting in the 1980's, we entered the "Land of Unreality" where everything was just supposed to work out and it was SUPPOSED to be easy.

    And why not? We'd never done it before so we were very optimistic. The Enjolie purfume commercial of those days expressed it very well when the lady sang – "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never never never let you forget you're a man. Cause I'm a woman. Enjolie!"

    I think nowadays people are just beginning to get more realistic. LOL

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. I haven't gotten to the wedding part yet, but I find it incredibly helpful to read posts like this because I just *KNOW* that's going to be me at some point. I've been struggling with a few parts of this getting engaged and wedding planning bizzo and the fact that EVERYONE seems to have an opinion on it and their own idea of what this is all meant to be about… I feel engagement, weddings, marriage, being a wife – it can be an awfully complex process for the modern woman! It really has made me question who I am and what my values are and most challengingly, acknowledge my contradictions! And so much of the time I think 'why didn't any one tell me it was going to be like this?' So I find it incredibly helpful when I hear other people sharing their stories.

  • K

    I’ve heard statements about how under ritualized our culture in America has become and it makes me think about transitions like this — from girlfriend to fiancee to wife. Rituals make you slow down, reflect and honor your shifts. We’re all so used to instant gratification and getting each thing done as quick as can be so the next chapter can be started. Suddenly you’re halfway through the book and the emotion and gravity of chapter two hits you. I know if I remember to be aware of an honor each of the many huge transitions coming up, the crying fits I’ll have will at least feel more appropriate. :)

  • Alexandra

    SO many great points here. The FH & I aren’t sure if we’ll make kids, or adopt, or just continue being “rockstar” auntie & uncle. All valid choices, but we’re getting older, and we love to sleep when we want, eat sushi, drink alcohol, and go to rock concerts. So…we just have to figure out if we want to continue our lifestyle, or if the promise of the love and exploration you can get from a kid, is worth [to US] all the hard work, financial pain, and sleepless nights. ;p

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