I always say the best relationships will teach you as much about yourself as they do the other person. My marriage is teaching me a lesson that I’m currently struggling to understand: Sometimes it’s not about you…like at all…in fact, not even a little bit.
Last September, my husband and I celebrated surviving our first year of marriage. While lighting our unity candle I reflected on our relationship and realized that for the ten years we dated, we managed to somehow find time to fall in love in between working two and sometimes three jobs a piece. There had been many days where I juggled a full-time day job (or two) while finding time to pitch and post as a freelance writer. My traditional day planner has been a mess of “post-it note” pitches and sex-ed curriculum since undergrad. Meanwhile my now husband, who was then my boyfriend, divided his time between building a business as a contractor and working for “the man” since we started seriously dating. We weren’t the type of couple who caught feelings over missed calls or taking hours to text back, and I could often be found saying, “If my man has time to ‘update his status’ all day, he isn’t doing something right. He should have business to handle.”
But this past year something changed. My new roles as a wife and mother forced me to slow down and not just dedicate more time to my personal life, but actually sit still long enough to enjoy it. Trust me, if a newborn whose favorite place to nap is on your chest doesn’t make you pump your brakes, nothing will. Most days there just didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day between sleep-training my daughter and working full time and slowly I went from writing three pieces a day to three pieces a week for the sites I contributed to. I hadn’t completely abandoned my career or my hustler mentality, but as I’m getting older I’m beginning to feel less guilty for taking a break from chasing my dreams so I can get my everyday reality under control.
I remember reading an article on Ayesha Curry some time ago about husband Steph Curry thanking her after winning the NBA championship. He noted her willingness to put her acting career on hold and be a stay-at-home wife and mother, and how it allowed him to be the man he is. As much as I liked her, a very “judgmental” part of me in the pit of my stomach said, “Here we go. Another one making excuses about having to choose between career and family.” And per usual, life turned around to give me a much needed lesson in empathy and I reached a point where I realized I may have to get out of the driver’s seat of my dream to manage our household while my husband makes his hustle his full-time job.
As much as I’ve always liked that my husband has a hustler’s ambition similar to my own, I had never taken much time to learn about his hustle. I’d listen to him complain about customers, but most days I was giving him a thumbs up from my laptop before he left in the morning to load his work truck. For the most part we’ve stayed in our lanes, cheering each other on from the sidelines when we found time. But when you truly begin building a life with someone and raising children, you begin to learn to that you can’t always be behind the wheel.
For some time, both of us had been constantly operating on “10” with demanding schedules that would dramatically change from day to day. Sometimes my husband would be home at 5:00 in time for dinner, other days he wouldn’t finish his day until 10:00 pm when he’d catch me at the end of a wrestling match with our one-year-old still fighting sleep. We weren’t able to create a routine for our child, because we had no routine, and I didn’t want her to grow up thinking this “burning the candle at both ends” lifestyle was healthy or normal.
From Ayesha Curry going from actress to #MomGoals on Twitter to Mary J. being her husband’s lover and secretary “working every day of the week,” I’m realizing that sometimes marriage requires sacrifice and putting my dreams on hold doesn’t have to be permanent as long as my husband recognizes after he handles his business he needs to fall back so I can make moves as well. (Meanwhile, amid her husband’s success, Curry is pursuing a new culinary kind of dream of her own over at her blog Little Lights of Mine, and her very own cookbook).
WHEN YOU CHOOSE TO BUILD A LIFE WITH SOMEONE YOU CAN’T JUST JUMP UP AND DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU, YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOUR FAMILY AS A WHOLE.
It’s funny because as much as I saw my father and mother work and raise my sister and I, it’s something I couldn’t fully understand until I had a family of my own.
It’s about finding the routine that is right for YOUR family. For some it may mean that you both won’t be walking hand in hand down that aisle getting your Master’s degrees at the same time, especially if it means there’s a child who never sees their parents for years at a time because they’re buried in the books. But for others, those few years of getting an education while squeezing parenting in between might be the difference between building the best life for your child and settling for something less. Regardless of the choice you make as a family, you do the best with what you have and make your peace with the things you have to give up. As long as you recognize that “giving up” and “losing” are not the same thing because when one member of the family crosses the finish line, you all do.
xoxo– Toya Sharee