taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Thursday, May 19, 2005

After I got married and had the Panda, I thought married people without children were hopelessly self-involved. Here I was, twenty-three, working full time and going to school, with a kiddo and a house. And I found myself in a neighborhood absolutely full of childless married people. Rich, self-involved, with too much time to think about wine and home decor and their jobs and their relationships.

These people irritated me no end. Their late-middle-aged hipsterism. Their smug, too-considered marriages. They were like the gray-headed, overly-self-aware line drawings in seventies sex manuals. Navel-gazing and babyish, seeking their own happiness. At that time, I honestly thought "Happiness? Pah! Life is fucking hard, get over it!" I believed that the having and rearing of children was the most essential part of becoming a grownup.

I still believe that, only now I believe something else too: children ruin marriages.

I'm not even going to preface any of this with the usual disclaimers. (OK, OK: I think it should be obvious that I adore my children, that I do whatever it takes to keep them happy and well-fed and well-educated, that I enjoy their company and I'm beyond glad I had them.) But let's face it--having young children is a marriage-killer. They demand far more than they give. They inhibit your sexual relationship with your spouse in ways you could have never dreamed of--you suddenly lack any semblance of privacy, time, or energy. They keep you from leaving the house as a couple almost ever. They increase your workload a hundredfold, and the work is frankly mindless drudgery most of the time. They don't care what you think about any of this, and they shouldn't. And the times you're not with them, you're biologically compelled to think about them. If this isn't a recipe for marital disaster, what is?

The common wisdom goes something like this: Make time for YOU! Make time for the COUPLE and the MARRIAGE! Ask any parent--that's fucking FUNNY. Make time for YOU? I'm picturing some twenty two year old intern at Redbook dreaming this shit up. As though babysitters are waiting on every streetcorner like migrant workers, ready to be picked up at a moment's notice so that your (suddenly untired) spouse can whisk you off to a dinner you can't afford. As though the experience of giving birth (or witnessing a birth) a couple of times--not to mention the years spent with an average of three hours sleep a night--isn't going to impinge on your desire to do anything but pass out at nine o' clock.

I count among my friend several married couples who have consciously decided not to have children. And while at one time, I admit, I would have said they were dooming themselves to a life of trivial self-involvement, I now see that they're pretty much the only happily married couples I know. Because marriage wasn't meant to support what we ask from it. It wasn't meant to be a love match AND an economic arrangement AND a living situation AND a coparenting relationship AND a daycare.

A friend of mine recently told me a story about some MICA kids back in the seventies who decided to install a pool on the second floor of a Victorian rowhouse. Predictably, when they filled up the pool, the whole thing came crashing down under its own weight and water flowed out like a tsunami, breaking the front windows of the house. Families are like that too--a wonderful fantasy gone terrifically awry, collapsing under the weight of their own expectations. When your kids ask you, how do babies get made? you should tell them that story. And the moral? "Sometimes Mommies and Daddies get really brilliant ideas, and then they carry them out, and sometimes it doesn't turn out the way that Mommies and Daddies expected it to."


At 7:59 PM, Blogger sweetney said...

"The common wisdom goes something like this: Make time for YOU! Make time for the COUPLE and the MARRIAGE! Ask any parent--that's fucking FUNNY."


jesus, people really have no idea what they're getting themselves into, do they?

At 7:16 AM, Blogger XLT said...

Hey, thanks for that. Now I realize I AM TOTALLY SCREWED.

Love ya too.

At 9:12 AM, Blogger debbie said...

well i've got to out myself as a totally selfish bitch, because i most definitely make time for ME. "time for the COUPLE and the MARRIAGE"? notsomuch. hey, a happy mommy is a sane mommy -- it's best for everyone, really. okay, maybe not my husband. heh. we can go out on "dates" and have sex when they're in college! hee.


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