My husband is at a business function tonight. At the Versace Mansion. In South Beach. The motherfucking Versace Mansion, y’all.
As for me? I’m lying next to my sleeping toddler in our hotel room.
My sleeping toddler who I love and adore. In a very beautiful hotel room. The one that Jennifer Aniston apparently stays at when she visits Miami Beach. (I know this not because I’ve seen her, but because that’s what a mom from playgroup told me). I know, I’m privileged. First world problems, and all.
It doesn’t mean I’m not
pissed kind of upset.
Sean’s job revolves around
schmoozing people sales. He is skilled in the art of relationships. Big, profitable companies throw big, wonderful parties. At places like the Versace Mansion. So that they can all stand around and perfect their relationships. It’s work. I get it. Getting dressed up to go out drinking with beautiful people in a beautiful place is work. And of course I’m oversimplifying it. Sean works hard. His industry is incredibly demanding. He works long hours and travels frequently. He succeeds because he is driven. He single-handedly puts food on the table and a roof over our heads, because he is good at the work that he does. Max goes to an elite preschool because Sean works hard. We are able to join him on this business trip because he works hard…..and because I don’t…work. And blah de blah de blah. I know, you get it. I do too.
So do me one small favor, then?
Allow me to be a bitch for a second and get something off my chest.
This. Fucking. Sucks.
It sucks. It sucks because I am sitting in a hotel room at 9pm in my pajama pants, and they are soaked through with Max’s tears and snot. It sucks because my husband is partying with pretty women who don’t have families to come home too. It sucks because my jealousy and anxiety and general discontent eat away at reality and any sense of logic sometimes.
Before I met Sean, my lifestyle was….well, considering I have immediate family reading this…we’ll call it fast and furious. If you are one of my dearest girlfriends, please stop laughing right now. I was never a big drinker. I didn’t do drugs. But for a while, OK a really long time, I survived on the adrenaline rush that came from being noticed. Noticed. I got high off relationships. I got high when I went out with my girlfriends and caught the eye of the hottest bartender in the club. I got high from getting dressed up in something sexy and dancing with someone new. I got high when I transformed from the conservative, polite lady who worked in the police department to the daring, questioning 20-something in the stilettos who welcomed all that the big city had to offer. My validation came from phone calls at midnight, drinks paid for in a dark bar, riding too fast on the back of That Guy’s motorcycle, starting my night at 2 am. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I am the most gorgeous girl out there. Not in any way. But I knew my um…assets….and made up for the rest with some crazy youthful confidence. And I’m not saying that I was a slut either. I was far too choosy to be a slut. I was a serial dater. Partly because I liked the wrong men, and partly because I enjoyed dressing up for dates. All of my validation came from outside. Everything was external.
I know, that’s pretty sad. But it is what it is. And it worked for me. Then, at least.
Until I met Sean. Now anyone who knows my husband knows that he isn’t exactly generous with the compliments. Sean has a tough-as-nails exterior, a Jersey attitude, and so much of his own confidence that he often forgets to share the spotlight with anyone else. On our third date he insulted both my pants and my “shitty” camera. But something told me to slow down. Something inside of me whispered that I should stop playing the game. And something deeper screamed that if I didn’t open my eyes, I was going to bottom out. My life had been in a tailspin. I was bordering complete disaster, and it felt like shit. On our first date, Sean and I talked about politics for so long, that they started to close the restaurant around us. He valued what I had to say. He noticed my tight jeans, but then reminded me that I didn’t always have to show everything off. He appreciated conversation, and modesty, and a girl who could kick his ass in a debate. Don’t tell him I said that. He was a creative romantic, and it more than made up for the cracks about how I cuffed my pants. This guy might not be handing out “Oh what a pretty dress” and “Gee honey your hair looks lovely”, but he proposed to me on a bridge in Paris overlooking Notre Dame, and then again on the Steps of Rome. Sean shows his love in ways that both surprise me and lift me up, and when he finally does speak up, I never worry that it’s just words.
Fast-forward a few years, and I’m nice and settled in my “new” life. It looks NOTHING like the old life. I have the privilege of mothering an amazing little boy, one who I longed for since before I could even grasp what it would mean to have a child of my own. I have a partner who cares for us in the most selfless of ways, and devotes every spare minute to embracing our family. We have “family hugs” and go on adventures that allow Max to see the world beyond our tiny town by the bay. We are enveloped by a nurturing community of extended family and dear friends. And yet…
You all know how I spend my days. I spend them at the playground, dodging flying sand. I spend them in the aisles of Target while Max is at preschool, trying to redefine myself by buying colorful new juice glasses to spruce up our kitchen or a sexy new bra to make me feel like an actual person again. (Seriously though…you could completely reinvent yourself at Target…I could live there.) I spend mornings singing “The Shabbat Dinosaur” song and afternoons making play-dough into pizza. If you catch me on a good day, I’ll tell you that I KNOW I’m an excellent mom. Of course I get scared, and anxious, and doubt my mothering skills….but on a good day, I know that I’m actually doing fine. For all of the twists and turns that have thrown us off course in this parenting journey, Sean and I still secretly think that we’re pretty superior when it comes to raising an incredible kid. Don’t worry…..we think you are too.
When I really stop to think about it though? It’s not the mothering that I’m concerned about.
It’s the rest.
I have no idea who I am anymore, outside of the swing-set and the bubble-blowing and the bedtime stories. My parenting gets validated every day…..when Max pets my hair and looks into my face, and asks for a “nose kiss”. When his preschool teacher tells me how much she enjoys having him in class. When I can thwart a meltdown by saying the right thing, or when Max responds with “No thank you” or “Nice to meet you”.
But what about the rest of me? What happened to the part of me who could stare down a room of 20 police officers and talk to them about sexual assault and appropriate trauma response? What happened to the woman who worked in a housing project in one of the worst neighborhoods in town, and walked myself to my car at 10 pm? Where is the girl who wore the miniskirts and went home with the bartender? How do I soothe my soul if I’m not out until last call or driving around the city reveling in the hidden underworld of the counter-culture revolution? I know that soothing Max to sleep when he has a cold is so much more important than wearing a trendy dress to a party with Sean. I know that doing the perfect “smoky eye” and having highlighted hair that’s blown out “Mad Men” style isn’t as important as explaining to my toddler that we’re going to have a “Max and Mommy” night in the hotel room. I know that there are thousands of women who would give anything to have this life….this beautiful family. And I am in no way saying that I would trade it for anything. My family is the best thing that could’ve turned my life upside down.
But there isn’t any balance. None at all. I am not a working mom. I am not a running mom. I am not a crafting mom. I am just a mom, and that is wonderful and special and an enormous blessing…..but sometimes it terrifies me that I have let go of everything else that defined me. So much so that Sean sometimes laughs that “You’re an excellent mom, but not always the greatest wife.”
I am a wife. I am a mother. And because of my past, I get sick to my stomach when my husband ends up at the Versace Mansion and I am in a hotel in my pajamas. I trust him. Of course I trust him. He has never given me a reason to doubt him. But I used to be the kind of woman who found a challenge in guys like Sean. And now I hate women like me. It’s not that I’m worried he’ll cheat, it’s that I’m worried that I’ve become the kind of woman that men cheat ON.
Oooooh. Let that sit with you for a minute.
I’ve been to the dark side of monogamy. Not in my marriage (Oh god no, not in my marriage. My marriage, and of course my son, are the only things that I’ve held sacred IN MY LIFE). But in my past. Haven’t we all tested our limits in some ways? Haven’t we all looked down on someone else’s relationships, thought that we were better, gotten high on the attention that we stole from someone else? Don’t judge me. Be honest with yourself.
So what happens when I wake up and find that I’m now on the other side of the fence? I’ve left the dark lipstick behind, and now I’m curled up next to the child that I longed for, and waiting for my husband to come back from living his life.
What does it mean if I need more than Mommy validation? The problem isn’t Sean, or his job, or our child, or the travel, or the long hours. It’s not even the Versace Mansion (though trust me, it would’ve been nice to see…..and I have the perfect outfit, and the shoes, and the purse, and the blow-out and the…..nevermind). The problem is the biting fear of my discontent. It is the salty craving of an adrenaline rush, the need to be noticed, to be exceptional at something other than parenting.
It’s been a looooong time since I’ve gotten high.