Note To Self: My Husband Is Not The Patriarchy

I’m angry. Right now.

This isn’t just any run-of-the-mill anger. It’s the kind of seething anger that pops up every now and then without notice.

It’s anger without a reason.

This might sound crazy, but I’ll be perfectly happy one minute — and then ten minutes later I’m fuming. It literally comes from no where. There’s typically nothing that predicates it. It just happens.

I try to get rid of it — try to step away for a moment and breathe. The anger doesn’t happen all the time. But it happens enough. And I become bitter and resentful for an entire evening.

It’s truly awful.

It’s basically this — out of nowhere I become angry at the fact that I’m the woman in the house. And just to be clear — I LOVE being a woman. The anger stems from this feeling that there’s this unspoken, subconscious expectation of me based on my gender.

Don’t get me wrong — my husband is a feminist. A big one. He’s amazing. He pulls his weight. He supports me totally and completely. He loves his children fiercely.

Yet sometimes. Sometimes I can’t help but resent the fact that he’s a man (which I’m glad he is.) Although he cooks and helps with the cleaning, and splits night-time feedings 50/50 — I still feel short-changed as a woman.

Because I worry. I worry about every goddamn thing, and my beautiful husband looks so goddamned relaxed. The thing about Ernesto is that he knows how to kick his shoes off and read a book in the middle of chaos. He’s not being lazy — the man works his ass off. But he knows how to take a moment — a breather.

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And I don’t know how to do that. As a woman, it’s ingrained in me to care for everything — even when it’s not necessary. There is this deep-seated unspoken expectation within myself to run the household. To make sure the kids get their baths, to do endless loads of laundry, to maintain the kitchen, to wipe down the bathrooms, to change the sheets, to make appointments for the kids, to schedule playdates, to sign the kids up for activities, to make sure the kids are well dressed, etc, etc, infinity, etc.

My husband does a lot. Hell, dinner wouldn’t get made without him. I wouldn’t have any food in my house if it weren’t for his diligent shopping expeditions with the kids. And did I mention he brings home most of the money?

So why am I angry? Why am I complaining? I decided to have a family — I should be grateful. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Last year my husband bought me a stack of books on feminism from the used bookstore. It was a lovely gift. One of the books called, The Bitch in the House (trying to tell me something babe?) is a compilation of works by various female writers that highlight the daily trials and triumphs of being a woman. I didn’t read the entire book. As a matter of fact I only read the first 20 pages. It was difficult to read a book about angry women when I have so much anger of my own.

For god sakes. I just want to be content. And happy. Which I am most of the time — about seventy percent of the time if you want an exact number — a number I would like to improve on.

But the first essay I read in The Bitch in the House was a piece written by E.S. Maduro, titled Excuse Me While I Explode: My Mother, Myself, My Anger. She writes about her feminist boyfriend — a man who was the complete opposite of her traditional, sexist father. In it she explains her seething anger as she realized that even the most feminist men can’t escape male privilege — that these men with all their progressive ideas about women, still unknowingly bask in the glow of that ultimate advantage. And it’s infuriating.

Here’s an excerpt describing her anger upon returning home from work and seeing her boyfriend relaxing and downloading music at the computer in the midst of a messy, dirty house:

On such occasions I will be angry for thirty minutes, or maybe until I have eaten something. I will ruminate on the place of the woman in today’s “modern” society. I will cook and clean, and all the while think about how I am falling into the same trap of housework that my own mother fell into. As I scrub the kitchen sink, I will hear her voice saying, “You have choices,” and I will scowl at the concept of choice. I will decide that my modern, liberal, open-minded boyfriend, having been raised by a mother who did everything in the home (in addition to having a job), will never notice or care if his girlfriend or wife takes over those same domestic responsibilities. He is capable of doing all of them, but if they get done for him, my thoughts go, he might never even realize that they needed doing in the first place.

What she continues to say brings full circle the very conundrum that clutches me.

But then slowly, as I finish picking up the dirty clothes from the floor, I will think about his day, will remember that he works long hours, too — and that he loves music, that finding new albums to record off our computer is a way for him to relax, to wind down. It will occur to me that maybe he was waiting for me to come home so that we could eat together, that he didn’t know I would be arriving so late; that he was sincere, rather than just trying to avoid a fight, when he offered to cook for me {. . .} gradually my anger will start to wane, and in it’s place will come guilt and confusion and sadness.

Maduro talks about how she wants and chooses to be angry.

I feel frustrated by the guilt that accompanies asking Paul to take the initiative to run the dishwasher, to do the laundry without shrinking my sweaters, to buy groceries that are healthy. . . to ask for what my mother never would have, to be what she would have considered a “nag.” In wanting my home to be as well organized as my mother kept hers, I feel as though I must choose between doing everything myself and constantly asking Paul to do more.

And this is where the resentment comes in. I don’t want to have to ASK my husband to do more. Why would I do that when he already does so much? I don’t want to be a nag. But I have certain expectations of how a house should run — how a house should feel. As a woman, I know how to run a house. Why? Because that’s how I was brought up. My mom did everything — cooked, cleaned, and raised four children. I watched her do it all. And even though my mom is a feminist, I felt the unspoken expectation that this is what I would do when I grew up — raise children and run a household. As a matter of fact, it’s what I WANTED to do. As a little girl I dreamed of being a mother.

And here I am with four children. Cooking. Cleaning. Running a household. Except I have an amazingly helpful husband. And there are many duties that we try to split evenly. But I’m angry that it seems easier for him. Easier for him to get out of the house — or so I think. Couldn’t I go out for a drink at night if I really wanted to? Ernesto would totally support that. But I feel guilty for WANTING to — because, well — I have other responsibilities, and the dishes need to be done, and the laundry needs to be folded, and Kiera needs to clean her room.

And it’s so obvious that I’m doing this to myself. Ernesto isn’t to blame. I WANT to be angry — to bask in momentary bitterness. But I don’t want to WANT to be angry.

See how this is totally my problem?

My husband is not the patriarchy. He’s my partner. As a woman I’m lucky to have all the choices that I have today — even though we, as women, have a ways to go.

Ernesto says that I can relax too. Why can’t I sit down for a moment and read a chapter out of my book? Why can’t I draw or write for twenty minutes? Ernesto feels no guilt, no shame, no concern about taking that small amount of time for himself to recoup. And he shouldn’t. He deserves that. But that’s — in part — because he’s a man. Kicking his feet up is okay and smiled upon. Our society practically encourages it despite the fact that we’ve come a long way. There are just some things that don’t stress him out the way it stresses me out. BUT THAT’S NOT HIS FAULT. It’s this never-ending cycle that’s all just a load of shit because I’m doing this to myself.

Really.

So in the musical words of my nine-year-old daughter, maybe I should “let it go.”

Yes. I just said that.

I need to find a way to let go of this unrest I feel as a woman. This underlying rage isn’t doing me or my family any favors.

It’s time to move on from this stagnant place — time to be grateful for everything I have. Time to stop wallowing in these “first world problems.”

I think I’ll step outside and breathe in the fresh air. And just let all this shit go.

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

First of all, I just wanted to welcome all the new readers. I’ve had a spike in traffic over the past few months — so I figured it was about time to say hi to all of you who’re so kind to read my little blog.

I’ve noticed that my most popular posts on marriage (found here and here) and breastfeeding (found here and here) have hit a real nerve — in a positive way — with many of you. I’m trying to catch up on all the comments and some of the emails.

As for the reason for my absence — I had my fourth baby in January. He came four weeks early so things were chaotic for a while — and still are! I needed an extended break from the stress of blogging. Because it IS stressful. Even though it shouldn’t be. Blogging should be something that I enjoy, and I want to get back to the enjoyable aspect of it.

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Our newest addition

As for the four kids — well — it’s a lot. I knew what we were getting into when we decided to take the plunge for the fourth (and last!) baby, but the newborn baby stage is never easy no matter how much experience you have.

And I’ve come to realize that being a parent of four children has set me apart from other parents.

I officially belong to The Four Kids Club. I say this because I get looks of awe mixed with horror when people find out I have four children. I’ve even heard a few audible gasps from strangers. In the DC area, a family of six is considered an anomaly — weird — maybe even a bit psycho. But that’s okay.

We ARE crazy. Crazy in an awesome, fabulous way. In my opinion, that is.

So thanks to all of you newcomers for stopping by. I hope to give you more posts to read and enjoy. Right now I can only post on a weekly basis due to my membership to The Four Kids Club or TFKC. But even then I can’t make any promises due to the crazy life that I lead. In the meantime, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter (although I don’t tweet much ) or follow me on instagram.

— Sonja

In Their Own Words: Victims of Verbal Abuse

The following are the words of women who have responded to my posts about verbal abuse. You can read the posts here and here. Some of these responses were comments in my blog posts and some of them were emails. The desperation, helplessness, and self-blame are quite evident in these women’s responses.

Their words reveal the simple fact that you never know what goes on behind closed doors. What may seem like a happy marriage may in fact be an abusive one. I speak from personal experience.

Remember, just because women don’t talk about verbal abuse, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. There is a level of shame involved that prevents most women from speaking up about it — the idea that the husband is a reflection of herself — of her poor life choices — that she should just accept this as her fate. After all, didn’t she make the decision to marry him? She made her bed, now she needs to lie in it. But these are lies that we tell ourselves — and these lies are steeped in self-doubt and the absence of self-worth.

We need more stories like these to offer solace and support to fellow women who are suffering at the cruel words and actions of their husbands and partners.

These situations are far, far too common.

And you are not alone.

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This is just a taste of comments/emails I’ve received.

The more women talk about it, the more we can help and encourage one another.

If you have any insights or words of encouragement for these women, please don’t hesitate to leave a message in the comments.

My Husband Is Awesome. Is Yours?

Okay, so I’ve written a few blog posts on how husbands can be jerks and how to leave them.

I’ve had personal experience with this — unfortunately.

It seems silly to write a post about how to know your husband is awesome. You either know your husband is awesome, or you know he’s a jerk.

Sometimes your husband can be just “meh.”

I don’t think men should be constantly praised for things they SHOULD be doing. Like you know — being nice. I find it a bit grating when I read on Facebook the following:

My hubby is so awesome! He babysat the kids today so I could go to my doctors appointment and pick up some groceries!

Uh. Isn’t that what he SHOULD be doing? Also, a man taking care of his own children is not called “babysitting.”

But after writing a post about how crappy men can be, I must write about how awesome they can be. After all, I love men and I am married to one. I mean the man’s my best friend for Christ’s sake.

This post isn’t meant to be braggy (okay, maybe a little.) It’s a little self-reminder of how good I have it, and how every woman deserves to have the same kind of respect.  After reading some of the comments and the emails I’ve been getting, I felt it was necessary to share the amazing points of a good marriage. I’ve found that so many women second-guess their own feelings about their bad marriages. The pervading thought of these women (which may include you) is, “Well he DOES have SOME good qualities — even if he calls me a bitch.”

Ok. Well.

Let me tell you what a good marriage IS.

First of all. My husband’s name is Ernesto. And he’s the shit. See the awesome pic below.

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1. He encourages me to have time for myself.

He sees that I’m tired and tells me to lie down, read a book, watch TV, take a nap — you name it. The man will tell me to rest and say, “Babe, don’t worry. I’ll clean the kitchen and do the laundry. Just relax.” He understands that the household work is 50/50. It doesn’t matter that he works more hours — he knows this is a team effort. On top of that, he WANTS me to have my own hobbies — to have my downtime. He encourages me to write, draw, read, etc.

Mainly — he wants me to be happy.  If he see’s me getting a little wound up, he encourages me to take a nice long walk.

Okay, so maybe he encourages the walks so I’ll leave him alone and stop my bitching (I’m pregnant and hormonal), but hey — at least he wants me to get some fresh air!

2. He listens. He asks questions. He talks.

He fucking communicates.

We could literally talk for hours. One of our favorite pastimes is drinking wine and listening to music while playing Backgammon (this is us being wild and crazy, yo) — this scenario also includes a constant stream of conversation. We have endless things that we like to do together (unfortunately right now — for me — it’s just lying on the couch and watching TV because I’m pregnant and totes uncomfortable.)

3. The man doesn’t “babysit.”

No. The man actually takes care of his kids. He took on the fatherhood role when he came into my children’s life (my first two kids were from my ex) and then he enthusiastically took on the responsibility of raising our newborn together.

The newborn phase especially tested our patience with each other, but Ernesto never wavered in his commitment to do this parenting thing 50/50. He stayed awake at night bouncing a colicky baby, he assisted with feedings, he changed a million explosively shitty diapers — he was basically doing his job as a co-parent.

And just as another reminder. This is all shit that men should be doing. I’ve never taken it upon myself to constantly thank and praise him for all these things. All of these things are expected of him — and he in turn expects these things from me. It’s called parenting and marriage. But with that said, it’s nice to acknowledge all the wonderful things about my husband.

He’s just truly, an amazing, wonderful person.

I now must go as my kids just popped in the door from school.  I have to pay attention to them, you know.

But you get the gist of it.

Everybody deserves a loving, equal partner. Nobody should short-change themselves. Some marriages/partnerships divide the duties differently, but as long as you feel loved, respected and in love with your partner, then I think you’re set. Just make sure you’re doing all the same for him.

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If You Leave Your Husband, You’re Gonna Ruin Everything

I mean, YOU’RE the one who married him. You made this bad marriage bed — now it’s your duty to lie in it.

Your husband was just an innocent bystander trusting the fact that you loved him. It’s no wonder he’s so angry all the time. You mislead him.

You THOUGHT you loved him. He seemed like a decent enough guy. Now you’re fantasizing about leaving?

How selfish. How cruel. Poor guy, it’s not his fault. If he calls you names, you deserve it. He’s just frustrated. He’s just having a bad day. You need to be a good wife. You need to show your kids that you stand by your man no matter what.

Seriously. Are you having sex with him enough? Oh. Well there you go. That’s the problem. You need to show him you love him. Men have needs. Withholding sex is cruel you know. You really need to put your feelings aside here. It’s about him right now. Not you.

Remember. YOU married him. If you’re patient with him enough he’ll come around. I don’t mean to be cruel but that’s the reality.

Does the above bullshit sound familiar?

That’s what’s going through your brain, right? That it’s your fault? Well it’s not just you thinking this — it’s society. The amount of pressure that a woman has to endure to maintain a happy marriage is fucking bull shit.

I remember a time when I was at a party with my ex-husband when the cops showed up because of the noise level. My ex was almost black out drunk and he was getting really belligerent with the cops. He was in their face yelling and calling them pigs.

Guess what the cops did?

They turned to me and said, “Can’t you control your husband?”

I know, right? Sure, cops. All I have to say is the magic word and my husband will behave like an angel. I know this because I’m a woman and I’m magical. Yes, cops. It’s my fault and I apologize for my lack of control over my husband.

You know what, ladies? This is patriarichal bullshit. It’s time to turn that thinking around. If your man is misbehaving, it’s not your fault. If you tried to talk to him about your marriage and he didn’t listen, it’s not your fault. If he’s not respecting you, then he’s breaking his marriage vows. If he’s not trying to make the marriage work, then he’s not holding up his end of the bargain.

You, as an independent, autonomous person OF VALUE, can tell him that he’s not an active participant in the marriage and it’s over. Yes, it’s difficult when there’s children involved — I’ve been there, I know this — but believe it or not, it’s better for your children to see you stand up for yourself and leave then to stay in a sad, wasted marriage.

I cannot tell you how many emails and comments I’ve been getting where women are asking for help.

If marriage counseling is not working, or if he refuses to go — if he refuses to hear you — if you feel alone in your marriage — please do the following:

Get a pad of paper and a pen. Write down what would make you happy. Make a list. What do you want in life? A better education? A  better job? An understanding partner? A better life for your kids?

Don’t short-change yourself. Write down all of your desires.

Next write down all of your resources. This includes finances, trusted family members, and phone numbers to community resources.

Make a plan. Talk to people you can trust.

A plan that’s in place will help propel you forward.

Please continue to keep me updated, or contact me if you need to vent!

Much love to you ladies!

Bitch Wants To Be Nice n’Shit

Nothing will make you feel more like a self-entitled schmuck than being a pregnant lady who feels sorry for herself.

It’s all stupid shit. Like, being pissed off at your husband because he can drink wine and you can’t (not that I’m against drinking wine in the third trimester — because I assure you — I WILL enjoy my wine in the third trimester.) Or getting angry at your husband for taking that one rare night to go hang out with a friend. Selfish? Yes. Irrational? Most definitely. Is pregnancy an excuse for my schmuckness? I really want to say yes — but — no. No, it’s not an excuse.

I got angry at my husband earlier this afternoon for something fucking stupid. Something dumb. And he looked at me with this sweet, incredulous look.

And I felt like a bitch.

So I looked at him out of the corner of my eyes and confessed.

I said, “I know I’m being irrational. I’m sorry. I’m angry and I don’t know why.”

And he rubbed my back and said, “I know, babe.”

I really need to work on being nice.

Nice.

Especially because I have a husband who’ll rub my back and look at me with his sympathetic brown eyes…

And still call me babe. No matter how horrible I’ve been.

How To Know Your Husband Is A Jerk

I thought I would expand a little bit on my post on how to leave your husband. From the search terms that are leading people to this site, I’ve come to the conclusion that so many women are in the helpless situation of not knowing if their husband is a jerk.

I know. You’d think it would be easy to figure this out. I mean, either someone is a jerk or someone isn’t. This ain’t fucking rocket science, right?

Well, sometimes the answer is a bit more hidden than you think.

Because love is blind. And fear is debilitating. What happens in a verbal abuse situation, is that you think you love somebody — and maybe you truly do. But the love only goes as far as your fear of leaving. Only once you move past the debilitating fear of leaving, can you understand that your self-respect far surpasses your love of the man who oppresses you.

We’re not talking about wife-beaters here. This isn’t a domestic violence situation. That’s why it’s so complicated.

I’m talking words.

Saying mean things to psychologically harm and deliberately hurt someone is abuse. And it sucks to be on the receiving end.

There are ignorant people out there who ask the inevitable question of, “Well, why don’t you just leave?” I was even told once that I brought the situation on myself for marrying him. That I should’ve known. That I should’ve had abortions instead of bringing children into the marriage.

And these attitudes are precisely why women don’t leave. They’re made to feel ashamed. They end up being too embarrassed to tell family members or friends what’s really going on. These women don’t need to hear a smug, “I told you so.” They don’t need to hear a, “Well I was wondering why you married him in the first place.”

Just some simple understanding and encouragement is all that’s needed.

So here are the reasons why coming to the conclusion that your husband is a jerk can be such a confusing process:

1. You love him. Or you think you love him.

2. You’re embarrassed that you married him and you think it’s a reflection of you. So you don’t want to tell people how bad the marriage really is because you don’t want people to think that you were stupid for marrying the guy in the first place  — which means you put on a show and are not really facing reality.

3. He can be really nice. Really nice. He’s not a jerk all the time. There are many times when he’ll do things for you — make you dinner, buy you flowers, clean the kitchen, give you a back rub. For example, when I was pregnant with my first child, there was a pot hole in our driveway. It was always excruciating for me when we drove over it because my baby would bounce on my bladder. My ex-husband took it upon himself to fix the pot hole so I could be more comfortable. But does that erase the times he called me worthless? Does that erase the times he came home drunk and woke me up just so he could call me names? No. And unfortunately it took me a while to figure that out.

4. FEAR. Fear is the biggest of them all. Fear of never finding love after divorce. Fear of being alone. Fear of having no money, no support, no place to live. Because once you admit that your husband is a jerk, that’s when you know you’ll have to do something — and doing something means you’ll be facing your fears.

But once you admit that your husband is jerk. You’ll be free.  A free woman who can DO this shit.

So how do you know your husband is a jerk?

Your husband is a jerk if he holds you back from becoming the person you want to be. He’s a jerk if he calls you names. He’s still a jerk when he’s nice — because anybody who can treat their life partner like shit then turn around and be sweet as pie is truly fucked in the head and is not worth your time. He’s a jerk if he disregards your feelings. He’s a jerk if he deliberately hides things from you. He’s a jerk if he tries to make you look stupid in front of your children and family members.

He’s a jerk.

You are valuable.

And you are stronger than you think.

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How To Leave Your Husband: A Quick How-To Guide

Is your New Year’s resolution to leave your husband? Well you’re in the right place!

This how-to guide is in reference to my first marriage. My second marriage — which I’m currently in and forever shall remain because my husband is fucking amazing — has nothing to do with this post.

Step #1. Realize your husband is an asshole who will never change. This may take years to figure out because women have this romantic notion in their head that they can change a man — thanks to fairy-tales like Beauty and the Beast. And your husband may not be a complete asshole which makes leaving harder because he has other good qualities that blind you to his big asshole qualities that aren’t really worth putting up with — which was my situation.

Step #2. If you want to end your marriage and your husband isn’t an asshole and is a really nice guy, then that means you’re the asshole. So own it. Sometimes it takes years to realize you’re the asshole because human beings have egos and have a tendency to be assholes.

Step #3. Make a plan. If you have kids this is essential. To be serious for a moment, I was in a bad place. No college education to speak of. A spotty work history. No money. Two kids. BUT I had family. An amazing immediate and extended family to take me in and help me get on my feet. If you don’t have a supportive family then you need to take advantage of additional resources and websites such as singlemom.com.

Step #4. Get. A. Lawyer. And consult a lawyer before you leave him (unless you’re in a domestic violence situation — in that case you need to leave ASAP). I did not do this. I wanted to avoid coming across as a bulldog — as a mean ex-wife. I wanted to be nice. After all, I was breaking the mans heart. I didn’t want a scary lawyer to come in and make my soon-to-be-ex-husband feel bad. Bull-shit. If you have the financial resources — get that lawyer. My family offered to pay for one, but I wanted to play nice and that really did me a disservice. I went forward with a “do-it-yourself” divorce. DO NOT DO THIS.  I essentially had no knowledge of my rights, no knowledge of child support requirements, how to split assets and debts, etc. I was basically stupid and stubborn — which is what got me into the dead-end marriage in the first place.

Step #5. After your plan is in place — where you’re going to live, making sure you have access to money, acquiring a lawyer, etc. — leave. Split. Get out (Unless of course you have the ability to throw his shit out of the house first.) Yes, it’s hard. You’ll cry your eyes out even though your husband was an asshole — because leaving your comfort zone is never fun. Willfully venturing into the unknown is terrifying. But it’s brave. And if your marriage is truly a shitty one, and if children are involved — then it is essential that you leave. Don’t let your little ones grow up around an unhappy, tumultuous relationship. Your daughters and sons need to see you be strong — to see you take the independent step out into the world — to stand up for yourself — to know women deserve respect.

Step #6. Get back on your feet — financially. And yes, this could take years. It took me five years because I had to go to college. If you already have a solid education and work background, then this will be much easier for you. Again, there are many resources for this. Use them. I was lucky enough to receive a Pell Grant that covered almost all my educational expenses — including full-time childcare for my daughter.

Step #7. Get back on your feet — emotionally. If you want to be a good parent, if you want to move on in the relationship department — you have to do a lot of soul-searching. Your husband may have been an asshole, but you also contributed some negativity to the marriage. What was that? What qualities about yourself can you change — improve on? And if you were the asshole in the relationship then you REALLY need to do some soul-searching. And the soul-searching can take years. But it’s essential that you re-discover your identity as a single woman. Because a failed marriage changes a person — but it’s usually for the better.

Now go on and git yerself divorced! And Happy New Year!

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