When love is like a river (and other terrible clichés).

February 11, 2014


Love is like a river.

Sometimes it is fast and dangerous, leading you to a waterfall that looks a lot like a cool guy in jeans (but ends up being herpes).

Sometimes it is slow and steady, a babbling brook of quiet dinners and road trips in the sunshine.

And sometimes it is just a pile of rocks where a river used to be.

Whenever I go to a bridal shower and have to fill out one of those “advice for the bride” cards, I always write the same thing–go to bed angry. Let the sun set on your annoyance over the unloaded dishwasher and if you’re still mad in the morning, bring it up over waffles. Everything is better with waffles.

Lately, though, I’m thinking of changing my go-to marriage tip to something a little less chirpy and a little more horrifying. A simple truth about marriage that everyone knows but nobody knows-knows until it’s happening, which is this: kids make marriage hard.

I didn’t realize it until there were two of them, until I looked over at Austin one night and realized we are basically roommates chasing a drunk midget and passing a newborn back and forth like grownup hot potato.

We love each other, yes. But after a full day of wiping butts and refilling the Brita pitcher, I am done. By 10pm, I am done thinking about who is hungry or thirsty or needs a humidifier. I am done refolding the wash and tripping over little red tractors. My patience is spent. I am one toddler tantrum away from hiding out by the recycle bin. I do not have time for pleasantries.

Multiple studies have shown that a human’s overall lifetime happiness is at its lowest when they have young children. The highs are high, but the lows are low

The good news is that those highs are like a rainstorm filling up our love rivers and helping us get out of bed in the morning. The bad news is that a lot of days end with the following conversation:

Her: Hey, I forgot to ask about your day.

Him: Oh yeah. How was yours?

Her: I’m too tired. Goodnight.

It is not a hopeless case. In fact, it is a wonderful and frankly astonishing miracle that so many people make it through parenting with better, stronger marriages.

My point is that love is like a river and even though it isn’t intentional, our kids stand along the shorelines with big straws and drain us until all that’s left is Hulu and burnt bowl of popcorn.

The best we can do is laugh and hope that when it rains, it pours.


30 thoughts on “When love is like a river (and other terrible clichés).

  1. Kimberly

    When Axel was born a year ago, my body was shot. Not pretty to look at, and not really fun for a husband either (if you know what I mean). I was watching the Bachelor and just sobbing because sometimes you just cry a lot when your baby is three days old. And I told Adam I was sorry for crying and being useless for anything except feeding a tiny human and he told me “This is what I signed up for” Marriage with kids is HARD, but it’s also what makes it real, I think. And someday the dust will settle and hopefully we can rebuild.

    1. Kimberly

      Not to say that you can’t have a real marriage with out kids! Daily struggles in other ways will do that as well. Rereading I realized I might have come off that way.

  2. Julani

    How breathtakingly true. All of it. But I’m mostly glad that this is a universal truth for many couples with youngens. Not just me because I’m bad at this. We are expecting #3 & I feel so much like you describe about being done with pleasantries by the end of the day &I often wonder if there’ll be anything left of the original people that started this family to begin with. Will things ever get back to normal? I suppose I’ll have to wait &see.

    Off topic, I’ve followed you a while but I think it’s the first time I’m commenting. Just wanted to say I really love reading your pieces. Your words speak to me. All the best to you&your beautiful babes.

  3. Christie

    I spend a great deal of time feeling anxious over the perfect relationships I read about in blogs or see on Instagram feeds. I worry my marriage is always so drab compared to others (so much so that I’ve been afraid to blog altogether). This? This post is exactly what I needed to read.

    1. Jamie

      Christie – I’ve been there, too! It’s REAL posts about how hard all of this shit in life really is that make me realize that all of those other posts are just for show. Or, they’re just in one of the high highs when I happen to be in a low. Nothing is perfect and what others may have to work hard at in their marriage may be a breeze for you guys and vice versa. You’re not alone in that thought, just so you know!

  4. christa Waltenbaugh

    truth, last night hubby tried friendly banter and my comeback was “your daughter has used up all of my patience today”

  5. Sara B

    I called my cousin (mother of FOUR) sobbing uncontrollably after my second was about 6 months old. I was spent. Too many days in survival mode, exchanging resentful grunts with my dearly beloved… I asked her how she did it. How she and her husband were still so damn happy and in love. Her response, ” No, nononono. You know how many times I’ve thrown Scott’s stuff on the curb?! And driven over it? With the neighbors watching!? Don’t let them fool you, Sarie. No one’s marriage is perfect.” Then she made me laugh then cry then laugh. Her final words are a mantra to me. “Just put the ring back on and hang in there. Just hang in there a few more years. It will get easier, I promise you.” My second is now 15 months, my eldest is 3. I won’t say it’s getting “easier” yet—but at least every day isn’t JUST about surving.

  6. Sash

    Ohhhhhh, I swear it gets better. Just after we had our second, my husband was working out of state, for four, five, six weeks at a time. So I had a six year old, and a 3 month old, with a husband that was only around for a couple days out of every month. It. Was. Awful. When he would come home, I would be SO HAPPY to see him, and I would also be so resentful that he had been gone. That I was on my own, with two needy, whiny beings. I knew, intellectually, that he was working so much, so far away, FOR US, but that didn’t make my everyday reality any easier.

    But I promise it gets better. You eventually get back to that place where you whisper in bed to each other at night after the kids are asleep, where you put some lipstick on because you think he might like it, where you can have a conversation without mentally tallying all the diapers he DIDN’T change today. I swear.

    But, the only way out is through. It just sucks until…it doesn’t.

    1. Kate {motleymama} Post author

      Thanks Sash.

      Most of the time it’s less resentment and just exhaustion. I know he’s exhausted too. We’re both trying, trying to parent and work at the same time— just not enough “try” left at the end of most days to try for each other.

      Thank you for sharing your story! You get it. xo

  7. Margo, Thrift at Home

    It’s true. And I’m afraid my husband got the brunt of my frustration and anger in those years. We’re tiptoeing out of the woods now (kids are 5 and 8) and wow, it’s almost like dating again sometimes. And the kids now increase our joy, not drain it (most of the time).

  8. Maranda

    When we first had our son, we went from a perfect, easygoing relationship to what felt like hell on earth. I didn’t understand what was happening to us, and all the hormones were raging full force. Fights about who changed the last diaper, got up the last time he cried, or who’s turn it was to actually wash the bottles floating in the sink. I don’t know how we made it through, and yet that all somehow feels like a distant, fuzzy memory. Our son is three now, and he wants another. And THAT’S when I remember how terrible it was at the time. I am terrified of having another. Major props to you.

  9. Anonymous

    One of the best pieces of marital advice that my mom ever gave me was to, “hang in there when marriage is hard, because you get past that hard part and it gets better again.” Now, I have the luxury of following this, because I got one of the truly good husbands–not perfect, but good. I am in no way advocating staying in a relationship that is at all abusive. However, staying even when things are boring, frustrating, and you are tired of looking at his face? Yes. I think far too many people give up when things are hard. And then, they start over with someone else, only to find that things get hard AGAIN. (Imagine that!) No marriage is perfect, because no person is perfect.

  10. Emily

    my kid is still in utero and this phenomenon is already happening. it’s because of our jobs, i know. but the jobs don’t go away when the baby appears.

    i haven’t seen my husband in 3 days. and we sleep in the same bed.

    i really struggle with trying not to project a linear decomposition into the future–things are bad now, and will get worse later. but the “just you wait!”‘s and the “sleep now! it only gets worse!”‘s are getting under my skin no matter how tightly i’m clinging to my last shred of zen.

    i have literally nothing constructive to say. except, yes. i’m there too.

  11. Christine

    This is soooo accurate. The part about tinies wrecking marriage communications…and let’s not mention the bedroom stuff. It’s only temporary, has been my mantra for 3.5 years now.

    Anyhoo, I try to warn — lightly, mind you — new mothers about that part, the relationship part, but they are not listening. They are thinking of the sweet warm bundle part, and possibly worrying about the pushing-it-out part, but never about the husband-wife thing. I wish there were a nicer, more acceptable way to say, “And because of your sweet bundle, your relationship will suffer greatly. Be incredibly patient with each other or you’ll gouge each other’s eyes out in the divorce.” Also I have the number of a great therapist to pass along on my new mother visit.

  12. Claire

    I love this, Kate. I have thought countless times that this season, since having our second baby, has been the hardest for our marriage. It’s so hard to have any energy left for him at the end of the day. I can ask about his day, but what I hear hardly sticks and like you, I’m always to tired to tell him about all the good & bad that happened in the course of one day. Just like with the kids, the marriage highs are high right now, but the lows can be pretty low. I definitely have confidence it is nearly 100% because of this stage of life. Thanks for sharing this!

  13. jolie

    As usual, was murmuring amens throughout. Every day I’m a parent I scratch my head and ask how so many people get through this (mostly) unscathed. I guess it’s probably like other traumatizing events. You just do what you have to do to survive and then when you’re through it, it seems like just a distant dream. I’m kind of terrified about number two so we are on the three year plan right now (though I question if it really matters.)

  14. Kristeen

    Thank you for writing this. I don’t feel like I am the only one trying to keep my relationship lively while trying to stay sane as a new mom :)

  15. Ashley

    Between the post and the comments, this all makes me so sad. I mean, if having kids makes everyone so miserable for so long, is it even worth it? Doesn’t seem like it.


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