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In Part 1 of “Behind the Curtain of Motherhood,” join Jessica and I for real talk about motherhood, marriage, “Dad privilege,” rage, resentment, and the complicated nature of being a mom.
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Brandy: It’s time for Adult Conversation with me, your host, Brandy Ferner. Hello. Welcome to Episode 1. We’re going to get right into it today and say the things that most moms won’t as we take a look behind the curtain of motherhood. My guest and I are going to be talking about what surprised us about this job, specifically, what I didn’t know would bring me the most rage. Shockingly, it’s not being someone’s snack bitch. We’ll also be talking about the need to be seen and understood by our partners and why that’s so damn hard sometimes. We will talk about dad privilege and what it is. We’ll also talk about how to better communicate with our partners to mitigate some of that rage and resentment. Also, to get our own needs met by something other than self-care. Imagine that. Someone else having a stake in your well-being. Grab some clothes to fold, a dishwasher to load or go ahead and just lock yourself in the bathroom and enjoy this episode of Adult Conversation.
Brandy: My guest today is Jessica Chapman. She is somebody who I met through doing birth work, surprise. That’s how I’ve met so many of my core wonderful people in my life. To me, you are the person that I can say anything to. We often leave each other messages where we’re crying about whatever is happening in our life. The other one listens to that message which then makes them tear up or maybe I’ll just speak for myself.
Brandy: We talk real talk about life and motherhood and marriage and sex. I know from my end, I always appreciate and feel like there is zero judgment from you. Our brains work really similarly. We’re the same person.
Jessica: Right. If I just want validation, I just throw it to you because essentially, it’s like having a conversation with myself. It makes me feel a lot better.
Brandy: Right, but it’s like a self that isn’t going through the thing. It’s like a self that can be sympathetic because that’s how I feel about you. You’re not going through the exact thing, maybe I’m going through, but you’re responding like I would if I was detached enough to have a good sense of what’s happening.
Jessica: Exactly. Exactly.
Brandy: Yes. Jessica, tell us, what do you think the listeners need to know about you?
Jessica: I think what’s most important is where I am in this moment. I’m coming from a pretty jaded, rage-filled place in my life. If you’re not down for that, you should push pause. I, just recently, in the last six months maybe less, left my life in Southern California, left everything, walked away from all I had built and birth work, et cetera, et cetera, for an amazing opportunity for my husband and our family and relocated to New England. In so doing, lost all of myself including childcare, which –
Brandy: Which is 99% of yourself.
Jessica: Right. There’s a lot of rage that comes from tearing down like who am I. Who am I when I’ve got nothing and everything all at once. Yeah.
Jessica: I’m in the trenches of motherhood.
Brandy: Yeah. I feel like you’re in the perfect place for what our topic is today. Yeah. It’s like you couldn’t be more perfect. Today, I wanted to talk with you specifically because we talk about this all the time anyway. We could talk for days about it, but I want to talk about all the things that we don’t talk about or most people don’t talk about, most normal people don’t cry to each other about on WhatsApp. These are some of the things of motherhood that you don’t know before you get into it. I like to call it, “Behind the Curtain of Motherhood.” I think motherhood is this interesting thing that when you’re an audience member watching this production called, Motherhood, how it looks as an audience member and how it feels as the director who gets no breaks, no intermissions is really different.
Jessica: Yeah. Yeah.
Brandy: There’s so many facets of that. This could be a two-day summit. It could be a two-year summit, really.
Brandy: There are so many pieces, but I want to talk about the pieces today that feel like they want to be talked about. It’s funny that you were saying rage because I have a list of notes and “rage!” is one of them. I’m curious and I want to talk about this getting lost in who you are, but first, what was one of the things that surprised you most about motherhood that you didn’t know was going to be part of the job?
Jessica: I think in this moment with slightly older children, so I’m not in the newborn stage anymore, the piece that you just cannot comprehend pre-children is, if you were out at a grocery store and you saw a mother losing her shit at the kid, you’d be like “Oh my gosh, she’s so impatient.” All she needs to do is X, Y, Z, right? We were the best parents ever before we had children.
Jessica: What you don’t understand, the behind the scenes, behind the curtain is the constant needling that goes on that brings you to your knees, the non-stop, never having a moment to yourself. By the time you lose your shit in the grocery store, you’ve had years and years of somebody just fucking with you constantly. Not letting you use the bathroom by yourself. You can’t get a shower by yourself. Everybody is hungry all the time. I’ll just give you an example, yesterday.
Jessica: I come home. I’ve had this chronic sinus infection going on for only three months now. I just was done. I just had a day doing all the things to make my kids’ lives amazing, took my little guy to his first ski lesson. We had this great day, but the day just keeps going and going and going. I come home at-
Brandy: Yeah. Why do they keep doing that? If the day ended at noon, it would be great.
Jessica: Can we submit a request to make the day stop –
Brandy: A petition.
Jessica: Petition to make the day stop at noon. That would be fantastic because I am an amazing mother from-
Brandy: From 8:00 to 8:30?
Jessica: Let’s be honest. Not wake up. I’m a great mother from the time I’ve had my second cup of coffee until about lunchtime. If we could just peace out, it would be amazing. If I could spend the rest of the day in bed with a book or taking a bath, that would be fantastic.
Brandy: Oh my God. Yes.
Jessica: I get home. In my mind, I’m like “Okay, we’re going to put on a movie. We’re going to just chill from … I’m just going to have a minute before I have to start cooking dinner because people are always hungry.”
Jessica: My dog got into something and while I was gone all day, vomited three times on white new carpet because who was I thinking that I could have nice things, and then took himself up the staircase, took a dump on this oriental rug.
Brandy: For the love.
Jessica: This is what you don’t understand. They just break you. They break you. I’m Googling how to get dog poop off oriental rug when all I want to do is sit down. Two hours of cleaning. The entire time I’m doing that, the kids are like “I’m hungry. I need more snacks. He’s whatever. Nick did this to me. Max did that to me.” Someone is always needing something from you. You do that day after day, year after year and it just breaks you.
Brandy: Yes. That’s exactly right.
Jessica: That’s the piece that I think I had no clue about. In my mind like “We’ll go to parks. We’ll do fun adventures. We’ll learn French or whatever.”
Jessica: The reality is, they just break you. The mundane moments of each day that build up, just the day-to-day that has to get done to run a house and to run a family, it just breaks you. It brings you to your knees.
Brandy: That’s why the mom who’s having the meltdown and losing it on her kid at Target, it’s like that is, take her oldest kid’s age and then that’s how many years of frustration is coming out in that moment, likely. It’s like the build up. Obviously, there’s probably parents out there who get frustrated and show that often, but I feel like there’s this group of us … I actually feel like it’s most parents. We’ve talked about this, but I feel like most parents are trying to not say the thing that they immediately want to say but are trying to say the thing that’s more loving that actually uses a teaching moment, all this stuff that, you know. It’s like we’re trying to be our best parent, but there’s moments in which we can’t … I love those moments because they’re so real, right?
Jessica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brandy: “You have pushed me to my edge so far that I cannot even try to have a spin on this so there’s something that we learn about it or I’m kind. I can’t even show kindness right now because I’m so at the end of my rope.”
Brandy: You and I are clearly the same person because when I was thinking about what my most surprising thing is, is the constantness of it. You have your baby and then they feed so much that it’s like within a couple days, you’re thinking to yourself, “I didn’t realize they could eat this much or need this much.” It’s quite different with a newborn. For me, personally, I loved newborn stage because they ate one thing. They didn’t have snacks yet. I feel like snacks alone could be one of the hardest parts of motherhood for me.
Brandy: On top of a constant nature of it, the build up of all the pecking that happens on a daily basis, the questions, the resistance, I didn’t realize, I knew that there would be sleepless nights. I knew that babies woke and to feed in the first year or whatever. I knew that was a thing, but I didn’t realize how much kids and babies don’t want to do the thing that will keep them alive. The amount of resistance that goes into it like the resisting of eating, the resisting of sleeping, of napping, of putting on a coat, of putting on pants. These are the stupidest things but they’re what our whole day is filled with.
Jessica: Yeah. Yeah.
Brandy: You add that on. The saddest thing happened the other day. I saw this on one of the Facebook groups. There was this new mom who posted a picture of her newborn laying right on her stomach. She was like “My baby is five days old and it only wants to be on me and only wants to nurse. I’m so exhausted. I don’t know what to do.” What was interesting and so sad is, most people were like “Hey, read about the fourth trimester. It’s totally normal. Babies want to be close to their moms. That’s what they’ve been for nine and a half months.” There is this one lady who posts something like “Yeah, it’s tough. I have two kids and I really didn’t get a goodnight sleep for 14 years but hang in there.”
Jessica: Oh my God.
Brandy: I was like “Oh my God, this woman is going to jump off a cliff.”
Jessica: She’s not going to make it until tomorrow. You don’t say 14 years right now.
Brandy: Exactly, but the thing is, that’s the truth.
Brandy: That is the truth and that’s part of it. The hardships that you hear about parenthood, you think they exist in the newborn stage or in the toddler stage, but this friend of mine at school just had her third baby. Her other two kids wake up more than the newborn. The fact that that can happen and so many of us know this reality, you think that there’s this finite time of some of the hardships or specific challenges with sleep and behavior or resistance, but it’s like oh, no, it continues. It doesn’t stop.
Jessica: Right. Right. It changes. It’s like constantly morphing, what’s hard with them and what isn’t, and then what’s causing the sleepless nights changes. Last few years before my daughter went off to college, it was like she’s out and I want to be in bed. I’m not sure if she’s home safe. That would keep me up. It just feels like it’s always something, for sure. That’s the other piece when we talk about these little things that will break you in the course of a day. Add that on to being sleep deprived. You don’t have much resilience.
Jessica: It just doesn’t take much to crack you.
Brandy: That’s right. We’re not even talking about the health crisis on top of it.
Jessica: Yeah. Right.
Brandy: When I was working with families, doing doula work and birth work, I have to say that I would see these couples. It was so beautiful to be a part of the birth and to get to witness that. There’s just so much life-giving yumminess in that. Also, I would always think, especially, later in my career when I wasn’t so new and I had two kids, I would look at these women and think, “I wonder what autoimmune disease she’s going to have in six years when she hasn’t slept and she’s been pecked to death all day and she’s lost herself.” This seems to be a little bit of an epidemic that women, our bodies, just cannot handle. They cannot handle this notion of “having it all.” I think you’re so spot on. I think that all of those things added up, the sleep deprivation, the losing yourself, if you have any health issues, which I have not met one person who doesn’t have one these days especially moms, it’s like it’s all too much.
Jessica: It is. It makes me wonder what’s happening to motherhood, in general, but I feel like we’re just all a day away or one more sleepless night away from just falling to our knees and saying like “We can’t do it. We cannot do it all.”
Jessica: I think that’s another piece when you say, this having it all. I think we’ve been fed a line of baloney that we really thought we could do it all. Most of us, most women you meet now who are mothers have an education, had a career, had something for themselves, started a little bit later in life. We’re having babies a little later life because we’re doing more for ourselves upfront, thinking “I just add this baby into my life and keep tracking. We all are like “It’s impossible.” We still have all the responsibilities of motherhood and trying to do something for yourself.
Brandy: Okay. I feel like I need to say, it’s easy to listen to something like this or to have this conversation and to think, “What a bunch of complaining. Don’t these people love their kids?”
Brandy: “They should be grateful to be moms. There’s people who can’t be moms or people who’ve lost babies.” I feel like you can hold both things. I think it’s just inherent – we all know how much we desperately love our children.
Jessica: Oh, yes.
Brandy: Otherwise, we wouldn’t be trying to be the best that we can to do it all. Otherwise, we would just go like “Fucking I don’t care.” Instead, we’re trying to do our best for them, but you can love your kids fiercely and you can also criticize the job that you took without knowing all of the parameters. I think, sometimes, about this job of motherhood and fatherhood too, but we’ll talk about that in a second – some of the differences. But we took this job from, many of us, from a really loving, hopeful place that was really naïve. Rightfully so, if we weren’t as naïve, we might not have kids. When you think about it on paper, that we signed up for a job, that we knew, really, nothing of what it required.
Brandy: It’s a lifetime appointment. You can’t ever quit it. That’s the piece. I just feel like that needs to be said because I think that there’s some people who can just go, “I don’t like all the negative energy.” That’s not what it is. We need to say the things that we feel. I feel like most moms feel a piece or all of what we’re saying. The positive stuff about how fun it is to be a mom and all the cool things that you can do and the crafts and children are amazing and all of that, I feel like that’s represented. I feel like that’s represented, but I feel like this side, which holds those two things at the same time, I feel like is not very represented.
Jessica: I get that. I get that some people don’t want to hear it. What I think we need as mothers is a place where you can share the rawness because it’s like a faux pas. You and I, we speak our minds in a way that can be offensive to a lot of people, but this is the opportunity to be honest about, “Hey, it is not all butterflies and rainbows, okay?” What must be given in order to do this, what must be given up of yourself, of the life you thought you would have? Sure, you may 100% hands down and say, “I would do it over and over again,” but there, still, was something that had to be given that deserves to be spoken to.
Brandy: That’s exactly right. These snuggles with our babies, they aren’t free. We earn them. It’s like blood must be spilt. Milk must be spilt. We should be able to talk about that hard part without it being attached to how much love we have for our children.
Jessica: Exactly. Exactly.
Brandy: I feel like it can be such an isolating experience that if you don’t feel seen and you don’t feel heard, it feels even more isolating. The truth is that a lot of us have a built in resentment. Some of us realize it. Some of us are able to talk about it and some of us aren’t. I remember when my son turned about four. I remember, just all of a sudden, feeling like … I said it to my husband. I said, “Okay, you haven’t done anything specifically, but I have a lot of resentment towards you. I want to talk to you about it because I don’t want to have it and I don’t want to feel this way.” Because he’s awesome, he was kind enough to listen to me and to be able to have that be okay, but it wasn’t him, specifically, even though it was, but it wasn’t. It was just the framework of how this works.
Brandy: This other part of losing our identities, one of the other parts of motherhood that surprised me so much is, I didn’t know what it would feel like to choose to be a stay at home mom or to choose with my husband that I was going to be a stay at home mom for at least the first couple years while they’re little, and then to watch my husband return pretty quickly back to his old life while mine was completely turned upside down. I didn’t realize how angry I would be about that. I think there’s many of us that don’t realize that. We feel this weird torn feeling of like “Well, my husband didn’t do that. I chose that or we chose that.”
Jessica: Right. Right.
Brandy: I also chose it without knowing the full scope of things. Sometimes when I think about it that if we didn’t have kids, my husband’s life would look really similar to how it looks right now with kids. He would probably have a similar job that he loves. He would probably go on runs like he does. Just the day-to-day would probably not be that different. Then I look at my life and I think, “If we didn’t have kids, would my life be different?” It’s like every fiber.
Jessica: Yes. Yes.
Brandy: Almost every moment that I fill my life with would be completely different. The only time that it would be similar is from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. That would be the only time that would be similar, but otherwise, the living to take care of other people, I would probably have a different job. Not to say that that’s what I want to do, but it’s a little bit of mindfuck to realize that.
Jessica: Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s also important to mention that you and I really lucked out in the husband department. We both have husbands who are super involved fathers and listen to us and validate us and all of that. We have strong relationships. This is, in no way, like dad bashing or husband bashing or anything. But back in my former life of being a childbirth educator and preparing parents, when we were discussing post-partum preparation, I’d talk about what I like to call the “I’m going to go for a run” theory. Now, here’s the thing, after you have a baby, this is to no fault of your partner. It’s the inherent nature of being the person who gives birth and then has this tiny human that was inside your body and is now outside your body.
Jessica: Let’s say it’s a Saturday morning. This is what I used to talk about with my clients. It’s Saturday morning. This is like when you want to think about how your life might change. Before you have a baby, you want to go for a run on Saturday morning. You just go for a run, right? You put on your clothes, you go for a run. Now, after you have the baby, your partner can be like “Hey babe, I’m going to go for a run,” and they just go for a run. It’s just assumed you take care of the baby. They don’t ask like “Hey, is it all right with you if I go for a run?” Or “How about I do this and then you get to go do something later?” It doesn’t work that way.
Jessica: If you want to go for a run – and a run is just like “plug in anything for the run” – anything you want to do that doesn’t involve the baby, right?
Jessica: If you want to go for a run, you have to ask permission, essentially. You have to find somebody to take care of that baby. All of a sudden, your life is not … You have no autonomy anymore to make decisions for things that would feel good for you to do for you. You now have to add in the step of, first of all, it’s hard. This is another thing you don’t understand until you’ve had kids. It is hard to ask for something you need that requires help from others.
Jessica: It is hard to say, “You know what, I really need a little something for myself. Can you please hold the baby so I can take a shower?”
Jessica: People will say like “Oh my God, how is it hard to take a shower?” We always hear moms talk about, “It’s so hard to take a shower.”
Jessica: Well, if you happen to have that baby who doesn’t like to be put down, then-
Brandy: Yeah. You’re never showering again.
Jessica: Sure. You can take a shower, but again, back to nothing is free. You can take a shower, but you have to hear your baby scream. Or you can take a shower but you have to call a friend to come help with your baby or ask your partner to help, right?
Jessica: It’s the “I want to go for a run” theory. Their life doesn’t change. They can always go for a run.
Brandy: It’s exactly right. This is one of the other things that I’ve struggled with. This idea of autonomy. I never even knew what that word meant until I had kids and then didn’t have autonomy. I was like “Oh, the”-
Jessica: You didn’t have it anymore.
Brandy: Yeah. Somehow, I came across and I was like “That’s what I don’t have anymore.” That word has been important for me. I feel the rage even saying this building up, but it’s the asking for permission.
Brandy: We all come to motherhood in different ways. Who we were beforehand affects how we are as mothers. For myself, I was independent. I grew up as a latchkey kid. I did so many things for myself. I grew up with this idea that girls can do anything. I was the chick that could change a tire and shoot a gun and do all this really masculine stuff. I wasn’t the kind of woman who was like “Oh, I need a prince to take care of me.” I did my own shit. Even to this day, I do our taxes. I do a bunch of the masculine stuff in our relationship. You take somebody like that and who has had agency, everybody has agency, but take somebody who has agency in their life and all of a sudden, you turn the table. I found myself exactly what you were talking about. I found myself asking my husband if I could shower. I know. We all do. This isn’t just me. This is what happens. It’s this fucked up thing where you’re asking this person who has no power over you.
Brandy: When my husband and I got married, you think you’re equals and you are. And then you have kids. All of a sudden, even though you can have the most woke husband on the planet, which I feel like I possibly do and yet, this is the gender inequality of parenthood and just how it is, but if you’re feeding a baby for hours, like you said, they can just go for a run. They can just get a shower. There would be days my husband would get two showers and I didn’t even get a shower. Because he’d have to shower before his run and then after his run.
Brandy: He was getting shower, run, shower. How do you not silently rage inside? And it’s like, I didn’t even know why. Because when you’re sitting there with your baby, you’re like “Oh well, I’m so happy that he is doing something for himself that’s healthy. Why would I have him not run just so that he could sit with me?” No.
Brandy: That’s what’s so messed up. It logically doesn’t make sense yet, it makes all the sense in the world.
Jessica: Yes. I think it makes sense why we build resentment towards them even though we know, logically, that he didn’t do this to me, right?
Jessica: He didn’t single handedly snatch a shower away from me. It’s the nature of, “I have this newborn that needs me.” Even in the most 50/50 relationship, when you have a newborn, it’s not equal. They need you more.
Brandy: That’s right.
Jessica: Him getting a shower, he’s not doing that to me and yet, I feel rage at him because he is showing me what I can’t have.
Brandy: That’s right. Oh my gosh, just flaunting. It’s so funny that you say that.
Jessica: He’s flaunting his fucking shower at me.
Brandy: That’s exactly right. You know what’s so funny is when my kids were in the stage where they were still waking up all night and I was nursing them, when my mom would come to visit, which was quite often, she and my husband would always do this thing. It was this comedy routine but they didn’t know they were doing it. They’d always do this thing where they’d be like “Oh gosh, I’m so tired.” They would both do it in front of me. At some point, I finally said, “Do you know what you guys are doing?” This is the most bizarre analogy ever, but I’m like “It’s like you went into a room of people who don’t have arms and you said, ‘Oh, my arms are so sore.'” I’m like “Do you understand?” This is abusive.
Jessica: Yeah. Yeah.
Brandy: My mom would always be like “How often were you waking up last night?” It’s not that she didn’t believe it but it’s like she wanted data. When my second came, she had a Fitbit. My mom had a Fitbit. One of those step tracker, sleep trackers, whatever. She was like “Well, why don’t you sleep with this and let’s see what your sleep is like?” I’m like “Motherfucker.” Then I finally did it one night. I tell you, it was so glorious the next day. I was like “Data motherfuckers. Look, from this time to this”-
Brandy: You could see. I was up every two hours or some shit. Yeah, I digress.
Jessica: Yeah. Yeah.
Brandy: Yeah. Having it flaunted at you, even-
Jessica: It’s in your face.
Brandy: Yes. You know this. All of us with partners that drive away to go work, watching them get in the car, sometimes because the kids want to wave goodbye or whatever, watching them get in the car with a fucking smile on their face.
Jessica: And a cup of coffee.
Brandy: Yes, and then getting their music cued up or the podcast they’re going to listen to, you’re like “Of course, you’re happy. You get to leave this place.”
Jessica: Yeah. Yeah. I know. I know.
Brandy: I feel like this brings us to something … we’re on this track anyway. There’s this idea that I don’t know if I came up with it, but it’s something that I’ve thought of a lot and it’s on the same lines, it’s this idea of “dad privilege.” Again, this isn’t to husband bash. It’s just this inherent thing. And again, it’s not something that they’re doing to us, but it’s this built-in privilege. It’s the shower. It’s the run. It’s this idea like you said that just is so triggering to me, but is so true, which is whenever we want to do something for ourselves, we always have to think of the childcare first. In order to do that, you have to set that up. Whereas, I feel like we are the childcare that built-in the safety net for our partners.
Brandy: That aspect of it is part of dad privilege, but I think what happens is, in the beginning, the babies, newborns need us so much. It’s like new fathers and new mothers, but new fathers get setup with this idea that, “Oh, she takes care of the baby. I get my run and I get my shower,” because the baby starts out the most needy. That never changes. Even though the baby changes, the dad, his foundation of what fatherhood is, was built on “the baby needs her more than me.” I think that that’s problematic. I know I do my best to be really open and honest with my husband about what I need, but it’s amazing how many years it can take to even understand what it is that you’re feeling as a mom. Like where the resentment comes from that it’s not specifically attached to him, but it’s attached to motherhood or the framework of this. Or maybe there are some people who it is specifically attached to him.
Brandy: I just recently had a conversation – and what we’re 12 years into parenting – but it goes back to the first day, which is I said something to him about … honestly, it was about the run. It was totally about the run.
Jessica: It’s always about the run. It’s always about the run.
Brandy: Apparently, it took me a decade to understand what was happening, but I said, “In the morning” … because the thing is, he asks. He asks to do things like “Hey, is it cool if I go for a run?”
Jessica: Okay. Can I push pause for a second?
Jessica: Okay. Because my husband does the same and that came out of all the rage felt conversations we’ve had, right?
Jessica: Like “Hey, babe, would it be okay if I … I was thinking I could head to the gym or I could go for a quick run.” He’s gotten a lot better because here’s the thing, when you get set up like that, who can say no?
Jessica: Like “No, don’t care for yourself,” right?
Brandy: That’s exactly it. That’s what becomes so confusing is, even with the question, you’re put in a position of, “Okay, I’m going to be a dickhead if I say no. He needs to have his time too, but then if I say yes, I’m pissed.” I realized what was happening there for me was that, he would go for his run, which was about two hours.
Jessica: Oh my God.
Brandy: Yeah, which is great, great for his well-being and all of these things. I get that, but then what would happen is, if I wanted to have time for myself, we were already in the day and it was on a weekend. We’re already doing the family thing. For me to get out is harder because by the time he comes back, it’s lunchtime.
Jessica: Right. Now, the kids are like, they’re hungry, they want to go do something, they’ve been sitting, they’re waiting for dad to get back for the run. It’s time to do something as a family. Yeah.
Brandy: That’s exactly right. What I said to him is – gosh, even talking about this, I still feel torn because I feel like there is this voice in my head like “Am I just an asshole?” I don’t think I’m an asshole, but I said to him – “You know what, the reality is that it is hard for me to get time for myself like your run. That’s two hours of alone time that you’re not running errands. You’re not doing something for the family. You’re just on your own doing your thing. I love it and I want to support it, but I also want to feel like I’m getting a similar thing for myself. But the day happens after you get back so that I don’t ever get that.” I said, “And to be honest with you, it’s hard for me to carve that out.” I said, “You know what would feel so much better is if you said, ‘Hey, I would like to have a run today. Can we find a time to make that work? Also, what do you want your two-hour break to be and when do you want to take it?”
Jessica: Yes, because then you don’t have to ask for it.
Brandy: I know. That’s what I told him. Yeah. It’s crazy. We’ve had this conversation before. It’s like “Wow, we’re still at 12 years having kids for that long. We’re still having it.” I said, “Here’s the thing, I don’t want to have to ask you. I don’t want to have to beg for time away. I would love for you when we’re talking about the day, like when we wake up in the morning, let’s have a conversation that’s like ‘Hey, so what does our day look like today?'” Rather than the first thing that happens when we wake up is you ask if you can go for a run. Because immediately, I’m put in a spot where I’m torn and feeling frustrated and conflicted. I think that this is one of the biggest things – I want my well-being to be part of your job. Just like your well-being is part of my job.” That was really helpful. I feel like it made things a lot easier with us because this is the whole thing with self-care. I could do an entire podcast on how much I mostly loathe self-care, but that’s the same thing as having it so that we are the only ones who are thinking about our well-being. I’m not here for that. That’s, really what was at the bottom line of this conversation with my husband about the run is-
Jessica: It’s one more thing you have to do.
Brandy: Yeah. You have to fight for. They got their space carved out. They’re going to go. They can just jet, but now, I have to find a space that works with the family and then I have to carve it out. I have to ask you, my husband, who somehow, 12 years ago, became my master. I have to ask you if I can do it. I guess the same thing could be said for him asking, “Is it okay if I go for a run?” It’s not totally one-sided. This thing happens back and forth where we, all of a sudden, have to ask each other, but built in dad privilege makes it so that dads feel that less because so much of what they want to do is just inherent. But I feel like knowing that somebody, and I said this to my husband, “Knowing that when you wake up in the morning, instead of just thinking about yourself, you’re thinking about us and my well-being and your well-being and how we manage all of that, that’s what I want because that’s constantly what I’m doing for every member of this family. But I sometimes feel like you’re on this autopilot for like ‘Oh, I want to go for a run. I’m going to go for a run,’ but you’re not thinking about the bigger picture.”
Brandy: That is a big difference to plan your day like that. All of a sudden, I was like it’s so dumb because I even said, “Even you bringing up, ‘Well, so when do you want to get your two-hour break?'” I said, “Even you saying that validates for me that I deserve that,” right?
Jessica: Yes. Yes. I recently have started. We’ve gone through phases of this. It’s like Phase 1 is complete rage and stuffing that deep down inside for how many years.
Brandy: Oh my gosh. Right.
Jessica: Then you realize like “Oh my God.” There goes resentment that’s built up and he hasn’t done anything to me. He’s just the outlet for my rage. What I’m really angry about is, not him, it’s the inherent inequalities in parenting, right?
Jessica: And this life that I never realized was going to be like this. Anyways, Phase 1 is just the deep down rage, and then we start to have the conversations. We start to try some different things out, but it feels like a lot of the early stages of trial still require us to make the plans or carve things out or ask for it. My most recent thing has been – an example is last weekend – just having the assumption that my time will happen too without asking for it. Okay, here’s an example. We have the Y here is like the big gym. It’s actually fantastic. They have kids club, which is amazing. The kids can go rock climbing. They can run laps on this track, but of course, my kids hate it. They don’t want to go. They say, “I hate it.”
Brandy: Of course.
Jessica: Every time they go, they love it but it’s a fucking nightmare. If we all want to go to the gym at the same time, the payment is kids, they’re yelling and freaking out. I find out that they had open swim hours and my kids love to swim. They had open swim hours last weekend. I’m like “Hey, why don’t we, instead of dropping them off at kids club” … my husband wanted to get some cardio but he had a haircut after they gym time, right?
Jessica: The first thing he says, because dad privilege is like “Great, I can swim laps while the boys play in the pool,” and then he gets his cardio in. Well, has anyone noticed that the default is that I’m the one keeping them alive in the pool, right?
Brandy: Exactly. Right. Yeah.
Jessica: This is the piece that’s the intangible. The assumption is, Mom is always the one on duty. Instead of this whole thing about it, I was like “Okay, great. We have an hour before you have to go for your haircut. Let’s split that up.” My new favorite workout is sitting on the sauna, by the way. “I’m going to take my sauna time for half of that. Would you like me to take the half of that or the back half of that?” Right?
Brandy: Oh my God.
Jessica: Either way, I’m getting my sauna time. For me, it all comes down to being seen.
Brandy: This is exactly why I think this is so common and so problematic especially in a day and age where a lot of women becoming moms are educated or as you’re saying, “We’re becoming parents later.” We have this version of ourselves beforehand. You get married. You have this person that you feel that that you’re an equal with. You live life. You’re both on your careers. You’re both moving up in the same way and then all of a sudden you have kids and they keep moving up. You take this total detour. This person that you talked about work together and career with and you had a life that was so similar – it didn’t even matter that he was male and you’re female – you’re basically living the same life, and then you have kids. All of that crumbles.
Brandy: All of a sudden, he doesn’t know what your every day is like. You know what his every day is like because you had it before you had kids, but I know I felt this huge isolation of “He will never know what it’s like to day-in and day-out do this job. Not even just like for a year, but for 18 years.
Jessica: Right. Right.
Brandy: There’s a certain amount of years in which … I’m finding around 10 years is when it starts to really chill out a little bit, but it’s like “Okay, for a decade, I’m going to have to show up to this job every single day and it’s going to bring me to my knees every single day and I don’t get an out for that.” He’s never going to know, really, what that feels like. My husband, specifically, loves being with our kids, just loves every minute of it. I call him “Disneyland Dad.” I don’t even know if he knows that, but they have passes to Disneyland, him and my two kids. They go and they have a blast. I’ll go once a year, but shocker, I’m not “Disneyland Mom.” He just loves it. He rarely ever has the moments that I have, but I’ll tell you, he’s had a couple moments where he’s had the kids all day. For me to do the things that I’m passionate about, he gives me time, which is amazing. It’s funny. On one hand, it’s amazing, but it’s also the same thing I do for him, so…
Brandy: This is the thing. I feel like I have to talk about it in a super grateful way. I really, legitimately am grateful for all that he gives me, but it’s like “Why is it like that?” You know, it’s a total mindfuck.
Jessica: It’s maddening.
Brandy: It’s maddening. But he had a moment where he was … It was a month ago where he was with the kids all day and they were driving him bonkers. After bedtime, I came down and he was totally at the place where I am where I’m like “I’m going to drive the van in the ocean. This is ending today.” Where you’re non-verbal for the first five minutes you’re sitting with the person. And he’s just shaking his head, and then he’s like, “They fought over a balloon for five hours.” I’m just smiling. I’m like “I’m so sorry.” I just sit there and I let him vent it out because I just know how it feels. I’m like “I’m so sorry all this happened, that you had this day. I’m sorry I’m smiling. It proves to me that you’re normal and that this is hard.” If your spouse isn’t around having these days with your kids, how did they ever see you? How do you get your spouse to see you?
Jessica: I don’t know. I think, maybe, is the problem that they just can’t? They just can’t unless they happen to get a window into it, but even these days where they get a glimpse of the reality of it, that’s one day. I guess, maybe we’re crazy for thinking or having an expectation that they could possibly understand in their bodies what it is like the day-in and day-out for year after year after year. They just can’t.
Brandy: They just can’t.
Jessica: They’ll never experience it.
Brandy: Then the question comes up for me which is, so then how do we sustain our marriages in a situation where you go from being really connected, living the same life, thinking you can have it all, thinking that men and women are equal to having kids and realizing, “That was all bullshit,” to then rebuilding this new marriage that is, where you’re not super connected in all of those ways and yet, you have to find ways to connect? I feel like so many moms in this phase of motherhood – where you have an eight-year-old and up because you’ve been in it for a while – are questioning this. This is where I see a lot of divorces happening.
Jessica: Yes. Yes.
Brandy: I have these conversations because it’s out of a place of wanting to make good choices and wanting to be able to sustain and keep the things that I love, like my marriage. I want to know like “What do we do in order to help this?” Because I think I’m over communicative, my husband and I have worked through a ton of this stuff. I just think about all the moms out there who (a) haven’t even realized this rage and resentment and really, where it stems from. I think for a lot of women, their husbands are not helping, who are clueless and not even showing up for just the basic stuff. Those are not happy situations.
Jessica: First of all, I think this is the piece where … Sure, this could come off as complaining, but this is why it’s so essential because if this is bottled up and you were experiencing this and you’re not venting it anywhere to anyone, it will snap. You will break. It’s just when are you going to break, right?
Jessica: Most of the time, I think it breaks the marriage. It breaks the relationship because you’re holding on this resentment. They can’t see you. You never talk about it. One day, you just can’t take it anymore, right?
Jessica: It’s irreparable at that point. My husband and I, we have a really solid marriage. What has helped is that (1) we’ve communicated throughout. There’s been no question, my husband has not been blindsided by the fact that I feel rage. He’s very aware that I’m feeling rage.
Jessica: In so doing, in having those conversations, I’m able to step back and see, okay, I’m angry at him or I’m feeling resentment towards him, but he is not necessarily a problem. I’m able to separate the two. He represents all that is bullshit with motherhood, I guess, because it didn’t happen to him, right?
Jessica: That’s one piece. I think if you don’t have a way to communicate. We all communicate differently, but if you’re not able to do that with your partner, you’re screwed, right? At some point, it will come up.
Jessica: The other piece is that we have made it a really important part of the foundation of our marriage since our first together was really young to find ways to come together in something that is just about us that has nothing to do with the children. The goal is that we still like each other when the kids leave the house.
Jessica: That we still have something in common. That’s hard to do, right?
Jessica: It’s not all “make date nights happen” because not everybody has the money to go date night together or the childcare available or the energy. Sometimes in those early days, it was the smallest like 10 minutes of just sitting and talking to each other after the kids went to bed before we fell asleep.
Jessica: I think the biggest thing that keeps me from hating my husband where I think it could be really easy to do that – to feel that resentment – is that he does want for me to be me. He does want for me to be equal. He wants to see me. He tries so hard. The dynamics are just fucked, right?
Brandy: Yeah. You even have somebody who really wants to do that and it’s still hard. Imagine the husbands that don’t want to do that.
Jessica: Yeah. We all see that. We all have those girlfriends and you hear the stories or you witness it. Actually, it’s just like “Oh my God, I don’t know how you sustain this.” Yeah.
Brandy: Yeah. I feel like one of the things that’s been really helpful and maybe, I guess one of the upsides of the over-communicating aspect of my being is, I think men, generally, need to be told how to help. We are always thinking about everybody’s well-being. We’re always one step ahead. This is a generalization, of course, but we’re one step ahead. That’s one of the other things about motherhood that I’m like “Oh my gosh, had somebody told me I was going to try to be diffusing a bomb all day for 10 years being this one step ahead of what the next need is going to be so that I don’t have to hear crying.” I find myself with my husband when I’m able to articulate exactly what it is that I need, it’s like he needs clear instructions because some of the stuff he’s not wired for and some of it he is. He actually has quite a bit of a feminine energy about him and he was raised by his mom and grandma and yet, he’s a man.
Brandy: I’ve learned that I have to be honest with him about what it is that I need, kindness while doing that is always appreciated. He wants to feel he’s appreciated. I try to do my best and I’m sure I could do better about telling him when I appreciate the things that he does, but again, this is one of those pitfalls which is, your husband does something that’s something he should be doing anyway, as part of an equal partnership and a family. You’re like “Thank you so much for doing that,” and then you’re like “And I shouldn’t have to thank you but I will because it will make our marriage better, but…” There’s this whole other piece of it. My flaw is, he’s like “Hey, you need to just give me some slack here. I’m not going to be doing this whole thing perfect. Just like give me the benefit of the doubt that maybe I’m trying, maybe I’m not executing perfectly but maybe I’m trying.” And I hear him on that.
Brandy: I’ve been trying to be better about that, but I also feel one of the things that’s helpful is to be having these kinds of conversations with friends so that you can get some of that energy out without having to vomit it all over your spouse and to … which you and I do so often is to try to figure out “What’s really happening here?” You and I are both trained in the way that we do childbirth education and working with families. We’re trained to help to try to suss out what’s really happening. We do that for each other, but I feel that’s such an important piece of friendships when you become a mother. It’s like you have to have somebody to pick these things apart with so that you can figure out like “What’s really happening here?” Because there’s a difference between the framework of motherhood makes it so that my husband and I feel more disconnected and it feels unequal. That’s something you can work through. Or is really what’s going on is, your husband is a disrespectful asshole who doesn’t think you deserve equal rights?
Brandy: Those are two different things, but they can feel the same way.
Jessica: Yes. I meant to mention that. I think it’s so critical is having that sisterhood with somebody who is in the same place, who gets it where you have an outlet for it with somebody who does understand it in their body, what it feels like to go through this everyday. I can’t expect that my husband will ever understand. He may be able to listen to me and let me vent. Of course, he’ll want to try to fix it somehow because that’s what men do, but I can WhatsApp you real-time in the moment about whatever just went down and feel validated and feel heard. That leaves me in a better place in my relationship because I’ve already been seen and validated and heard by somebody who gets it.
Jessica: Our husbands, our partners, they don’t have to be every single thing for us. You’re getting your needs met in a healthy way by someone else.
Brandy: That’s right.
Jessica: There’s less of that build up, I think.
Brandy: Yeah. I realize that not everybody is good at communicating. Not everybody is up for what might be a potentially intense conversation. I think many people just want to avoid it, which is why you see these marriages where there is just so much passive-aggressive stuff going on and nobody is ever going to sit down and just be like “Hey, let’s talk about this.” That’s always where I go to. I would rather be open and honest about what’s happening than play these little games, which I feel like has served me and my marriage really well, but there’s some people out there. That’s the way that they work. I imagine there’s people listening right now who are like “Yeah, that’s how I handle it” or “This is the relationship I have with my partner.” Having what you’re saying – having a friend or a group of people that you can talk to about this open and honestly without feeling judged. The last thing – and this is why I love you and I feel like we work so good is – there’s never going to be a time that you send me a message about a hardship and I’m going to say, “You should enjoy every moment. Isn’t it amazing?” Or any of that stuff. I’m never going to be the tone police for you on that.
Jessica: Right. Likewise.
Brandy: There’s always the mom or two that’s… you’re having a real conversation about something, but who wants to bring it back to, “Oh, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world.” It’s like “Yeah, that’s why we keep showing up, because yeah, we wouldn’t trade it for the world and we love them. I’m just as a mother going to inherently know that you feel that same way about your kids. I’m going to hope that you know I feel that same way about my kids.” We’re not talking about that, but I think some people do live in that more – they want to be in that rosy place. That’s fine. There are plenty of outlets for that. I feel like there’s moments of where we get to that place of, “Oh my God, I had a really fucking good day the other day.” We know it exists, but we have to talk about the other stuff.
Jessica: Yeah. I think our society, in general, has a really hard time with the darker side of life and experiences. People always want to just put some cliché on it and when somebody is grieving something that like it’s really hard to just hold space with them to be upset.
Jessica: They want to say, “It’s going to be okay. You’ll forget about this in however many years.” We do the same thing to mothers. I think it’s doing us a disservice to not just be able to hold space for the darkness but just feel the pain of what we’ve given up, how hard the day to day is.
Jessica: We have to have somebody in our lives that can hold that for us. When you get that, it makes it a lot easier to go enjoy the park afterwards, right?
Brandy: That’s right.
Jessica: Better yet, go to the park with somebody who can hold that for you while your little blessing is in the swing!
Brandy: Join us next episode for Part 2 with Jessica where we delve even deeper. (That’s what she said).
Brandy: “Okay. A topic that we have to tackle is sex.”
Jessica: “Sex or lack thereof.”
Brandy: We will tell it like it is. I tear up for the first time, which I’m surprised took two episodes instead of one for that, but hey. If you like what you’ve heard, please subscribe to the Adult Conversation podcast and maybe even mention it to a friend who needs her rage validated. Thank you guys so much for listening. Good luck out there.
** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.