lowering your (mother’s day) expectations

May 14, 2012

introspection, marriage

All I really wanted for Mommy Day was a necklace made of plastic beads and macaroni, something I could wear with an evening gown to feel a little Overboard, a la Goldie Hawn. This want felt like it had grown up from Mother’s Days past, where all I really wanted was a gold charm bracelet, or bangles and baubles, or anything really from one of the many “Gifts to Celebrate Mom on Mother’s Day” magazine or web lists. Every year I feel disappointed that Phil didn’t write a card, didn’t have the kids make cards, did nothing more than make brunch reservations. I didn’t want to feel disappointment this year, so I told the kids that it was Mother’s Day Weekend, that they could cram in as much mom love as possible, in song and otherwise. Especially, I stressed, when said mom love could involve homemade waffles… with mini chocolate chips. Throwing in the detail of the chips makes them full-speed-ahead kids, ready with cheers and the insistence that they make me breakfast in bed, knowing that the chips will fall where they may (into their wee bellies). I printed out the recipe come Friday night. But when Phil and I returned from picking the kids up from gymnastics Friday night, he went into bed to rest, as I began to measure waffle ingredients. “I’ve made the batter,” I tell him, leaving the bowl on the counter with the remaining instructions and waffle iron. The batter sits on the counter overnight, with the yeast left to rise and double. Come morning, eggs and baking soda are added, then blueberries or chips.

Mother's Day

Making batter for your own surprise breakfast in bed is like picking out the engagement ring before he proposes. It made me sad that I had to be involved to get what it was that I really wanted. If I really wanted the macaroni necklaces, it wasn’t enough to hint at it four times. No. I’d have to set the kids up at a table with string and beads and a box of noodles, otherwise, forget it. And that sucks. It sucks that I have expectations. It sucks that I want certain things and the only way to get them is to do it myself. Which is like buying your own jewelry. Even when you wear it, you always know you were the one who had a hand in it all, that on some level you forced it, stepped beyond hint into help. It’s just not the same.

I want to say that I appreciated everything just as it was, but I didn’t. There were no framed photos for a wall, no noodle necklaces or home projects with the help of dad. There was a bouquet of dyed flowers from the supermarket, bought not for me, but for the required “bring a flower to school for teacher appreciation week.” Maybe it’s just because of what I’m going through now with the latest health news–though I doubt it–but I felt undervalued. No gifts, no flowers, no cards, no photo or homemade gifts. Waffles of my own making.

If I have expectations that run too high, it’s because I grew up with this, with a father who always bought my mother flowers, special ones from a florist, bought cards and gave presents, engraved or otherwise. My grandfather, too, always celebrated my grandmother on holidays and ordinary days, with gift wrap and planning. They were spoiled. Or so it always seemed. Perhaps these women had to buy their own cards (the thought of this makes me cry), or perhaps they had to buy their own jewelry or put their children in a playroom, supervising sentiment. Maybe these things shouldn’t matter to me, but they do. Because I want to feel cherished by my husband, to know that he planned and schemed and made the effort at extra special that he knows matter most to me.

He made reservations and cooked my waffles. This isn’t the kind of disappointment I’d usually admit. But I’m feeling sorry for myself, despite all my blessings. I feel let down, as if I’m a spoiled brat who never sees the positive in things. Chooses not to focus on the fact that my husband took the time to research a restaurant I’d like for Mother’s day, that he made the reservations weeks in advance at a place with west coast oysters (my favorite) and lobster rolls and Blue Crab Eggs Benedict. I should focus on what I do have, that my family wanted more than anything to snuggle in bed with me. But instead I’ve chosen to feel sorry for myself and to blame and stew over what? In the grand scheme of things what does it even matter? Things don’t, but gestures do. But perhaps even with the gestures I’d then still want more, want things. And if there were things wrapped in gift paper, in velvet boxes, then perhaps I’d complain that there weren’t enough gestures. Maybe what I need to work most on is to be thankful for whatever it is I do have. Though while I try to do this, it’s very hard to look away from what I can’t see. That’ll take some work. I’m just not sure it’s the kind of thing one should be working toward, lowering her expectations. It’s just nothing I can imagine ever convincing my children to do for themselves. “Lower your expectations, so you won’t feel disappointment,” sounds like the shittiest advice ever. It’s advice I’ve heard from life gurus on tapes, but it’s advice I’ve never been able to stand behind… advice I seem to keep stepping in.

Instead, especially in light of my latest health news, I should be thankful that I’m even able to celebrate Mother’s Day, that I am in fact a mother with healthy children. I should be thankful that we can afford such a holiday brunch, that we were all together, safe, able to make toasts and laugh and love on each other. I need to be thankful of these gifts instead of wanting others, wanting things that in the end mean nothing. And that’s something to remember.

93 Responses to “lowering your (mother’s day) expectations”

  1. Diana T Says:

    I felt sadness in reading your blog. Your comment about “lower your expectations so you won’t feel disappointment” was has been my motto in life, and to some extent I believe we all have to lower our expectations to some degree in order to have workable marriages, jobs, and monetary limitations dictates reality. I have also come to learn, you have to spell things out for people because they just don’t get it, or they fail to put themselves in anothers shoes. I’m 60 yrs old, and I had to spell out to my adult daughters that I’ve always wanted a token of my motherhood, a necklace, bracelet, something from my daughters that signified their love for me. Not just another article of clothing, candles, kitchen goods….. Simple? In order not to feel disappointment this monumental birthday, I just laid it out in an email. And they produced a beautiful necklace that I haven’t taken off since this day. But if they would have thought about it, they would have known long ago that I’m a total mush ball and tokens of love and appreciation is all a mother wants and what I’ve been waiting for them to do naturally long ago. Chin up mom, and I’m sorry you are dealing with health issues. Keep breathing the light.

    Reply

    • my honest answer Says:

      You know Diana, it could just be a taste thing. Maybe they don’t like gifts like that, so they didn’t think to buy them for you. Surely you know whether they love and appreciate you from how they act, rather than what they buy for you.

      Reply

      • Victoria Says:

        I have to agree with ‘my honest answer’. I tend to ignore the MOM-type cheese stuff and get her something she’ll like & use – like a book or candle or nice pair of earrings or whatever.

        Good for you for spelling it out, I see nothing wrong with that. ALthough, I’m the girl who had Anthro wrap up a bottle of perfume & stick it under the tree from my SO.

        Reply

  2. Liz Says:

    My dad was considered by all to be a terrible husband, and he always said, “She’s not *my* mother, why should I get her anything for Mother’s Day?” Even though they were married and she raised his 3 kids.

    Bare minimum, every father should provide a basic card from himself, and one from the kids, thanking the mother for being a mother. I see this even among divorced couples, but definitely when both parents live with the kids! Surely Phil knows this and sees this is a societal norm, as I am certain his colleagues and co-workers have mentioned Mother’s Day goings-on?

    It’s a deeply sentimental holiday. Throwing money at it and making reservations at a nice restaurant is kind of insulting, when it isn’t accompanied by something sentimental.

    I hate to say this… but he is deliberately trying to hurt you with this behavior? If he knows you want a more expressive Mother’s Day?

    Reply

    • Joseph Says:

      Very surprising to read the uniformity and vitriol in these responses. I asked my wife if she felt I was not celebrating important milestones. She said “Yes, our anniversary, Valentines Day, and my birthday.” Yikes. I better make sure my actions match the gratitude and love and appreciation I feel for her. Women are very different than men! : )

      Reply

      • anne Says:

        i have heard from a lot of guys that they didn’t see what the big deal these holidays are, they are just hallmark fabrications, what is meaningful about a card or a trinket when how you behave every day matters.. and those are all good and true points! but i think women often feel, yes, it shouldn’t be a big deal, so why not do something extra sweet–flowers or candy on valentines day, a card, etc–precisely because it is just a simple way of expressing affection? they are almost 2 sides of the same coin “it’s just a holiday, why should it matter; it’s just a holiday, why not do something kind?”

        Reply

        • Amy Says:

          Well said.

          My husband has never made a big deal (or any sort of deal) for special occasions. I don’t expect much and get little. Good for you for putting it out there, letting him know a little kindness would be appreciated. 20 years married and I wish I wouldn’t have sucked it up as nothing changed.

          Thankfully my kids usually come through :)

          Reply

  3. SusanC Says:

    Wow. I had virtually the EXACT same conversation at work with my friend about 15 minutes ago. After getting into an ENORMOUS fight on Friday night about anything and everything that’s wrong in our relationship, and me bringing up the fact that it sucks that I had to make the reservations for my own Mother’s Day and that he’s never thrown a birthday celebration for me, he still didn’t do anything other than buy a card at the drugstore while he was picking up cat food yesterday. And our kid is not even 2, so it’s not like he can even SAY “Happy Mother’s Day” without being prompted. I was still stunned at the end of the day that the day came and went and after our huge blowout on Friday that he still hadn’t done anything else. He didn’t even get up when the kid started whining at 6am yesterday morning. *I* had to get out of bed like usual and entertain the kid in a zombie-like state. But yes, I struggle with feeling angry/disappointeed because he DOES do the laundry, cleans the house (at times), helps a TON with our very spirited kid, and works his butt off so that I can work part-time. So why am I bugged? Like you said, it’s about the expectations. And I now have the expectation that he’s not going to do anything for our special ocassions (like V-day, Mother’s Day, anniversary or Mother’s Day), but I don’t want to stop wishing that that would be different!!!! That’s the romance in life, right?!?!?!? The little surprises. Not even material ones: breakfast in bed (without having to make your own waffle batter!), a date night to your favorite dive bar, picnic in a park.

    The problem is, I just don’t know how to stop wanting those things. And he just doesn’t seem to hear me when I ask for them. Maybe we just have to steel ourselves for these four specific days of disappoint each year. Sucks, but I don’t know how else to fix it…if you find the answer, let us know. :)

    Reply

  4. Anon Says:

    You are just making excuses for Phil. He literally did the very least he could. He seems like an ass every time you describe him.

    Reply

  5. Audrey Says:

    One of the best lessons my dad ever taught me was to expect ingratitude. It sounds like terrible advice, but it works very well. When you do something nice, when you are kind to someone, when you do a favor…expect ingratitude. Then when you get appreciation, it makes it all the sweeter. And it prevents you from being bitter. Its advice that has served me well. I am guessing you, like me, are a giver. That you get more satisfaction from pleasing someone else than about anything else. When you are this type of person, its easy to get frustrated when people don’t reciprocate. But its important to remember to do those nice things from a good place in your heart, and not because you expect the favor to be returned.

    Reply

  6. bari Says:

    I don’t think its about lowering your expectations at all. I just don’t feel like its something that can be done so easily. We all want what we want, or expect what we think we would do for someone else but people are so different, especially men. Sorry but its true. I sobbed on my 30th bday when my husband got me some lame, weird unmemorable gift. It was way more important to me than to him. Looking back I feel like I made a big deal but honestly, it was such a big deal to me at the time. He doesn’t give a crap what he gets, or really if he gets anything, he’s just not like that so I feel like he didn’t understand why I would care so much. Mother’s day was never a big deal to me but if its a big deal for you take time to make it clear to everyone. A person can be thankful for what they have and still feel like some things aren’t enough, right? Maybe I’m off base but lowering expectations because they haven’t been met this one time just sounds like the opposite of what life should be. Please don’t give up!

    Reply

  7. rb Says:

    I’m here to tell you that when kids get older and they will blow you away with their expressions of love for you on Mother’s Day.

    In years past, my husband would just take the kids out all day and let me read in a chair in the backyard.

    But my kids are older now and can take control of the holiday themselves. This year, my daughter made breakfast for me (after I control-freaked on her a little Saturday morning and showed her how to make scrambled eggs the way I like them) and wrote a “poem from my heart” during her 5th grade class. The poem was sappy and was clearly teacher-led, but my favorite line? “My mom likes to listen to disco music and embarrass me by dancing in front of everyone.” I knew that one really did come from her heart, and I teared up a little while laughing.

    My 9 year old son took me to see The Avengers movie. Yes, I paid for it. Yes, I drove. Yes, I bought him popcorn. But he sincerely thought I’d like to go (because he wanted to go, and why wouldn’t I feel the same?) and he held my hand throught the movie – at least when he wasn’t grabbing popcorn.

    And today I’m wearing the necklace I picked out for myself. I’m OK with that. It really is from my husband, but he knows by now that I know exactly what I want and he doesn’t.

    Phil needs to read bullet 1 of this article

    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2012/05/04/what-we-can-learn-from-the-lies-people-tell/

    Reply

  8. my honest answer Says:

    You’re not alone in having your hopes dashed – that’s exactly what my reader’s question was about today too!

    That said (and I await flames), I’m really not a big fan of Mother’s Day. I think it’s kind of a made up holiday, and we should all show our appreciation for each other every day.

    Reply

  9. rj_molly Says:

    I am sorry you are so unfulfilled in your marriage. Phil should want to make you happy! It doesn’t seem like he is trying…and then you feel guilty for not having your needs met. Your needs aren’t too high. Every woman deserves to feel cherished, not just the lucky ones.

    What is Phil so pissed off at you about? Because it seems like he is stubbornly digging his heels in and doing just the opposite of what you want. Power struggle!

    Reply

  10. Mary Says:

    Stephanie, you deserve better. You can be self absorbed at times, but Phil is completely and utterly self absorbed. You’ve given him two beautiful and well adjusted children. He should celebrate you for it on Mother’s Day, and in so doing, he would demonstrate to his children, especially his son, what it is to be a man showing respect and caring for his life partner. When children are watching, everything is a teachable moment, for better or worse. When Father’s Day arrives, I hope to see how you get it right, Stephanie, if for no other reason than to show your children how to dote appropriately (doesn’t have to be expensively) on your life partner and the father of your children.

    Reply

    • T Says:

      Well said. I agree with all of this. Reading your blog entry made me feel quite sad and faintly sick. No matter how you spin it, Phil is a terrible, terrible excuse for a husband. I hope you won’t condemn yourself to spending the rest of your life this way.

      Reply

      • Kayte Says:

        I so totally agree. Phil always sounds like an ass, but it’s annoying that you make excuses and continue tolerating a miserable relationship. He’s obviously not going to change, so quit complaining about it if you plan to live with it. Harsh, but true. You control your own destiny and if this is what you think you deserve, this is what you shall have.
        Not all men are like Phil. You already knew this from years of observing your father and grandfather.
        I married a man who shows his love every day. We cherish each other. Even though Mother’s Day is a ‘manufactured holiday’, he takes the opportunity to make the day special and tells me that I’m a wonderful mother. He makes me feel loved and appreciated. I’m not his mother, but he tells me that he’s grateful for everything I did to help raise our children. In turn, our children grew up learning how to make good choices in love and how to treat the ones they chose.
        You could have that, too. But you have to choose a partner who is capable of feeling/showing love in that way.

        Reply

  11. jessica Says:

    Unacceptable! Don’t make excuses for him or feel ungrateful for having those feelings. Love is about gifting in a way that satisfies the receiver of the gifts based on what he/she appreciates. Even your readers know you want some handmade cards from the kids. The pit of my stomach hurts after reading about your waffles. And btw, I feel like there is a difference between lowering expectations and approaching life without expectation.

    Reply

  12. Widelawns Says:

    You know what? I feel the same way. I wanted desperately to write about this on my blog yesterday but I knew my husband would read it so I didn’t.

    I’ve never been with a romantic man. Ever. Every guy I’ve ever dated or been engaged to or, now, married, has been the kind of guy who says Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday and the rest of the nonsense that guys who are cheap and unromantic and selfish say.

    During every relationship I’ve waited for surprises on every holiday, birthday, anniversary or whatever, but the surprises have never come. Not once. On every special occasion, even after all these years, when I get no card, no flowers and no present I keep thinking, well he’s holding out and tricking me into thinking he forgot or he didn’t care because I’m getting something really exciting. But no, all the Hes in my life actually have forgotten or didn’t care.

    Meanwhile I’ve watched friends blown away by elaborate proposals, birthday celebrations, fabulous dates that look like something off of the Bachelor and surprise vacations. It has never once been for me. I’ve always wanted it to be me.

    Two ex-loves of mine ended up proposing to other women in Paris. With antique rings. Everything I’d dreamed of.

    Now that I’m married and have a child, Mother’s Day has just become another day to add to my days of disappointment as I watch my friends’ husbands going all out while I get nothing. We went to brunch too, but we go to brunch every Sunday and we had to take my husband’s friend and the woman he just left his wife for. Lovely.

    And I just want to yell “COULDN’T YOU JUST GO TO WHOLE FOODS AND GET ME SOME GOD DAMNED FLOWERS AND A CARD??? HOW HARD IS THAT??”

    I’ve always thought it was me – that I am not lovable enough to inspire the passion in a man that would make him be creatively romantic and over the top expressive.

    I don’t know what it is. I would say I must be attracted to non-romantic men, but the two Paris proposals disprove that, so the only answer left is that I have always been attracted to assholes.

    Reply

    • Suzanne Says:

      Oh honey, I feel for you. To have two exes be over-the-top romantic with subsequent women is a huge slap in the face. But I really don’t think it’s you. These women probably ‘demanded’ such a proposal, whether straight up, to his face, or more obliquely. Have you ever expressed what you might like on such days to your husband? Not on the actual day when emotions are running high and it’s all “you never this, you never that,” but at a different time, as a casual “you know what I’d really like this Mother’s Day?” I know, it sucks to have to lay it out for him–kind of like instructing someone to throw you a surprise party–but as my husband and I have been told in counselling, nobody is a mind reader. You’d think flowers and at the very least a card is a no-brainer on Mother’s Day, but men. Are. Clueless. My husband is the first to admit it (he gave me a lawnmower for my 29th birthday. That went over well.). But after years of training (and tearful fights, unfortunately), he’s learning. It does feel a little like he’s checking things off a list of obligations sometimes, but it’s better than nothing. At least he’s putting forth the effort. Which is really what we all want, right? Proof that we’re worth a little extra effort.
      Don’t give up. Things may turn around. I thought I was doomed when, 6 months into my marriage I unwrapped that lawnmower (actually, I didn’t unwrap anything–you think he bothered to even slap a bow on it?), but then this year, several years on, he totally blind-sided me with a dozen roses (florist, not grocery store) and a card that made me cry for Mother’s Day–and I am not even a mother (8 months pregnant–though it has been a particularly shitty pregnancy). I consider this proof that men CAN change and grow a brain with regards to this. They just need a little coaxing.
      Good luck to you and Stephanie and all the other women out there who feel undervalued. I’ve read that a human being’s greatest need is not love or sex or emotional intimacy, but to feel appreciated. And I know how much it sucks to feel like you aren’t.

      Reply

    • anne Says:

      what happens when you tell him how you feel about this?

      Reply

    • Tara Says:

      Why wouldn’t you tell him how you feel about it. Holding it in and being resentful isn’t good for anyone.

      Reply

  13. ruth stoops Says:

    i was in this situation. i had to meet another man who clearly would have treated me with thought and care and basically threaten to detonate the entire marriage for my husband to finally change. actually it took TWO detonations. this mother’s day, he got me an incredibly thoughtful gift and modelled for our son how it should be done. you are a pretty girl, im sure there’s men out there who might open phil’s eyes to his apathy.

    Reply

  14. Melissa Says:

    Sorry but this just once again brings to light the ass that Phil is. Seriously, he couldn’t even get you a card thanking you for all you do for the family on a daily basis ( which I thinking a big way is what these days should be about)? Here’s tit for tat, don’t do anything for him for Father’s day except make a reservation. See how it feels then. I most times just an not fathom why you put up with behavior like this.

    Reply

  15. 3 teens' mom Says:

    One year, whilst married, I got two beautiful gift boxes for some made up holiday like Christmas, Valentine’s, birthday or Mother’s Day. Don’t remember – doesn’t matter. The boxes were stunning. One was wrapped in shiny gold paper with purple ribbons festooning its glory, One was wrapped in red foil with a big, white beautiful bow. They were big enough to hold bread machines, Bose speakers, or even better – the anticipation of little boxes with Tiffany jewels, keys to a Mercedes or noodle necklaces.

    The darlings were little – very young – maybe 2, 4 and 5. The anticipation for the opening of the gifts was great. The build-up to the big day was ridiculous – the poppets so excited for their big ‘reveal’ as I opened the gifts. I had imagined a million things. I delighted that they were delighted and my ex had this smug look of a job well done. I was beyond.

    The big day came, and the family was gathered around as I started untying the bow on the first box. As the satin fell graciously away from the box, and I started to lift the perfect lid off the box, the darlings squealed with excitement…I started my well rehearsed “oh you SHOULDN’T have” speech…

    Therein lay a pig slipper. A big, stuffed, pink pig slipper. And the second box revealed its partner – the other big, fat, obscenely grinning pig slipper.

    I squealed, they wiggled and the ex grunted. A pig family. Christ.

    Jes’ sayin’.

    Shit.

    So – I quit it. I stopped hoping for that ridiculous gift, and started laying the groundwork to have my needs met. I got a job. I got a divorce. I began the process of not letting other people decide my happiness or define my celebrations. I started pampering myself every time I could – a celebration of me. Every time the darlings went to their dad’s for the weekend, I would get a massage, take myself to lunch and toast myself with a latte, a hot tea or a glass of champagne. I would spend a long, lazy hour or two in the tub – every candle I could find lit (by me), with a tall glass of wine, my ipod playing my favorite music, relishing the peace.

    Now that they’re grown, for days that are important to me – I get what I want for myself. If I need something from someone else, I tell them. I don’t hint. I don’t expect. I don’t set them up to fail.

    It’s a control thing – don’t let anyone control your happiness. You’re in charge. You can make life magical and perfect and joyful – or – conversely – you can bitch and moan until it is intolerable. No one makes us happy if we aren’t happy. No one makes us whole if we aren’t whole.

    Honey – you know better. Decide not to be upset. Just stop it. It’s hard, but you can. Shut up. Don’t go there. You can’t change him – you can choose to be hurt or you can choose to stop it. Be large and in charge. No one can ever fulfill every fantasy you have – YOU fulfill the fantasies. Take it over. Because – at the end of the day or the end of our lives – will you be happy that you were miserable? Will you rejoice that you made him feel bad? Is that a success?

    Nope.

    Be happy. Find your peace and your place and your light. You know this – it is hard to learn – but do it. You are fantastic.

    My mother’s day started with me leaving home at first light to go to the park for a brisk walk – then a tryst with a lovely man – massage – then lunch – and then went to my mom’s where the IV continues to drip antibiotics directly into her bloodstream. Where dad has not only hunkered down, but is now crumbling down as he watches his sweetheart suffer. Where my presence is not longer voluntary, but mandatory. Where the strength of the village is strong, but shifting…now it is moving to me…the weight of the world I thought I shouldered before is now becoming heavier as I release my babies to the world, but accept the aging parentals.

    I didn’t get a card, or a note, or a noodle necklace. What I got was three astonishing children. Two perfect 4.0 students, the other so driven to perfection in the arts I don’t know what to do. They adore me and care for me, for themselves, each other, and my parents…every day. I have a mom (and a dad) that adore me. We are the village – we don’t have to pretend to celebrate some dumb Hallmark day.

    Be joyful. Embrace gratitude. Be well.

    Courage and strength.

    Reply

    • Carole Says:

      Once again, spoken beautifully and spot on.

      Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      There is a lot here, beautifully expressed. My day wasn’t miserable. I wasn’t miserable. In the aftermath, I was disappointed, not because I didn’t have stuff to hold, and not even because there wasn’t a card (I rarely care about cards, where the same sentiments are expressed over and over, things I already know, things that go without saying). I wanted a surprise, new words, or a new expression, something that said, “My being in New York has been hard on you, and you’ve been easy on me. Because I know how truly magical you are with our children, and I want you to know that I know.” That’s what a wanted. A big fat thank you of appreciation. On mothers day or any other day. Unprompted. No fishing. Validation. I already know it. It’s not that I need the validation. But I’d like it, especially from someone who’s supposed to be my partner in all this.

      Does making him feel like shit about it make me feel better? Fcuk no. Quite frankly, I’m depressed lately. Eating to stifle. To suffocate. This isn’t a good way to be living. And he’s off in New York, and I’ve never felt more alone than I do right now. Maybe it’s hormonal, maybe I need more help when it comes to the kids. Maybe. There’s a lot of maybe. And I question this marriage often, not that this is news to anyone who reads this blog.

      This holiday was going to go forward with my deciding not to be upset. And for the most part I’m not upset over *THIS*. I’m depressed about my health. I’m depressed that he’s in fucking New York all the fucking time. And there is rarely a thank you, “I don’t know how you do it. You’re amazing.” Because instead, I believe he just thinks, “Well, I don’t want to be away working in New York either, and I’m not complaining. It’s my job. You taking care of things in Florida is your job. You don’t get a cookie and applause for doing what has to get done.” And I fucking hate that. Because I need the fucking cookie. The gold star, the recognition. And if I can’t get it from him, I’m going to get it with my Amex.

      Reply

      • Kayte Says:

        I am really confused about why you moved to Florida (where you obviously don’t like the locals) if Phil is always in NY. You love NY! Why didn’t you move there? Or at the very least why didn’t you stay in Austin with your friends if Phil wasn’t going to be around anyway?

        Reply

      • Maybe... Says:

        I’ve written a few responses and I keep deleting them because they feel slightly inappropriate coming from a man. This is your life and the advice I want to give feels like I’m intruding.

        When I read this or anything about your husband, I feel very manipulated by your words. It just makes no sense why you are living a life of “less than”. I don’t understand why you of all people would make compromises. And then I always come to the same conclusion; You’re doing this for blog hits. You must be, right? This is just to amp up drama. Help with the next book. It can’t be real. You sound miserable.

        I mean, no woman who could earn a lucrative living on her own like you can would consistently allow yourself to feel “less than”, right?

        Here’s the facts; You’re very beautiful. You’re sexy. You’re young. You have a fabulous mind and wit that most men with boring McStepfords would trade for. I imagine when you’re in love with someone you’re quite creative in all areas to make them happy.

        It makes no sense for you not to be with a man who would worship you. Not in the needy/clingy feminine sort of way, but in the way that he’s wondering what kind of underwear you’re wearing while he’s in the middle of a meeting. He’s thinking if I cook dinner and clean up, she can go take a bath that I can join her in if I hurry.

        It makes no sense that knowing you and knowing you probably cry at the Lexus commercial with the big red bow on the new RX in the driveway he wouldn’t do things for you to feed into the little girl inside of you who wants to squee on special days and then journal and scrapbook about it. You’re still that girl inside. You never stop being her no matter how many kids you put out in this world or how many birthdays pass.

        Yes, I know life is hard. Responsibilities suck. Bills have to be paid. Kids have to be nurtured. Futures have to be planned. But I also think you would have been happy with anything that required more effort than a phone call or a quick visit to open table.

        And I feel sad for you that you’re going to wait until the twins are 18 to give yourself permission to go find this kind of life for yourself. Or maybe you’ll have an affair. Or maybe he will. Somebody will, right?

        What I do feel is if what you write is true, this relationship is not going to age well.

        What you wanted for Mother’s Day isn’t out of line. It’s not over the top. My Dad would go to a jeweler every Mother’s Day and get my Mom something and we were middle class…maybe slightly upper middle class. It wasn’t diamonds. Sometimes it was a watch. A bracelet. Earings. Yeah, in the end all those trinkets sit in a box or a drawer for the most part, but she knew on that day that he was thrilled she gave birth to his children and helped raise them.

        The sad thing is I can predict the next post. Phil gets religion from reading this one, buys you something to make up for it, you let him off the hook and then a few months later we’re back to a post that reads like Little Orphan Annie singing “Maybe” making excuses for him again.

        Reply

        • jeneria Says:

          I think you’re onto something. I love her brutal honesty and I love that she’s strong and intelligent, except when she’s not. We all have weak moments or weak periods of time. We all have people who are our Kryptonite, who bring us to our knees and cause us to doubt ourselves. It doesn’t mean we love them any less nor does it mean they love us any less. It’s utterly relatable.

          When Stephanie is happy and things are going well, she’s beaten by her readers for being stuck up and/or elitist (unfairly, might I add). When she’s miserable, her readers flock to her with encouraging words and a genuine desire to help.

          I don’t know. Reading some of these posts makes me uncomfortable (so stop reading some shout) and I can’t put my finger on it. I’d like to think that it is manipulation for page hits because it breaks my heart to think that someone smart, witty, and talented could be so sad for so long. I could accept that. I can’t accept that it’s real. Like, really real and that Phil is so cold and that she is so unhappy.

          Reply

        • Stephanie Klein Says:

          I promise I don’t write things for “the hits.” I just don’t. Popularity has its highs and lows. There are times of traffic, times of quiet. None of it truly matters to me anymore. I haven’t checked my web traffic in YEARS. It’s just not a priority in that sense. I continue to write a blog, not because it’s tied to my identity or esteem, but because it’s helpful to me and to others reading. It’s a give and take of friendship, really. Confiding, sharing the silly and the heartbreaking. I also do it because it’s amazing to have an online record of my progress and life, to see it from any computer, to be a memory of me. I no longer do it for validation and instead do it to feel connected both to myself and to others.

          As far as not understanding how a woman of means could stay, you need to remember two things. Their names are Lucas and Abigail. All that said, though, I really appreciate the love expressed here. It’s a wonderful comfort to know that people care about me. Maybe I blog to feel loved.

          Reply

          • Maybe... Says:

            Look, I understand why you stay. I can’t judge you on that. Breaking up a family to find personal happiness sounds selfish just thinking about it.

            To be quite honest, I don’t know why he stays. You eviscerate him on here sometimes once a month. If I was in his shoes I would not put up with that and would tell you if I’m so horrible then we should start living apart and preparing the kids for a different kind of future.

            That’s part of the reason why I get the feeling that this is all amped up and manufactured. It’s not about ego. You show genuine distaste for a lot of his qualities. It’s why I think it’s fake sometimes and imagine him sitting here reading the responses with you laughing and clinking wine glasses.

            I mean, you’re basically saying he’s worth keeping around for financial security. As someone who reads you, that’s what it usually feels like.

            Then, I think you realize what you’re saying and you try to post nice things about him, but it doesn’t undo the countless recollections that make us feel like he’s a checkbook with a bad attitude who you put up with.

            I give him credit if he’s agreed that it’s okay to be portrayed like this or if he just doesn’t care that his wife and mother of his children makes him sound like a major jerkoff emotionally who at the end of the day brings home the bacon so that keeps him around.

            I realize these posts are sort of alarmist in nature. They’re of the moment. In your mind, they’re less big picture and more what you’re thinking/feeling right now.

            That being said, when you add them all up it’s forming a disturbing puzzle.

            And I was going to write something about you being attracted to guys who take care of business financially and maybe you don’t want the supportive cheerleader who is confident, successful and loving and makes sure to tell you how wonderful you are every day. There are loyal, loving, successful men out there who see life a little brighter than darker and who don’t sweat the small stuff. You know this. You dated like crazy from all accounts. They just might not be your thing.

            What I just wanted to point out is that I think you’re a beautiful flawed person like the rest of us and that you shouldn’t settle.

            I think there’s a lot of men out there who would think you were hilarious with all your planning and visions to make special days more special and would love the shit out of that and try to out match you just to see your reaction.

            Either way, keep smiling. You deserve to be happy. Marriage and kids shouldn’t be a prison sentence.

            Reply

            • AHB Says:

              I am very much enjoying Maybe’s perspective… I think that if you are honest with yourself, you married your husband for certain reasons, just like everyone gets married for certain reasons. No one is the total package. One of the truest sentiments that I have heard is that people will tell you a lot about themselves early on, but so many times we chose to ignore it. As someone who grew up with financial security, lost it, and got it back, I imagine that nothing, short of a health crisis, compares to that secure/insecure feeling. All relationships are different, and it’s ok that you and your husband love each other in different ways for different reasons. I think that you should be REALLY honest with yourself about why you married Phil and ask yourself if he is any different now than when you met him. Of course, people can change and grow (not always for the better), but it’s most likely that you knew exactly who he was when you married him.

              Reply

          • Kayte Says:

            Ugh. It gives me a stomach ache to hear/read anyone say that they’re staying in a miserable relationship ‘for the children’. That is what my mom did. So my siblings and I got to endure an unhappy, tension-filled, miserable home life growing up. It is no gift to force your children to observe their mother being belittled and walked on like a doormat. And if you think they don’t notice, you’re fooling yourself. I feel sorry for you, but I feel worse for the beans.

            Reply

      • Tara Says:

        You deserve the cookie. You marry who someone is, not their potential. What’s that about the definition of insanity- doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result? You know who you both are. You just need to decide if that’s enough for you in the long term. It may be, it may not be. But no one can tell you what to do. I feel like writing it is babysteps into making decisions, making it real. All I know is we have one life and it isn’t that long. You have to make it what you want it to be. Maybe this move to NY will change thing, but it won’t change who you are as people.

        I was with a guy longterm who wasn’t “romantic”, didn’t do cards, I was always waiting and disappointed. Friends brushed it off as the typical, “guys are assholes”. But then I married someone, a guy, who IS great, who IS romantic, and gets what I need. So there IS an ass for every seat and some fit better than others.

        Lastly, you don’t want your son modeling the behaviors you think are non-appreciative, not romantic, etc. I would think you’d want him to exhibit different behavior than the kind that makes you sad! I remember when the old boyfriend and I broke up and my mom said, “Hey- I liked X, I just didn’t like him for YOU.” and that made sense. I don’t know if Phil is an “ass” like all these people say. I’m just not sure if he’s meant for yours.

        Reply

    • Dana Says:

      As always, really poignant and beautifully written. I love that Stephanie’s beautiful, heartfelt words and sometimes difficult anecdotes that she shares with us become such a safe forum for words of advice, venting, and sharing from others.

      Reply

    • Jacks Says:

      This is one of the most perfect comments I have ever read.

      Reply

  16. Mo Says:

    What I dislike most about this post is your turning around and blaming yourself. Why are you doing that? Why should you not expect more? “He made reservations and cooked me waffles.” Nothing about that is enough. He knows you, doesn’t he? He didn’t just meet you. He knows that these things mean a lot to you, so why not celebrate that? He most certainly could have done better.

    I think the biggest thing is that he, in an ideal world, should be a role model for your children. If anything, he should want to impress upon them how important it is let the people you love know you love and care about them. A little macaroni necklace would have spoken volumes to that. It’s not like you asked for a European vacation or some such extravagance.

    Every time you post about him, even in the ‘good’ posts, I cringe. Phil just seems like a prick. What makes him think that it’s okay for him to be a dick (at least to you?) Kudos for you for living like this day after day; it couldn’t be me. But, you gotta know that one day, something’s gonna give. You shouldn’t EVER settle for less. EVER. You are worth every macaroni necklace the world has to offer.

    Reply

  17. Laura Says:

    I get pretty much the bare minimum on all occasions – Mother’s Day, Birthday, even Christmas. My husband just doesn’t plan anything in advance. I don’t think I’ve ever sit down and told him in a heartfelt way that it hurts my feelings, etc. I’ve just lowered my expectations to the point that it doesn’t bother me so much anymore. And, I’ve just about lowered my own behavior on his special days to match his.

    We love each other and he is good in many other ways, so I’ve just let that kind of thing go. If you think about it, those things you describe are just the cliche things that we are SUPPOSED to want to get on Mother’s Day. But, if that is what you want and you have EXPRESSED it, then it is understandable why you’d be disappointed.

    Reply

  18. Carole Says:

    I guess I’m in the opposite camp, the unsentimental one. I want to be remembered on Mother’s Day with a phone call, a card or something or other. What it is doesn’t matter. We never go out to brunch or dinner. Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day & New Year’s Eve are the only holidays on which we purposely stay home. Most years I’ll ask that my children make a contribution in my honor to a charity of my choice. This year one of them asked if I’d like that again & I responded that this one time I’d like a gift certificate to Amazon. Done. The other one didn’t ask & I got a hydrangea plant which my husband already has installed in our garden. What’s important to me is the daily love & respect shown, not the observation of a Hallmark-declared holiday.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      I think that’s the difference. You’ve expressed your wants, what’s important to you. I believe that Phil, unquestionably, loves me daily, goes out of his way, ALWAYS, to make my life easier. Anyone who knows him knows this is 100% true. The kids know it, my parents, and I know it. But I, here’s the difference, have expressed over the years that these holidays DO matter to me. That I do want the special, the noddle necklace or the trinket from a velvet box. And he knows it. I want the standing ovation on a day meant to celebrate my role in our us, despite the fact that he does all he can each day to make my life easier.

      Here’s the crux of all this. He feels GOOD about himself when he makes my life easier. He likes himself knowing that he’s taking care of the woman he loves in a way that he’s really good at. But when it comes to doing something that I really want, something that he doesn’t feel 100% secure in, forget it. Then it’s chalked up to my expecting too much, or there’s a comment about money or how I’m never satisfied with what I have. And THAT is the shit that’s not fair. He judges what’s important to me, believing what’s important to him is what SHOULD be important to me too, enough for me, too. But it’s not.

      Reply

      • Jolynna Says:

        I see that you get that Phil’s not stepping up and doing what you’d like him to do is more about his insecurities and his discomfort with taking actions he may not have grown up participating in than how much he loves you.

        Which, in my opinion, compares to you leaving things out on the kitchen counter tops when you know Phil would prefer his kitchen in OCD neat-freak condition. You aren’t deliberately trying to irritate him, kids are messy, attention to kids is more important than every cup being off of the counter every minute. (I don’t know that this ever happens but am using this as an example because it seems in one post or another I got the impression that Phil was kind of OCD. My point is more that you might not fulfill Phil’s “ideal”, just like with his not stepping up on mother’s day, he isn’t your “ideal than about specifics.)

        Most of the time, people disappoint each other due to the way they are wired or because of the way the were raised and NOT because they set out to deliberately hurt the person they love.

        I hope you can find a way to really love, love, love, love to death Phil for all of his good qualities so the times he does let you down (and in every relationship there will be plenty of those times) and that Phil will do the same for you.

        Everybody deserves to feel like their one and only sees them as wonderful and adorable and worthwhile. Home is where you go to feel embraced and secure and to relax. My spouse doesn’t have to like everything I do (or don’t do) BUT, I do want to be accepted and know that the love will be there despite my failings.

        Reply

  19. Anna Says:

    Please don’t lower your expectations. You are not expecting something unreasonable. You expect your husband to be kind and thoughtful, that’s not asking too much. It’s not hard for him to do what you’ve asked for, he chooses not to do it. I think kindness is one of the most important traits in a person. I’ve been reading your blog since 2004 and through all these posts Phil does not come across as a kind man. He has a lot of good traits but his stubborness and a lack of willingness to be kind and respectful to you creates very sad situations. Saying “leave him” is easier said than done. My only advice is don’t think that you are asking too much to be appreciated in a way that makes YOU happy on Mother’s Day.

    Reply

  20. Carol (middle-aged-diva) Says:

    It struck me (immediately ) that your wants reflected exactly what YOU would do if the situation were reversed. You go out of your way to do all these niceties for your family all the time. But that’s you. It doesn’t sound like that’s how Phil naturally is. Can you accept that about him? You didn’t marry your thoughtful father or yourself, you married Phil.

    What confuses me is that you say he makes your life easier every single day. If in fact he does that, why isn’t it enough for you? How important are these niceties if your life every day is made better? I don’t know, am asking the question. The knee-jerk answer is to say “very important!” But if he’s not like that, and he gives in the way he can and feels comfortable, what’s wrong with that?

    I mean, yes, in an ideal world men would go out of their comfort level to make us happy, but surely you know by now it isn’t an ideal world? Since you do, you would be happier if you adjusted your expectations to reflect reality of who he is.

    This move was hard on you. If he’s always in NY, maybe it would’ve been better to have the family in NY and have him commute to Florida. You would’ve been way happier and I think there might be less stress in the household.

    Again, Phil looks like an ass in your blog and I can’t help but think this is not a good thing for your marriage. I am not saying he is, or he isn’t. But that turning it back on yourself in this post…is it a way to make this very negative depiction of him palatable? If so, it didn’t work. He looks like an ass.

    Look, I totally get where you’re at with this and I’m here to tell you that as time passes and you realize you can’t have everything, and i mean REALLY REALIZE it, not just know it, things will be different for you. Promise. But you have to start letting go of the unimportant “shoulds” because it sounds like you also have some critically important relationship “shoulds” that need Phil’s attention. And yours.

    I, too, was surprised at the number of women who feel the same way as you do. I guess I just never had those expectations, but it doesn’t make me any less happy. I am always thrilled at what my husband does for me, even if not much, because he’s such a great guy with a good heart. And since we were divorced for almost 30 years and reconciled a few years ago, I can see that much more clearly now. I wish I had seen it when we were married the first time.

    Wishing you all the best, Stephanie.

    Reply

    • jeneria Says:

      I took the “easier life” to mean that they don’t want for money and that Stephanie can buy whatever she and the Beans need. He’s providing a nice house, a good car, a safe life, exceptional schooling, etc. He just doesn’t provide emotional support.

      Reply

  21. Alexandra Says:

    I believe in asking for what you want. But when you do, repeatedly, and don’t get it…what then? (Yes, also going through my own version of this in my marriage.)
    I feel for you. So frustrating.

    I am not chiming in on the Phil is a jerk chorus…because I am sure he is like most of us, great in some respects and not in others.

    As for lowered expectations, I hate that shit! Expect the worst so you won’t get hurt? Blech. No thank you. I’ll take worthiness over that any day.

    Also I can only hear those words in the sing-song from that old Saturday Night Live skit about that dating service, Lowered Expectaaashuns! “find someone just as pathetic and hard up as you!”

    PS I spent mother’s day with my high-strung, bossy mother in law, at her request. My own fault. I coulda-shoulda said no. Spent day being instructed on how inadequately my daughter eats, sleeps and is dressed. Next year I’m making mother’s day all about meeee!

    Reply

  22. Jolynna Says:

    I am going to be the odd person out and try to see things from Phil’s view point.

    When you get “told” what to do, in advance of the occasion, that means that the person doing the “telling” doesn’t think you are capable of doing the right thing without instructions. Which might be the truth. But…in my relationship, I’m the Phil. When I’m “told”–even when being told is the only way to get required attention from me–I feel nagged and resentful because my spouse didn’t “trust me” to do the right thing…despite the fact that I often DON’T do the right thing UNLESS nagged. There is just something icky about being “told”.

    Which means while I might “do the requested action” it will be done resentfully and therefore with some zinger thrown in or done halfa**ed–because I was “MADE” (not chose) to do it.

    I suspect all of this goes back to our families of origin. Some families fuss and get into every detail of making special occasions festive. It is their “thing” and fun. Other families just DON’T and therefore their offspring might feel uncomfortable, awkward and like WHATEVER they do, when compared to the perfect and fussed-over-down-to-the-last-detail creation their spouse would just “throw together” won’t be “good enough”.

    Not saying that Phil is right and you are wrong. Or that you shouldn’t be disappointed and like Phil deliberately let you down.

    I am pointing out that everybody is different. There are LOTS of reasons people let each other down–like when you leave paper cups in the car–for reasons besides evil intent. Phil’s shortcomings, like yours, are more about genetics and upbringing and how each of you are wired, than intention to make your other half miserable.

    In my opinion.

    Reply

    • Katy Says:

      Quoted above:
      When I’m “told”–even when being told is the only way to get required attention from me–I feel nagged and resentful because my spouse didn’t “trust me” to do the right thing…despite the fact that I often DON’T do the right thing UNLESS nagged. There is just something icky about being “told”.
      ——–

      So, you’re saying that even though you don’t do the right thing unless you’re nagged, somehow it’s inappropriate (“icky”) for your partner to recognize your shortcoming, and in an effort to get what they need tell you explicitly what they want? That sounds like a total lose/lose situation.

      Reply

    • Carrie Says:

      I TOTALLY agree with this comment. When i was reading Stephanie’s post I couldn’t help but think of a time when I was the maid of honor at my best friend’s wedding and every single thing that I had thought to do for her starting one year before the actual wedding day, was DASHED because she had a better idea, had gone ahead and done something herself or was nagging me to do something. It just became this thing like, well what am I needed for anyway? Is this best friendship just for show–so she can have a maid of honor fixing her dress for all the photos? After the wedding, we took a long break from each other, our friendship endured and we have managed to laugh about it. Sadly, her marriage did not last and I am certain it was her controlling, micro-managing, preemptive behavior that had a little hand in that, too.

      I so totally get wanting things the way you want them, and I don’t believe we should lower expectations, but I do think that modifying expectations is more appropriate and should be quite easy to do when patience and gratefulness are on top of the list of priorities. No one thinks just like you. No one likes to be told what to do, how to give, or how to love.

      Reply

  23. Anon Says:

    Well in my mind brunch would have been awesome. I am a stay at home mom of four and I got nothing. No card. No homemade card. Nothing. Ok my husband did order papa johns for dinner. As if that counts. He didn’t even get pizza I like.

    Never mind the fact that I shopped for his mom, got cards, bought lunch to bring to her home. I even got cards for my husbands sister. Not because I had to but because they deserved it. They love my kids and are there for them.

    We’ve had a rough year. Job issues, surgery and stress! I’ll never forget this mothers day. I keep reminding myself that my four amazing kids are the gift. Every day they are the gift. I know I am a good mom but acknowledgement from my husband would have meant a lot.

    So brunch would have made me happy but I totally understand where you are coming from.

    Reply

    • jeneria Says:

      Honestly, when isn’t a brunch awesome? I mean, it’s such a simple (and yet not so simple) thing to do. Brunch is truly a treat.

      Reply

  24. anon Says:

    Why do you keep torturing yourself (and us) with this repetitive shit from Phil? You KNOW deep down that he is not right for you. End this awful relationship for the sake of the kids. You two model the worst behavior.

    Reply

  25. kimfromaustin Says:

    This may be an oversimplification, but it seems to me that you all feel loved and show love differently. Neither is wrong, just different. That is not to say that one cannot realize the difference and go outside of their comfort zone and what feels natural to make their partner feel loved in a way that they need to be shown. Phil appears to do a lot for you and the children and only you know whether or not it is enough and enough of the right things. This is your blog and you have the right to complain, whine, process your feelings all you like over and over again until you decide to do something different. If people get tired of it they can stop reading your blog.

    Reply

  26. Anon Says:

    I know this must have come up on your blog before, but have you read “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman? Your situation sounds like a textbook example from that book. The book’s main premise is that everyone has one primary “love language” (quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch) and that much of the resentment and anger in relationships arises from two people not knowing how to speak each other’s love language. Although this is obviously a massive oversimplification of relationships, it may be worth checking out — if for nothing else, to establish a vocabulary to discuss these things with Phil. While you understandably feel hurt and underappreciated, he may be feeling frustrated and resentful that the love he’s trying to show you (in HIS language) never seems to be enough for you. Just something to consider looking into.

    Reply

    • GP Says:

      Thank you Anon,

      I was going to suggest the same book. Stephanie, I think it might illuminate part of what’s going on between the two of you. Regardless of whether you read the book, I hope you are able to work through your disappointment and hurt feelings.

      Reply

  27. Jennifer Says:

    Nothing good from the kids’ school even? LAAAAME! My kids are 10 and almost 12. I got: a slide-show, a scavenger hunt, many very intricate cards from the girls, and truffles. From the husband, a new car navigator and a hand made birdhouse. But I started them off young-I think I showed my husband how to do it with father’s day too…but our schools always made a big deal out of mother’s day. When my oldest was 3 her preschool had a tea, took a picture of us together, that kind of stuff. So sorry for your disappointment, I would be too. My friend told me that she actually had a do-over one year. She sat her 3 little boys down and told them she knew they were busy and had things to do, but that she wanted hand-made cards, hand picked flowers, etc. ha! I hope your health issues get sorted out soon. I have been going through thyroid hell all year so I feel your pain.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      Okay, the kids’ school DID have a “Special Lady Day.” Where they had the kids assemble coupon books of promises, a bed made, help with making dinner, etc. A wooden treasure chest adorned with rhinestones and clumps of Elmer’s Glue. These, I knew, were school obligations, and they were lovely. The loveliest part were the faces of the kids as they gave them to me, waiting to measure my reaction.

      Abigail said, “Mama, you never cry. You only cry when you’re happy.”
      “That’s not true. Sometimes I get sad and cry.”
      “No, you don’t. You cry, but only when you’re heart is full of glee.”
      And then, in true form, I cried more tears of love.

      These events happened on a Tuesday or Wednesday before Mother’s day. At their last school, they decorated picture frames and placed a photo of us inside. They held a brunch, where the kids were dressed as waiters and chefs! I loved it.

      That was all there this year. But it had nothing to do with the feelings or events I expressed here. School love is always going to be different than home love. It’s why we separate church and state :)

      Reply

  28. Random Says:

    I’m on the same boat on this round-trip of disappointment. I’ve been married for 5 years and this is the second year of nothing but bullshit on these special days. I used to be of the “commercial holidays suck” party, but when the person you give so much to, think about so much about, devote so much time to and with whom you share the responsibility to raise these little people with, doesn’t even bother to email you a free ecard, it’s complete and utter bullshit. This has happened for Christmas, Vday, my birthday, and now Mother’s Day. The funny thing is that this time, I got the wonderful, “But, you’re not MY mother” line. Classic.

    To be honest, the day I had my son, my husband decided that he couldn’t be both a dad and a husband and has devoted himself to being a good father and an asshole husband. I suck it up, because my priority right now is my son, my work, my photography, my family and myself. I gave up trying on the husband/wife front six months ago and I’ve actually started to feel better at my indifference to him. It works for now. I’m a bit of a cynic, I suppose, but the happiness that I get from knowing that my son has a good mom and a good dad makes up for it. You wrote a post a couple of years back, that I actually hold onto quite dearly. In that post, you say:

    “It’s tiresome just thinking about all the changes, all the do-overs, all the not-agains. You convince yourself that what you’ve had is real, and “I’m not just losing a lover; I’m losing the person to whom I told everything. My friend.” And you believe he’s your best friend because you’ve been selling it to yourself that long. But if he’s capable of what he’s done, he’s not only not your best friend, he’s a stranger. And that is what hurts most, that realization that the person you chose became someone you don’t even know. And you beat the shit out of yourself for letting it happen, as if it was your burden, your obligation, and under your control. And then you question everything else, all your choices and wonder how you can ever trust… not just him, but in your own choices ever again.”

    In that case, what he did was cheat, but the feeling is so applicable when the person that is next to you is not the person you knew just because time has passed and when you hold yourself accountable for the aftermath of your choices, you learn to suck it up and deal with what you chose.

    In that same post, you wrote:
    ““What should I do?” You should leave. You should force yourself to do what’s hard because in the long run staying is so much more detrimental to your esteem and your own worth. Do I know you and the details that only you know? No. But I know enough, have lived enough, and have seen and heard enough to know when someone is kidding herself. You know what it looks like? A smile. She forces a smile and talks about hope and faith. And she hopes you’ll believe her so she can believe it too.”

    Maybe one day I’ll leave because it’s what will logically make sense and be right, but for now, I will loudly enjoy my mother role and silently discard the role of wife. I don’t believe in living for another person nor asking them to live for me, so I will continue to be happy on my own terms without letting my failure of a marriage get in the way.

    I don’t know you and I doubt I’ll ever meet you, but thank you for sharing what you share. Through your words and images, I’ve gotten the type of comfort that I can’t get anywhere else, since I internalize everything.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      I can bitch and moan with the best of them. This Mother’s Day, I chose not to bitch to Phil about it. I let the day be what it was. I was disappointed, but it wasn’t the end of the world. It just looks like the end of the world when you choose to blog about it, the way you’d bitch in your diary. Then everyone chimes in that you should get on with it already, quit complaining. But that’s what I do in my diary. I document my feelings, however transient. And, it’s true, I feel the NEED to document the feelings when they feel like shit. When I feel giddy and romantic and playful, I ACT on it. I rarely write about it. So there’s a skewed perspective on a blog, or in a diary. It’s not your life.

      To the people who wonder what it is I’m waiting for, when will I live a joyous life full of sex and longing with a gentle man who nurtures, enriches, and inspires me… I wonder this too. But I don’t question this choice of mine, to give my children the opportunity to live in a home with both their parents. I chose this marriage, through sickness and health. People throw away vows faster than they throw away reusable Tupperware. People are so casual about divorce and endings, even when children are involved.

      If we fought in front of our children I think it would be best to end things, for their sake. But this, working through the hard, is for their sake and mine. The truth is, I had a nurturing man, kind and gentle, a provider who treated me as a goddess, and I was bored to tears. Phil isn’t my easiest choice, I know. He’s a fcuking handful. But so am I.

      There are times when he crosses the line and I consider leaving. But I continue to circle back to the (controversial) words of my therapist, who told me to give this gift to her children. If I didn’t have children, I wouldn’t likely be here. I can’t say for certain because you can only guess at “if.”

      Our relationship needs work, without question. Our virtually non-existent sex life needs even more work. It’s hard to want to be intimate when… when I want to be, when things are great, when he’s sexy and sweet and smells good, and his arms look so strong… and then there’s sex… and then, too fast, he breaks up my imagined courting and bliss with anger, with what I perceive to be a sudden pissy mood, deal with his frustration, and I want to take it all back. To take back the touch and quiet, wishing he could just stay… gentle instead of hard.

      I don’t know what the future holds, if there will be a breaking point. Part of me thinks, “This health thing is coming up to tell me something.” Either it’s here to say, life is short, “Move the fuck on, woman.” Or it’s here to say, “See, this is important, all the other shit you fight about with Phil doesn’t matter in the long run. This matters, the love you have, the way he’s there for you, this is what really matters.”

      And in all truth, I don’t know which is the “right” message. But when I look at my kids, like you, I have to believe, at least for now, that the message is not to sweat the small stuff and to focus on the good.

      Reply

      • Regan Says:

        I really wish you’d stop using your kids as the reason you’re staying. It’s destructive to them, and will only be a burden to them as they get older. Speaking as someone whose Mom did everything to make me happy, at her own expense, it is tiresome and stressful from the perspective of the kid. It sets expectations that can never fully be met, and it shifts the balance of the parent/child dynamic. If you want to stay, stay because of yourself; if you want to leave, same thing. Your kids will be fine either way, as long as you are fine in your decision.

        And, please don’t think that they aren’t absorbing your unhappiness/tension just because you don’t fight in front of them. That is one of the biggest fallacies in the world. Kids get things that are unspoken and unseen more than we imagine.

        Reply

        • Stephanie Klein Says:

          I really appreciate this point, and it’s something I need to really look at. I don’t believe I stay just for them, but they’re the easiest place to look when I feel doubt. I cannot imagine breaking up this family. I just can’t. I’m not miserable (all the time). If I had to give it a percentage, I’d say it’s 25%. I’m unhappy 25% of the time.

          I believe people get to a point, a breaking point, where they can no longer live with the current status. I am not there. The misery read here is a piece of my heart, not the whole of it. The kids see a lot of fun, that’s what they get. Family road trips and family pirate picnics and family beach days. We spend every weekend together as a family, eat dinner together every night. We tuck them in each night reading bedtime stories, all of us snuggled up each night in someone’s bed. It’s not as if we’re faking anything for the kids.

          Reply

          • Laura Says:

            If I grew up and read my mom’s blog and realized that she spent YEARS in misery for my sake? I’d probably want to drive my car into a pole. And if I didn’t, then I’d just proceed to have no clue how to go about having a healthy relationship with another person and/or when to bail on a shitty one.

            Reply

      • Carol (middle-aged-diva) Says:

        As someone who has divorced, I take exception with your broad statement that people take divorce casually. I just don’t see it. I wonder if it’s a fiction to let yourself off the hook.

        Look, I don’t have an opinion about what you should do. Only you know. That’s your decision and we only see a tiny bit of your life here.

        BUT:

        I don’t know a single person who has taken divorce casually, and I am significantly older than you and probably know many more divorced people.

        Most people I’ve known, especially those with kids, only leave when there is no other option, when they have exhausted therapy sessions that go nowhere, when they have tried their hardest to change themselves and it’s still not enough. Don’t think otherwise. Those who are casual seem a rarity to me.

        I believe wholeheartedly that if my parents had divorced, the three of us kids would’ve been way healthier emotionally. It’s not like they fought every day–but they did argue terribly, we did hear it but the overall disrespectful way my father treated my mother pervaded our lives and had far-reaching consequences.My brother has completely mimicked this with his own wife, whom he left after treating her in similar ways. So similar it’s scary. Even as a child, I believed that I would rather have been from a broken home than live in one. As a young child, I used to fantasize that my mother had married her boyfriend before my father and that he was our dad. Not kidding.

        We ate dinner as a family, too. We did vacations, too. You can not discount what the kids pick up , even if you do cuddle in bed every night. I think your therapist did you and your kids a disservice with that advice. Just saying.

        Reply

        • jeneria Says:

          Oh, I’m about the same age as Stephanie and I know plenty of people my age, younger, and older who have treated divorce pretty casually.

          Reply

        • Marcy Says:

          Again, Carol, you say exactly what I am thinking. Anyone who looked at my family from the outside saw a clean, luxurious home, attractive well-dressed people, three balanced meals a day, nice vacations, and basically the American Dream. And I really thought that’s what it was until I was old enough to first, notice the way my father treated my mother and then, second, try to defend her from his ire and have it turned on me. All I can say now Stephanie (because I know that my comments on this before were offensive to you in their projection) is that I wish you peace, health, and joy – I think you are a strong, smart woman who deserves to feel cherished.

          Reply

  29. Deborah Says:

    My kids were wonderful on Mother’s day, even the week preceding Mother’s Day. They made homemade gifts – they made me dinners – they took me out to lunch – and they pooled their money to take me to a baseball game. They are incredible, and your post made me stop and wonder why they celebrate so profusely. I think it is because I have always celebrated profusely myself.

    We have major celebrations anytime and for anything we can. There are the big times – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc. But we also make very big deals out of April Fools Day, the first and last day of school, the dog’s birthday, “gotcha” days in addition to birthdays (most of my kids are adopted), opening day of baseball, etc. We decorate the house for each celebration and we make special food befitting the holiday.

    My kids think all this is normal, and as a result, they initiate the celebrations themselves. They almost see it as a challenge to see who can devise the most outrageous celebration.

    Life is short and so very precious (especially considering my kids’ severe disabiltiies), and hopefully I have taught them through all our excessive celebrating to treasure and enjoy every single second of every single day!

    Reply

  30. Heidi Says:

    Sex is a huge part of a relationship if you’re unhappy 25% of the time, and not having sex 80% of the time thats a serious problem. The sex life of a couple sets the pace for the entire relationship.

    Reply

  31. Ali Says:

    Maybe you will feel better after I tell u my expectations for mothers day…

    I didn’t want to argue. I didn’t want to be spoken to
    In an unpleasant tone.
    All of those expectations were met.

    I wanted a home made card that my son colored for me.
    (I thought I expressed that last mothers day but I forgot to
    Emphasize it this yr. I just thought my husband would remember)
    But he didn’t.

    Being treated kindly and being spoken to in a normal tone mean more to me than anything else.

    I think you must be an amazing mom!!

    Looking forward to hearing your plans for fathers day…

    Reply

  32. Anon Says:

    You kinda sound like abused women who say “well, maybe I deserved it.” You are not a good mom if you think parents who have a mostly awful relationship then expect ‘ pirate picnics’ to counter the damage.

    Reply

  33. Karen Says:

    As readers, observers, we all have a different view of what’s going on, but when I was reading your post– gosh, a wave of dread came over me. From my own experience as a kid, I can say: I absorbed the tension in my house/family as a child, and then choked on it for the following 20 years in the form of anxiety. I truly wish my family’s dynamics could have been different, and much, much kinder.

    Reply

  34. glenda Says:

    Stephanie ask yourself a ? is this the man you want to spend the rest of your life with..

    Reply

    • jeneria Says:

      To add to that: How do you see life when the Beans are grown? Is this the man you want to retire with? Sometimes I have a hard time visualizing five years from now with my husband, but when I think 25 years down the road, he’s the man I see beside me.

      Reply

  35. Deb Says:

    I <3 Phil. Seriously….I know he's not perfect. Who is? But he is a devoted husband who puts up with being maligned in this blog and still remains devoted and loving to you….As far as I'm concerned, he's a ROCK STAR. Phil…clearly, there is something between the two of you that keeps you together. Ya'll, work on that. ;)

    Reply

  36. Dipesh Majumdar Says:

    Psychology of a woman is different from a man. Each has his own way of looking at things and each should be given respect, space and time. A husband who always comes up with gifts and goodies is not necessarily someone who loves genuinely. Someone who is tacit and less expressive might have more feelings and emotions for his partner. It’s only that they remain hidden. At any case it pays if you close your eyes and ask the questions and doubts to your own soul. You will surely get the right answer. Nothing else will give you the right answer. And it’s true that those that we possess and enjoy, we tend to take for granted and those that are beyond our reach, we regret and amplify the importance of their absence. Living a happy life is an art and one needs to learn that art proactively and consciously.

    Reply

  37. chrissie lynn Says:

    this really resonates with me – not because i feel these things in my marriage, but because i always said if you expect less, you’re never disappointed.

    but the thing is – you are. you’re ALWAYS disappointed if you have to change how you honestly feel in order to deal with the people around you and how they treat you.

    yes, we can change our outlook – it is the only thing we can control – but the truth is, there are people out there who will be secretly planning some fantastic celebration because they know that’s what you need, want, and deserve.

    gah. i want to say that it doesn’t matter, that phil is phil and you are you and these things don’t necessarily mean very much. but i don’t actually believe that so i’m just going to say i’m sorry. you deserve to get back at least a little of what you put in.

    Reply

  38. Ilana Says:

    Stephanie, Have not read in a while but isnt Phil the guy who made you that awesome turning 30 scrapbook? Where’d that guy go? ;)

    Reply

    • Danielle Says:

      Ha! What happened to that guy? Probably wondering where the vivacious, on the cusp of success 30 year old girlfriend went.

      Here’s what happened. Nearly 6 years of marriage, two kids, two big moves, some health issues and life. Stephanie has (almost) everything she ever wanted in life. All those things that look good in dreams and on a list. Turns out life as wife (times 2) isn’t like a spread in Town & Country, or Garden & Gun. It must be exhausting for stephanie to get the stuff, but have to deal with Phil’s bullying behavior. In contrast, it must be exhausting for Phil to work hard, try to keep his stress low an his heart beating to provide this rather nice Boca life for a woman who, for whatever reason, just cannot sustain happiness. By God she blogged her way to two books, she clomid’d her way to B/G twins, she’s raising them with his help in two beautiful homes, and has time to travel, resources to shop at trendy whole food markets, the drive to spend hours upon hours thinking up dinner party menus with the perfect personal touches, yet no fulfillment.

      I’m exhausted on behalf of both of them. Clearly though, they are perfect for each other.

      Reply

    • anon Says:

      He does not seem like a nice guy, BUT I am guessing he lost himself when he:

      -got hustled into a marraige too quickly
      -got pushed into having a baby – twins! – quickly
      -realized his wife was not an achiever, but spends all day dreaming up imaginary dinner parties and craft rooms

      Reply

  39. Carole Says:

    There’s a reason why there’s a saying, “Women are from Venus. Men are from Mars.” In general, we really are different & it’s a rare man who understands & acts counter to that difference. Most men aren’t the kind of romantics we may wish them to be. Ilana was right to call attention to that wonderful Turning 30 Scrapbook. When they come up with something so special we usually think it’s going to happen again, but it rarely does.

    My husband has solved the problem of trying to do the impossible and instead asks what I’d like. Now he always gets it right since I state exactly what I want. It doesn’t bother me at all that he can’t read my mind and he’s happy that I’m pleased. Oh, and sometimes I don’t even get the gift on the actual date of the occasion. It could be a little late, like this Mother’s Day, but eventually my wish is granted.

    We’ve been married for 47 years and from the standpoint of hindsight I say Vive la difference!

    Reply

  40. Becca Says:

    No judgement…I’ve definitely felt like you’ve described and I feel for you.

    But I’d say it’s not about lowering expectations, it’s about chucking them altogether. You can only be disappointed when someone/thing hasn’t met them. And it’s unfair to put them on someone. It feels crappy to feel like you’re not meeting someone’s expectations or that you have to do things a certain way to please them (especially if you feel like you’ve been trying hard to please them in your own way).

    I spent my whole childhood walking on eggshells for just that reason – trying to do things perfectly and inevitably failing, blaming myself..and later being really resentful about that.

    In adulthood, I became the one with the high expectations (he doesn’t REALLY love me unless he does XYZ), and it wasn’t until I let go of the expectations and worked on loving myself, instead, that I could be open to the love that was coming my way. My advice (not that you asked) would be to drop the expectations and be open to what Phil does to show you his love.

    That’s presuming he does those things. It sounds like from you comments he does, and you’re aware of them. Remind yourself to see them and thank him for it in the moment. When you make a point of noticing, he feels good, and you actually do, too, b/c you make it conscious.

    All that said, I hope he really does loving things for you. You deserve it, and I know how it feels to be in a one-sided relationship. I feel for you if that’s the case. If it is, and you’re staying for your kids, even more reason to drop the expectations of Phil and focus on what you can control in your life to make you happy.

    Best wishes to you and your family.
    -B

    Reply

  41. 3 teens' mom Says:

    Digging deeper. Drilling down. Fishing around for those deep sea moorings.

    Mom is on rockier ground now than ever before. This simple hip replacement gone to hell has now gone beyond hell. Gosh – did I say that a month ago? Maybe, but I was a wimp then. Maybe I even said it two months ago when I was a novice at this whole necrotic fat thing…the whole MRSA bacteria, wound won’t heal, PIC line IV antibiotics, watching the strongest woman I’ve ever known take a trip on a zipline from our perfect world right into – well – hell.

    It is so fascinating – every time we get to a platform between the zipline trips to the netherland, all of us in the village breathe a great sigh of relief, pat each other on the back, raise a toast and congratulate each other for having reached the platform together – safe and sound. Then we wait to be propelled up where we belong – right up amongst the flowers and the light and the happy people. That’s where we live, for god’s sake. That is who we are!

    And then – suddenly – like no one’s business, we are yanked from said platform, careening into the unknown below us. Each level is new and awful. Today’s awful includes re-opening the ten inch, non-healing wound for the 6th time in 2 months – propping it open as they un-install the hardware from the hip replacement – leave the wound gaping until the infection recedes and they can reinstall parts.

    How long this will take? We don’t know. How long can we go? Well – I guess we go until we don’t.

    Tonight dad was teary (for the first time in my life) as he explained the next few procedures they will do on his ‘sweet baby’. Freaked me out more than I can say.

    Damn.

    I know we all die – I know that none of us gets out of this alive – and I know it is part of the circle of life that parents go before we do…at least that’s the way it is supposed to be.

    But damn. I don’t want it to go like this. Doesn’t that count?

    So I’m whiny tonight – and sad. And I’m never whiny and rarely sad. Usually the shining linings radiate far beyond any darkness can reach. But tonight – it sucks.

    Bleh.

    Reply

    • Carole Says:

      I remember seeing a notice in our synagogue years ago about a lecture dealing with the stresses of aging parents. I also remember thinking, “That doesn’t concern me, thank goodness.” Little did I know what awaited! Go ahead & whine and know that you have a community here that understands. Been there/done that. And yes, it truly sucks.

      Reply

  42. Cindy Says:

    I personally hate all holidays. I never know if I will receive a gift and card or nothing. Oh, yeah, always breakfast out on Mother’s Day but this year I refused to go. This past Christmas I got a $100 gift card from my husband to a favorite store. Last year I got diamond stud earrings. He’ll keep saying open your gift and I keep putting it off because once it’s open, what is left? Sitting and watching him open his pile of gifts that I’ve bought him.

    I’ve had a lot of medical problems and he’s been great through it all so I guess I just need to lower my expectations for holidays. There have been a few where I haven’t gotten anything because he couldn’t find what he wanted and will look after Christmas. But I never see it. Oh, well. And my 28 year old son is exactly the same. For Mother’s Day, I got a big hug and Happy Mother’s Day. Not even a damn card from anyone!

    And lets talk about my parents… they live in another state so we never see each other on holidays. Do they send gifts? NO, but Mom will manage to supply my brother with anything her “baby boy” wants. And even if it’s a small gift, his kids will get something.

    Father’s Day is coming up and I’ll go out shopping like I do for birthdays and Christmas like a dumbass.

    Reply

  43. 3 teens' mom Says:

    Mom is somewhere between here and there tonight. She’s back in the ICU again this time trying to find a medicine she’s not allergic to that can fight this deadly bug that has invaded her system. 

    It is not a dark time, it is just the next time. And sitting here tonight on my front porch, smelling the mock orange in the cool summer breeze, I decided to plant the petunias she had bought before she entered the hospital this last time. 

    As I dug in the dirt, I so distinctly heard her voice in my ear saying “tuck them in… tell them that they’ll be loved… send a little happy message of strength to them… give them a soft bed and a good drink of water, and they will be beautiful.”

    So tonight after having tucked mom in, reassured her of our continuing and undying love, provided a cup of ice chips and water and assuring her she is strong and beautiful, we can only wait. 

    Courage and strength, mom. Courage and strength. 

    Reply

  44. Mx Says:

    After reading the post about moving to NY first and now this one, I literally want to vomit. WHY are you tethering yourself further to this abusive man??? He’s working for your dad? Yes, he will always be in your life but he doesn’t have to be that intimately involved. And the way you put the blame on yourself, thinking you’re “spoiled” – Jesus, it infuriates me. One of the reasons I rarely read this blog anymore. Classic emotionally abused behavior. My husband gave me not one but two beautiful cards, had my 19 month old draw me one, got flowers, a beautiful necklace that he wrapped creatively with my daughter, got me my favorite latte and artisan pastries and brought me them as breakfast in bed, got champagne and gourmet pizza for dinner and planned a picnic, got me a massage. Why? Because he knows mothers day matters to me, that I don’t give a shit about my birthday, I just want a special mothers day. And damn right I deserve it, and so does he. Your relationship with Phil is the definition of settling. I’m glad you’re moving to NY because maybe being closer to family will make you braver in terms of leaving him instead of staying for your children. The fact that he loves you is definitely not enough. It sounds like he does not care about making you happy. And you are unhappy 25% of the time, you say? Are you crazy? Life is too damn short. I want good things for you Stephanie, I truly do.

    Reply

  45. 3 teens' mom Says:

    Mom.

    To me – that word evokes the plushest velvet quilts, the flannel lined satin gowns, the perfect details. Mom, to me is like warm, homemade bread with butter and honey. Mom is like the fresh breeze that infuses life with sunshine. She is a crisply ironed sheet, handmade tatted lace, a hot cup of chamomile tea, the sweet hand rubbing my back when I barfed or cradling my head when I feverishly slept. She embodies the mysterious comfort of snuggling up in front of the wild thunderstorm in front of the glass windows in the living room – hearing her heart beat strong and steady as mine skitteshly jumped around in fear calmed my world.

    Mom. The thrum of goodness…strength…courage…wisdom…

    Damn. Tonight, another step back.

    After work tonight, I stopped by the skilled nursing facility where she’s residing now…brought her new flowers from her garden and stories of my weekend. My darlings all visited her this weekend…dad is there faithfully every day, sometimes twice. She’s safe and sound, best team of doctors around, pampered and adored. But not doing so well. Something is leaving her…something we don’t want to let go of. I tucked her in…oh. Geez.

    Came home to feed dad and the darlings. Dad is sad…sad. I almost wrote scared but the last 4 months of this have worn us down beyond scared….now we’re tired.

    Hm.

    I realize that death is a pageant that we all try out for. Each of us tries to ‘do’ it better than the other guys. None of us gets out of this alive. I’ve said it before. I’m practicing. We all practice this. It is not original. None of us loves our person or our peeps more than everyone else – we just feel like it.

    It has been a weekend of incredible highs…youngest baby graduated from high school with every honor…my obligation is fulfilled. Elder darlings are so fabulous I have to pinch myself to believe that I’m related to them. Work – amazing. Lovah – wonderful beyond belief. Highs so high I didn’t know they existed.

    And my family supplies the life-blood to let all of that happen. Oh…sweet mom and dad. Day after tomorrow they celebrate 52 years of marriage. Really? They both carefully plotted their gift buying this year, I helped each of them make sure that it was just the perfect thing – each so thoughtful it just brings tears to my eyes. Thoughtful…loving…hopeful…

    Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Dunno. I used to say that’s bullshit – but watching this endgame and being an intrinsic part of it gives me pause.

    Shower the people you love with love. Not to get all James Taylor on us, but seriously. Do it.

    Reply

  46. Erin Says:

    I have been sitting here reading all of these responses.

    I too feel under-appreciated. And each year, (as I try to be honest) have explained to my wonderful (not perfect) husband what I need to feel loved on Mother’s Day.

    Is it almost worse when they don’t listen, or maybe don’t follow through. I am not talking gifts, or a huge sentimental gesture. Just a showing that for a few moments, my husband and my kids have thought about me, and what I do. How I try to make them feel special, how I think of them.

    But here is the bigger picture for myself. Although today on Mother’s Day 2013 I am feeling sad and down (which is how I found your blog)

    I know in my heart, that my husband loves me, and appreciates me. He is my best-friend. And holidays aside, I couldn’t have picked a better match for myself.

    And like you said, my kids are healthy, happy and well. This is all way more important than a “special day.”

    Reply

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