The minute I knew I was pregnant with my first child, I looked at Todd and announced, “You will never be first again.” He teared up. It was a harsh reality but it was the truth. My husband is Number 3. He knows his place and accepts it. Motherhood made me put my children first, but homeschooling made me push their needs even further up the priority list.
What does home-schooling do for a marriage? I would have to say- taxes it. For one, the kids are around nearly all the time. There’s very little opportunity for “afternoon delight.” My mother used to announce when I was older and living at home. “Your father is miserable. You stay up too late at night. He’s coming home for lunch. Make yourself scarce.” (And we were not even homeschooled!) My father did not know that my mother revealed the reason for his sour mood and although I felt like he was being a baby, I appreciated being privy to what was going on and compiled. When you homeschool, nearly all daytime sex stops, and night time sex must often be executed in complete silence, for the kids are always around. This is only one area in a marriage that is affected when the homeschooled kids are around all the time. But for the husband, it is perhaps the most impacting. It’s probably what he misses the most, and what he longs to return to once the homeschooled children finally leave home.
I was scared of the empty nest, as are all mothers who truly enjoy their children’s presence in their lives. But perhaps we home-schooled moms even more so who have appreciated our children’s near constant spark of life in our lives as we grew and learned alongside them. I wondered if I needed them in order to be happy. I was reminded of my five-year-old son’s comment when he learned I was going to Cozumel with my girlfriends, without them. “I am left behind in this miserable life!”
I experienced a prelude to the empty nest syndrome a few years before the kids actually left. One summer, Sierra was in Ecuador as an exchange student and Bryce was in South Dakota at an art camp- the first time they were both on a trip without Todd and I. My groom and I were sitting on the porch shelling peas and there wasn’t a ton of conversation filling the air.
“It’s quiet around here without the kids,” Todd remarks.
I burst out, “It’s fuckin’ quiet around here without the kids and I hate it.”
I wasn’t sure if he was making the comment to share that he enjoyed their absence but my comment certainly expressed that I did not.
It happens in stages- the leaving, like accepting and dealing with death. Sierra went first and then I had two more years with Bryce at home. At which time we decided to up the fun factor and the traveling factor, and I braced myself for the impending doom.
When Bryce went to college, he, like his sister, came home nearly every weekend for the first few months. With no classes on Fridays and Mondays, I only had to get through four days until his light and laughter and happy hip hop music filled the house again. At which time, we would crank up the BOZ and have “dance parties” on the kitchen tile floor when we needed a break from work. Todd, on the other hand, seemed visibly happier after the kids left- at least at first.
“Do you want to play a game?” he asked me (Dear God, a sex game?)
“What kind of game?” I asked, bracing myself, “like Monopoly or Life?”
“Yeah,” he remarked.
“I HATE games,” I informed him. “I only played games with the kids because I thought that I ought to, as a good mother.” I was much happier turning rocks over in a creek with them, looking for invertebrates. I hadn’t played a game since the Shoots & Ladders and Candyland days and would like to keep it like that.
I looked at Todd and said, “You’d better find something to do with yourself in the evenings. Find some project to occupy yourself with. Next you’ll be wanting me to do 1,000 piece puzzles with you. Just because the kids are gone doesn’t mean we should start to live our lives like we are in an old folks’ home.”
Some of you may think, “Oh, that’s so sweet of him.” I think it is scary.
When I asked him if he wanted to do a yoga tape with me, he suggested we do it naked. “And dirty up the mats with our body fluids? Yuck!”
When I ran a bath, he asked if he could get in with me. “Where would you go?”
And then he asked me if I would follow him around outdoors, while he did his chores.
I said, “I will get you a dog if you need to be followed.”
I probably sound mean, especially to you men, but once the kids leave home, it is really hard for us wives to go back to the newlywed phase. And we know you husbands wait for decades for this day, when you finally get your wife back all to yourself.
But the sad reality is, you don’t, or most don’t. You have to remember, we have just spent the last decades serving, and as home schooling moms, the serving was off the charts. If Todd was in third place all these years, I was in fourth. I want some time for myself- finally. This was the only compensation I could see for losing my favorite playmates. I had no plans to follow anyone, not even my groom.
It is amazing to me, that even after thirty years of marriage, it never stays the same. You can’t ever get comfortable.
And so we adjust. Todd gets into his art more and I get into traveling and my writing. We each enjoy the opportunity and freedom to pursue our individual creative interests and passions and make sure we check in with one another from time to time. When one thing is taken out of your life, and a hole is left, something else must fill it back up or we will be left empty. Life spent as a homeschooling family has raised the bar when it comes to rich, full living. I will not be reduced to merely shelling peas on the porch. And I know Todd would not be happy with that either.
Posted in: Book Blog- Modeling a Life