Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stormy Seasons

One blog I do not read enough of is Oh, The Joys. Jessica is a great writer and her stories have made me laugh as well as think.

A recent post struck me like lightning from the summer’s first thunderstorm. If you didn't read it, she talks about living your life in seasons. She questions if she is focused enough on her career but notes that now is her season of motherhood.

What a great way to describe it.

This was the greatest challenge Mrs. Joe and I had after The Champ was born.

Mrs. Joe started working in retail while in high school and attended some college. She succeeded through hard work and good judgement. Over time she secured a middle management position that she enjoyed and did very well.

After the birth of The Champ, she stepped down from her management position and took a clerk’s position that allowed her to keep part time hours that could be worked around our family.

I've learned that’s when the storm clouds began forming.

Since she moved out, she told me that stepping down from her management position at work was very difficult. The challenges and rewards she once enjoyed through her job were no longer there. She said she felt demeaned as a clerk but tried to endure it for our family.

I asked why the challenges and rewards of being a mother did not replace those lost from her work. She said it wasn't the same.

I have always had a hard time understanding this. Being a mother is the hardest job in the world. How could she not feel a sense of accomplishment?

We tried counseling. In the end, it did more harm than good. The counselor’s advice left Mrs. Joe feeling worse off than before. She kept these feelings from me, leaving me to think it helped. I was wrong.

A few years passed and along came Peanut. I seen her struggling and tried to help. I changed jobs, cutting more than an hour out of my workday. It helped a little. But with everything she was trying to do, the kids, the house, church, PTO and her job it seemed to me something needed to be sacrificed.

More than once, I talked with her about cutting back on her hours at work but nothing happened.

She later told me that asking her to cut back on her job was my biggest mistake. She said she needed her work. She needed what little sense of accomplishment her job gave her after the stressful times at home. She began to resent me for trying to take that away from her.

Mrs. Joe had a difficult time with her change of seasons. I just wish she would've come to me sooner with all of this and not tried to weather the storm all on her own.

If only she would have come in out of the rain.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't wish to sound hard but I can sympathize with her viewpoint. Her career was obviously important to her by the way you described her enthusiasm at the Career Day. I can see you were trying to praise her in that post but it was belittling and patronizing ("she can do something she likes and make a little money").

The way you suggest that she should feel the same satisfaction from being a mother as to being successful at work highlights your lack of comprehension of your wife's feelings. Suggesting she reduce her hours would only have made her feel worse - it suggests you didn't really see her job as a worthy career and may as well cut it further. She was looking for a way to balance the two and not be made to feel as if she had her priorities wrong.

In the same post you sum her up as "Mom and Wife", and you seem to think she should be happy with that. For many women this is not enough; there is clearly more to her that you didn't acknowledge and she wanted to be respected and loved for who she is, not just for being your wife and the father of your children. The very way you call her "Mrs Joe" indicates that you see her as a part of you, and not a person in her own right. She would have begun to see herself this way too and eventually something obviously snapped.

It is easy to blame her for the breakdown of your relationship but you must take responsibility for how you treated her and made her feel. You say you wish she had come to you with these feelings - it sounds like she did but you weren't interested as they didn't fit with the "wife and mother" role.

I'm sorry that you and children are going through a difficult time but perhaps if you look at it from your wife's point of view it may be easier to understand.

Fri Sep 26, 05:28:00 AM 2008  
Blogger womaninawindow said...

OH boy, do I ever disagree with Anonymous. I think we (as a society, not as women) are fed the notion that at all times we can have it all. Not true, but of course that doesn't mean that it's necessarily the woman's job to step down but to be sure, when a family is born, someone should step down in some capacity.

Children need us, perhaps not tied to them with our apron strings, but they do need us. There will be time enough for career and self satisfaction after they have gotten through the formative years. Mom or dad - someONE should be there for them, if at least only part-time. And what kind of statement is that - that our parenting should be at least part-time? We are one confused and messed up society. Let's own up to a little sacrifice.

And why is it that the biting comments seem to always be anonymous?

Mr. Joe, I do not believe that you saw your Mrs. Joe as an adjunct to you. I think that term is very tongue in cheek. I'm with you.

And of course the break down of any marriage involves two people, just as the success of any marriage does. But if this is what truly led Mrs. Joe ASTRAY (let's not forget this one, OK?) then the onus was on Mrs. Joe to communicate her feelings. Why is it that in a marriage people walk around with secret bags of thoughts and feelings? It is work to be married. Part of that job is to share the stuff of that bag and work out the bad.

Finally, WE own how we feel. Sure, you have to own how you treated her, but if there is ever only one thing that is truly ours it is how we respond to things. How she responded to your treatment is on her.

OK, so the last one was "finally" but here's one more for the road. I'm no SAHM but I sure as hell have made sacrifices in my marriage for the betterment of my kids, my husband and my home. I'm about to go off and scoop icecream part-time and perform other mundane tasks, with a University degree in my pocket and international travel beneath the soles of my shoes. I don't blame my husband. We're a partnership moving forward together, sometimes doing things we don't like, sometimes having to do things that seem demeaning, but you only live once, and this ride with my kids and my husband, my house, my dog and even my damned cat, is a pretty fine ride indeed! There'll be time for my career later, and for my husband's. There's plenty of time for laughter and love right now!

Fri Sep 26, 07:21:00 AM 2008  
Blogger womaninawindow said...

Boy that got me all riled up!

Fri Sep 26, 07:24:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Amy said...

What a beautifully written post. I love the idea of thinking about life in terms of seasons. I'd be curious, Joe, since you are introspective--what do you view the seasons of your life as being? You've certainly got me thinking about mine!

As for anon #1, I don't believe that Joe was placing judgement on Mrs. Joe for her choices, I think he was feeling sad that she wasn't able to recognize and articulate how those choices truly made her feel and then share those feelings with him. Marriage is like riding a river on two separate rafts holding hands...sometimes you have to steady the other person when her/his currents are tossing her/his raft about, sometimes you are the one who needs to be steadies. Sometimes the waters are turbulent for both of you and you can grab on tighter and make the rafts stronger by riding together...or sometimes one person decides to let go. It seems like Mrs. Joe let go.

Fri Sep 26, 08:41:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was not intended as a biting comment, just some perspective from the other side.

And unfortunately it isn't true that there is always time for a career later - if you wait till your children grow up and leave home and try to start a career at 40 you will find it very difficult. Of course children need their parents, I wouldn't say any different, but why should Mrs. Joe be made to feel selfish and inadequate as a mother for wanting a career?

It is important to have a life outside of your house and kids. Womaninawindow, you may be having a "pretty fine ride" with your kids and your cat and your dog but for many people a happy and fulfilling life needs to include something outside of the house, which is often a successful job where they can be recognized and rewarded for their skills and talents and be respected by their peers.

It's also about being independent - not everyone wants to rely on a husband to support them and not everyone likes to live life through their children. It is entirely possible to have a happy, stable family life and a happy and successful work life.

A lot of the comments here have been from readers who seem very engrossed with themselves and their children from a community of stay-at-home parents and what-my-kids-did-today bloggers so I knew that this comment would not go down well.

However, Joe said he "always had a hard time understanding" why Mrs. Joe (whom I am sure has a name of her own and doesn't just share his) didn't feel satisfied with just being a mother - I hoped this might give some insight.

Obviously I am an outsider and we've only got one side of the story but I don't think Mrs. Joe should be condemned for wanting to be more than "Mrs. Joe".

Fri Sep 26, 09:47:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous TwoBusy said...

Anon #1: uh... no. Think you missed the boat completely on that one. Joe has been a lot of things on this blog throughout the course of this whole ordeal - hurt, angry, understanding, too-understanding, hopeful, hopeless - but the one thing he has never been is patronizing in his attitude towards the artist formerly known as Mrs. Joe. If anything, he's been extremely generous in trying to understand why what happened happened, and in trying to salvage his marriage in the process.

Look, I get that by reading this blog we're only getting one side of the story. But as a reader with no stake in this thing - beyond a general sense of camaraderie with another Sox fan who enjoys good beer - I for one have always felt that Joe's take on this has been extremely fair and even-handed.

This post reads to me as a tremendous example of that... despite your suggestion that Joe belittles and, by extension, demonizes Mrs. Joe through his writing, I found that this post served very much to humanize her -- and make their story that much sadder for it.

Fri Sep 26, 10:02:00 AM 2008  
Blogger HW said...

I would rather be without a career when my children are grown than without a relationship with my kids once they are grown. The thing is, women shouldn't have to choose, but it is very hard for them to manage it all without at least feeling like they are falling short somewhere. And certainly, we women feel judged regardless of the choices we make.

If Mrs. Joe had indeed tried very hard to make Joe understand; if she had indeed said "Listen to me. I want more time at work, not less. Help me with this," she still had an obligation to put a definite end to one relationship (her marriage) before starting another. Even if Joe didn't get it; she owed it to him and her kids to handle the separation better.

Fri Sep 26, 12:08:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Mike said...

Great post. I'm not going to add to the comments. Too many others have said alot.

But, believe me as a guy whose been where your at (an ex) I feel for you.

Good luck...

Fri Sep 26, 03:29:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Ben and Bennie said...

Anon, I understand (sort of) where you are coming from but your credibility goes in the tank when you post anonymously. It comes across as condescending. Plus you've jumped on one post without doing your homework here.

Joe knows this is a two-way street but what Mrs. Joe has done paints a far worse picture on her part. The worst being that she found her support in the bed of another man.

My wife and I were in a very similar place about 4 and half years ago. Although we split for awhile I'm glad both of valued our relationship enough not to have an affair - had that happened it would've been the deal breaker.

Instead we got counseling - apart and then together. By making wise choices we were able to continue our marriage with me being a SAHD.

Frankly you sound like a bitter woman whose husband (current or former) won't/wouldn't make an attempt to understand your needs and desires like Joe tried to do.

And Joe, excellent post. I did read Jessica's entry that day and made the same connection. Keep on keeping on my friend.

Fri Sep 26, 05:17:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous rubberband said...

My heart breaks a little when I read your blog, because Mrs. Joe put you in a consistent position of helplessness, first by not sharing her feelings of being unfufilled with her job & motherly role, and then by taking that unhappiness outside the marriage. It seems that you've always had to react to her, rather than with her.

The problem I've lamented time & again, is that when you're working, all the moms are... working moms! It seems that ALL moms work, right? I lost all my working mom friends when I quit working, because my staying home was interpreted as an indictment of their choice/neccesity to work.

Now, 10 years later, in my area (and not all areas of the US are as competitve, I think) there is still a rift between working moms & those of us who lounge all day.

The summary of my rambling is this: a woman feels alot of pressure from society to contribute to more than 'just' motherhood, and internally, trying to balance dependence on a man with her own needs for (a feeling) importance & reassurance - as a group, we're insecure!

I also don't think you were 'The Man' keeping her down with the cruel use of Mrs. 'your name here'. You couldn't know what she was secretly thinking... she kept it a secret.

Fri Sep 26, 06:13:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous bea said...

Joe, please don't dwell on Anon's comments. I might suggest she is bitter and frustrated with her own life to make such ridiculous conclusions about yours. She is a bit of a bully, yes?

Life is tough and mothers (and fathers) everywhere have to make difficult choices as individuals and as part of a parenting team. Sometimes options aren't clear; mistakes and regret occur. Hindsight is 20/20. I am sorry that you and Mrs. Joe (the moniker, btw, is CLEARLY NOT demeaning) didn't make it. I hope your next season is more joyful.

Thank you for another thoughtful post.

Fri Sep 26, 08:29:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comment is anonymous because I don’t have a blog and my name is irrelevant to the discussion.

It is interesting how BenandBennie and Bea have assumed I’m female, bitter, and frustrated. It is possible to have an opinion that doesn’t stem from personal experience. Yes, I am in a loving, faithful long-term relationship and no I have never had to go to work or not go to work for my family. My comments were not based on my own experiences as I have not been in this situation; I have been reading this blog for a while (not “jumping on one post”) and have simply interpreted Joe’s telling of the story and read between the lines.

It sounds very much as if she did try to tell him how she was feeling (they surely wouldn’t have ended up at counselling if she’d kept her feelings to herself?) but Joe himself said he “couldn’t understand”. Perhaps that was an indication they weren’t going to be able to work out their differences.

Mrs. Joe’s affair was very wrong of course but that wasn’t the issue discussed in the original post. Just because she eventually cheated doesn’t mean we can automatically condemn her every action previously, nor does it mean that Joe is above blame just because nothing he did was as bad.

Twobusy, I think you give Joe too much credit; I wonder how you would categorise the recent “Hope” post? Understanding? “Too-understanding”? If he’d really wanted to wish her a happy birthday he would have done so and not posted a petty message designed to appeal for sympathy from the readers of the blog so you could all leave comments telling him what a great guy he is.

It is evident that even now he still doesn’t understand where his wife was coming from; she didn’t want to “come in out of the rain”, she wanted to be out, to run around, get wet, LIVE.

It sounds like most of us have been fortunate enough to find someone who wants the same out of life as ourselves but sadly this isn’t the case for Joe and his wife.

Sat Sep 27, 05:18:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

The most important thing to remember is that it is her journey and there's probably not much you could have done to help her grow and change or understand herself at a different pace or in a different style.

Sat Sep 27, 02:58:00 PM 2008  
OpenID said...

Wow. Lots to read and take in here. I can understand Mrs. Joe's side a little--being a full-time mom is not for everyone. You're right though that her mistake was assuming that you could figure out what she wanted without her telling you. That's pretty typical between men and women--men don't pick up on clues and yet women still expect us to be mind readers. I think if the counseling had actually worked, Mrs. Joe would have realized that she need to tell you what she wanted, not just go on as is.

Sun Sep 28, 10:38:00 AM 2008  
OpenID said...

I don't know why, but I've been having a hard time commenting on Blogger blogs since I changed to Wordpress and got a new url.

Sun Sep 28, 10:40:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous stepping over the junk said...

in retrospect, it must be interesting and hard to understand some of what came into play with how you began to relate and ultimately was a part of the breakdown of your marriage. I never knew in my marriage, what it was until I left it. I recognized alot of things that were my responsbility, his, and ours together, much of where the ball was dropped was our ability to communicate what we needed or wanted...and being honest with ourselves about it. Loved this post.

Mon Sep 29, 11:34:00 PM 2008  

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