The Funny Thing About Marital Critique

Photo: The Day Lilies on the side of the barn are finally blooming! Aren’t they pretty? Our yard is just full of surprises!


The Husband and I will mark 6 years of marriage in October. Can you believe it? It’ll be some 13 years for us as a couple come next February. We’ve been partners for a long time, and I’m grateful to say that it has been an easy run of it. I’m not going to pretend like I’m not lucky: I know I am. I’m also not going to pretend like it’s not work: It totally is.

Having these two toddlers has probably been the hardest challenge that we’ve faced as a couple. The boys are just so utterly exhausting right now. Every 10 minutes, there is an immediacy to life that cannot be denied or calmed until whatever they want is fucking fixed. Whereas The Husband gets to go to work every day, with a nice buffer between work time and home time spent on the train, I’m in the thick of it. All day.

I don’t want to make it seem like he isn’t sympathetic. He has often told other people that he realizes that I’ve got the harder job right now. There have been many a Sunday when he has said that he couldn’t wait to get back to work. It isn’t to say that the house is chaotic… I really do try to keep an order and schedule to our days… but it is to say that the boys are just a constant stream of needs and wants and crises that makes life exhausting.

And it leads to tension between the two of us. Either because we come at a problem differently or we make rulings that are contradictory, or because we simply cannot seem to find the moments right now to look at each other and remember the people who we were before, the people who really we are right now and the people who we will be tomorrow, after this phase passes and another one begins. We haven’t had any relaxed alone time since I was pregnant with Ursa Minor.

So when the weekend presented two opportunities to give some spousal critique… we took them. It wasn’t pretty.

The Husband thinks I’m too hard on the boys. Dinner time has turned into World War just about every night, lately. Ursa Minor has decided that the only thing in the world he wants to eat is bread and cheese. No veggies, no meat. And that’s if you can even get him in the chair, which is usually it’s own 15 minute battle. After spending all day with the boys and their many wants and needs and crises of different kinds every 15 minutes like clockwork, and then after 90ish minutes of cooking a good solid dinner, I get a little frustrated with the antics. Sometimes, I push and try to get the boy to eat something, and I endure the crying and whining, even when it’s miserable. And sometimes… I just let him get down. I just don’t feel like it. I’d rather have a few moments with my husband and eat something good (usually my only meal of the day).

If I let Minor down, Major usually wants down, too. Why? Well, because Minor is going to go play with a toy that Major wants to play with. That’s cause to forsake all dinner so that he can go reengage in the age old battle of “I want the blue car! No, I want the blue car!!”

And it drives me crazy. So I yell because I’m too drained to be patient. So after one of these episodes on Thursday night, we’re laying in bed, and my husband lets this out. “You know, who can blame him for not eating at that point? I mean, you start yelling, and he loses his appetite. I mean, lose my appetite.”

It was a harsh critique. It was one that I didn’t want, though I needed it (delivered differently, but that’s a different story). I swallowed it, though, and reevaluated my approach. We figured out how to have successful dinners on Friday and Saturday. It isn’t to say that I wasn’t hurt, or I wasn’t feeling a little less supported–I was totally feeling all of that. I just decided that it was time for me to be reflective rather than to fight.

On Saturday night, the tables were turned when we started talking about the Sunday honey-dos. The Husband discovered that we have an electrical problem with our very nice range hood. It’s under a 5 year warranty, so when he called the company on Thursday to get a fix for it, they had a range hood shipped overnight. It arrive on Friday. He has been wanting to get at it while I’d been advising him to wait for help. Engineer that he is, he has already opened up the guts of the thing and started to tinker with it. His conclusions?

“The electrician who came in to do the wiring did a pretty shoddy job. He left [technical word here] open and he should have used [something something tool] there. I mean, it’s just a little sloppy.”

“Not withstanding, honey, that has nothing to do with the actual function of the actual hood, right?”

“Correct. But I still want to go in there and do [all of the technical things] because they did such a shit job.”

I love my husband. And it’s true that he knows a lot of things and is very good with tools and his hands. That’s what makes him so damn sexy. But he always goes into things having decided that everyone else who has ever done anything is a complete idiot. And then he bites off more than he can chew and a project that was supposed to take 1 day turns into a 5 day ridiculous saga.

It was a critique he didn’t want to hear. “Well, now I don’t want to touch it at all…”

Good. I want you to walk into this project with reflection and trepidation! And some backup. Pick your favorite dude to help you out and then go in there and get it done.”

He didn’t talk to me for the rest of the night.

We both woke up the next morning like everything was fine. Because it was. But still, we’ve had two conversations that probably didn’t reflect the best of what we have to offer each other.

I’m grateful for the time that we had as a couple before children entered our lives. There is an anchor very very deep at the bottom of this contextual ocean that is heavy and unfailing. I don’t have to worry about who we are or how strong our bond is, but I do wonder about how sustainable it is for us to go these long stretches without so much as a dinner to ourselves. We’re tired, and we’re so tired now that I think we’d rather take a vacation alone than we would with each other.

Sorry. I’m not going to speak for the both of us. I should say that I think that I’d rather take a vacation all by myself right now over a vacation with him. Is that terrible? It’s a little terrible.

But the thing is, I’m grateful that these two little conversations happened. It’s a signal that we’re both still in it and paying attention. If we were tuning out or seeking interest in other parties, neither of us would have engaged in the critique. And if we didn’t care about what the other person had to say, we wouldn’t have felt a little stung by the words said. We’re doing ok. We’re still in it. We’re just entrenched and overwhelmed. We still live to fight tomorrow, though, and that’s ok by me.

Happy Monday. Wanna see what’s blooming?

The rose bush next to the barn has started to put out pretty pinkish purplish flowers!
The rose bush next to the barn has started to put out pretty pinkish purplish flowers!
The raspberries are ALMOST ready! ALMOST!!! We've been peeking every day to see when we can harvest and eat!
The raspberries are ALMOST ready! ALMOST!!! We’ve been peeking every day to see when we can harvest and eat!


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Ya know what’s cool about your posts? They’re universal. They don’t preach; they just relate, and that makes them useful to whatever situation the reader is in.

    And I can’t believe you scored day lilies!

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      The Day Lilies are pretty awesome. They actually seem to be growing everywhere around here. They are bulbs, so I’m assuming that they don’t grow wild around here… but they line a lot of the streets and they are in a lot of people’s lawns. They are just pretty things.

      1. And you can line the perimeter of your property with just one. Ain’t that killer? Like hostas.

  2. I really admire your honesty! It’s refreshing to read the truth about marriage and kids rather than a falsified fairytale. I hope you get some rest (alone or otherwise) soon!

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Thanks, I really appreciate it! I appreciate the challenge that is marriage with children, but I’m also grateful that the partnership in our marriage really IS an easy thing. It isn’t a fairytale, but it isn’t a nightmare, either. We’re two people who are good for each other and who work well together. It’s just a really great thing. It makes challenges like this one go just that much more smoothly, you know?

  3. I really like the honesty and truth in your post. Your experiences are very similar to mine. I am convinced that raising the kids is the more frustrating job.

    Have you tried letting your little bear sit on a grown-up chair? My daughter is about his age and we stopped using the baby chair almost a year ago. She hated it, and I was tired of fighting her into it. She was happy to use the big chair and dinner has been more peaceful since then.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      We thought that it was about the chair, too, but this presented two problems: First, he isn’t quite big enough to be able to sit in the real chair without any sort of booster. So that’s what we have right now, and he doesn’t seem to hate the booster… it’s the second problem, which is that he is just super picky. Unlike his brother, who seems to be sincerely interested in the process of cooking, Ursa Minor doesn’t really get that mommy “works” at dinner. He doesn’t feel any ownership of it and he doesn’t want to participate in it (unlike Ursa Major, who really feels like he is PART of the dinner process), so when he sees it and he doesn’t want it, he just decides he doesn’t want to eat it.

      I think there is also a “work” factor. I think he doesn’t like to eat meat because he doesn’t like to chew. He’ll eat pasta all day long. He’ll even eat soup. He loves bread and he loves cheese. These things are soft and yet substantial enough to be satisfying. He will eat certain types of veggies, like broccoli, if I overcook them and make them soft for him…

      but there is still just the general battle of GETTING HIM TO THE CHAIR! I have to convince him that yes, dinner IS more important than whatever you are playing with and no, you aren’t going to get any other sort of dinner and, yes, if we finish dinner before you choose to join us, dinner IS over.


      I know that this will pass. It’s frustrating on two levels: first, it ruins dinner in general. and second, it makes me worried that he’s not getting the stuff he needs to grow. My pediatrician has told me not to make food a battle and the he “won’t starve” but it is about so much more than that. It’s about nutrients and brain growth and all of that other stuff that American middle-class moms worry about. I refuse to buy pediasure or whatever that meal-replacement stuff is that you can give to picky toddlers and I refuse to cook two dinners because he’s picky. He’s gotta learn to eat what is given… I just hope I’m not stunting his growth with my own stubbornness!!

  4. Oh, ok. I no all about pickyness, but it’s my eldest… He’s 4,5 now, but we have found no way to convince him to eat anything but plain things. His diet seems to very similar to that of your little bear: bread, pasta, porridge, muesli, cornflakes, plain potatoes, no veggies, some fruit + cake, ice-cream and sweets. I stopped worrying about this some time ago. The number of things he is willing to eat has grown (slightly, slightly) ever since he was one year old. (He WOULD NOT eat ANYTHING at all as a baby. It was breast-feeding one year straight. And I tried everything. I was soooo worried (and sick of breast-feeding…)

    You don’t have to worry about his brain not getting what it needs. The essentials you are probably worried about are some special amino acids which are only present at high enough concentrations in animal products. But there are milk and eggs. I bet he eats/ drinks enough egg and milk products to provide more than enough essential amino acids for his brain development. (I’ve resorted to using egg-containing pasta instead of the Italian made real Italian pasta which lacks eggs.) There’s eggs in cake and muffins, and I bet he eats those 😉

    My son only eats meat before and during growth spurts. And only very little.

    Interestingly, my (younger) daughter eats everything, she loves veggies and always wants to have meat. “You must buy meat, mommy! I want meat!” (We do not eat meat every day.) But her growth curve is almost identical to that of her older brother, she’s even a little lighter and smaller than him at her current age.

    So, there’s really no reason to worry, but I totally understand your worries. I have them, too.

    (I also refuse to use meal-replacements. It won’t help in the long term. I want my kids to learn to eat naturally and to learn to enjoy food. That won’t work by replacing meals.)

    What we do, to get him to at least sit at the table (and he will eventually try sth when he sits there) is the use of coercion (hopefully the right word). He is only allowed desert / television time after dinner when he sits through the meal and tries sth.

  5. I could have written this myself. I’m not even kidding. The husband, the timeline, the kids! All of it! Add an infant in there, and reverse which kid doesn’t want to eat! I will say that I am very passive about meals. I make them food, they have to at least try it. That’s it really. We don’t always sit at the table, but when we do they usually get into it for a few minutes and then leave. That’s fine. We just enjoy dinner together and then leave their plates out. They eat what they want eventually! I’m very against “forcing” anyone to eat. I want them to learn to eat when they’re hungry not when they’re told to. They learn good table manners as they go. I’m not concerned that my 2 year old will one day be manner-less because I didn’t force the issue now;) And if you’re ever worried about the meat, just remind yourself that mine have never eaten meat and they are big, strong, healthy, and smart:)

    You are so right. Marriage is work, but so worth it. Not enough people go into it understanding that. Not every day is perfect, and that’s okay. And yes, sometimes (God forbid;) you even need a break from each other. Even if it’s just watching Doctor Who in bed while he plays video games downstairs! I sometimes daydream of a vacation alone (just me and the baby since she can hang out in the ergo;) wondering Paris. But truth be told, we’d miss those monsters by the second day;) I’d feel like I was depriving them of experiences. Ugh!

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