We all know marriage is supposed to be teamwork. So why is it that as soon as we have kids, the angst of our youthful competitiveness comes out with a vengeance? We begin pitting ourselves against one another like ridiculous political figures, practically staging our own campaign commercials:
Mommy changed 14 diapers and cleaned the entire house today, can Daddy say the same?
Vote for Mommy if you want things done!
So what’s the problem? Are we horribly immature? No, (well sometimes). Are we ridiculously sleep-deprived? Yes (and love to brag about it). Do we want to be appreciated? Ding-ding-ding! Didn’t need a shrink to tell us that one. Ultimately we just want to hear that we’re doing a good job and when we don’t hear it, we get competitive. We get antsy. We want to show off our good work.
We Haven’t Outgrown Gold Stars.
We grow up with competition and recognition dating back to those little gold stars we received for our elementary projects. We got stars for everything. Didn’t pee your pants today? Gold star. Showed up to school? Sure, gold star. Stopped throwing boogies? What the hell, gold star kid. Gold stars later turned into trophies and then medals that we hung on our letter jackets. Everything was a God damn competition. With time the competition began to die down. For most of us we’re left with virtually nothing in terms of competition save for climbing the ladder at work (another story, another time). So perhaps we’re just looking to get back in the game.
Maybe we just need some freaking gold stars.
Daily I ask myself why I’m competing against my husband when I know it’s a waste of time, and ultimately that it’s begging for a fight. I know I should be on the same team and yet I find myself so desperate for him to know just how much I’ve done that I become my own slogan machine. I tout and list all the amazing things I’ve accomplished. Desperate to be recognized. Appreciated. And to win. Naturally this behavior only entices my “teammate” to list all of his accomplishments in hopes of outdoing mine.
“I made breakfast for the kids this morning at 6am.” He’ll defend himself against my first self-serving proclamation.
My response? “Oh yeah!? I made every meal for them from my own damn body for over two years, I pumped while at work, I washed hundreds of bottles every week so—I win!” We even compete over who got less sleep.
“I only slept three hours.”
“Oh yeah! I slept two.”
“I meant I slept one.”
“I’ve never slept!
This is maturity at its finest people.
Conversations with my husband have turned into status updates akin to tweets and Facebook posts, albeit unglorified. They are short statements alerting him to my sad state and are most often in third person. I know I’m not alone with this one as I overhear other couples talking to each other the same way. In fact, this is one of the biggest reasons why couples without kids stop hanging out with those that do. They’re so stressed out listening to the increasingly awkward status updates that they end up unfriending us.
“Mommy cleaned the entire house today!”
“Good for Mommy, but Daddy mowed the lawn and took the kids to practice!”
These little sound bites are really just more of the same: ways to gain attention and show off just how much we’ve done. Why we should win. The worst part of it is, that they serve virtually no purpose or good for our children to hear.
The golden rule people. If all I want is to be recognized for my hard work and to hear that I’m doing a good job, isn’t that what my husband wants too? Yes. This is how to avoid a worthless fight. After spending nearly the entire day telling our kids they did a great job, we need to hear it once and awhile too. So how do we get there? We have to swallow our pride. We have to be willing to say it first. We have to be strong enough to know that we did a good job and not feel the need to advertise what we did. Doing so only puts us in a corner, in tears, or off the podium all together. Regardless of what we feel we accomplished in a day, we should still recognize the work our partner did—or why will they ever recognize us?
Image via Jinx!
I don’t need stars anymore and neither does my husband. We both just need a calming breath and to hear, “Good job, honey. You did a lot today and I appreciate it.”
It’s that freaking simple.
Later at night, I can look into the mirror and say ever so quietly, “I did more today.”