Even though she warned me, I didn’t listen to my editor and I read the comments on the essay published through the NYT Motherlode. All 210 (and counting) of them.
Anyone who blogs knows comments can get ugly. It doesn’t matter how simple the subject or how much humor you inject into the piece, people hear and read what they want, not necessarily what you said. Readers often attach to the line or thought that speaks to them and address only that. I guess that is human nature.
This week I learned even the NYT comments get ugly. Many of them were also very smart and true. I had no choice but to dissect a topic I thought Ian and I had analyzed to death. What I hadn’t looked at more closely was the context in which this fight came up. These are not excuses and they don’t negate any of the real issues set forth in the Motherlode piece, however they provide insight into why this divisive topic elicited particularly high stakes.
The argument started with intensity in May 2012 (and I wrote about it here) and ended with one last-ditch whining session in November 2012 (I wrote about it here). During that time, there was a lot going on in our family. We moved in June. I left my job in August. Coming off of a full-time job with two kids to “just” taking care of two kids initially felt like I had room on my plate for more. During the transition I often felt I was lacking a purpose. Having just given up my legal career (for a second time) in favor of my children, I felt like it really needed to mean something. Having more kids would satisfy that purpose for me on a very superficial level.
At the same time, Ian was not only servicing his full book of legal business, he was launching a complementary business. This meant he was working two intense full-time jobs. His sleep suffered first, but in order to function something else had to give. The three of us spent a lot of time alone, without him. In some ways, as ridiculous and selfish and horrible as it was to even talk about breaking up a marriage, it was a wake-up call to him that we were functioning every day as a family in which he had little or no physical presence. In my mind, if I could convince him to have more children, it would give family a bigger piece of the pie on his plate.
Family – what it means to you, the investment you put towards it, the narrative you give to that loaded word – represents some aspect of everything else in your life. It carries with it the history and the hopes of two people. Those past childhood hurts and future family visions are challenging to reconcile. That’s the essence of what I wanted to convey in the Motherlode.
A lot of people have been curious as to where we stand now. As I alluded to above, we came to a resolution in November 2012. We decided not to have more children. Ian is more active in the kid’s lives and I threw myself into writing. We are a happy family, struggling with some deep conflicts. I get the sense that some commentors have perfect lives where things never get ugly. That’s not us. To be sure, we have lots of wonderful times, most of which I chronicle on this blog. The one particular Motherlode essay wasn’t meant to capture the entirety of our relationship. It’s just one of our raw and painful buttons.
Many other people don’t understand why I would “air my dirty laundry” in such a public way. This is something I can’t explain to someone who would never do that. Once I have processed an issue I want to talk about it. Those who don’t relate could just choose to look away. I want to reach those who can relate. To the people who took the time to email me, apart from the comments, and say how my piece resonated with them. To anyone who read my words and felt them to their core. I write for me, I write for them. I don’t write to put my marriage on display or to make anyone feel bad. I risk coming off badly, being the target of criticism, and offending those I love all in the name of honesty and transparency.
Marriage and parenthood are really hard for me. They are broad institutions that invade every fiber of my body. I feel constant conflict in my identity as a woman, a lawyer, a wife, and a mother. I know many people do not wrestle with these labels as much as I do and I am truly happy for them. For me? It’s a regular battle. I feel compelled to share so that maybe one person feels a little less lonely in their struggles.
I remain very proud of my NYT Motherlode essay, but after many sleepless nights, I’m ready to move past it.
Someone just remind me to STOP checking the comments!