For me marriage and family life has been liberating, not confining. There is a power in fidelity – in having some one’s constant support. Knowing someone has always got my back.
At 33 with 3 kids, I feel totally comfortable in my own skin, which to me is a testament to my environment. We all acknowledge the process of child development (and credit parents for their role in child rearing), but what of adult development, who gets credit there? Generativity is Erikson’s longest stage of psychosocial development (adulthood), it extends for a good 50 years. As it’s name denotes, it is where you generate and give back, it is where you define yourself in terms of work, family, community, accomplishments. It is where growth and personality development take place, it is where we become who we really are as the world knows us.
As my numerous years of semi-successful gardening can attest, plants don’t thrive without water, good soil, and light. Family life is my greenhouse. Honestly, since I have been married I have become wiser, more successful, more confident, I even think I look prettier. Maybe it’s just the process of growing up and becoming more at ease with myself, but I think it would be arrogant to suggest it has just been a natural progression or a result of my own actions. Whatever I have become or accomplished in the last almost 11 years has not been simply of my own doing, it’s been my husband’s too.
If you know my husband it’s not some overt manipulation, or training, it’s just unconditional backing. He’s on board 100% when I tell him I have signed up to volunteer at the town festival or that I’ve invited our neighbors over for Family Night to decorate cupcakes to sell for Haiti. He’s there to kiss us goodbye as we leave for a trip and welcome me home, even if it means he’s working hard while we are gone to pay the bills. He’s there to take the kids around NYC solo while I present at a conference. He’s there to help me at night when I use his engineering skills to get the perspective right on the preliminary drawing for a painting. He spontaneously cleans the house when I am off at church meetings and calls when I am with our oldest son at cub scouts to ask what laundry needs folding.
Men often get up and make public acknowledgements of their wives’ influence and support, but wives don’t do it as often about their husbands. And why not? Why don’t we talk more about what really makes us successful?
I’d be remiss too if I didn’t give my children credit too. Moms always get revered for raising children. We get our token carnations on Mother’s Day as well as the general admiration of the world (as everyone knows the deepest dig is to insult someones mama). But do our children get such praise for raising moms? My three boys teach me, love me, inspire me, encourage me. They compliment my dinner (sometimes) they tell me what a good job I do on my paintings, they are always willing participants in projects, they give me endless hugs and kisses. I am a vastly different person for being their mom.
I find it ironic when I see others wanting to hold on to their single life or try to put off parenting until the last possible moment.
Every year I do 14 Days of Valentines for my family– while many argue it is an excessively over commercialized holiday- there are few holidays whose message resonates with me so deeply. Valentines Day to me is about giving back and acknowledging the people who keep us going. It is my way of giving credit where credit is due.
What have been the major influences on your adult development? Has marriage been liberating for you? Empowering? How do you give your spouse credit for their hand in your personal successes in who you have become? What about your children? How do you celebrate those that mean a lot to you? Are you with me on the true meaning of valentines day or do you hate it?