Guest post by Elissa Freeman
It was a beautiful evening in October, 1998. As we stood under the chuppah dressed in wedding finery, the rabbi intoned:

“Do you, Elissa, take Mitchell, to be your husband?”

“I do.”

“Do you, Mitchell, take Elissa, to be your wife? In sickness and in health, to have and to hold, even when she decides to pursue a career, of which of course you will be very proud of, but will likely forget all that when she has to leave early for work, or come home late, or stay up late doing more work after cleaning up after dinner and helping with the homework (because your daughter attends a French school and she’s the only one who can actually speak the language and therefore the only one who must now do math in French). And? That there will be nights when she comes home so physically and mentally beat that even her hair follicles are exhausted, rendering her fairly useless except for falling asleep on the couch? Oh, and when you complain that she just doesn’t have the bandwidth to be a wife and a mother and want a hot rockin’ body all at once, she will look at you and say: why the hell not?”

“Uhhhhhhhh….I do?”

Yeah. Today, I wonder if my husband knew what he was getting into he would have been so quick to say “I do.” Even though he grew up in a household where his mother was the breadwinner, during an era when most moms stayed home, I don’t think anything could have prepared him for marrying what his mother would have called, a ‘career gal.’

Even when men say they love independent women that all goes out the window when they come home and there ain’t no woman tending to the pot roast in the oven.

To be sure, this is a conundrum for me too. All my role models growing up preached women could have it all. Of course, I don’t think any of them had tried it yet, because a decade later they all preached that you couldn’t have it all and that women should try and achieve the dreaded work-life balance.

Is it balance that we’re trying to achieve? Or are we trying to find happiness in too many places?

Today, women find themselves in the enviable place of having options: you can get married, but you don’t have to have kids; you can pursue a career, or you can stay home. As a woman, I want to exercise all my options. As a wife and a mother, I feel I have to streamline my choices. And that’s the balance I need to achieve.

So, maybe we should change those marriage vows to something like: “Do you (state your name) aim to try your very best to adapt to the twists and turns that life throws you now that you plan to be with this person for the rest of your life?”

To that? I think my husband would say: “Well, yes…I do.”

Elissa Freeman is, among being an incredibly prolific writer, a Toronto, Canada PR chick, jaded realist, pop culturist, mom, foodie. Not necessarily in that order. Named: Twitter’s Top 75 Badass Women & Top 150 Toronto Influencers you can catch up with her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/elissapr



      • says

        I think that marriage is a life journey and we change a lot throughout life. People who make it for the long haul usually do alot of compromising. I’ve been married 19 years, raised two kids who are teens now, had fulltime career, part time career, no career, and now own my own business. My husband has helped when he can the best he can. I hired babysitters, housecleaners, nannys, whatever I needed to help support me at various times. My kids always came first. Always. Kids grow up. And when they do, you have the marriage still. Take care of it. The commitment is what keeps you going in the tough times so I’m happy we had those vows. Love does grow. It is a very rewarding journey. The marriage I have today is not the marriage I had on my wedding night. It’s better. It’s better because we hung in there through challenges, changes, disappointments, the rough patches. And we came out better people.

  1. says

    I think we are looking for happiness in too many places. But that’s OK. It’s like we’re Buddhists-ish: we know we won’t reach balance/happiness (Nirvana), but there’s nothing wrong with trying.
    But it’s hard. Hard on us, on our partners, our kids.
    Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Well, maybe I’d have it with a chauffeur and a professional masseuse on staff!

  2. says

    I wish we had had that conversation before we got married and I wish that I even thought about how marriage and children would impact my career when we had time to think straight. I was an idealist and in love and didn’t really think my future through. I was always meant to be a career girl, and taking a step out of my industry was not the best move for me. I suffered depression from that single decision for years after and am just finding happiness again 7 years later with a more fulfilling career than I’ve had in a while. Still, it’s hard not to think about the fact that my earning power has literally disappeared and that I am responsible.

    • elissapr says

      Such a brave comment for you to make, Holly. On the other hand, I think we beat ourselves up too much for thinking that work defines us. While the woman’s movement gave us the opportunity to pursue work, sometimes we have to step back a bit and re-order what’s really important.

  3. says

    I love this, Elissa!

    Among all of the wise points you’re making, what stands out the most to me is that we have no idea what we’re in for when we get married, how hard marriage can be, and how much compromise and change it takes.

    (I like your revised vows. I’ll let you know what my husband thinks! :))

  4. says

    We’ve had our fair share of health issues, all the “fun” that comes from raising two young kids, all the fun that comes from raising two young kids, good times, bad times, fights, make-ups, bills, family issues, love, hate, like, dislikes, and everything in between that no one could possibly explain that you are getting into when you say “I do.” I’d do it again in a heartbeat, without hesitation.

    The tricky part, as you point out so well, is trying to streamline it all and frame it into some version of “happiness.” Marriage is great, because you get to redefine all that as you go along. I think some of the families who don’t make it forget this, and are still holding to those ideals from their wedding day. As the old saying goes, “Honeymoon’s over!” But I want it to be, because my wife isn’t the person that I married, she is the person that she is now.

    Great post! Thanks for the perspective… I needed that!

    • elissapr says

      What a fabulous comment: “My wife isn’t the person I married, she is the person that she is now.” I love your point about holding onto ideals and how unrealistic that is. If someone were to ask my advice now about getting married? I’d tell them just what you said…marry this person for what the future will bring (the ups and downs) and whether they have the emotional backbone that will endure throughout the years.

      • says

        Thanks! I remember an old married guy that used to tell me (before I even met my wife) to never do it: stay single, enjoy your life, never have kids. I’m sure glad I never listened to him. Life is hard, but I never fooled myself (like he must have) into thinking that it wouldn’t be. I want to impart a strong will on my kids, not a belief that everything comes easy, even love.

  5. Lisa says

    Since my son was born, I have struggled trying to figure out what, and where, I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to work, but not like before. It was tough for me to admit the truth since I was a “career woman” – I wanted to work but step back a bit and enjoy these years.

    And I know I coudn’t do any of it without an awesome partner who has loved me and supported me as I have found my way. When I was in an awful job last year he said get out – even though we didn’t know what was coming next and how we would pay the bills. I was miserable at work and home. I quit and found an amazing opporuntity to work from home – which is perfect for where I am in my life today.

    • elissapr says

      I love it when people share their stories in the comments! And your partner knows that he can roll with the times, no matter how it affects the present and the future. Inspiring!

  6. says

    This post brings a quote I heard long ago to mind: “Don’t marry a man and expect him to change, but don’t marry a woman and expect her not to.” I think that going into marriage you may think you can “have it all,” but as you experience it, you learn that life is a precious balancing act every day, and the changes that it brings to you were hard, if not impossible, to anticipate. It’s difficult to move forward and step into who you are if you keep holding yourself back with ideals of who you were.

  7. says

    I always felt that marriage was just a giant leap of faith. Above all you are trusting this person with your hopes, your heart, your fears and your future sanity. And it’s mutual. So, you better make sure that your real goals and priorities align because you have no idea what twists and turns will be thrown at you!

    • elissapr says

      I like the part about “future sanity”…so true! As the alternative would be well…..’in’sanity, I guess!

  8. says

    His vows really should have gone something like “I promise to love you forever, even though those little things you do that annoy me are going to get much, much bigger over the next twenty years.” But I’m glad he didn’t have warning.

  9. says

    I’ve known my husband going on 25 years, being married nearly 18 of those years.

    See, we can’t pull the curtain back on the wizard during the vows because what if he still says I DO then we get to to part where we get a dose of what his reality will be. The possibility exists that there would never be another wedding again. Do we really want to know, at the age of 20-something that all those nice and helpful things he’s done during our courting were like bait and will die off over the next several years? Are we, as women, prepared to hear that the handsome and svelte man standing before us won’t give a rats-tush if the kids have ‘kid food’ at the b’nai mitzvah or that they continue through religious school (which costs as much as a car payment) until confirmation? Are we sure we can handle hearing that he will hone his ability to tune us out?

    I got married by the wizard (OK, it was a Rabbi but …) and that’s how it should be. I was not a warrior and I definitely would have needed Jack Nicholson’s Col. Jessep yelling at me “You can’t handle the truth!” if I was presented with your scenario Elissa.

    • elissapr says

      Wow. All I can say is “wow”. Maybe it IS better off knowing and living in a world of blissful ignorance…after all, we’ve be doing it for centuries…

      • says

        I should probably clarify my post by saying it is NOT about my husband. Rather it’s all the things I hear people kvetching about when talking about their husbands on Twitter/Facebook/Blogs. I feel badly for these women who married someone that was be a great husband w/o kids but finds it hard to do once they have kids.

        Marriage really has to be about flexibility. I would sure hope that after 20, 30, 50 yrs of marriage we’ve evolved from that person who said I DO. Maybe the vows shouldn’t be about better or worse but instead just be about different and change.

  10. says

    You’re so right. You can never predict how life’s going to treat you. When you get married, it really needs to be for better or for flexible. I would hope my hubs would say I do again. Sometimes, I wonder… because I’m such a pain in the butt.

  11. says

    I was just discussing this with a friend who is in the honeymoon stage and contemplating kids and how this will change the relationship (already made difficult by 2 high powered careers and a stepchild on one side)…I suggested that maybe they have all they need…

    No on tells you what to expect b/c no one would get married (cliche but true)
    I do love being married and I am glad that I did it…BUT they did have something in Sex and the City when everyone took turns using Carrie’s apt for a break (oh yeh – that was in the movies).

    • Elissafreeman says

      I hear what your saying, Rachel. It’s so hard to give someone the benefit of your experience…when they’re just starting out. They say that experience is the best teacher…and that teacher can be…well, you know…

      I also believe in giving each other a break is über-important. I love it when my husband goes out with the boys…he’s happy…and I get the tv to myself…no grief about being on the computer….well, you get the idea!

  12. says

    Wow, and thanks for your post and everyone’s comments! I had such an identity crisis after I quit work to stay home with my daughter. I was totally unaware of how much I loved working — and how much of my identity came from work. The crisis lasted three years and included me thinking Frank was the problem – and contemplating divorce, and forcing us into marriage counseling – and me thinking money was the problem — and selling our house. Yeah. Watch out for an unhappy woman. She’ll tear everything apart until she figures out what’s wrong! Luckily, I did figure it out and my husband hang in like a champ while I did. We stayed married and we bought another house (in a much better location, too). The (short) answer was: I was the problem. The only path to my happiness was for me to embrace the ambitious, curious person I am, and to re-start my working life. It was a painful time in our lives and I don’t wish it on anyone. But it was a period of growth. And that I wish for everyone.

    • elissapr says

      I love it when people like you share these details of their lives. I’m willing to bet there are lots of women who have gone through the same thought process as you have Lisa. Thanks for being so courageous and willing to give us a peek into your life…

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