Performance Review-For Your Spouse

On Friday morning I read Give Your Husband a Performance Review

Why limit year-end progress reports to the workplace?  in the Wall Street Journal (link below) with mild interest but I didn’t give it too much thought until later that day when my husband emailed me a copy of the article. “Well,” I thought, if he wants a performance review maybe I should give him one. There are certainly a host of things that came to mind when I started to think of behaviors that could use a little bit of fixing but hey, if I gave him a performance review does that mean he would be entitled to give me one? And, that’s when my thinking about this whole performance review started to shift.

My husband gets reviewed at work when a consultant might speak with people who work with him and then give him a written and/or a verbal report of those conversations.  I sometimes joke that I am the only one who is not given an opportunity to give the consultant feedback. In light of those conversations, when my husband saw this article he sent it to me because he thought I might be interested. As we started to discuss whether or not we should do “personal reviews” my first inclination was to say yes. The family started to warm to the idea.  “We’ll make a list of mom’s core competencies,” dad said and then we can review them. We can do reviews for the whole family came another idea. We should do three strengths and three “areas of improvement” for everyone was yet another idea.

The more the discussion continued the more I began to sour on the idea. I began to wonder, “Is there no safe haven anymore? Is there nowhere to go where in the words of the song, “everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came…”’ Isn’t this the very reason spouses are allowed to invoke privilege and not testify against each other in a court of law, because ultimately you want to know that someone’s got your back and that your dirty, ugly secrets are safe with someone; that within your marriage lies a small bastion of judgment free safety.

Home should be a place of affirmation where you can compose your narrative from a place of nurturing and understanding not a place of anticipated criticism. Life just shouldn’t be that much work. Do you think I don’t know I should do more of some things and less of others, more cooking, less Facebook perhaps…but I want to be with someone who loves me in spite of my million and one quirky, annoying characteristics and vice versa.

So, here’s our performance review honey: this is our home, a place where we both feel secure enough to be our truest selves, a place where some days there is too much bickering and too much sweating the small stuff but where most days there is love, support, shared wisdom, understanding and laughter.

So let’s do each other a favor and leave the real performance reviews where they belong.

At the office

Happy Twenty-One

376925_2377779637408_1114509731_nIt’s March 18th and it’s snowing.  Just like it was twenty-one years ago.

Twenty-one years ago on a snowy evening like this one I went into labor and the following morning I became a mother.  Has it been twenty-one years already?  Has it only been twenty-one years? Nothing prepared me for that experience.  Nothing. Not the well-intentioned warnings of veteran parents. Not the hundreds of parenting tomes that I had read in preparation for the grand event.  It happens every day.  It is the most routine of matters, giving birth.  But, when it happens to you, the world shifts on its axis.  It is the most extraordinary of events. The nurses handed me my baby and said, “Congratulations, mom.”  I looked around.  Who were they calling mom?

It didn’t go well for Mr. Baby and me in the beginning.  We didn’t suit.  I wanted to sleep, he didn’t.  I wanted to go places and, apparently, where I went, he too, went.  It was hard to wrap my mind around that.  I relished quiet and order and he loved noise and chaos. We were really at cross purposes. As he clung to me with tightly fisted hands, his baby breath warm on my face, the enormity of the task loomed terrifyingly before me. I knew only one thing with clarity, I would throw myself in front of a train to keep my baby safe.  It was a start.  I threw out the books.  I followed my gut.  We taught each other.  He cried, I cried.

Some days were endless, hauling the little fellow from one baby friendly apparatus to another, ten minutes under the Gymini, then ten in the swing, then ten in that bouncy seat.  I looked at the clock and then, startled, looked again and wondered how it was possible for time to move backwards.  Now, I wonder how it is that endless days turned into years that flew?

Today, I look out at the snow.  He calls from college.  “It’s snowing,” he says.  “Do you remember,” I ask, “that it snowed the night I went into labor with you?”  “I guess I don’t remember it that well” he replies. You were all there, my boy, in that tiny, little bundle they handed me.  And, I was “mom” even if I didn’t realize it yet. We found our way, together. We figured it out.

It’s March 19th and you are twenty-one.  Happy birthday, my sweet boy!

Quiet Moments of Joy

french-laundry-garden.jpgIt’s about the small stuff.

I have long lost any patience I once had for sixth grade math homework.  Or, let’s be honest, I was never really any good at sixth grade math but, nonetheless, I’m attempting to help my youngest son with his nightly math assignment.  My oldest son is home from college for the week and he dismisses me. “Why are you yelling at him?” he asks, followed by, “I’ve got this mom.”  I skulk into the family room but surreptitiously watch them.  Their heads are bent together, the little one and the big one, and I feel a physical ache in my heart.  Watching the people you love, love each other, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I’m having a moment, a quiet moment of joy.

I once thought that joy came from the big milestone events in life like weddings, graduations, bar mitzvahs or the birth of a child.  But, maybe I’m just too neurotic for that to be the case.   For me, those big events are always completely fraught with anxiety.  Who will wake up with the plague the day of the big event because, let’s face it, you know someone will. Is everyone having fun at the party, even the scowling old people with the earplugs? Does everyone have the appropriate clothes? I mean, those pants fit him ten minutes ago. Can a teenage boy outgrow his clothes in a week?

I have found that happiness comes in the small moments of joy that creep up on me in an ordinary day.  Some of the moments are part of the daily routine like that first sip of hot coffee on a cold morning and the morning telephone conversation with my daily callers to reconnect after the night.  Then there are the moments that are purely sensory delights; the feel of the sun on your face after a long, grey winter, the sight of a beautiful sunset or the thrill of hearing your favorite song on the radio.

Some moments of joy surprise you.  There’s the moment that you realize you’ve made a connection with someone and your relationship with an acquaintance has deepened into a friendship.  Recently, I ran into someone who told me that some long forgotten thing I said to her years ago gave her great comfort at the time. That was a joyful moment for me.

But, the best moments for me are when I see my children interacting with each other as adults.   Big and middle shop together now, consult on fashion, talk about relationships and I think to myself,  “You had a hand in this. You nurtured these brothers who are now capable of giving and receiving advice, support, encouragement and love.”  It’s a heady moment.

So, milestones will come and go, together with their attendant stresses, but here I stand, full of wonder, waiting and hoping for more of the small stuff, more quiet moments of joy.