When The Children Came, The Love Went

Watching my neighbors grow apart after the children arrive from my kitchen window.

When The Children Came, The Love Went

Watching my neighbors grow apart after the children arrive from my kitchen window.

Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels

Marriage Comes With Too Many Misconceptions

Many people who followed the traditional nuclear family path (meet, marry, buy a house, plan for children, have the children, then live “happily” ever after), find out the hard way parenting and marriage aren’t all it’s cracked up to be. Having done both, I can attest to the stress of having a family and being last, because that’s what traditional marriage is about, regardless of which spouse you are. A traditional American, cis-hetero marriage/partnership with children is a life of sacrifice. I don’t think you really find out how selfish you are until you get married and have kids. Only then is your tolerance level tested. It’s only when you have to share does one find out how selfish they truly are and learn if they have bitten off more than they can chew.

Most times, people don’t discover the level of sacrifice required in most relationships until it’s too late. It happens for different reasons. People lie about their mental health. Sometimes people in relationships think they want something until they get it, then they don’t want it anymore, except you can’t quite pawn off a wife and kids. By the time most of us find out what being with another person entails, we’re knee deep in the shit.

All we can do is look off into the distance and wonder what could have been if we hadn’t been duped, or if we hadn’t duped ourselves into believing we were ready for sacrifices we weren’t ready for.

Too many people fall in love with ideas and fantasies of getting married and having children without talking to people who have been married and have children. People who are realist and who have respect for their spouses or ex-spouses. And even when we talk to married couples, most times those couples are not as forthcoming about the realities of marriage as we need them to be, because they’d have to confess the unpleasurable things about it, and people hate talking about the uncomfortable truths. Sometimes spouses don’t know about affairs that have happened long ago. It’s better to let dead dogs lie. Maybe a spouse can’t let on about the hardships because they are ashamed. Not being able to be forthcoming about the challenges of marriages and children has folks believing in fairy tales and lies.

I have watched my neighbors go from being a childless couple in a nice 2-car garage home, with expensive two-cars and good jobs, being fit, and appearing fairly happy to being an unhappy couple in over their heads, who barely do anything together now, with no way out it. I call it my kitchen window diagnosis.

If you’ve been through shitty marriages, affairs, adultery, or have had a friend who has experienced it, you just know. You just know a cheating spouse when you see one.

I Think My Neighbor Is Having An Affair

For the last few years, I’ve watched my neighbor’s family grow. I think I’m also watching their family die. You can tell when a couple doesn’t really like each other anymore, or in the least when they know they done stepped in deep doo-doo taking on kids and a wife. That shit is a lifetime commitment, and when you do it with a person who doesn’t know how to be a partner, being married leaves little to be desired. Sometimes married couples don’t know how good they had it until the kids come. Then they have the nerve to keep having kids, making themselves miserable. But I digress…

The married couple across the street appears to be in their late 30s, early 40s. Watching my neighbor’s family grow and fall apart was quite accidental. I make dinner at the same time daily, around 4:30 pm, so I get to see accidentally what’s going on. The driveway and the front of my neighbor’s home is directly in front of my kitchen window on the side of my house where I do dishes and prep food, so I watch them from time to time as I prepare my dinners. Not staring or nothin, just glancing while I do dishes. I enjoy people watching, plus I love watching their little cute, unruly, blonde-haired kids. It helps me understand upper-middle-class White parenting and privilege.

Seeing little White kids behave in ways that Black kids could never has been a site to behold. Black parenting and White parenting are different, and the outcomes are different too. I see why we are calm when White folks are out of control and out-of-pocket, and now I see why when White people can’t get their way they are out of control and out-of-pocket on a whim.

It’s all in the parenting, or lack thereof.

Some days watching my neighbors is entertaining, other times it’s quite sad. Most times, it’s shocking. It’s amazing what you can find out about people by people watching them regularly. You can’t hide unhappiness. Nor can you hide love. When it’s there, you know it’s there, and when it’s not, you can see that too.

Having been around the block a time or two with an unhappy marriage and having to deal with infidelity myself, I see all the signs of one party in the couple across the street being unhappy. Hubby is checking out fast, and I don’t even know if his wife is aware of it. I don’t think they have any friends here. I only see their parents and in-laws visit from up North, Michigan, I believe. They are all fairly rude. I wave, they wave, but there is nothing neighborly about them.

The wife of this couple had children back to back, and I’m assuming she must have quit her job to stay home to become a full-time mom. I think that’s nice if you planned it, but if you changed the middle of the marriage placing strain on the working spouse, perhaps that may be problematic. I realize staying at home to raise children is a luxury most women cannot afford. Work and money are the number one and number two issues which lead to relationships falling apart, which lead to the third thing, a very important thing, a lack of sex/intimacy. I can’t tell people how to live, but I see a lot of money needing to be earned to keep up their lifestyle. I wonder how long Mr. Man is going to be up to the task?

Both of the neighbor’s children are under the age of 5. I’m assuming the man and woman had good jobs because they each drive expensive late model Volvo’s, and live in an upper-middle-class home (cha-ching, cha-ching).

Shortly after the kids were born (cha-ching), they got a housekeeper (cha-ching) despite the wife being home all day long. What must it be like to be home all day and have someone come clean your own home you dirty up? Then the couple got a cute puppy (cha-ching), a beautiful Golden Doodle. The puppy is just like having a third child. It needs feeding, washing, walking, and affection too. Not sure why in the hell married people would add another mouth to feed and a warm body to care for, but it’s not any of my business. I’m in my kitchen, washing my dishes.

I noticed the husband began working later. Sometimes he doesn’t get home until 7 pm or so. I guess he got promoted or works more to pay for money leaving the house.

The wife orders more takeout, a lot of it (cha-ching). The Uber Eats and Door Dash people live in her driveway delivering food to a wife who has been home all day and could cook. Sister girl won’t even make those pots rattle for her hardworking man. The old folks say what you won’t do for a man, another woman will. It’s the simple things.

I guess the wife is too busy with the kids to make those pots rattle for hubby. But she recently she enrolled both of her little people in pre-school (cha-ching), I suppose so mom can get a break, which I can totally understand — except I don’t understand why anyone would plan to have kids so close together then not be able to handle that pressure. Some folks aren’t really built for parenting, homemaking, and sacrifice. They don’t find out until they’re in it, which is such a shame. I don’t know for sure, I’m just watching from my window.

Ain’t my business. I’m just washing my dishes.

I watch the housekeeper come and clean a few times per week (cha-ching). She’s a little Hispanic woman. When she comes, she stays most of the day. She dumps her trash on her way to her car for each visit, which is in front of the garage, in front of my kitchen window. The couple’s in-laws and parents come frequently, sitting in the front yard with the kids reading books, playing in the puddles in the neighbor’s driveway after hard rains, and letting them do pretty much whatever they want. I never see wife outside with the children unless she’s getting into or out of a car.

I know we all don’t have the same mothering energy and styles, but geez it almost seems as if my neighbor bit off more than she could chew with this stay-at-home mom thing.

Sometimes when I’m doing dishes, I see the mom leaving with the little ones around 9am, dropping them off at school (cha-ching). Sometimes she returns home mid-day after she dropped the kids off at school, swinging fast-food bags, enjoying her alone time as a mom. Sometimes it’s nice to eat food prepared by someone else, but ladies, we need to be cooking. The wife has gained about 60 pounds since having the little ones. Dad has also gained quite a few pounds since the children arrived. When we have kids sometimes we have to let ourselves go, making us not the people we met pre-marriage. For a lot of men, that’s a deal breaker. For mothers and wives, it’s just life.

Having children means sacrificing so much, including time preventing us from keeping up with those unattainable European beauty standards. I totally understand letting yourself go once you attain the American dream of the 2.5 kids, the house, the car, a dog, and a man/woman of your dreams (or for some nightmares). Women get the hubby with the good job, the house, the car, the kids, and suddenly she turns into the woman her husband never wanted. Such is life.

Mom picks up her children daily, right before the husband comes home around 4:30 pm, around the time I prep dinner. She scoots in the house right before her hubby gets home from work, giving the appearance she’s been busy mothering all day. Dad has what appears to be some scandal brewing of his own.

I’ve noticed for the past year, the hubby pulls up every day on his cellphone. The car windows are always up, so the ring door bell and camera won’t pick up his calls, I suppose. As soon as dad pulls into the driveway, he hops from his car to check the mailbox. Why would he check the mailbox when his wife doesn’t work and is home all day? I just noticed one day as I was prepping dinner, he’s always on his phone as he goes to the mailbox. It’s that smile that gives him away. It’s a sign of the happiness and joy that’s not come from inside of his home he works so hard to provide for.

I’m making my dinner, minding my business in my own home. But geez, can’t he be a little more respectful and end that shit before he hits his driveway. Must be a work bae. I’m just guessing, nevermind me….

Instead of going in the house after checking the mailbox when he comes home from work that the wife checks during the day, the husband sometimes paces up and down the sidewalk looking back at his home out of the eyeshot of the security camera. He has this walk and smile that lets you know his calls and texts aren’t about work, not his family, and not good ole mom.

It’s that smile of a man has when he’s found joy elsewhere, and he doesn’t want to let it go yet to go back into the mundane. Grown folks talking here, I’m not judging.

Most of us know that smile, even if you’ve never experienced it. It’s that smile when you’re getting everything you miss at home.

After dad checks the mailbox and walks the sidewalk, sometimes he’ll go in the house and come back out to walk the dog, minus wife and kids. Keep in mind the wife is home all day with the dog not doing anything. I keep chopping my onions. While dad is playing with the dog on the lawn, he sits so he can text. Sometimes, dad will hide behind the car to chat, smiling the smile of shame. Every now and then, the husband gets back inside of his car to chat. You don’t need to come outside to take work calls away from your wife and kids. It’s your house, my dude! If you’re not doing anything wrong, you’d take that work call in your home.

A wise woman knows the signs. Another sign the husband is dissatisfied with his home life is he does nothing with his family anymore, not even his wife. Dad’s life is going to work and come home.

Today my neighbor came outside with the dog and sat down on the sidewalk texting with the kids when he should have been walking the dog and playing with the kids. The little kids were running up and down the sidewalk playing alone, and dad had the dog sitting on his lap hiding him texting in case his wife came out. He also made sure he wasn’t sitting directly in front of the door, so he’d have time to correct himself should the misses come out.

The husband couldn’t even be bothered to play with the kids the first time he’d been outside with them all week. At one point, his daughter (whom I’ve named affectionately run-away-Sally because she does just what in the hell she wants to) just leaned on him playing all alone, her brother running up and down the sidewalk just happy to be outside free. Dad continued texting. Eventually, his wife came outside, and he shoved his phone in his pocket, going into the garage to finish his hot texting session, perhaps. The wife took the leashed puppy and escorted their son and daughter into the home.

There was no loving exchange between the husband and wife as they bypassed each other doing the dog hand-off. No affection show at all. I just watched two people going through the motions of being married with children. After the love fades and the newness wears off, this is all you got left.

It’s called real life for many married couples.

Some people love being married. They want, no, they need to be married and they need to have children. For others longing and envying for things other married folks have without understanding the sacrifices involved to get and maintain those things, well, those people really suffer. A lot.

Be Careful Envying What Others Have

I used to sit in my window and think about what a wonderful life my neighbors had. They had all the material things looking in from the outside. I figured they both had good jobs or generational wealth that allowed them to live comfortably. They have the two little highly sought after blonde children, a boy and a girl, nice cars, a nice home, and all the trappings American dreams are made of.

But sometimes, our dreams turn into nightmares and we don’t know how to get out of them. In fact, it’s not always possible to get out of them. We do the best we can to manage and maintain until some pressure is off.

What I do know is that people change after children arrive. Husbands go inward, and wives focus on children and making a home. Husbands miss the time spent with their wives and significant others, and wives long for the days when all she had to worry about was her man, when it was just the two of them.

I’m not here to judge anyone. I just described the way I see life from my kitchen window. I’m not judging my neighbor if he’s having an affair. I’m not married to him. If my neighbor is unhappily married, providing for his lovely little family, which is more than I can say for many men these days, who am I to judge. I didn’t make any vows with him, and even if I was married to the husband, maybe I’d have to look at my role and the decisions we made together to see where “we” went wrong.

For every effect, there is a cause. I’m woman enough to acknowledge that. I also acknowledge there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. I know I’ve made a lot of assumptions from my window, but I know people pretty well. I also have personal experience with living in a marriage after the love has gone. It’s not for the faint. Life is too short to live in misery, but our society’s religious zealots insist on putting us together and forcing us together by any means, then punishing us financially and socially if we part.

The government makes breaking up hard to do, and costly. So we stay together unhappily married, trying to make things work.

Decisions, decisions, and more tough decisions. I’m a judgement free zone with matters of the heart. If the husband is doing what he needs to do to make himself happy while providing for his family in his current funk in the age of Covid, it ain’t none of my business.

I’m just in my kitchen, cooking and washing dishes.

Marley K, looking from her kitchen window in quarantine, sometimes minding her neighbor’s business.

If you enjoyed this, follow me @ https://marleyk.medium.com/