My partner and I have been together for 13 years and are about to celebrate 10 years of marriage. Our path to the alter and almost a decade of "marital bliss" hasn't been a straight line, though. Instead it has been a chaotic, winding road filled with major dips and minor peaks. Parenthood can definitely put a strain on even the most secure couples, but progressive motherhood has actually strengthened my relationship with my husband and, well, I am thankful. A little perplexed at times, to be sure, but thankful nonetheless.
Before my parents divorced, my younger brother and I were raised conservatively. We went to Sunday school, prayed every night, and were both consistently afraid we would fail to uphold the high, often unattainable standards introduced to us via traditionalism. Once my parents' marriage fell apart, the rigid rules of conservatism fell by the wayside and my brother and I were left to our own devices. Trying to figure out life, how to navigate it, and what I believed in versus what I was told to believe, was challenging.
By the time my partner and I started dating, I was still letting go of some traditional viewpoints while holding on to others. I knew I wanted the type of commitment marriage signified, I knew I wanted to be a mother, and I knew that when I became a mother I would want to stay at home with my children. Simultaneously, I was continuing to grow and evolve and embrace a more progressive world view that traditionalism didn't (read: couldn't) provide me. In other words, the longer my partner and I were together, the more my beliefs changed.
Once I had kids, my views on nearly everything took a turn towards the progressive. Honestly? I've never felt better. In a way, it's freeing to have my own opinions and ideas I don't have to get permission to think or feel. And 13 years after that first meeting, my partner and I have benefited from my evolution and what progressive motherhood has provided me as a mom, a woman, and a partner. Here are some of the things it's done for me, us, and our family:
We're Open To Healthy Debate
Though my partner and I were on the same side of many political issues early on, my personal growth positioned has changed how I view politics. I'm proud of how far I've come, and I hope it shows in the way I parent my kids. These days, my partner and I sometimes struggle to find a common ground on hot button issues, but somehow, the open dialogue has helped us better understand one another.
Long ago, I'd have never voiced my opinion the way I do now, because I was taught not to. However, my partner respects my views and opinions — however different at times — and our discussions have only helped us grow stronger together.
We Don't Give A Sh*t About Gender Roles
Yes, I always wanted to be a stay-at-home parent, but that's not because I felt like I had to. It was my own experiences with reckless, careless, downright negligent sitters as a child that helped me decide what I was going to do one my babies were born. I didn't want to fear for my kids.
I work from home, and that was always part of the plan. If my partner had wanted to stay home instead, that would've been OK, too. We all share in the household chores, and it's my goal to teach my kids — specifically my daughter — she can be, and do, anything without limit. Likewise, if my son grows up to be a loving, stay-at-home dad, I'll be his biggest fan.
We're Closer To Our Kids Than The Relationships We Had With Our Parents
I wasn't close with my parents growing up. I don't remember having deep conversations about sex, my body, life, love, or really anything. I was mostly left to navigate life on my own, even though I was told to read the bible and pray. It was confusing and lonely.
My partner and I have made a conscious effort to be open with our kids, extending conversations into territories our parents were too afraid to navigate. We're also realizing that this parenting strategy is strengthening our relationship, because it's forcing us to talk about the hard stuff more often.
We Work Together When It Comes To Social Issues
When my partner and I first met, I never imagined or anticipated the kind of world we'd be living in 13 years later. Our kids see the news and are very aware of our current political climate, and I wouldn't avoid the discussions even if I was asked to. Too much is happening to stay silent, and because I want my kids to use their voices to express their views, too, I'm working to be a role model in action.
Progressive motherhood means teaching my kids about empathy, social justice, equality, and all the things that would make our world a better place. In turn, it's making my relationship better, too.
We're More Open To Extending The Dialogue
Some conversations are hard, but necessary. When I was little, I wasn't encouraged to speak about tough topics. If anything, I was made to feel like my opinions didn't matter, to move on, or to mind my own business. I don't want my kids to ever feel that way. My partner and I have made it a priority to speak with our children often, and about whatever feels "too difficult" to speak about. It's never going to be easy, but parenthood isn't supposed to be easy.
Because we want to constantly communicate with our children, my partner and I have learned how to broach and engage in hard conversations, ourselves. And I think it's helped keep us together at times we otherwise wouldn't be.
We Encourage Our Kids To Do Things Themselves
I want to know what my kids think and feel and how they would tackle a particular situation or problem. I value their opinion, and want them to find, and embrace, their independence so they can fly into the world with confidence. In other words, I want them to do things themselves.
It's not always easy for me to let go, but in my relationship I'm seeing how important it is that I teach them to figure things out on their own. This also gives my partner and I more time to just be a couple. After all, when the kids leave the nest, it's just going to be the two of us, so we'd better get used to that sooner rather than later.
We Do Not Complete Each Other
I was whole before I met my partner, and I'm whole without him. Lonely, maybe, but still a whole person. I have ambitions, dreams, goals, and I know how to take care of myself and my kids. He doesn't complete me, and I don't complete him, But together, as parents, and as a couple, we make a damned good team.
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