To be fair, I have not read More. I did read several paragraphs of a review though. Here is my understanding: a couple is dissatisfied with their marriage. So in addition to chatting with a counselor, they engage in ethical polyamory. Having additional intimate partners who are also grouchy with them does not bring them contentment. That having someone to whom you are not married yell at you during physical intimacy did not make the author happy didn’t surprise me but again, I only read a few excerpted pages.
My take away had more to do with the children. The author of More apparently gripes about the unequal work of child rearing. Which certainly sounds fair. If anyone in any marriage wakes up in the morning humming, “Gloryosky, I can’t wait to spend my evening repeatedly plunging my hands into scalding water and repeatedly scrapping burnt cheese off plates” I have yet to meet that person. (For the purpose of making this point, I’m ignoring the incidence and prevalence of dishwashers and children who share cleanup responsibilities.)
But what about the complaints regarding helping kids with homework, driving carpool, reading bedtime stories. I kind of thought that helping kids with homework, driving carpool, and reading bedtime stories was actually the fundamental point of having kids. I mean, what did you expect, kids who didn’t need help with homework, drove their own carpool, and read themselves bedtime stories? By definition 11-year-olds should not be driving themselves to soccer practice.
It’s like ordering a slice of Key-lime pie for dessert at a fancy restaurant. When the check comes, sure enough, there’s another seven dollars in the total. Nobody forced you to taste that sparkling concoction of graham cracker crust and whipped cream. Nobody held a gun to your head and forbid you from having a grilled cheese sandwich at home. But if you go out and have Key-lime pie, you have to pay.
As it happens, I am in favor of dessert. I am also all about helping my kids with their homework. Indeed, learning the multiplication tables was kind of the highpoint, I might even say the “reason,” for having kids in the first place. You start with this bitty baby who doesn’t know anything. And then a few years later there’s this little person who not only knows what 3 × 7 is, but can also ask you to read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban out loud for the fourth time. And you had a big part in that development. You started out with this infant who didn’t even know where her feet were and now she can read Horton Hatches the Egg* by herself. I put that accomplishment–helping a child learn how to read–right up there with successfully landing stuff on Mars.
I’m not judging. I’m not telling you how to prioritize your life. I am certainly not recommending anyone stay in a marriage that is unfulfilling or is peopled with a partner who yells at you when you’re having sex or is mean to you when you’re not. Men and women sharing housework, childcare responsibilities, and work outside the home is old news. I am just pointing out that if seeking fulfillment involves ethical monogamy or having threesomes, you probably can’t be helping your kids with their homework or reading to them at the same time you’re dangling from a chandelier in a leopard leotard.
I am not presuming to tell you who to sleep with Or who to stay awake with. I am no expert on marriage, my own or anyone else’s. I am only suggesting that time spent finding yourself is not time spent finding ways to connect with your kids.
It has been said that the best way to help your kids is to work on your marriage. And maybe a self-actualized parent is an appropriate model for children looking to foment their own healthy relationships. My suggestion, controversial though it may be, is to lower your expectations for yourself and for your children. Every minute we sit in a hot tub with an attractive movie star or ingenue is a minute we don’t spend sitting on the couch with our kids reading The Phantom Tollbooth. You pays yer money and you takes yer choice.
I know you didn’t sign up to read Curmudgeon’s Daily or The Tuesday Prude. This author is all about adults following their own path, finding themselves, pursuing contentment. I’m just pointing out that like Key-lime pie, everything has a cost.
* Extra points if you observed that the take-away from Horton Hatches the Egg and this essay are pretty much exactly the same.