An Aupair saved my marriage.


“Before I pour this second glass of Bota-Box, I have a confession to make,” I announced to my husband one spring evening years ago. “One terrifying, life-altering confession,” I mumbled as I walked toward the bedroom where our baby had suddenly begun crying. 

“Your period is late?! How late?” My husband asked as he poured water into a sippy-cup for the whining preschooler down the hall.

Moments later, I stood in the kitchen, bouncing a baby on my chest, burping and soothing away the reflux and air-bubbles, as we ignored our oldest child’s bedtime protests and continued our conversation.

“But we were so careful.”

“Not really. Remember?”

“Oh yah. I guess that’s true. What do we do?”

“I dunno. Get help?”

Two pregnancy tests later, the reality of a third baby in under four years left me sitting on the tile floor in a locked bathroom, shaking with fear and nausea. It wasn’t that I disliked raising children or rejected the idea of a larger family or even that I couldn’t acknowledge how lucky we were. It was just that the past year had been a horrendous struggle for my sanity and for our marriage.

Our circumstances were wonderful and our circumstances sucked. We had enough money; we had enough love. But my husband was at an all-consuming place in his career (a career that was very important to us financially, especially if we ever want to help put kids through college or God-forbid we retire someday). In fact, we had moved away from everyone we knew two years prior, while I was pregnant with our second, for his job. Life had halted my career and I resented the hell out of the fact that the arrangement of me doing most of the childcare/household stuff actually made the most financial sense. 

By day (on a very part-time basis), I was counseling couples to “radically accept” unchangeable circumstance, and by night I was actively fighting the demons of my own irrational resentment.

I glared at a mental image of my husband every time another mother would mention her husband waking up in the middle of the night. My husband is always traveling, and even when he’s home he has to wake up at five for work so he usually has to sleep.  I’d instinctually feed my anger whenever I noticed dads at school drop-off or pick-up or at the grocery store. The line at Sam’s club seems like an appropriate place for me to throw myself a mental pity party and forget all about the fact that my husband has been sitting upright for 30 hours on a flight to Malaysia, not on a Hawaiian bachelor cruise. 

And so my struggle to contain my circumstantial anger and ride-out-a-few-crappy years without exploding on my husband, had been simmering nicely by the time I saw those two pink lines on the stick.

“How much does an au pair cost?” My husband asked.

“Less than a divorce.” I answered, while handing him the baby that had become inconsolably over-tired in the kitchen light.

And so my husband, an introvert who is skiddish about having people in his “space,” agreed to have a complete stranger move into the guest room for a year. Because he loves his wife.

For a year we denied ourselves restaurants and vacations and major luxuries so that we could pay-for help that we didn’t even always use. Because  with the prospect of being able to take a nap or go to the store without a crying baby, and the awareness that my husband saw this as a worthwhile indulgence, I was able to again see my husband as the loving partner he was. And slowly the resentment-fueled self-pity ended and was replaced by appreciation and admiration for my hard-working and understanding husband.  I was taking a nap one morning without having to worry about when the baby woke up, and I soaked in the luxury. My husband packed his lunch instead of going out for the past two months so that I could afford this moment. 

And THAT is how the au pair saved my marraige. 

From, the therapist who likes to practice what she preaches  when it comes to mindfully catching your unhelpful thoughts and then owning the power that you do have.

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