Designing a pretty house is hard. Designing a beautiful house with your partner is harder. Designing a stunning home with two toddlers feels nearly impossible. It’s like a plastic surgeon being asked to pierce a ferrets’s tongue. Sure, you can do it, but all your real skills are squandered. You see, all that toddlers really want and need can be wrapped up in two words – space and destruction. These are not the words that make a designers heart flip with joy. Nay. And I don’t want to lose Brian’s style in the mix, either.
This whole double toddler thing has not just made designing more difficult, but has also made life, marriage and generally staying awake long enough to chat about how you are really doing more challenging. So when Plum Organics (yes, the pouches and puffs that your babies scream for and suck down) reached out as part of their new campaign that encourages parents to prioritize their relationships (sans guilt!) I thought – well, I do like an excuse to talk about our marriage, Lord knows. Why are they sponsoring a post about relationships? Because they believe that making love is essential to a good partnership – thus their Do your Part(ner) campaign. They are right. And listen, having sex leads to a better marriage, which can lead to making babies and more babies lead to more buying baby food – and they make baby food. Do I think we all should be having more sex with our partners? YES. But time is so hard to find, and patterns are so hard to break. When Brian and I are on a good kick (before I had a recent pregnancy scare – DEAR LORD), our marriage can feel pretty close to perfect .. although, to be clear, making more babies is certainly not part of our “perfect” plan anytime soon.
Listen, we love Plum’s food – I’ve downed a few pouches myself (haven’t we all?) and while I prefer to actually chew solids, my, goodness those pouches do taste good (but not too sweet, don’t worry).
Back to us, our relationship and our home:
So this time around, with our new house, I have three very important clients to consider – let me give you their bios:
This lady specializes in throwing food, stomping on it, and sometimes scraping it up and eating it if we don’t catch her. She is also adept at shaking her bottle maniacally, like a rattle, near many an upholstered piece of furniture. She does these things with glee and a ridiculous amount of ‘cute’. She also says ‘mama’ like it’s the most important and under-used word ever, with arms outstretched. Her use of the affirmation ‘yah’, with an intense head nod, is unequivocally adorable. Sixteen months is a ridiculously cute age.
Charlie is particularly good at bringing in dead lizards from the backyard and resting them on the arm of the chair, then not telling us. He also likes taking his shoes full of sand off on the rug, and haplessly rubbing his yogurt-riddled-hands into the velvet sofa (we let our kids eat snacks on the sofa on the weekends because we are lazy and our sofa pays the price). Charlie is also learning he has to ‘clean up every single mess’ which guess what? IS JUST MORE WORK FOR US. That kid should not quit his day job, he’s out-right terrible at putting broom to pan.
**Free parenting tip from my mother (of 6). Have your kids from birth, clean up their messes and fix their mistakes even when, especially when it’s an accident. She said with the last couple of kids she started this protocol and they made WAY less accidental messes and became more careful in general because they knew that they were in charge of cleaning it up.
But he is also saying ‘mama please cuddle me’ pretty often in between the meltdowns. Examples of such meltdowns are these: He’s devastated that a helicopter isn’t flying over our house, or that I made a bristle block laser instead of a rocket. In case you have a friend who has a 3 year old, give her a hug and tell her that she is a good mom. This stage is INTENSE. He loves hard, expresses FULLY and managing his meltdowns should be training for the CIA bomb squad.
This man specializes at being a ridiculously present dad, entertaining best friend and really open and vulnerable human being. He ain’t perfect but, man, whenever I look at the facts I’m absolutely shocked that I landed him. We’ve been together for 16 years, (read all about our ups and downs here) lived together for 14 of them and generally have had the same style – both in home, fashion and parenting. The amount of times we have left the house both in chambray and plaid is too embarrassing and gross to count. What I have said over and over the last 16 years is ‘man, i can’t believe we are always on the same page’. This includes restaurant choices or how we travel (without a plan). We also both “avoid paying bills”, or “hate dealing with paperwork” so ‘being on the same page’ can really be a bummer, legally.
Back to our house …
I took over the design of our home 6 years ago when the blog started taking off, after Design Star. I had all the leverage to kinda do whatever I wanted because that is how we supported us and I barely even asked him his opinion. If he was in earshot of me and my team making decisions I might throw the question out there, hoping he didn’t hear. But generally he had little input – of which I was mostly annoyed by. I found him to be a naysayer, he found me to be bossy. We were both right. (He didn’t really want THAT much input by the way – but probably more than he got).
This was absolutely my mistake. What that did to him was make him feel very little ownership over his home even though he generally liked everything in it – we have similar styles after all. One always wants to be asked, right? So his reaction was to complain a little too much about the things that he didn’t like. And in my mind I was like – I SPENT HOURS AND HOURS MAKING THE VARIETY OF DECISIONS NEEDED TO GET THAT PIECE IN HERE!! I felt that he didn’t want to participate in the process but loved to complain about the close-to-wonderful results.
But this time around things are changing. I’ve learned my lesson and our marriage is in a better place than it has been for years so we are both working at avoiding those mistakes.
Here is what is happening:
We are not designing the house for toddlers – we are designing it for a family of young kids and we are doing it together. Sure, it will be kid-friendly but not unbreakable. Every day they learn better habits, which make me think maybe they can handle that glass paneled hutch in the dining room…
I’m enlisting Brian’s help in every step of the process. Sure, I am taking the lead and it would be silly to imply that we are doing it together, 50/50, but I’m treating him like a real VIP client and presenting the best options to him before deciding on the final. He has GREAT ideas and he’s normally right about more functional aspects. He typically bubbles over with common sense and has a really good sense of color and style.
He wants to be involved … probably not as much as he is. He’s realizing quickly the amount of decision making is absolutely paralyzing and exhausting – and he doesn’t even know the level of coordinating and minutea we are battling on a minute to minute basis.
Involving him has made the design of house both more frustrating at times AND yet more successful. There are times when he’s really done looking at options (I have to book meetings with him on his calendar with Ginny and Mel to get real info out of him). Yet I’m texting him photos from the flea market of potential purchases – something I’ve never done before. He responds with a ‘ooh fun!’ which isn’t typically something he would say. What he is really meaning is ‘I think you want it and it might be cool but mostly I am trying to be into this because I know it’s important for our marriage that I participate in the process and not just complain about the result’. I buy it, obviously, psyched that he just OK’d me to buy 7′ garden bird statues for our courtyard. He’s right, they are ‘ooh fun’.
Prioritizing him into the design of the house was crucial to our marriage. And us prioritizing our kids thoughtfully and yet not obsessively into the design of our home is best for our family. We make time for each other, but for the first time I’m grateful for his opinions, feel relief in his input and am enjoying the process even more than the result. When we got married we promised we would be each others first priority, then when we had kids that shifted – not because they are more important but because they are so, so, so needy. My parents, for 45 years and 6 kids ALWAYS had a date night once a week. They have such a strong marriage because they know that if they don’t, the whole family suffers. Prioritize your relationship, ESPECIALLY when you have kids. Your partner (my husband) needs our attention, I promise.
That’s us. The Hendersons are great, but not perfect. Our relationship is so easy and effortless and yet a lot of hard work to maintain its original health. Making time for him actually makes me less stressed. And right about now, designing our house, I’m looking for less stress, more doing.
Thanks to Plum for giving an excuse to write this post, and a reminder to prioritize that man – both in the design of our home and in life by taking the pledge to Do Your Part(ner). Remember that Plum is a brand by parents, for parents. They have been keeping it real for years now with their ongoing #ParentingUnfiltered conversation, which encourages people to share ALL the complex realities of parenting (the good, the bad and the smelly).
What about you? Are you totally in charge of the design? Are you making time for your partner? Do you let him or her weigh in on all decisions or is he the leader of the design decisions? Or are you both too busy with littles to even think about switching out a lampshade?
*This post is in partnership with Plum Organics – a company that we love. But all words/ideas and feelings are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep the makeovers coming.