This is not an easy post to write, but I think it deserves to be written nonetheless. Blame is not a one-way street and I am not the only one that failed. This is my story.
Starting a Small Business
My husband worked for a small company for years. One day he walked in to his bosses office and asked if they would like him to become a partner. They flat out said “no.” Not “no thanks” or “thanks for the offer,” but simply “we’re not interested.”
At the time the company consisted of three owners and a dozen or so employees. The owners decided that they were willing to pay someone to handle their books and acquire new contracts, but they didn’t want to share their overall profits with anyone else. Honestly, who could blame them?
My husband is a go-getter. He’s the kind of guy who works hard, sweats hard and isn’t afraid of anything. He learned a ton from that small company and decided to forge out on his own. Within a short period of time he formed a corporation and began working for himself. This isn’t an easy task, but he made it all happen.
As this new business venture began so did our struggles with infertility. It took us nearly two and a half years to conceive our first child. Our paths began to diverge. He began the quest of a self-made man. I began the quest to conceive.
For some reason I never believed I would be able to have children. I don’t know why I felt this way, but very early on I began to fear infertility.
My near-death experience further convinced me that children would not be in my future. On the night I was admitted to the hospital I cried about the possibility of dying, but wept even harder about the fear of never holding a child in my arms. That seems crazy to me now, but it’s 100% true. For months after the incident I spent every morning sobbing in the shower.
It took years to feel healthy enough to start a family. When my pain was finally under control we set out on the quest to conceive. Every month that it didn’t work I deemed myself a failure and the cycle of sadness and emptiness continued.
You would think my worries would subside after I got pregnant, but I worried from the moment I saw that first line on a pregnancy test until the day my son was born. I was convinced something would go wrong.
On the day I delivered I held that precious little baby in my arms and felt whole in a way I never thought possible. I could not believe that something I never thought would happen had finally occurred. I wanted to pour myself into my son. The universe needed to know just how much I treasured the gift I’d been given.
The Decision to Stay-At-Home
My layoff from work coincided with the birth of my son. In fact, my director provided me with a pink slip just two weeks after I announced my pregnancy. The company wanted all employees to transition their work to contractors, which meant keeping us all onboard for a few extra months. I was officially cut a few weeks after my delivery.
When I stopped working I lost all sense of my worth, my wages and my interaction with the outside world. I didn’t realize how difficult the transition would be from a high-paying-income to a stay-at-home mom. Initially, the days, weeks and months all blended together.
My son became an around the clock job. With no one else to raise him 90% of the time I felt responsible for molding him into an incredible human being. I sat beside him talking and playing for hours. I couldn’t bear to hear him cry and although it seems crazy I never wanted to leave his side.
For the first two years, even though he was in a separate room, I woke up every time he stirred. When my husband took him away to give me time to rest I couldn’t sleep. I was with him so often that my mind wanted to know what he was doing at all times.
As a result of this new found obsession with motherhood I let everything else fall apart. Looking back it’s not that hard to see why this happened. It’s par for the course with my personality. When I worked I often jumped on my computer as soon as I woke and kept coding, (not stopping to shower or cook dinner), until 2 am. How many times did my husband have to tell me to put away my laptop and go to bed? If I was that focused on work imagine how focused I became on my child!
As a result of this focus I stopped paying attention to everything else including my husband. My husband was out of the picture for much of my son’s first year. He established his own business and began working for himself just before our son was born. He was often either too busy or too tired to take care of our little bundle of joy.
I knew that the majority of parenting landed on my shoulders and the enormity of that brought me inner stress and turmoil. I couldn’t even shower for five minutes for fear of his crying.
As far as I can tell much of my work paid off. My son is a very caring, loving, polite and intelligent boy, but other things in my life suffered as a result of my actions including my relationship with husband.
How I Failed
Ultimately the paths my husband and I were on further diverged. He spent the majority of time focused on his business while I spent my time focused on our son. He tried to help with chores like laundry, dishes and attending doctors appointments with me, but the day-to-day tasks of childrearing all fell on my shoulders.
The business was supposed to be a family affair. I would complete all administrative tasks and my husband would find employees and continue to code. Yet, this rarely happened. I found it difficult to manage an infant and all of the work responsibilities. Looking back it’s obvious I needed part time child care, but due to complicated extended family issues that never happened.
Worse yet our communication faltered. I became resentful of work that took my husband away from parenting duties and he became bitter at my lack of effort to help him. As time wore on the gap between us widened.
A horrible work environment and overly aggressive co-workers plagued my husband, but I failed to see the stress he was under. He was being harassed, but I didn’t realize how fearful he had become there.
Although we lived under the same roof our lives could not have been more separate. We were unable to speak to one another about our true feelings or the things that really mattered.
Eventually my husband’s verbally aggressive co-worker became physically aggressive. The repercussions of that incident have been painful and long-lasting. Our business has since been put on hold. A business that could have easily earned millions of dollars per year.
Bitterness and Resentment
My husband and I have known each other for over two decades. We have stood beside each other through some very rough patches and although we have always managed to pull our relationship back together we have not always done so unscathed.
For the time being we continue to push through the trouble spots and to come together for the sake of our children. I have learned to let go of many of my own pain points, but my husband has a much harder time releasing grudges.
This is a reminder that money does not solve all problems. My husband and I are financially independent, yet we still struggle. We’ve known each other for more than half of our lives and can still find it difficult to turn to the same page.
The Lessons I’ve Learned
Our relationship faltered for many reasons, but here are a few of the most important lessons I learned along the way.
1. The Need to Spend Time Together
We failed to spend quality time together. We didn’t need to go on fancy dates or wine and dine one another, but we did need to carve out time just for ourselves. Looking back it’s clear we were both exhausted. I would often crash early while my husband would stay up late working. By the time my husband went to bed I was practically waking back up with my infant son, not to mention waking up every few hours to nurse throughout the evening. We lost sight of one another and failed to carve out time.
2. The Need for Communication
After the birth of our first child we stopped communicating. It makes sense that a couple that isn’t spending time with one another isn’t taking the time to talk either. My husband would always seem to call me at the worst possible moment. By the time he arrived home from work we were starting the bedtime routine for my son. Dinner was rushed, my son was fussy and the ritual to falling asleep seemed to take forever. When we finally did see one another neither of us knew what to say.
3. The Need for Confidence
I lost sight of myself. Being a highly-paid, female, software engineer was an important part of my identity. Although I do not regret the decision to stay-at-home with my children it took awhile to recognize that my self-worth had been tied around this description of myself. When I quit working I couldn’t figure out exactly who I was or who I wanted to be from that point forward. This shattered my confidence for awhile.
4. The Need to Share Common Values
My husband and I both worked as software engineers so it was commonplace to discuss our work environments, the problems we were solving and at times even our code. When I left the workplace we no longer shared these bonds. While my husband’s business was growing I didn’t feel a part of the momentum. I found myself feeling left out at home. I turned to other outlets, including my blog to guide me.
My husband resented the time I took on other ventures outside of the company he was trying to grow. Looking back I understand this, but at the time I didn’t have the words to express how I felt or to figure out how to correct the trajectory I was on. Writing things down in this blog took little effort. Having the mental capacity for work related tasks was much more time consuming and not nearly as easy.
5. Timing Is Important
If we started our company at any other time in our lives our outcome would have been very different. Now that my children are older I have the time and capacity to run a business. I can see that so clearly now, but before my son was born I didn’t realize that. I had no idea how difficult it would be to balance a newborn baby and a new business. It seems so obvious and yet somehow my husband and I both missed that fact.
Where Are We Now
Our relationship is a work in progress. Things have gotten easier as our children get older, but it’s still hard to let go of the bitterness of the past. We lost a million dollar business because of our actions. A business that my husband sacrificed a significant amount of time and energy to grow.
*Footnote – Oddly enough I think we are much better off now. The assault was traumatic and our financial loss substantial so my husband can’t see that yet. I do hope he will one day. I’m not saying this to minimize the mistakes. There are definitely failures on all sides, but this is another example where I learned money isn’t everything. It looks like I’ll need to write another post to explain those details.