|my mom and me on my wedding day|
In addition to advice about the marital relationship, I was desperately in need of some advice on maintaining a household. Although I lived “on my own” for five years before getting married, it was always with roommates, so the burden (and joy!) of keeping house was spread among many people. College living, at least in my experience, was also very different from family living, so some of the elements of keeping house weren’t present or were ignored (I’m especially thinking about decorating the house and thoroughly cleaning it on a regular basis!). Many women now live alone and even own their own houses before marriage and already had it figured out (though I imagine that a husband - and then children - must change some of the dynamics), but for me, learning to be a wife was inextricably bound with learning to keep house.
I. The first few months of marriage can be awkward, frustrating, and/or difficult: Getting married is a big change for everyone, and it was especially so for me since it also was the first time I moved far from my family and friends. My husband and I had to learn one another’s schedules (he’s a morning person, I certainly am not), who does what housework and what is the proper way to do it (I am very particular about how things are folded), and the other day to day matters of running a household and a life together. I also missed my mom terribly and felt uncomfortable in a new place where I only knew how to get to the grocery store. It was hard. And when it wasn’t the “marital bliss” I thought I was supposed to be experiencing, I thought that we must be doing something wrong. After a few months, we adjusted to life together and the rest of our first year together has been incredibly joyous. I just wish that my mom had prepared me for those first few months, so I would have known that everything was normal and would quickly pass (I’m sure she just didn’t remember her own awkward first months of marriage 30 years ago).
II. The price of groceries: My mom is amazing at saving money and finding deals. From her, I learned to use coupons and look for the best prices. The only problem was, I didn’t know how much groceries should cost, so I didn’t know when I was getting a good deal. Yes, I grocery shopped for myself before I got married, but I tended to only buy certain items, and I didn’t eat meat or diary. I wish my mom had taken me grocery shopping repeatedly and pointed out the average price for a gallon of milk, a carton of eggs, peanut butter, etc. I’m still getting my bearing as to what good price are for common grocery items, but had I known in the first place, I would have saved so much money by noticing that some stores had higher than average prices on everything (and steering clear of those places) and not buy things when their “sale” prices weren’t really a deal.
III. How to support your husband in his career: My husband is still a student, at the very beginning of his career, just as my father was when my parents married (they married at 19!), but I think this is no different for a woman that marries a man already well-established in his career. It is essential that we support our husbands in their jobs, especially since work is still a major way that a man’s value is defined. Our plan is for me to stay at home while my husband is the main breadwinner for the family, but this is just as important (maybe even more so) in households where the woman works or is the main breadwinner. When we first married, I had no idea how important my husband’s work was to his overall happiness, and even now that I realize it, I don’t understand fully how to support him (especially since his field is very specialized and I have trouble understanding the research he does). Just last week, I read a great post by the Modern Mrs. Darcy on how to encourage your man at work - I’m excited to try her suggestions.
IV. Don’t take too much stuff into your marriage: I'm not talking emotional baggage, I'm talking real baggage. Perhaps my mother didn’t tell me this because she married young and lived with her parents until her wedding day, so she didn’t have the opportunity to accumulate many belongings. I lived on my own (with roommates) for five years before my wedding, giving me plenty of time to accumulate stuff. When I got married, I brought almost all of them with me. I’m grateful for the functional items - furniture, kitchen items, office supplies. But I’ve ended up giving away boxes full of knickknacks and decorations. Although I thought I’d want them to decorate my future home, once I got married, my ideas of what my home would look like changed drastically. I wanted things in our house that represented both of us individually and as a couple. Most of the items I had before didn’t meat that criteria, especially since my husband had very little that could represent him. Of course, there were some pictures and other lovely, sentimental items that were mine that worked wonderfully in our apartment, but the majority of decorations in our apartment we’ve bought together (or received as wedding gifts). Building a life together includes making your home together, not carrying over everything from your former single life.
V. Never assume what your husband knows: When we married, I knew that my husband was raised in a family much different than mine, but I didn’t think about how that would affect his knowledge base. Many of the things I learned in my upbringing, I assumed that he would know too. So I often made the mistake of assuming that my husband had knowledge of things that he didn’t, which never ended up well. This manifested in a variety of ways - I couldn’t fathom that he had never eaten tostadas (a staple in my house growing up) or eggplant. My father is handy and his isn’t, and I’ve embarrassed him by getting upset when he didn’t know how to do something I considered “manly” (how to change the oil, for example). He didn’t have any sisters, so he didn’t understand much about the “lady time” of month, and it frustrated me that he didn’t understand what I was experiencing. Obviously this works both ways, and it’s been much better since we’ve learned not to assume that the other knows what we consider to be “common knowledge”. It’s led to more understanding between us and we’ve enjoyed teaching each other new things (I taught him how to change the oil and now he’s a pro - and very proud!).
These are all that I can think of right now, but I’m sure that there were many other things that I had to teach myself, especially in the first few months of marriage. Can you think of any advice you wish you received before you tied the knot? (Or perhaps any notoriously bad advice you wish you'd never received?)