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On my anniversary, a letter to my soon-to-be married self

Claire Zulkey wonders when she'll ever get used to the idea that she has two boys. She is the author of two books for young people, An Off Year and Best Frenemies. She and her filmmaker husband live in Evanston, IL. You can find out more...

A loving letter to my pre-married, pre-kid self

Dear the Future Ms. Claire Zulkey (because you won’t change your name):

This day eight years ago, you were getting ready to marry your longtime boyfriend, creative partner and best friend. It’s going to be a great day. The weather will be beautiful, everything will work out timing-wise and you’ll enjoy having everyone close to you hanging out and drinking wine and eating steak and dancing. Your wedding will be as fun as you hoped it would be and you wouldn’t do anything different (except skip that melty chocolate chip cookie in the limo on the way to the reception.)

I do feel a little sad for you. I always get a hard-to-define sense of melancholy around this time of year. Maybe it’s because I am envious that there was ever a period in my life when growing my hair long, evening out my tan lines and getting monthly facials were actual priorities. But also, I think it was just such a defining point in my life, one phase ending and another one beginning. You’ll get the same way when you’re downtown near the hospital where your children were born and feel a similar fond sort of pity when you remember those world-changing days.

You probably could have done a better job about not letting wedding bullshit — yours and others — get into your head. They’re not competitions. The best weddings are just fun and full of happiness and love, and once you get past the first five to 10 weddings of your life, they’re all pretty much the same. But also, you’re a lot different at 29 than you are at 37, so what can you do?

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Make sure you remember where you put those beautiful hairpins your friend loaned you as your “something borrowed.”

You are marrying well. You have a hardworking spouse who pulls his own weight and is not helpless. He's a good family man and is happy to give you space and time to yourself. You two will argue, especially when child care, house care and professional work all intersect. You both get touchy when you argue. You will have a son who is quite touchy as well, and you will wonder where you got such a child.

You are going to have two boys! I know, that’s weird, right? But they are both sweet and charming and loving, and you will get a little hit of dopamine every time they hug you at the same time, one boy in each arm.

After the wedding, you will feel a slight letdown, which is understandable, but you will beat yourself up about being such a spoiled brat and get into a funk where you wonder if you are really the same you anymore or are just some washed-up old married lady. You will go through this again when you have kids and people start referring to you as “a mom.” You will get over this. These new roles have their un-fun parts, for sure, but each step came with its own rewards and strength building that prove you’re more than “just a mom” or “just a wife.”

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Eventually, you’ll realize that “just a wife” or “just a mom” are things you made up when you were feeling mildly depressed and sorry for yourself. What you decide to be after you’ve moved past those worries is actually totally up to you.

Best regards,

Old, married mom Claire

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