Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gender Bender Role Play… or not

Yesterday I got to play at being a Stay At Home Mom. DH (Darling Husband in mommy message board lingo) was out of town, so I decided to take a vacation day from work to care for DD (Darling Daughter). It may seem extreme to take a whole day off work just to get DD to and from school. But I rely a lot on DH in this department, and it was just easier to take the day off.

See, here’s how our day normally goes: I get up and wake up DD, and DH takes it from there. While I’m showering, dressing, and heading out to the office (via the train), he’s making her breakfast, packing her lunch, reminding her to get dressed, and then driving her to school. (We live outside the school bus route.) Later on, he picks her up and takes her to the next place, either an after-school activity (karate this year), or the park if it’s nice, or back home for some free time. He also helps her with her homework and makes dinner.

I show up at around 6:30 (sometimes earlier, sometimes later), so grateful that dinner is already taken care of.

And that is our typical routine. But, lest you think I’m married to Mr. Mom, let me assure you that DH is not at home during the school day scrubbing floors and the like. No, after dropping Sage off at school, he heads to work himself. (We’re fortunate that he’s able to arrange his college teaching schedule to correspond to Sage’s school day. And the rest of his work is generally on evenings and weekends.) 

As for the household chores, we split them up. He does the dishes, I do the laundry. He grocery shops and cooks, and I clean house. (Of course, we’re often running behind in these chores. There are only so many hours in the day. Things pile up, and it sometimes takes impending company to get this house whipped into shape.)

So, that's it, our normal domestic arrangement. It’s pretty fair, pretty basic. It’s not a big deal, really. We’re just your average, modern, egalitarian couple. 

However, I am aware that our arrangement may still seem unusual to some people.

Yesterday, as I was sitting on a bench outside Sage’s school a few minutes before 3:00, I overheard two other moms talking. One had a toddler in a stroller and she was telling the other mom about how her husband was out of town and how he didn’t know if he’d be coming home that evening. He’s a lawyer, she said, and he was waiting to find out if a settlement offer was accepted or not. (I wasn’t TRYING to eavesdrop. Really.) Then, she said something about how she does EVERYTHING around the house. And the other mom agreed. She does EVERYTHING too. The first mom said that her husband sometimes complains about the house being dirty. “He doesn’t realize how much I DO!” she said. The other mom nodded in agreement.

I couldn’t help thinking to myself “how old-fashioned.” How quaint. How very 20th century: The husband who’s always working and the under-appreciated wife who takes care of the children and the house and all the other family responsibilities.

Yeah, I was feeling a tiny bit smug. I was just a wee bit self-satisfied about my own enlightened husband and our partnership marriage. As a feminist, I couldn’t IMAGINE ever being married to somebody who would expect me to do all the chores. Believe me, there is nothing about the female gender that better equips us for cooking and cleaning.

And yet, in that one tiny moment of smugness, I almost forgot something else that happened yesterday. 

I got a flat tire. 

I was driving back home after dropping off Sage in the morning when I noticed the car making an awful noise. I mean, it was a pretty loud, scraping, dragging, metallic rumbly sound from somewhere within the underside of the car. I had no idea what it was, but I was fairly certain there was something seriously wrong. I just prayed that I’d make it home in one piece.

Once I made it safely inside our garage (whew!), I pulled out the vehicle manual to see what the little warning light with the exclamation point meant. “Check tire pressure.” Oh. I got out of the car and, sure enough, flat tire.

So… Did I, enlightened 21st century feminist that I am—and safely in my own garage--change that tire?  Heck no. I called our roadside assistance 800-number and had a man come over to change that tire.

And then, when Darling Hubby came home, I let him take the car to the shop for the necessary repairs. Little ole me wants very little to do with cars, thank you very much.

So, the moral of my little story is 1) Don’t judge other people, Jennifer! (I know this, but still I forget sometimes.) And 2) Don’t think your occasional fake-SAHM day is going to be relaxing and/or productive. After the chauffeuring and the cleaning and the calling-the-guy-to-come-and-change-the-tire, the day was pretty much shot.

We're all doing the best we can, I think. There's no one right way to raise a family or be in a marriage, just as there's no one "right" kind of family or marriage.  Of course, love makes a family, no matter what it looks like.  And that's a beautiful thing.


Steph at The Healthy Mom said...

I used to work full time. Now that I stay at home, I really do everything around the house. But I don't usually complain about it. My hubs works hard to pay the bills (I do freelance work which can only pay a few of the bills).

When I was in college, I swore I'd never be "that mom"... the one who stays home and plays the role of the little house wife. Yet here I am... playing the role of the little house wife and loving it.

Like you, my husband and I have found a decent balance in our arrangement. It works for us, and that's all that matters.

PS...I, too, have a nine year old who does karate (a boy). Found you from This Will Be On The Parenting Test.

Jennifer said...

Hi, Steph. Thanks for stopping by! It's interesting... it seems that more and more moms I know (or know of) are making the same choice you've made. And these are "modern," feminist women...perhaps a new version of the traditional "house wife." I say, more power to them, and you, and all of us. :)