Whose life wouldn’t be easier with a homemaker on staff?
Barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen?
Okay, I’m not pregnant, I’m not in the kitchen, but I am barefoot and writing at the moment. I will also fess up that I’m often barefoot and writing in the kitchen. And yes, I spent many years tending to the traditional caretaking roles of homemaker and parent – in hot shoes. In fact, once upon a time, I fulfilled the role of traditional wife, and more or less happily. That was along with a full time corporate job, and writing through the night for both work and pleasure.
Now? I still find myself huddled over the laptop for long periods, as I did during my tenure as a traditional wife and mother. In those days, my writing tasks extended into the wee hours after the children were in bed, and following divorce, likewise. By the time my boys hit high school, they were well-versed in when they could and couldn’t interrupt – able to judge by the feverish look in my eye.
These days, both of my sons are in college, yet the only real difference in my schedule is that I write even longer hours, and with fewer interruptions. And the intensity of the experience can be extreme.
Where does that leave the household duties? Where does that leave relationships?
While any job is tiring, I suspect living with writers is a challenge.
We lose all track of time. We disappear into our heads. We take notes at the oddest moments (don’t ask). We look up to find it’s mid-afternoon or evening and we’ve missed meals, the window for critical phone calls, not to mention the laundry (again), the bills (again), and the files screaming to be organized.
Sometimes even warming leftovers is too much trouble, though I’ve always made sure my kids were taken care of. As for cleaning, errands and the rest —we do what we can, when we can—but I’m quite certain I would benefit from a traditional wife.
The Benefits of a Traditional Wife
Recently, after a particularly exasperating stream of days and nights (everything always breaks at once, doesn’t it?), online forms for critical parenting-related duties (yes, those dreaded financial aid tasks), and my own Checklists To Attend To, let’s just say – I was pooped.
A friend arrived at my door on Saturday with two bags of food, and while I continued to work, Said Friend prepared a Fabulous Meal, provided a 5-olive martini, and cleaned up following the aforementioned feast. The next day (as I put in another 14 hours, some of it spent screaming at my computer clogging over updates), coffee magically appeared at regular intervals, along with encouraging words, and later, a divine dinner of salmon and salad.
When I glanced up it was dark, and a kind face was sitting across from me with a little smile. I gazed around the kitchen—everything was rinsed and loaded in the dishwasher, leftovers covered and slipped into the fridge, and Said Friend bid me goodnight.
May I mention that we shared a very special dessert the following weekend when I was a little less crazed?
But that night after he left, I thought back to my marriage and my routines as a wife—especially when I knew my spouse was pressed or preoccupied. I’d make coffee, prepare meals, whisk children here and there, and stack dishes. I facilitated. I expedited. I made myself scarce when necessary – and didn’t take the need to do so personally.
Love? That’s the easy part. Life is more complicated. Love must coexist with logistics. If you ask me, that’s the tricky part, and that’s where the “traditional” partner role is vital.
What is a Caring and Attentive Partner Worth?
The bottom line?
Attentiveness to your partner’s workload or emotional state or stress level has nothing to do with gender. Stepping in to make things easier is what we do, when we can. In my marriage, I was the caring partner whose job it was to read the mood of the household—to anticipate, respond, accommodate—to the extent it was possible. It sounds old school; I paid the price in sleep deprivation, but I was the wife in the traditional sense. I was there to support my husband in whatever way he needed.
Looking back, part of our challenge as a couple was the imbalance in the relationship. As my spouse traveled a good deal, when he was home, there was no reciprocal facilitating, expediting, accommodating. Over time, it became a factor in a growing gulf, exacerbated by many other changes we were going through—hardly a unique set of circumstances.
As my Kindly Friend has shown me, the role of “wife”—or more precisely—partner who recognizes your needs and assists out of love, compassion, and fairness – is an essential one. If you ask me, it’s a role that both in a relationship own and should willingly take turns at sharing, tuning in to a partner’s stresses or fatigue, and thereby strengthening the bond.
Lest you think otherwise, after years of managing on my own, I still believe in giving as good as I get. It’s important for me to look up more frequently, and provide the attentiveness to the person in my life. Unfortunately, I’m finding myself huddled over my laptop again, far too often and far too many hours. My Kindly Friend can only do so much; I just may need to hire myself a wife.
This post originally appeared, in slightly different form, at Daily Plate of Crazy.
Photo by miss pupik.