I spent much of yesterday afternoon pissed off at Dave. He dropped by the house at around 3:00 to change out of his suit and finally eat his lunch and while he was home, he saw my Cook's Country magazine open to a recipe for cashew chicken and confirmed that was what I planned to make for dinner. He was very much looking forward to it.
Then I remembered that Alex has Karate on Monday nights from 5:30 to 6:00, which is the worst possible timing for me to make a decent dinner, much less a complicated Asian recipe I've never tried before (and with some ingredients I'd never even HEARD of before, much less used) (Mirin? I had to google it from the Asian aisle at Wal-Mart before I even knew if I was looking for a liquid or a solid). So I asked Dave if he would be home early enough to take Alex to karate for me and his answer, well, it was far from kind. He said something like, "No. I have to WORK. I'm WORKING. It's not like I'm home reading magazines like you."
Technically, I was sitting on the couch trying to get Genoa to take a nap while opening the mail. I was not reading a magazine, but perusing the OMSI catalog we'd just received and looking for Christmas present ideas (Christmas shopping = 100% my responsibility). At first I made a mental note to just IGNORE him, but I found myself getting increasingly pissed off as the day wore on. I decided to make a pot of chili instead of the cashew chicken mostly out of spite (although I really didn't have the time to make the fancy chicken recipe). Chili is NOT Dave's favorite thing to eat since he dislikes cumin and I can't find chili powder without it. (I know I said I was done with chili, but right after I hit publish on that post, I started craving chili again.)
Anyway what I'm trying to get to here is the issue of resentment.
We haz it.
I'm writing about it NOT because I wish to vilify my husband, I really don't, but because I'm pretty certain we're not alone. As much as Dave WANTS me to be home with the kids and is happy that he is able to provide in such a way that we can afford it, it isn't all shits and giggles.
We have a very old-fashioned division of labor. I would say we're living in an episode of Mad Men only without the alcoholism, infidelity, pretty horses and clean-aproned household help, but really, I'm more like a typical 1950's housewife than anything else. The house and kids are basically 100% my responsibility. Dave takes out the trash, is supposed to empty the dishwasher every day (but forgets at least half the time) and is in charge of the yard, which we pay Franscisco to do and that's it. Virtually EVERYTHING ELSE falls on my shoulders, from bill paying and investing to laundry, dishes, house cleaning and 99% of the food that passes our lips. I don't have ANY help.
Dave works. That's his job. And I'll be the first to tell you that his job is NO FUN. The only fun part about being a lawyer is getting to SAY you're a lawyer and even then half the time people just hate you even more. He works hard and has a hard time separating work from home. I think with any stressful job like that you can't just drive home and expect to stop thinking and worrying about all the work you still need to do and all the responsibilities that lay on your shoulders. They don't go away just because you're at home. I get that.
But the fact that I GET that, that I understand how stressful his job is , doesn't make it any easier on me that I don't get help from him. I could write another whole post about how he also makes my job harder by being a slob and not picking up after himself, but that's not what this is about. (Yesterday I witnessed FIRST HAND the act of him grabbing a paper towel from the roll, using it to wipe the sweat off his brow and then tossing it ON THE COUNTER, which is three feet from the TRASH CAN.) (I also just picked up his dirty socks of the floor of our FAMILY ROOM). (I should also note for the record that he had NO IDEA he did either of those things, his slovenliness is completely unintentional). Anyway, this is not a new problem for us and not a problem with an easy solution.
If I complain AT ALL about my day, it falls on deaf ears because I wasn't WORKING. I was home doing something I enjoy, something that also happens to be MY JOB. The fact that I enjoy my job is a bit of a source of frustration for me because it doesn't necessarily mean that my job is NOT HARD. In fact, I know very few stay-at-home moms who do as much as I do without help (EDITED TO ADD: FROM THEIR HUSBANDS!) Please see my response in the comments section).
You'd think the obvious solution would be for me to go back to work, but even when I WAS working after Alex was born, I was still basically responsible for the home front as well because according to Dave, my job "wasn't stressful." Which is a half-truth. Being a financial planner CAN BE very stressful if you let it, I just chose not to let it be and instead enjoyed my job. But it often seems unfair to me. But it's also unfair to Dave who basically gets the short stick of having both a stressful job AND a wife at home who constantly bitches and moans about how he isn't helpful enough.
The even MORE obvious solution is so simple and stupid it's a wonder I haven't already been doing it for years: allow Dr. Laura to be right about this, accept it and move on. Change my expectations. It kind of kills the feminist in me who would imagines what it would be like to have a more equal distribution of labor than my mother had and my grandmother had, but in many ways, I think they are both a lot happier in their (extremely long-lasting) marriages just accepting that the man's job is to work. (Seriously, no one in my entire family line has EVER been divorced and my parents are pushing their 40th anniversary next year). In fact, I think my mother actually PREFERS it that way. I grew up in a home where my father's only non-work responsibility was to eat whatever my mother put in front of him. My mom has always had a housekeeper, but I've never seen my father so much as cook himself AN EGG. He wouldn't even know how to start.
So, it seems, as usual, that writing this all out has been a fruitful exercise for me, one resulting in a solution. I need to just shut up and be happy. Accept that the house is entirely my responsibility and work on being a nicer, more respectful wife. I should note that when we got home from karate last night, Dave could tell I was upset with him and offered an immediate and enthusiastic apology. He is a decent, hard-working husband, a good father and my best friend. I really don't need more than that.
All I really need to do to remind myself to be grateful is to think of all the women whose husbands are serving in Iraq. I'm sure they don't get resentful and pissed off that they have to take the trash out by themselves. They don't have that luxury and as much as they might not LIKE it that their husbands are off working in perilous conditions for shit pay, my guess is that they RESPECT it. My husband deserves that from me and much, much more.