I was all excited a few months ago when Husband got laid off and we were able to put our dream into action. It all sounded so idyllic: we’d both work part-time from home, share in the housekeeping, cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children. Well, three months into this experiment and we’ve lightheartedly agreed that it just hasn’t worked out for us the way we thought it would.
Being a homemaker is something I find deeply satisfying and rewarding. It is what I want to do, and I take great pride and a sense of fulfillment in keeping my house in good working order. Husband, while he helps out around the house, just doesn’t get the kind of satisfaction out of the job that I do. For him it is a just a chore, whereas for me it is something much deeper than that. It shows in the way we do things. I have found myself complaining too much that he doesn’t do things the way I want them done, and resenting having to do more than my fair share. Then he resents being nagged at, and having to do everything my way.
It has also been challenging trying to have two primary caregivers for the children. He loves his children, and loves his time with them, but it isn’t his dream to be Mr. Mom. I do believe that, in general, women and men are biologically driven to fulfill the roles they held throughout most of our evolutionary development. And that doing so therefore brings a deep sense of fulfillment. Obviously there are exceptions, but for me I know that being the primary caregiver and homemaker is something that feels like a calling, like where I belong. It’s not the same thing for Husband, no matter how much he loves his children and enjoys spending time with them. He needs more to feel complete. And for him, that is his work. He misses being heavily involved in an exciting and creative project. He needs “down time” from the family and is having a hard time adjusting to being in the chaos of the home all day, every day.
When I finally shared my feelings with him it turned out he felt the same way! So we decided together that we should go back to our “traditional” roles where we were both happier. We joked about being the perfect 50’s couple, where the man goes out and works and the woman takes care of the home and children. But for us, for myself and for him, that is where we are truly happy. And being able to choose that, rather than having it forced upon us, does make a difference.
I think deep down I worried that if we couldn’t do all this sharing it must mean that something was wrong with us as a couple. That if we were only closer, communicated better, more evolved as a couple then we should be able to do this. But I realize now that was the wrong way to think about it. What matters is being able to follow our passions. I want to go back to being in charge of the home and the kids, and he wants to use his newfound freedom to find a truly satisfying, rewarding, challenging, and stimulating career.
Our switch back to “the way things were” isn’t going to happen overnight. He’s actively looking for full time work and that will take time to find. But just feeling as though somebody is “in charge” of something, rather than trying to reinvent every aspect of our lives to accommodate equal input from both of us (ever heard the expression about too many captains?), has definitely made a big difference. I don’t know whether this makes us a success or a failure, but whatever it is we are happy about it!