The division of power
I recently had the opportunity to read an article written by Chaunie Brusie on social media (see article here) that talked about how she stopped asking her husband for “permission” to have her own time and the effect that it had on her, her relationship and the household.
I don’t want to open up a whole gender bashing segment here, but I have to say, that girl wrote my thoughts. Her initial thoughts at least. I have not actually taken the next step to empowering myself as yet…but the time is coming.
There is an old adage of “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” or something like that. But do you know, after nearly 12 years of being at home being the primary caretaker of the family, the person who is responsible for the running of the household, the one who is forever organising events, playdates, parties, school things, extra curricula crap, what I have gotten out of it? Frustration, jealousy, mess, wrinkles, lost sleep, a snappy side to my character and a feeling of less than who I am. I am certainly not ruling our house, let alone the world!
Now don’t get me wrong. I got into this kid factory business with my eyes open. I made the conscious and (at the time) self sacrificing offering with full knowledge. Or so I thought.
I had cause recently to write a bit of a story on my life so far. I left out a few bits, glossed over others and probably over emphasised and over romanticised my less than glorious past. But one thing I did note, with clarity and truthfulness, was that despite everything I had done and all the study and all the connections and all the travel and all the experiences and all the life lessons…..at the end of the day, I boiled down to a SAHM. And it was like I had been giving a fucking lobotomy rather than just having a baby.
All of a sudden, my husband, who at this point in time and compared to me had only limited exposure on boards and steering committees, was seen as the “boss” or the “head of the household”. He was the one that people deferred to for opinion. He was the one that was able to be counted on to do something. And I let it.
Not only did I let it happen, I encouraged it. I facilitated it. I managed it. It’s left me wondering how smart I actually am.
We have 4 kids under 11yrs. When Henry came along, I had 4 kids under 6yo. It was hard. And unrewarding. And there were some points that I could not believe that I had gotten to where I was. But I love them with a fierce pride and really, I would not do it any other way. In fact if the truth be known, if age had not beaten me, I would have had more. But somewhere along the way, my hubby and I stopped being a team and it became just me. I was the one to juggle everything and if I needed or wanted to go somewhere without the kids, it felt like I had to produce a GANTT chart and a powerpoint presentation just to justify getting out of the house. And show just cause as to how everything would run when I was not there.
I am lucky. I am an only child and my mum lives close by. The reality is, she is my go to person for child minding duties, not Mark. Like me, she has dug a hole for herself and over the course of this year, I have tried to pull her out of that hole by making sure that Mark will look after the kids. Henry is 4 now and can certainly trail around after him for various jobs. The others are at school, so they are not as much of an issue, and anyway, Tom is 11 and is “quite ok to look after myself mum”.
I blame no-one but myself for this predicament I am in. I caused this. Maybe I thought that Mark could not do things as well as me. Maybe I thought he would really struggle. Maybe I thought I was irreplaceable. Regardless, things need to change.
In speaking with a number of girlfriends, it seems a common predicament. Somehow us modern and progressive gals, have managed to somehow partially turn back the clocks to the 50’s. Not that we actually ask for permission to go out or have time to ourselves, but nevertheless, if we do want a night our on the town with the girls, how many of us run around organising babysitters, meals and routines so that hubby is not inconvenienced in some way? What’s worse, we don’t probably even realise we are doing it.
The original mothers group that I joined when Tom was 2 weeks old still get together. Long gone is the need for us to get together to provide socialisation for our babies….the socialisation is more for us now. We attempt to get together once a month (ok, doesn’t always pan out) for dinner and a chat starting at around 7pm. This means, that hubbies are home with the kids, doing the dinner, the bathing, the homework and the wrestle into bed. Without us. And yet, almost without exception, each one of us has cooked dinner for them to eat before we have even left the house, have got school uniforms ready for the next day and probably whacked on a load of washing as well BEFORE getting ready to go out.
Let’s flip the coin.
My hubby has a meeting. Or a social outing. He walks in, has a shower, gets dressed and walks out. That’s it. He doesn’t give a second thought to whether there are clean clothes for the kids to wear the next day, or whether we have run out of bread so he will have to make a quick drive by Woolies before 10pm to grab some. He only has to think of being clean, dressed and getting to wherever he is going on time.
I’m not sure how far down this slippery slope I have slid, but it is time to make a change. A change for me. A change for the overall better. Mark and I need to become a team again. After all, we both wanted kids, we both live in the same place and we both contribute to the fabric of the family. So we should both shoulder the burdens of family life. I may have to take baby steps and I’m sure that there will be time that I will sigh in exasperation at the way things are done, or curse under my breath that good clothes are worn out to get cows, or rage on the inside when I do walk back inside the house and there are 4 out of 5 things not done. But I need help and I need things to be fair. And I think that we will all benefit immensely.