Marni Hochman’s husband shares in the cooking, cleaning and childcare responsibilities in their home. This doesn’t mean she’s “lucky,” as people continue to tell her, it just means they’ve got an equal partnership.
Dear Friends, Family, and Complete Strangers,
Recently my husband had minor surgery. My in-laws came to town for a brief visit while he was recovering. I cooked dinner. I don’t know how many times my husband has made this same lasagna over the years and each time has told his mother that it is my recipe. My mother-in-law said the food was delicious and then turned and asked my husband if he gave me direction while I prepared the meal. My own mother called after the surgery not only to check on my husband’s progress, but also to make sure I was taking good care of him.
For those of you who haven’t spent a dinner with us when my in-laws are visiting, my mother-in-law lauds my husband even if he throws jarred spaghetti sauce over pasta. She also comments on how tired he always looks and how hard he works. You would think I sit around and eat chocolates all day long. My family seems to feel the need to tell me that I should give the poor man a break. After years of dealing with children all day and night and during my husband’s evening and weekend work activities, when do I get a break? Well, apparently I get a break every day because my husband cooks. I am not whining about my responsibilities. I have a good life. But they seem to be complaining about his. Or reminding me how grateful I should be that he isn’t complaining.
Many of you have told me how fortunate I am to have such a fabulous husband. And I am thankful for him and to him every day. But not for the reasons you imply. According to you, I must be the luckiest wife in the world to have a husband who cooks for our family daily and also cleans and cares for his children.
It is no accident that I married someone who believes in equality in and out of the home and acts on those beliefs. I feel lucky to have this man by my side, but I am not “lucky” that he vacuums. Some of you warned me that I might never find someone to spend my life with. But I did. And that’s one of many reasons I married him. He is also kind, intelligent, funny, and most importantly, loves and supports me, always, for who I am and who I want to be. I think my husband married me for many of same reasons. He definitely wasn’t looking for someone to cook and clean for him.
But I can remember very few instances when any of you have told my husband that he was lucky to have me as his wife. I appreciate that you find me attractive, but there must be some other reason that he should be grateful to have me in his life.
It’s not that I am jealous. I am just tired of smiling and saying “Yes, I know. He’s wonderful.” He is. But it’s not because he changed diapers or goes grocery shopping.
When I worked as a Moms Group facilitator, I frequently encountered exhausted new mothers, teary-eyed and on the border of insanity, wondering how their mothers or mothers-in-law “did it all.” I would kindly remind them that mothering was different 30 years ago. Moms did not do it all. They stuck their babies in playpens and let them cry while they cooked dinner. They often had mothers or neighbors to help. Today, moms are supposed to always keep the baby content. Families are more geographically dispersed and we often don’t know our neighbors very well. “But,” they would say, “my husband is so tired when he gets home from work, I hate to ask him to do anything.” So I would ask: “And you’re not tired from taking care of kids all day?” Followed by: “Here’s the thing, if he hasn’t offered, chances are he’s not going to, and that’s the way it’s going to be unless you have a discussion about it soon. Stop worrying about what you think you should be doing and start talking about what is reasonable and realistic for your life together.”
Before children, my husband and I took turns preparing meals or we would cook together. After our high-maintenance daughter was born, cooking became a chore. I’m sure if you knew us then, you can’t forget that for the first four and a half months of her life, she cried almost incessantly. Someone had to care for her while the other made dinner. It just so happened that my husband was faster in the kitchen than I was. It stuck. After my son was born, my back gave out from a combination of bad-back genes and big babies. He took over the chores that were hard on my body. I do the jobs that are less labor intensive. We do not argue about it. I am not sure why other people feel the need to comment on it so often. Yet these are the details I have to divulge before I get that knowing, understanding nod of approval. Why do I have to explain our choices?
Yes, I have a great husband. I am well aware of that. He also is the quintessential absent-minded professor. Once he wore two different shoes to work. His brain does not maintain lists, so if it isn’t written down, most likely it is not going to happen unless I remind him. I am lucky if he remembers to look at his lists. He also does not notice things around him. Once he carried our son out of our house, strapped him into his car seat, took him out of the car, put him down on the sidewalk and still did not realize that the child had no shoes on his feet. Isn’t he fortunate that he has a partner who complements his weaknesses?
People, my husband is the best. Despite the fact that he can’t remember the third item on a three-item list, and that he isn’t a gourmet chef, I love him with every ounce of myself. I do not need you to remind me of this. You do not need to tell him that he is doing “a good job.” He is a very modest man and doesn’t feel comfortable with your commendations. And I am an awesome wife and great mom even though I yell sometimes and I don’t usually cook or clean the bathtub. My husband tells me this often, my kids are generally well-adjusted, and that is enough for me. I am glad to know that they will grow up thinking that “normal” is a husband and father who cooks and cleans. We are happily married. In fact, we are happier now than we have ever been. So why do you want to insist that we are not, or rather, he is not?
Please stop. Thank you.
Marni Hochman is presently a stay-at-home mom, volunteer literacy tutor, and, in her spare time, a freelance writer. She is currently working on a personal narrative for an anthology of essays about women and shopping. Marni lives with her feminist husband of 16 years and two children in Michigan. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.