The Friday outrage centered around this deeply misguided Good Housekeeping article where the author explains why it is okay that she is a terrible wife and that she puts her children and everything else above her husband on her priority list. Anne gives the piece the fisking it deserves.
And yet I am somewhat sympathetic to her plight.
“For most of the last 10 years, I’ve been the breadwinner. I worked
long hours commuting into Manhattan full-time. Now, John has a job, but I
still commute, and also work from home trying to keep us ahead of the
Breadwinner and mother. It's challenging and exhausting. There are so many demands made on you, your body, and your time and there isn't enough of you to go around. You are completely used up, not in a
sweet, fulfilling kind of way, but in a chewed-up and spit out kind of
I recognize the temptation to view your spouse as an adult who just has to deal while you tend to the more urgent demands in life. It's hard to carve out time for your marriage when you don't have a strong, philosophical understanding that your marriage must be your top priority. It's hard even when you do have that understanding.
When your time at home is extremely limited, your children don't care that you are tired or have been working all day or that their father also needs your attention. They want your attention. Now. They need it and have a right to it.
“John’s a great dad, but I play a singular role in each of my kid’s lives.”
It could be that the author is one of those women who demands to be in complete control over her children's lives and leaves nothing to her husband's judgement. He must not pick out the toddler's clothes because He. Won't. Do. It. Right. We all know people like this, so it could be. Or it could be that children want their mother's attention more than any of us quite remember or imagine.
My children spend the majority of their time with my husband. He changes diapers and gives baths and rocks babies and drives them to activities and does all the standard parenting that goes with 'at home' parenting. And yet I am the one to whom they want to pour out their problems. When I come home from work, it is I who gets to hear about the problems of the day. Problems that they never breathe in his direction, even though he asks about their day. It's isn't because he won't listen, but because I am their mother. They surround me, fight over me, and cling to me. I am astounded by how much children desire their mother. And, honestly, I am astounded that I am astounded. What could be more natural? And yet the culture has beaten this knowledge out of us.
It's easy to want to sleep after the children go to bed, especially when you know one of them will be waking in the night soon enough. My husband isn't the only one who sometimes gets overlooked. There are other things that get pushed down the priority list too, like my own hobbies and personal exercise. When you only have three to four hours a night to do EVERYTHING, a lot just isn't going to happen even if it is important.
Our oldest is nine so we still haven't exited the demanding stages of early childhood. Of course, parents of older children and teenagers say it doesn't ever get any easier, it only changes. (Oh, I don't know. I say if you get to sleep all night, it has to be easier than being woken up twice a night, every night.) But I understand the temptation to say I am done for today. I can see where you might slide into a habitual doneness if you didn't actively decide to avoid it.
If you happen to have a worldview that puts having a career! and micro-managing your children as the most important activities in your life, which is pretty common these days, I can see why you would put your spouse at the bottom of the priority list. If you must work and commute eleven hours a day and be the class room mother and plan blowout birthday parties and have your children involved in seventeen different enrichment activities and sleep and eat with your remaining time, what's left? You are completely expended. You have nothing left to give your spouse. I can understand why she can't see her way out of the problem.
Now unlike the author, I don’t think this situation is okay and I don’t think it
is sustainable. Something has to give. I am already not a micromanaging parent and yet, most of the time, I feel stretched to my limit. For me, my status as breadwinner is preventing me from leading the life that we want to live and prevents me from putting first the people who need to be first. They might be first in my intentions, but my time is a different matter. We are
fighting hard to change our lives so I can put my priorities in the
proper order. The order *we* want them in.