Putting the Wife Back in Housewifery

Since I pretty much just chewed him out in front of the wide world with that last post, I thought now might be a good time to introduce My Man. Wonderful, loving husband. Fantastic, devoted father.

A few months ago, a friend pointed out a conspicuous lack of mention, throughout my blog, of My Man. I had to go back through all my old posts myself, and yup, hardly a word about him. Huh. Really?

First I’d like to say that I am, in fact, happily married. I feel 100% confident that my husband would say the same. And we are not, as you might have noticed about me, the types to gloss over, or rosy-glowify. We love each other, and even more than that, we both still love being married.

I truly believe in marriage, the old fashioned ’till death do us part’ kind. That is one of the main reasons I fell for my husband in the first place. It’s rare to find someone with the unique combination of old fashioned and radical progressive values that I have. But, there he was, dropped right into my lap.

So why then, I asked myself, is there a Husband shaped hole in my blog?

How could I be leaving the wife out of housewifery?

Well, for one thing, kids take over everything. EVERYthing. There just isn’t much room left for us grown ups. I know this will get better. This first year with two, in a new city to boot, is just bound to be one of our roughest.

And, I actually never meant for this blog to be as personal as it has become. The mama-desperation has just pushed it’s way out by sheer force. I guess when your marriage is good, there’s not all that much to talk about. Not so many giant piles of confusing tangled tortured emotions like motherhood.

But, there is another reason, and I’m a bit ashamed of this one. Marriage is not a popular subject. At least among the crowd I tend to run with. Like housewifery, doing your best to be a good wife has gotten a bad name. Even just the words– it took me over a year to get comfortable saying ‘husband,’ ‘wife’ and ‘married.’

Nevertheless, renegade that I am, feminist housewife, hippie armpit shaver, rule breaker, shouldn’t I step forth to take back marriage? Shouldn’t I stick my neck out there and champion the cause? Is there any issue more central to being able to work in your home and mama your own babies than a loving and supportive partner?

So now that I’ve explained why there’s a husband-shaped hole, I’d better fill it! Let me introduce My Man.

My Man is a monkey wrencher. He’s a thorn in the side of Progress, and I’m very proud. Since he’s very brain-oriented, he’s doing what he can to Fuck Shit Up (a favorite family term) on the paperwork end. Hence the lawyering.

When I met him, he was living in a tipi/shack of his own device, in the woods near our tiny Alaskan town. He drove an SUV, sued the Forest Service over timber sales from his a laptop, rarely washed his clothes, had long hair, a beard, a photo of his mom on his homemade scrap plywood desk, and a shameless love of Pop-Tarts. I always do fall for complex people.

Love is itself a complex thing. And as mentioned, I’m a nix on the rosy-glow girl.

Joining your life with someone else’s involves compromise. And here’s where marriage gets unpopular. We as a culture do not respect compromise. We think it’s weak. Feminism has, in my opinion, taken this male-made idea and run with it. We say ‘oh yeah, compromise, gotta do it,’ but secretly, when it comes time, we think compromising is losing.

After a few years with My Man his parents offered to give us the down-payment on a house, and he was excited. I was horrified. I was going to live in the woods. I’d been planning it since I was 12. I’d been living in the woods for several years already, and loved it, thank you very much. There was no way I was going to move into a house. In town. With sheetrock.

Of course, I did. And I find it very hard to talk about. Town friends just think I’m a crazy ungrateful witch. Woods friends think I gave up My Vision. I myself wobble between the two, and have a hard time giving myself the credit I think (with some part of myself) that I deserve for surrendering to compromise.

My Man is my partner. We share a common goal and we’re both working toward it, each in our own way. We have the same core values, but like any two people have different ways of translating them into our daily life. This seems absolutely essential to marriage, in my mind. Both those things– the shared values, and the struggle to synthesize two different translations into one life together. Compromise has come to mean losing a battle, settling for less. But the need to compromise makes us better humans! When we have to balance our own desires and opinions with someone else’s we learn humility, compassion, flexibility and true tolerance. Have you ever known any real hermits? They may have stayed absolutely true to their code of conduct, but they’re not particularly fun to be around. The life lesson of compromise has passed them by.

My Man does lots of things that drive me nuts. He doesn’t think twice about buying something made in China with half a pound of packaging. He drinks energy drinks, when he isn’t drinking Coke. He watches the NBA with rapture. He doesn’t do nearly his share of housework. He spends most of most days in front of a computer. He gives our daughter a pile of candy first thing in the morning on Easter Sunday.

But he’s also so fantastically wonderful that I chose to spend the rest of my livelong days with him. He’s that great. He has an incredibly strong sense of commitment, unusual these days. He is a devoted husband, and I don’t mean that as a cliche. He believes in ’till death do us part,’ and more importantly he’s not afraid of the hard work involved. He’s tenacious like you wouldn’t believe. He is cocky like any man, but also humble in the long run. We communicate, which is not to be understated! He loves the woods, and wild things. He even fights for them, hard. He believes (more than me really) in the possibility of true change. He gives me hope for the world.

The first time I saw him with kids, it was all over. I had already determined his excellent husband qualities (I was a calculating and analytical mate-hunter), but seeing how good he was with kids tipped me. He adores them, but more than that he’s good with them. Receptive, creative, gentle, playful and genuinely kind. He talks straight to them and listens no less than if they were adults. He follows their lead, and honestly enjoys it.

In her book Radical Homemakers, Shannon Hayes stresses that the decision to make a radical home must be made by both parents. It is so true. When my friend called attention to the Husband Deficit months ago, she asked how he felt about all my revolutionary housewifery. Was he supportive?

I can only say, if he wasn’t I sure as hell wouldn’t have time to write a blog about it! He helps with cleaning less than I’d like, as I probably mentioned. But he’s all in with the kids. He works hard to balance law school with being a Papa. And always errs toward Papa-ing. I manage to get a few things done while he’s gone, but really if he didn’t spend significant time with the kiddlets every day, I wouldn’t get anywhere! [Furthermore, I’d be in the crazy-house.] Home stuff isn’t really his thing, but he loves that I do it, and helps whenever I ask. He supports my work with his mind, heart and hands.

He’s My Man, what else can I say?

17 thoughts on “Putting the Wife Back in Housewifery

  1. Good call, it is an important post and one that was in the background of your themes but deserved attention. And you’re right too, that is it the big elephant in the room so much of the time, an important part of the larger conversation. I like your nods to his complexities. That is what makes people beautiful. I appreciate the admission of compromise, your point that our culture tends to call it a losing battle. Is it? We are so programmed to look at short-term gains. As always, many thanks.

  2. Being willing to compromise with my husband is what lets me know that I picked the right man. I’m totally hard-headed and like to do things MY way. The fact that I am willing to release a little bit of the “control” and allow him to help “guide the path” simply says that the relationship is in a good place.

    Maybe there’s just something special about these Alaskan Men!

  3. ps. I forgot to mention, I ran into Dez the other day, prego with #3, and we got to chatting about your blog. You are truly an inspiration Meadow! All the projects you manage to do while raising your kiddos! They’d be cool even if you didn’t have them around, juggling it all is pretty impressive. Just a quick nod of acknowledgement.

  4. Nice. It is odd how much I feel like you are talking right to me!
    feminist housewife- check
    hippie armpit shaver- most definitely
    rule breaker- kinda sorta

    I really agree with your statements about wife and marriage not being a very popular topic. It took me awhile to get used to being a wife- let alone a housewife. The housewife label I am still working on wearing proudly all the time. But it is worth it- and despite the folks I run with- I really would like to stick my neck out and proudly take back my position in the home. Thanks for the attitude! = )

  5. Calamity, you are a true gem. Your Man is most fortunate to have such an appreciative, yet creative wife. You are both to be commended. It is a pleasure to count you both among my friends.
    Bob

  6. INteresting post – thank you. I struggle with the concept of wife and I just got engaged at Christmas. Compromise is something we both have difficulty with and for obvious reasons is something we are both working on very hard.

    Jen xx

  7. er… I am not sure why I put the kisses. I think its because its early and my other half is away and I have been sending a lot of texts and emails ending in kisses. Sory about that

    Just as well I am not at work

    Better wake up properly!
    Jen

  8. I used to despise the thought of WIFE. Who would give in to all of that and it’s connotations (which I took to be submission, endless chores and drudgery that dulled your brain)? I guess for me it was finding a man I could respect, who didn’t let me walk all over him, who seemed as strong as I felt then. I found myself wanting to be his wife till death do us part. And yes, he drives me nuts constantly, but I bet I do the same to him – compromise and tolerance – you are right, they can be hard lessons to learn, but they do indeed make my life richer!

  9. Hello CJ,

    I was thinking you should write a book.. you write so elequently and with such passion. You’re thoughtprovocing, insightful, open, sincere and generous. Like a dear freind who inspires and comforts all at once. You challenge and confront. But then I thought… you have written … and it’s free for all who need it. How truly generous of you. I still find it a strange experience to write to someone whom i do not know, but reading your posts is like a bit of soul food each day. YOu make the things I aspire to seem sooo very sensible. With many many thanks, Katja PS having been with my fella for seventeen years and with three kids under 6, I whole heartedly concur with this post on compromise. If nothing they did challenged (gave us the @#*%$) then we would not learn about ourselves so much, norr grow as a consequence. Here’s cheers, as we say Down Under, to the fellas who can’t pick up their laundry but for whom the kids scream for with delight.

  10. I have always loved to nuture the people I love, when it was possible. I am glad to see an appreciation for that coming back. The value of teaching our childeran the skills to live within their means, and to take pride in it. The value of that has been lost for a while. It is truly an art form. Hopfully they wont always have to struggle financially, but the skills to provide for your family when you do are priceless.

  11. I just came across your blog and read this and was kind of gobsmacked by how much your man resembles my own. Down to the law school and the crappiness with housework and the greatness with kids.

    Anyway I’m really glad I found your blog. I relate so much to what you write.

  12. Hey there. I bookmarked this one to come back and read when I got a moment and finally I have had the time. I really love the rawness you write with and this post is awesome. We sound like we’re married to the same guy, only we clearly aren’t because my man is doctorish rather than lawyerish. Oh and he lives in Australia.

    You are so on the money about marriage, and the fact that it will always require hard work and compromise and a level of vulnerability and reliance on each other that is barely acceptable to admit in these independent times. Loving the way that Shannon Hayes is plugging the interdependence of families and communities so unashamedly in her book – it’s soooo refreshing.

    Here’s something funny. I move in circles – because i’m a jesus-freak – where it is slightly more acceptable to talk about marriage partnerships and bothering to make them work. But even there I’ve felt apologetic about being a happy wife, and a housewife, as though I’m subscribing to the older patriarchal model of inferior help-meet (which HAS prevailed in christianity, and particularly in your country), or on the other hand letting down the christian feminists who think I’m a freak for not getting back to work. Whereas I’m just in a happy happy relationship where my husband recognises that consumerism is bunk and sees it as his job to free me up to read and think and be subversive in my own little way

    Anyway I’m actually saying that your take on marital interdependencce (and Shannon’s) is really very christian, which will no doubt shit you to pieces. But the christian model was actually incredibly radical in its time because it recognised women as equals rather than property.

    Oh and PS your number came up 3rd in my giveaway. So we’re going to have to talk aprons. Or other stuff!

  13. CJ, you seriously know how to hit the nail on the head. I think the biggest problem I (and maybe a lot of the other mamma’s that dunno where they ‘fit’) have is that no one ‘label’ will friggin nail down what I truly am. Then, add to that a relationship and it gets murky, messed up, and the blokething has to deal with a woman who can’t be defined in 20 words or less and also deal with who he is and who he’s becoming?

    It takes a strong and confident fella to do that, one that truly doesn’t give too much of a crap about what ‘the others’ think (I always enjoyed the Paul Reiser book Couplehood and his assessment of ‘people say’) and is man enough to enjoy both who he is and who you are, in a nice untidy nutshell.

  14. Hey, CJ get outta my head… but leave your wonderfully perfect turns of phrase there for me to use!

    Seriously you are one superb writer – on the money as ever. I could have written this about my man – except, as always, with a lot less wit!

    We are currently not talking to each other after a very petty fight – thank you for making me smile and feel the love again!

  15. What a truly lovely post, filled with lots of wise words (they must be wise, cos I agree hahaha!). Have just found your blog today – enjoying it indeed!!

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